How to Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs

How to Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs
Sean Cope
June 4, 2021
12 Min Read

Every client wants to know why they should pick you for their project over any other freelancer that applies. A single project can attract 5 to 50+ proposals from freelancers. If you want to stand out among the crowd, a well-crafted proposal may be just what you need.

What is an Upwork proposal?

An Upwork proposal gives you the chance to submit a message with your application to convince clients that you’re the perfect fit for the job. This quick and concise introduction—similar to a cover letter or an elevator pitch—explains why the client should hire you. It allows you to spark a client’s interest in your services and mention critical points on how you can solve their problem.

The importance of Upwork proposals

Upwork’s work marketplace serves as a great source of potential projects. The platform displays thousands of new jobs every day for a wide variety of skill sets. The volume of posted jobs might seem like you’re likely to land work, but remember that other freelancers using this platform are also competing for those same jobs.

Proposals are one of the most vital parts of landing projects through Upwork’s global work marketplace. It’s the first step in connecting with a potential client, and your proposal must be designed to get a client’s attention. Crafting a detailed and well-written Upwork proposal is the primary way to convince new clients to interview you for their project.

If you work hard and build a reputation on Upwork, there may come a time when you no longer need to bid for jobs because clients are coming to you asking for your help on projects! But, until you reach that point, it’s important to perfect your Upwork proposal and improve your pitch.

How do I get my first Upwork client?

Testing different cover letter options is a crucial step at the beginning of your freelancing journey and separates those who land their first gig from those who give up. Competition can be challenging, especially for new freelancers just starting out. Without an effective proposal, you may end up sending out dozens of proposals, only for all of them to be ignored. When it all comes down to it, getting your first client requires you to write a compelling proposal. Test everything and keep trying until you find the approach that works for you.

Note: It usually takes three days on average for clients on Upwork to hire a freelancer they think is the best fit for their project. Patience plays a crucial role in landing that coveted first project. Keep applying to multiple jobs that fit your experience while you wait for responses from prospective clients.

How to write an Upwork proposal that shines

Writing an Upwork proposal is a skill in itself, and just like any other skill, practicing can improve your techniques. When it comes to writing a good proposal, the structure is one of the most important things to consider. While each proposal should be unique to the freelancer and job description, there are a few common elements that most good proposals include:

  • A quick, straightforward greeting and introduction followed by a concise restatement of the client’s core need or problem.
  • A clear statement that tells clients that you can solve their problem and that you can start right away.
  • A short pitch, preferably two to three sentences, telling the prospective client exactly why you’re an excellent fit for the job.
  • A brief but detailed description of the methods and processes you’ll use to approach the project and provide excellent service.
  • Attachments such as relevant documents, files of sample works, or links to your portfolio demonstrating your past projects related to the client’s needs.

How long should your proposal be?

Your proposal doesn’t need to be lengthy as long as it confirms you understand the problem and shows that you can solve it. Always aim for brief, clean, and concise writing. Typically, everything you need can be expressed in three short paragraphs.

Clients don’t have the time to read lengthy proposals with details that are unrelated to their challenges. Long proposals may not convince anyone, as almost no one will take the time to read them.

What is the best format for an Upwork proposal?

The format for an Upwork proposal is very similar to writing a traditional cover letter. The proposal should be specifically tailored to each unique project. By focusing more on what the project needs rather than coming up with a clear-cut template, you’ll be able to craft better patterns and sequences in your proposals that could convince the client to hire you.

Attract the client’s attention

Typically you’re going up against more than a dozen freelancers trying to secure the same project offer. It’s likely that your proposal will only have a few seconds to leave an impression before the client moves on to another. This means that writing some catchy first few sentences is vital to ensuring your proposal doesn’t get ignored.

From the client’s perspective, the point of your proposal is finding the freelancer that can best help them. When you quickly get to the issues the client really cares about, you significantly increase your chances of landing that job.

