How to Create a Freelance Proposal That Gets You Jobs

creating a good freelancing proposal that gets jobs

Right, so you’ve created your freelancer accounts for some time now, but it seems like getting jobs isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. And you’ve also probably already ran out of connects by now. What to do, what to do?!

Yes, getting jobs isn’t that easy in the beginning. In fact, it’s pretty damn hard and even if you’ve created a really good looking freelancer profile, there are still so many things that could stand between you and your first freelancing job. The most important of these things is your proposal.

The initial version of this article was posted on Upwork’s Community Blog. Thank you Amy (Managing Editor at Upwork) for offering us this opportunity. But today I am going to provide you with a more extended version and some other tricks that weren’t mentioned there.

1. Short is always better

It would have been great if we knew about this in the beginning. Our first proposals were long and boring, as we tried including everything in them and they eventually got overly crowded and filled with information. Most certainly, very few people read them. Since then, we cut a lot of information out, to the point where we just have the basic and most important stuff left there. I’d cut even more if I could.

A good job proposal must be short and straight to the point. Include only the most important information about you (I’ll tell you which these are in a few moments) and links to samples. And that’s all.

Formatting is also important. Make your application readable and make it easy for people to find the information they are looking for.

Long proposals won’t convince anyone, as no one will read them!

2. Grab your customer’s attention fast and make it personal

As you probably read on a lot of websites, people have short attention spans. So your mission is to craft your proposal in such a way that you grab your customer’s attention in the first 1-2 sentences. How do you do that?

a) Read the customer’s reviews left by other freelancers and start the proposal by using their names, if you can find them. This will make the application more personal and also make the customer curious if they worked with you in the past, which will usually make them visit your profile and even contact you.

The thing is that many freelancers leave their feedback using the client’s name, like: Thank you, John Doe, for this wonderful collaboration.

You can use that name to start your application with “Dear John Doe,”

b) Mention or add your samples in the start of your application

If there’s one thing customers have a lot of interest in, apart from feedback, it’s your previous jobs, and, more importantly, the projects that were in the same niche with the one they are looking to hire in. Mix this two up and you’ll have a certain winner. Since we started using this method, our job winning rate went up by 30% to 50%. Here’s how we start our application:

Dear John Doe,

I would love to collaborate with you on this project!

I am confident that you will see me as a great fit for this job as I have written articles for [this niche] in the past. Please check the samples attached.

Where this niche will be replaced with the actual niche the customer needs content in. Sometimes, we may even add the URL’s to the samples below this paragraph, instead of attaching them. In fact, I suggest you do this instead of attaching them if you have the possibility.

3. Answer the “Why should I work with you” question

Why are you better than any other freelancer that applied? What separates you from the rest of the pack? What makes you stand out?

This is what customers want to know about you, and these are also the types of questions you need to answer through your proposal – in a direct or indirect way.

As I said on Upwork, you shouldn’t start your application with: “You should hire me because…”. List the advantages of a collaboration with you, as well as your main qualities. Don’t brag, but be honest and present real facts. You could:

  • Talk about experience and number of projects you have worked on so far
  • Mention your excellent feedback (if you already have some)
  • Mention your education, if it is relevant to the job
  • Highlight your Upwork skill test results, if you have done well on them

Point out anything that makes you look good as long as you can prove it, via samples or your profile. Leave out everything that you consider not to be relevant for the job.

After we present the samples in our application, the next paragraph sounds as follows:

As you can see on my profile, I am one of Upwork’s Top Rated writers. This is a status that I was awarded as a result of the excellent content I’ve generated over the years and the overwhelmingly positive reviews I’ve received from previous clients.

On Upwork, having a Top Rated badge is the best achievement you can get, so we use this status to earn the customers’ trust in our skills.

4. Spy on Your Competition

This wasn’t listed in the initial article, and I have a few more to come. Spying on your competition is easy and can give you some great tips on how you can create a great proposal. How can you do this?

a) Create a company account and post a job on Upwork in the same niche as the one you’re offering services in. Make the job post sound interesting and worth at least $500.

b) Wait a few days for applications to start piling up.

c) Look at who applied for the job, read their applications, learn from them. Usually, try to look only at the applications that have worked a higher number of jobs. They’re usually more experienced in applying to jobs and, most probably, have already improved their proposal several times across the years.

d) Use the application that you liked the most as a template and adapt it to your current skills and profile. Remove or add anything you feel necessary.

5. Make the Customers Feel Like They’re Getting a Deal

a) Set your profile hourly rate higher than what you would normally expect to receive. When talking about your price, in the proposal, add something like: “My usual rate is $25 per hour, but I can currently offer you a lower price of $20 per hour, this being our first project together”.

b) Making customers think that the offer is limited may sometimes do wonders for you. You can use a line similar to the above, but with a twist. For example: “My usual rate is $0,04 per word, but I am offering a 50% discount today only, as I am out of contracts for the moment.”. In reality, you are not offering any discount, but just creating the impression you are.

c) Add a call-to-action at the end of your proposal.

6. Test, test, test

You’ve heard me saying this a couple of times now, but testing is really important. Try different versions of your proposal until you find the one that works for you. But make sure to keep it short, each time.

Although I’m close to wrapping this up, I’d still like to answer a question many freelancers are asking on forums these days:

Should I use a template?

Crafting personalized proposals does have its benefits, that’s for sure. But when you have a lot of jobs, you prefer using more time on working, and less on getting jobs. To be honest, for the past few months we have been using a template to apply to jobs, and that’s how we usually do it. Still, we do change some things in it in order to suit each client.

The only time when we don’t use the template is when the project is very big and we’re really interested in getting that job. That’s when I write the proposal so it will specifically fit that project.

Why did we start using a template?

For us, time is a big issue. So using a template saves us a lot of hours that we would normally spend creating personalized proposals. Using a template has a lot of other benefits, too:

  • Once you create a template that works, it will generally bring results with every customer—no matter the project. Why change something that brings results?
  • If you’re short on time, you can copy and paste the template into the proposal box. A customized proposal can take more time, which you may not have at that moment; if you wait until you have time, the job may already be awarded.

Why shouldn’t you use a template?

  • If your proposal isn’t crafted well, you won’t get any jobs. Period.
  • Once you have created a good template, you may start applying robotically and skipping the job description. It’s important that you always read the project description and requirements carefully. There could be some things that don’t fit your skills, or you could discover that you aren’t that interested in the job.

These being said, you should NEVER apply to jobs that you’re not confident you can complete successfully. Being awarded the job is only the beginning. Your final goal is to have good results and offer a great customer experience.

If you’re not skillful at what you were hired to do, you won’t get paid or you get asked for a refund, and you will receive negative reviews. Feedback sticks to your freelancer profile forever, no matter what. And it will most certainly drag you down.

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