How to Write A Super-Duper Upwork Proposal

Tips to help you stand out from the crowd

Freelancing can be a tough gig. The competition for jobs is immense, and it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. You can be the best writer/programmer/video editor the world has ever seen, but if you’re writing shoddy proposals to clients then it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

But have no fear. I’m here to share with you my tried and tested tips for writing an Upwork proposal that clients will want to respond to. Let’s get started.

1) Personalise, then personalise some more

Your job proposal is your only chance to make a good first impression, and you have a limited window to grab their attention. It’s no different from applying to a regular job, just as you wouldn’t send off ten copies of the same cover letter to ten different companies, no two proposals you send on Upwork should be the same.


Because clients can tell. They receive hundreds of proposals, and I’d wager a lot of them make no reference to the actual job that’s being advertised. I apply for jobs all the time in which the client says something along the lines of: “Please write ‘Taco Tuesday’ in your proposal so I know that you have read it.”

It’s obvious that clients regularly receive proposals from people who haven’t even bothered to read the job description. Instead, they send a cookie-cutter proposal to as many clients as possible in hopes that someone hires them.

Do you know what tells clients that you’ve read their job description (apart from Taco Tuesday)?

Discuss it in your proposal.

Tailor each proposal to the specific job you’re applying for. For example:

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Screenshot by the author

Many proposals this client receives will likely say something along the lines of ‘I’m good at writing CVs, I’m perfect for this job.’ The best proposals, however, will be the ones that take the information provided by the client and use it in the job proposal. They might ask:

  • Is it only the content of your CV you’re looking for help with, or are you looking to update the style and format as well? Do you have any particular styles in mind?
  • For your cover letter, do you have a particular company in mind? If so, it would be great to get some more information about the company so we can tailor it to them, and I’d gladly assist you with that.

This demonstrates to the client that you have actually read their job description and considered the work involved. Yes, it takes longer to write tailored proposals, but this is much more likely to get you an interview than using the same copy and pasted proposal for every job.

A Final Tip

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” — Dale Carnegie

People love the sound of their own name. That applies to the client you’re pitching too as well. But unless they use it in the description, you’ll have no way of knowing the client’s name until they initiate an interview.

But there is a way you can find it.

Have a look through the client’s job history. You’ll be able to see feedback that the client has given and received, and you’ll usually find their name listed in feedback from freelancers they’ve worked with previously.

By using the client’s name in your proposal, you’ll be much more likely to get a response than the standard ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ they’ll receive from everybody else.

2) Address the client’s needs, not your ego

Clients are on Upwork for one reason — because they have a need.

They are not on Upwork to hear about every single thing you’ve ever achieved, and they don’t want to hear your life story.

Your Master’s degree in Engineering is very impressive, but if it isn’t going to help the client, it isn’t relevant. Telling clients about your previous experience is great, providing it is relevant. If not, don’t waste their time by telling them about it.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to sell yourself to clients. But many freelancers go about it the wrong way, spending their entire proposals explaining how they’re the best thing since sliced bread when they should be telling the client how they can actually help to solve their problem.

How do I avoid this?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply listing your achievements and experience, but it can be avoided.

Many job descriptions fit the following format:

I’m looking for someone who can X, and can help me to Y and Z.’

Pick the specific requirements from the description, the things that the client needs, and write them down. When writing your proposal, focus on telling the client exactly how you can help them with X, Y and Z. Mention your education and/or experience only if they are relevant to how you can help the client.

By focusing on the client’s needs, you avoid painting yourself as self-aggrandizing and instead come across as someone who has the relevant skills to solve the client’s need.

A Final Tip

In a lot of cases, job descriptions don’t always have all of the information you might want but don’t be afraid to ask the questions. For example:

  • Is it just the content of their CV they want looking at, or also the style? Do they have a particular style in mind?
  • They want you to proofread their essay, but have they double-checked that their references are formatted correctly?

Not only does this demonstrate interest, but it also invites a response. After all, the natural reaction to being asked a question is to answer it.

Miscellaneous Tips (with examples)

The following tips are miscellaneous, in that they’re not specifically related to writing job proposals.

Hedge your bets

Before you write a proposal, take a peek at how long the job has been posted for, how many other people have applied, and whether or not the client has started interviewing. If a job has 20–50 proposals and the client has begun interviewing, you might be better off passing on this job and waiting for the next opportunity. The sooner you can pitch a client after the job is posted, the better.

Don’t underestimate the work involved.

I recently completed a proofreading job for a client, and at the very end, she asked me if I’d able to put together her reference list. I agreed, naively thinking that it wouldn’t take too long. It took forever, and I missed the deadline. Luckily the client gave me an extension and gave me great feedback once I’d finished, but it could just as easily have ended with an unhappy client.

Establish exactly what it is the client wants you to do.

Clients don’t always know what they want. I’ve taken on proofreading jobs where the client wanted someone to copyedit their work, and I’ve taken on editing jobs where the client only wanted their work proofread. Establish exactly what it is you’ll be doing for the client before you accept any job offer.

Ask your clients for feedback

When I first started out, I made a point of asking each of my clients what it was about my proposal that drew them to me. After all, they’re the ones who responded to my proposal, so they must have seen something they liked. Ask for feedback, and use that feedback when pitching clients in the future.

Jon Peters is a freelance writer, who lives in Cornwall, UK with his wife and two children. If you made it this far down the page, great! Thanks for reading. If you liked this article and would like to read more from me, you can get to my profile super quickly by clicking here. Happy reading.

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Trying to make the world a better place, one word at a time.

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