Show understanding of the client’s goals and job description

The first few sentences should confirm that you fully understand what the client needs. Potential clients on Upwork want to know you’re going to be in their corner. They want to know you have the right skills and are ready to help them succeed. Always start by either restating the core problems or commenting on something about the job. This shows that you’ve taken the time to read the project description thoroughly and that you’ve got the necessary expertise.

“One trick is to look at the feedback on the client’s Upwork profile when applying; other freelancers will call them by their first name in the feedback. This lets me start my application with their name. By doing this, I leave the client wondering how I know their name, which draws them to my profile to see if they know me. It also shows that I am very interested in the job and collaborating with them; I paid attention to their job description and looked even further. Finally, it makes the application more personal.”
Andreea-Lucia Mihalache, Upwork Top Rated Freelance Writer

Provide proof that you can get the job done

Essentially, clients want to feel confident that the freelancer they engage will handle the project. The simplest way to prove to a prospective client that you can succeed is by showing them an example of something similar you’ve already done. Point out a few of your past experiences in your portfolio or Upwork profile that matches their project needs.

Include work samples and past results

Attaching past work samples goes a long way toward building trust and credibility. Clients are very interested in a freelancer’s past work, and it can be the most significant factor in their decision-making. If you can provide specific case studies, testimonials, or proven results, you might want to place them in the second paragraph where they can be easily seen.

Note: This is also where a well-written Upwork profile comes into play. After seeing an impressive proposal, clients usually look at the profile to find more valuable information. Check out our tips for creating a great Upwork profile. After making sure that your profile backs up what you’re saying, linking your portfolio to successful project reviews is a good tactic.

Ask questions and offer solutions

Some job posts include predefined proposal questions asking if you have any questions about that particular project. This gives you another opportunity to show that you’re qualified to offer help. Make sure only to ask questions that show how well you understand what needs to be done to solve the problem. You can also ask questions within your proposal, but make sure not to overwhelm the client to the point that it’s more work for them to respond. Good questions to ask are related to timeline, product or business information, or what you’d expect in the day-to-day while working on the project.

Separate yourself from competitors

Because you’re going to be competing with many other professionals like yourself, it’s best to find ways to stand out from the crowd as early as possible. An introductory video on your profile is a great way to do that. You can reference this video in your proposal, which may make the client more likely to engage with your profile and schedule an interview.

Remember to give reasons why the client should work with you

Your Upwork proposal can serve as a great starting point for clients to get to know you better and help you stand out. When writing your letter to the client, make sure that it’s easily relatable and shows the benefits of choosing you for their project. You should explain how your experience will be an asset to the client’s project and let them know how long you’ve been in the business.

Want to learn more best practices for writing proposals that land jobs? Check out this video by Upwork Ambassador Neal Strauss.

Upwork proposal examples

Here are three Upwork proposal examples for a freelance writer position. Each of these Upwork samples is structured to present the freelancer as the perfect fit based on a hypothetical client’s job description.

Upwork proposal example #1:

Hi,

I would love to be your freelance writer and help you execute your website content strategy.

I have 5 years of experience writing content for websites, including Forbes.com, Buzzfeed.com, and more. Below, I’ve linked two samples that showcase my writing ability in a similar niche to your brand. As you can see, I understand your audience and know how to write compelling articles to get your website visitors to purchase your products.

I can complete 1,000-word articles with a 2-day turnaround time. Would that work for your needs? Let me know if my writing meets your expectations, and we can set up a time to talk about your project in more detail.

Example Website Content #1 (link)

Example Website Content #2 (link)

Thanks,

John Doe

---

Upwork proposal example #2:

Hello,

If you need high-quality articles written for your website at an affordable price, I am the right writer for you! My goal with every content piece is to lead your website’s visitors along their buyer’s journey—hopefully ending with a purchase on your website.

As you can see in my Upwork profile, I have three years of experience writing content for websites just like yours. You can even find some of my published work on Inc.com, Marketwatch.com, and Hubspot.com. Linked below are two writing samples that demonstrate my ability to craft excellent blog content for B2B e-commerce websites.

