How To Choose the Best Freelancer Project Proposals When You’re Short on Time

How To Choose the Best Freelancer Project Proposals When You’re Short on Time

Sometimes, you can be spoiled for choice at Upwork. Our work marketplace is filled with skilled professionals, so after posting a job description, you may receive more proposals than you have time to sort through. But don’t worry, there are ways to quickly single out the top freelancer for a project.

Here are some of our favorite timesavers for finding the right person:

1. Pick 2 to 3 must-have criteria

Pick two or three essential requirements for a specific project. Essential criteria are minimum requirements a person must meet to be considered for the project, as opposed to desired criteria, which are nice-to-haves.

For example, essential criteria may be fluent in English. Or someone who is available immediately if you need the project turned around on a tight deadline. Desired criteria may be a certification or familiarity with a software product.

Immediately toss out any proposals that don’t meet your must-have criteria. Don’t worry about potentially missing a great match because you’ll be surprised at how many qualified people are available. Your intent at this stage is to identify the best person in the least amount of time possible, so try not to justify keeping any that are “close.”

PRO TIP: If you need someone detailed and thorough, add a little test to your job post. It should be simple like, “Add the word ‘blue’ to the first line of your cover letter when responding.” Anyone who doesn’t do so may not be as detailed as you need, so you can toss out those proposals.

2. Keep score

Depending on the type of work and skills you’re contracting for, creating a shortlist can get a bit fuzzy when some skills and experience may not be exactly what you want, but they can apply to the project work. An easy way to ensure you shortlist proposals based on quantifiable data is by creating a shortlisting scorecard.

There are many ways to use a scorecard. One popular way is assigning points to specific proposal elements and weighting the most important features higher. For example, if you’re hiring a graphic designer to create a new label for a coffee drink, you may put more weight into someone experienced in designing for consumer packaged goods than someone who designed business logos.

A shortlisting scorecard includes essential and desirable criteria. Here’s what a scorecard might look like:

Shortlisting Scorecard


Depending on the work required, you may also score how a proposal is written. For example, if you’re looking for a content writer, a proposal that’s full of typos or disorganized will be scored lower than one that’s written well.

PRO TIP: A scorecard is especially helpful if more than one person is reviewing proposals. Scorecards ensure everyone is looking at the same qualifications and judging all proposals fairly.

3. Check out their freelancer profile

With your pile of proposals thinned out and a scoring sheet handy, it’s time to pick up some more important details by checking out the freelancer’s Upwork profile. There you’ll find helpful information such as the types of projects they’ve worked on through Upwork to see if they’ve done something similar to what you’re hiring for, comments and project ratings from past clients, and additional certifications.

Here’s what you can see in a freelancer’s Upwork profile:

  • Job success score: At-a-glance measurement of overall client satisfaction with projects completed on Upwork.
  • Overview summary: Highlights their qualifications and unique skills, location, and availability. Some people choose talent in different time zones to create a 24-hour workflow. As one person ends their day, they can hand work over to another person who’s just beginning theirs.
  • Work history: Get a synopsis of projects completed on Upwork and feedback from clients. You can use this to see if the person has industry or work experience related to your project.
  • Skills: Visual tiles provide a quick scan of the person’s skills so you can see if they have all the skills you’re looking for, and some extra nice-to-have skills.
  • Portfolio: Shows the independent professional’s work quality and scope. This may include projects done on and outside of Upwork.
Contractor Profile

4. Look for signs of experience

Some professionals may have years of relevant experience working for a company, and be new to freelancing. So, be sure to look at their resume, portfolio and website (if they have one) for a bigger picture of their work history, not just the projects posted on their Upwork profile. Here are some ways independent talent can demonstrate experience:

  1. In their proposal, if they mention experience with a project related to yours, what were the project’s goals and results? What other skills did they bring that were helpful to the project’s success or quality of work?

  2. Do they ask pertinent questions about the project details? An experienced freelancer knows what details they need to understand the project scope better. And their questions can indicate how they may approach your project.

  3. Sometimes, they explain how they may approach your project. This can give you insight into how organized, thorough, or creative they are. It may also indicate if they’re the right fit for your timeline and workflow.

5. Think big picture when reviewing rates

If a proposal quotes a set price without understanding the scope of your project, be wary. Job posts don’t always include all possible project details necessary for determining an accurate price. Experienced independent professionals know this and often ask a few more questions about a project before providing a quote. However, even without details, they may provide an estimated range or hourly rate with estimated hours, so you get an idea if the person falls within your budget.

PRO TIP: Don’t judge by price alone. Choosing someone with a lower rate over someone experienced can cost you more in the end. If your project requires more revisions, it not only costs your staff more time, it also adds hours to the project. Or worse, you may have to start the project over with another independent talent.

6. Consider the future

By this stage, you should be down to your top one to three proposals. Now you can reach out on Upwork Messages to set up an interview. If you still can’t decide between two great people after the interviews, consider offering them a small, paid project to see their work quality and how they communicate. For a more accurate comparison, offer each person the same or very similar projects.

Offering them a small test project may seem like extra work, but chances are you or another team may need their help on future projects. By taking time to choose the best person now, you know you have someone reliable to reach out to again and again, who is already familiar with the company and work processes.

7. Bypass the whole proposals process with Project Catalog™

If you’re short on time or unsure who you need, you can avoid posting a job description and sorting through proposals by buying a predefined project through Project Catalog.

For example, let’s say you want to build a new Squarespace website. All you need to do is choose your price range, turnaround time, and experience level.

You’ll instantly get a list of projects that match your description.

Project Catalog

Click on a project that catches your eye to see details about the freelancer and the scope of work they’re offering.

Then choose the one you want and your project’s ready to start!

Whether you’re posting a job or choosing a preset project, Upwork designed our work marketplace to help you get more and bigger projects done with less stress. Be sure to check out our guide on hiring and working with independent talent for more tools and insights on how to work with freelancers as a strategy for gaining a competitive edge.

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Author Spotlight

How To Choose the Best Freelancer Project Proposals When You’re Short on Time
Brenda Do
Copywriter

Brenda Do is a direct-response copywriter who loves to create content that helps businesses engage their target audience—whether that’s through enticing packaging copy to a painstakingly researched thought leadership piece. Brenda is the author of "It's Okay Not to Know"—a book helping kids grow up confident and compassionate.

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