How To Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs

How To Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs

Every client wants to know why they should pick you for their project over other freelancers. Your proposal is an opportunity for you to show interest in a project and sell yourself to a potential client. The goal is to get the client to click on your proposal and then be interested enough to check out your profile and schedule an interview.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, a well-crafted job proposal may be just what you need to win jobs.

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. There are thousands of opportunities every day. Businesses from new startups to 50% of the Fortune 500 turn to Upwork to find the talent they need for their projects and teams.

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 should 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 come to you asking for your help on projects! But, until you reach that point, you’ll want to work to perfect your Upwork proposals 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 job quickly from those who have to keep stepping up to the plate. Competition can be challenging, especially for new freelancers just starting out. Without an effective proposal, you may end up sending out dozens of them, only to have them be ignored.

When it comes down to it, getting your first client on freelancing platforms like Upwork requires you to write a compelling project proposal. Test everything and keep trying until you find the approach that works for you.

Tip: On average, clients on Upwork usually take three days 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

Proposal writing is a skill in itself, and practicing can improve your technique. 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.

1. Summary

The beginning of your proposal should include an overview of who you are and how you can help with the project. To interest the client in reading the entire proposal, the summary should grab their interest and give them the most important points.

2. Problem statement or needs assessment

Show that you understand the client’s current problem. Similar to active listening, adding a problem statement demonstrates that you read through the job description.

3. Proposed solution

Present your services as the solution to the client’s problems. You don’t have to write a step-by-step guide, but briefly explain how you plan to solve their issue.

4. Benefits

Highlight what separates you apart from other Upwork freelancers submitting proposals. Think about the benefits of working with you over someone else—your unique selling points (USPs). These could be your specific background, experience in your niche, or quick turnaround times.

5. Costs and pricing

Upwork jobs are either fixed-price or hourly. You can see your client’s budget when you submit a proposal and then decide what you want to charge. If you have a Freelancer Plus account, you can view what other freelancers have bid for the job to help you strategize.

6. Timeline

When you fill out your Upwork proposal, you can choose a duration from the dropdown: less than one month, 1 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, and more than six months. You can be more specific in your cover letter and let your client know the estimated turnaround time for the project or individual milestones.

7. Credentials and experience

Highlight your credentials and specific past experiences that are most relevant to the job. Let the client know if you have any certifications or have worked on similar projects in the past.

8. Testimonials or case studies

When submitting a proposal on Upwork, you have the option to add attachments. These attachments can be specific work samples or case studies that aren’t on your portfolio. If you have any client testimonials that are relevant to the job, you could copy and paste them into your proposal.

9. Terms and conditions

Manage client expectations by giving clients your terms and conditions upfront. If you have any specific requirements that the client needs to know about, you can include them in your proposal.

10. Call to action (CTA)

Include a call to action in your resume and let the client know what they should do next if they’re interested in working with you. Your call to action could be for the client to check out your profile or schedule an interview.

How long should your proposal be?

Your proposal doesn’t need to be lengthy as long as it confirms that you understand the problem and 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. They will learn more during the follow-up and interview.

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. Clients want to know that you’re interested, read the job description, and aren’t copying and pasting the same proposal for every job.

If you need help writing your proposal, you can use Proposal Tips powered by UMA, Upwork’s Mindful AI. Start writing the base of your proposal and then click “Get tips” for personalized recommendations based on the job description. Proposal Tips can help you highlight the right skills for each job, so you get noticed by clients.

Attract the client’s attention

Clients want to find the right talent fast. Your proposal will likely 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 grabs their attention. The best proposals turn into interviews.

From the client’s perspective, the point of your proposal is to find the freelancer who 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 Plus 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 match 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.

Tip: 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 and complete the Upwork Academy Learning Path.

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 other professionals like yourself, you’ll want 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 business 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? You can take the Upwork Academy Learning Path on Submitting Proposals.

Upwork proposal examples

Here are three Upwork proposal examples for a freelance copywriter 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 copywriter 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 am a full-time freelancer and I have three years of experience writing content for websites just like yours. You can 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, social media, 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 at 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.

Proposal template downloadable

Mistakes to avoid when creating an Upwork proposal

Creating a winning proposal always comes down to understanding what the job entails before finalizing 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, copy and paste templates without personalizing them to save time when writing proposals. Templates are great for saving time and providing a basic structure for your proposal, but you’ll want to tailor each proposal to the client and job description.

Clients themselves can easily spot a generic proposal because it usually fails to connect with their needs on a deeper level. Using an unedited template can significantly decrease your chances of winning jobs as they provide less personalized ideas and suggestions. Copying and pasting the same proposal 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. Your 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 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 give clients the wrong impression and make them believe you’re hard to connect with personally.

To avoid these 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.

Want more tips? You can work with an Upwork Coach and attend a workshop or schedule a one-on-one coaching call to discuss your proposal strategy in more detail.

Next steps

Whether you’re a budding freelancer or a seasoned professional, securing new jobs can be challenging if you don’t craft 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 and take the Upwork Academy Learning Path on Interviewing to become a pro.

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Author Spotlight

How To Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs
Sean Cope
SEO Writer

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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