You’ve found some great opportunities on your daily search through the freelance job board, and you’re excited to apply for them. This would be a great gig. It pays well, it’s a topic you enjoy working on, and is the perfect fit for your skills.
But you sit down to complete the short application message…and suddenly you don’t know what to say. You’re at a loss for words.
After staring at the empty screen for 10 minutes, you eventually write a few sentences… read them back to yourself… and promptly delete them again.
After half an hour you’ve written and deleted things 7 times and you’re getting frustrated. Being critical of yourself isn’t helping things, but nothing you write quite sounds right…
This is where a proven template becomes invaluable.
For efficiency, increasing your chances of getting the gig, and maintaining your sanity.
Won’t a template sound too ‘scripted’?
The Upwork proosal template is just a template. You shouldn’t literally copy and paste it every time. It has built in areas where you will modify it every time, depending on the client, job, what is written in the job description etc.
It is a ‘paint by numbers’ style template. The lines are already drawn out for you, you just modify little bits to make it specific to the relevant job.
This is going to save you a tonne of time, not to mention the stress and wasted mental energy going back and forth trying to figure out what to write.
Modifying the template for different industries
The template will change depending on what industry you are in.
The words will obviously be different, but you might even change the tone somewhat. It should fit with your personality, and with what is appropriate for the industry you are in.
Things to avoid
- Any words that don’t need to be there
- Repetition (of yourself or them)
- Being weak
- Letting on anything that decreases your chances of being hired
- Not following instructions
- Not giving clear next steps
Freelancer proposal examples: Good vs Bad
This is a real profile I helped a friend with. She had just started out as a freelancer and was looking to get some gigs as a social media manager.
The proposal she was sending out originally is here, followed by my edits.
The first thing you will notice is I used the delete key a lot. She was waffling, repeating herself and generally using too many words to say too little.
The first thing you need to do is make your applications easy to read. That means no repetition, no unnecessary waffle, short paragraphs, and to the point sentences.
The second thing I did was delete all of the places where she is telling them what they said (they already know what they said). You do want to use their language and address the specific things they have said, but not by repeating what they say.
Think of normal conversations, the other person says something, you respond to what they said – you don’t repeat what they said every time they say anything. Use what they say in the job description as the trigger for what you respond to.
Third I changed the language to be more confident. Nobody wants to hire someone to do a job they’re not confident doing. They also don’t want to outsource work to someone who needs babysitting – they would just do it themselves – so you need to have a confident tone.
Even if you’re not 100% confident, in this situation just write as though you are. You will become more confident by doing the work. Not getting hired because your application is full of weasel words will leave you stuck not being confident forever.
Things she did well include name dropping the big companies she has worked for as proof that she is good, and setting a time for a call to show she is not too available.
She was trying to use the clients language as a jumping off point, so she had the right idea – she just needed to say more in the words she was saying.
The Upwork proposal template
Here is the proven Upwork proposal template, followed by explanation.
I suggest you download a copy of the Upwork proposal template now, so you can edit it, and always have a copy saved without having to come back to this post.
Reference their name if at all possible – make sure you read their profile, most have a name. If not say “Dear Sir/Madam,” or “Dear Client,”
State you’ve read their description and say exactly what you can do in simple terms. The goal is to get the potential client to read the proposal before anything else, immediately identify it is relevant for what they need. See below for examples.
The second and third paragraph is where you sell yourself. If they state specific questions or requirements in the job description, make sure you address them. These specifics are the clients biggest buying criteria.
Then choose the top 2 selling points you have and remember to write in language they understand. See below for examples.
Paragraph 4 is selling the benefits they get as an outcome for hiring you. This is where you take what they’ve said they are looking for – in their own words – and add an outcome to the end. See below for examples.
Finally ask any questions you need to know about the project to get things moving. This shows initiative, it shows that you’re sharp and interested in serving them, and it means they’re much more likely to respond to you. People hate leaving questions unanswered.
Introduce yourself and say exactly what you do in simple terms the client will understand, after noting you have read what they’re actually looking for and have those skills.
Think of this first paragraph as a preview line. The reader will use it to quickly identify if they want to read on, or just hit the back button.
You’re not trying to impress anyone or sell anything in this line. Just identify that they’re in the right place.
If they are very specific in their job description then simply say
“I can [do whatever they said in the job description].
If they’re more vague, or are looking for someone to become a team member/take on a large project, rather than a simple and to the point job, you will also need to be more general.
“I am a high-conversion email copywriter“.
“I am an Amazon best-selling writer“.
Here you address any specific questions or comments they directly state in the job description. This line will not always be included, but if they have mentioned specifics, it is the most important line.
The specifics are their buying criteria, it’s the number one thing they’re looking for and making a decision based upon.
I cannot tell you what to say because it is driven by what they say in the description, just make sure you address whatever their specific needs are, and answer any questions they ask.
Paragraph 2 continued
The second part of this section is where you sell yourself with the 2 biggest things you have going for you. In this section you want to mention things like:
- High profile clients/jobs
- Awards or recognition
- Outstanding result(s)
If you have nothing else to say, then you can go to “hard working”, “passionate”, “dedicated”, etc. These are much less effective because you’re just saying buzz words that don’t actually mean anything.
Versus the above list which are recognised real world things you could point a finger at and identify. Nevertheless you can only work with what you have so make the best of it.