- Example Website Article #1

- Example Website Article #2

My current turnaround time for 1,000-word articles is two days. If my work aligns with what you need, can we set up a time to discuss your goals for this project?

Best regards,

Jessica Doe

---

Upwork proposal example #3:

Hello Nicki,

I’m a detail-driven writer who turns ideas into valuable website content for clients just like you. I enjoy writing for various topics and niches (business, lifestyle, travel, personal blogs, etc.). You can find examples of my past writing work on my Upwork profile, plus (insert link here) and (insert link here).

My experience has given me a deep understanding of SEO writing and strong digital marketing strategies to help drive traffic to your site. I excel in writing all types of content such as blogs, press releases, product descriptions, and more.

My rate is $50 for projects like this one, and I can have a finished piece of writing delivered to you this week if you’re interested. Let’s talk!

– Anna G.

Note: Don’t use these as an Upwork proposal template, instead use these as proposal examples that can inspire a unique proposal for each job.

Mistakes to avoid when creating an Upwork proposal

Creating a winning proposal always comes down to understanding what the job entails before starting a proposal for that project. With that said, there are a few things to avoid when submitting proposals for jobs on Upwork.

Don’t use a proposal template

If your proposal isn’t well-crafted, it won’t get you jobs. When time becomes an issue, many freelancers, especially beginners, resort to copied and pasted templates to save time writing proposals. While this method may save many hours of writing, you may start skipping the job description and applying robotically. This is not a good idea because every client and job are unique.

Clients themselves can easily spot a pre-made proposal because it usually fails to connect with their needs on a deeper level. Using a template can significantly decrease your chances of winning jobs as they provide less personalized ideas and suggestions. Using templates also puts you at risk of developing the habit of not fully understanding the client’s needs and project scope.

Don’t make it all about you

Another critical issue to avoid is talking too much about yourself and not enough about the client. Remember that clients care about solving their problems; that’s why they posted the project on Upwork in the first place. our proposal must be about your clients, their problems, and the ways that you can solve them.

Don’t include unnecessary fluff

Writing unnecessary details that aren’t useful to the job runs the risk of you sounding unprofessional. Clients don’t have the time for fluff or filler. Write personalized, concise, and impactful proposals to show clients that you’re someone who values their time.

Don’t be too casual or overly professional

When it comes to writing winning proposals, professionalism is always a good first impression to instill in your potential clients. Steer clear of comments or statements that attempt to be funny or entertaining. More often than not, these can have the opposite effect of what you intended. While work communication has become less formal, especially with online collaboration tools, this should not blur your vision of acceptable professional settings.

However, on the other end, being too professional can sometimes do more harm than good. Many freelancers think that they have to sound extremely formal in their pitches to appear knowledgeable and competent. But this actually can hurt their chances of getting an interview. Being overly professional might rub off clients the wrong way and give the impression that you’re stiff and hard to connect with personally.

To avoid these two extremes, finding the middle ground is the best go-to to ensure you connect with the client in the best possible way. Remember that anything you write will always give an impression, and you want to make sure that it’s a good one.

Next steps

Whether you’re a budding freelancer or a seasoned professional, securing new jobs can be challenging if you don’t have a compelling proposal. If your proposal is well written, unique, and demonstrates solutions for the client, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you land that next project. Check out recently posted jobs and start applying today!

Once you’ve sent a great proposal and landed an interview with the client, it’s time to prepare for your interview so that you can win the project. When you’re ready, check out this article to learn tips and tricks to interview like a pro.


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Sean Cope

Formerly a full-time in-house marketing director, Sean Cope began building an SEO and content creation company by freelancing on Upwork. He has enjoyed working with clients in various industries, leading them to achieve their business goals and higher Google search rankings. Sean is passionate about helping new clients in growing their businesses through search engine optimization, content writing, and digital marketing.

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