Think outside the box. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience of results to note – perhaps you’re brand new – what have you done before that says something about your capabilities?
If you studied computer science at MIT it might have absolutely nothing to do with applying for a Copywriting gig, but it says you’re highly intelligent, work in systems, etc. which are valuable traits all the same.
Perhaps you have experience in the field? I started off working freelance writing in fitness. I used to be a Personal Trainer, had many years of real world experience working with clients. It says nothing about my writing ability, but you at least know that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to fitness.
“I am a website designer with 9 years experience, and 3 7-figure Shopify stores in my design portfolio“.
“I am a content writer with 3 published books, and features in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Huffington Post“.
“I am a copywriter who spent the last 4 years with my own 6-figure info product business in the dating niche. I recently sold the business and turned my attention to freelancing“.
“I have recently left my job at The American Dream Corporation where I sat at a desk and pushed papers. In my role I managed a team of 4 people and was responsible for overseeing quarterly growth targets in the marketing department“.
The last one is an example of a generic job where you didn’t really do anything relevant, but can play up things that sound useful, like managing people and overseeing company growth.
This is where you take the exact things they have said they’re looking for, and expand upon them. Use their language, use the same terms they used in the job posting – but don’t repeat back what they said. They already know what they said.
If they say, “we’re looking for an email copywriter”, you might say;
“I specialise in high-converting email copy for online stores that drives more sales and repeat business from existing customers“.
“We’re looking for a sleak, simple website design with a focus on highlighting our products”;
“I enjoy creating simple, beautifully designed and easy to navigate websites that drive readers eyes towards the products for sale. I understand that a website’s function is primarily to drive more sales“.
Remember the second part – the benefit or outcome they get, after the job. What will a new website, email series, or blog post do to benefit their business?
Will it engage customers? Drive sales? Get them found on Google?
Showing that you understand your greater function inside their business will put you head and shoulders above other freelancers who only take the very zoomed in view.
Why are they hiring you? If you’re stuck, just add the words “so that”.
I’ll [do the job] so that [you get this benefit/outcome].
Ask questions you need to know to complete the job. Bullet point them if there is more than 1.
- “Do you have a deadline for the project?“
- “What market are you in?“
- “Will you be promoting to cold or warm traffic?“
- “Do you have examples of other websites you like the look of?“
Whatever is going to tell you what you need to know. This is showing initiative and it begs for a response.
Notes on tone and language
You should re-write the template to be in your own language. The tone should match your personality, and the industry you are in.
Sometimes for simple jobs, you don’t need to overdo it, simply say you can do the job, and have some experience doing it before. The simpler the job, the less you will need to write.
Keep it personal – you are speaking to another human after all – but make it the right amount of professional for the job at hand.
Don’t change the intent behind what is written, but write it how you would say it. I am pretty blunt and to the point, so the template reflects that. If you’re softer and friendlier, you would want the message to reflect that – just don’t be weak and add a bunch of weasel words.
The elephant in the room – you’ve got no feedback
If you are brand new to the platform and have no feedback, that is a big problem.
The very first job is always going to be by far the hardest for you to land, and that is because you have no feedback. Writing a great proposal, great profile, uploading a portfolio and investing the time to take some Upwork tests will go a long way to offering as much reassurance as you can.
However, you still have no feedback.
You have two options at this point:
Recognise that it is a numbers game, and diligently keep applying for jobs. You will get one eventually, you just have to stick with it. This might be frustrating, but remember it will never be as hard as the first job again.
The other option is to be straight up and call out the elephant in the room. I like this approach and have used it myself in the past.
Create an irresistible offer to kill the elephant in the room
If you want to get around the elephant in the room and overcome the fact that you have no reviews or history on the platform, you can call it out and create an offer that is irresistible for the client.
Do (part of) the work for free, offer to do something additional for the same price, or say that you will do it for a very low price even though it would normally be a higher price.
This shows a lot of social intelligence – you know what their reservations are.
I would hire someone who offered to work for the same price as the Indian bloke low-balling everyone’s bid in exchange for positive feedback.
Often just by calling it out, it reassures their fears and they will hire you anyway, without you even having to do it for free/cheap. Don’t rely on that though. You should be fully prepared to do the work for free – see it as an investment in your portfolio and your profile. It’s worth it.
“P.S. While I’m very experienced in this field, I’m brand new to Upwork and know that I don’t have a reputation on the platform.
With that in mind I’d like to offer to do (part of) this job for free/very cheap, to build up my feedback and job success. You will receive the same standard of work I’d normally charge $100 for, but will only charge you $20“.
That’s going to be a no-brainer for a lot of business owners who are looking to hire a top freelancer to do a good job, but also want to save money and get the best value they can.
Only do this once or twice. Once you have the feedback and a completed profile, you should never think about low-balling and undervaluing yourself again. It’s not sustainable anyway, but it is probably better to work an hour or two for free than spending the same time sending another 10 proposals that are rejected because you have no feedback.
Leave your hourly rate high on your profile, but bid low for the specific job.
Once you have a few jobs under your belt, it becomes infinitely easier to get hired.
Start getting more gigs…
Download the Upwork proposal template now and start applying for jobs.
Remember that it is a numbers game at the end of the day. Just keep plugging away, now you have a template to smooth things over, the process should be much more efficient and less stressful.