How to Apply for Freelance Jobs on Upwork

Knowing the best practices of submitting job proposals on Upwork is very important to your success as a freelancer.  Even beginner freelancers can beat out experts at getting jobs, not by lowering their price, but by sending a thoughtful and unique proposal, and in this blog post, I’ll show you how. Below are my top 7 tips on how to apply for freelance jobs on Upwork.

1. Actually Read the Job Description

Too often freelancers don’t read the actual job description, they only read the title. Not only am I a freelancer on Upwork, but I hire a lot on Upwork as well. I can’t tell you how many times I get proposals where the freelancer clearly didn’t read the job description. If you want to make sure the client is a great fit, you need to read the job description, just reading the title isn’t enough. It only takes a few seconds! And this is one of the major Upwork job application best practices.

Now Upwork charges freelancers for sending job proposals. Last year Upwork introduced ‘connects’. To submit a job proposal, certain numbers of ‘connects’ are required depending on the size of the project. This relatively new system has made reading job descriptions even more significant. If you apply for a job which you will never get, you will lose money as well. 

Without properly reading the job description, you will not be able to describe the potential client how you will be able to help. UpWork is a competitive freelancing marketplace, and there are other freelancers who will bid for the same job as you, but after reading the job description properly. You will lose to those sincere freelancers if your proposals seem irrelevant compared to theirs.

2. Put Something Unique in the Proposal: NBAT

I won’t go into the details of NBAT since we do that in-depth at Freelancer Masterclass (if you’re not a student, (feel free to register), but the basics address the prospects’ needs, budget, authority, timing. Doing these 4 things will ensure you both are aligned on what the scope of the project is. It is helpful to make a unique Loom.com video. Doing a video puts a face behind the proposal and also tells the prospect that you took time out of your day to address their proposal, rather than just a copy and paste job which is what almost all the freelancers will give them.

For putting something unique in the proposal, it is not mandatory to make a video. You can do this in some other ways too. For example, you can give suggestions to improve the scope of the job. Most freelancers will simply try to explain why they are the best fits for the job, but very few would genuinely try to help the potential client. If you can give good suggestions in your job proposal, then the proposal will seem much more interesting than the rest. Moreover, it will also demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. 

You can also try to be unique by putting some humor in the proposal, but this might not be the best way to do it for all cases. If the job poster is witty, only then this might add some value. From the Upwork job description, try to understand if the potential client is okay with some humor. If you are not sure, then simply avoid it. 

Here’s a helpful guide to attract high paying clients

3. Log all responses on a spreadsheet

upwork job proposal log

I am shocked by how many freelancers don’t log proposal responses. I am always testing different versions of proposals and logging which ones get the best responses. Doing this will allow you to know which proposals are most effective. If you aren’t in love with stats, get in love with them. If you’re serious about scaling your company, then stats will be your best friend. Keeping this data will give you a better idea on how to submit a proposal on UpWork the right way in future. 

Logging proposal responses is not too complicated as well. A simple excel sheet can do this. For making it as effective as possible, you should store detailed information. Information like how many times you’ve sent each proposal template, how many responses you’ve received for each template, how many clients you’ve closed with these proposals, and so on. Having this information will help you to identify the mistakes you made while sending proposals. This gives you more opportunity to write better, and convert proposals in the future. 

4. Once You Get Their Contact Info, Send Them a Connection Request on LinkedIn

connect with upwork clients in linkedin

Normally on Upwork, you don’t see the prospects information until after they respond, but when they respond you can connect with them on LinkedIn. This will allow the prospect to see you outside of Upwork and see more of your skill sets. It will also separate you from the other freelancers who didn’t do it. This only takes a few seconds to do and will show the prospect that you have taken the time to research them a bit.

LinkedIn is a hub for professionals, and prospecting clients as well. It is very likely that the client who responded to you is active on LinkedIn. People mainly use LinkedIn for business purposes. Being added to a potential client’s LinkedIn account increases your chance of getting hired on that person’s future projects. 

One thing you need to make sure before you use this technique. Your LinkedIn profile must seem professional and authentic. Clients might not take you seriously if you are sharing memes on LinkedIn all day. Demonstrate your skills, work experience, and credentials on your LinkedIn profile. 

5. Give them Something of Value First for Free

Whenever someone asks me how to write an Upwork proposal, I advise them to give the client something of value for free. You don’t have to spend long on this, but give the prospect something for free that shows your interest in the work and your expertise. Do something that will only take you a few minutes, customize it a bit and make sure this represents you, and your work, well.

For example, if you are a writer, you can offer to write 200-300 words for free to show your writing prowess. Or if you are an SEO expert, you may do a simple audit for a webpage. No matter where your expertise belongs to, you’ll find something which will take very little time but make a lot of impacts. 

Clients aren’t looking for free stuff on UpWork, they are looking for freelancers who are capable of completing their tasks. But if you offer something of value for free, they will appreciate your goodwill and understand that you are doing your best to prove that you are worthy. 

6. Do a Risk Reversal 

A risk reversal means minimizing the risk they take in hiring you. Give them a couple of options. Say something like “you can take this free spreadsheet and hire someone else or you can have me complete the job.” When you give people an option, they are likely to pick one or the other, rather than giving them an open-ended option where they may not choose anything at all.

This might seem risky at the first place, as you might end up giving a reason to not hire you. But this is not the case for real. If you give prospecting clients an open-ended option, you don’t have things under your control. By doing a risk reversal, you set up a benchmark based on which the hiring should happen. And who is the best-suited person to meet the standards set up by you? Yourself. 

If you don’t get hired even after doing a risk reversal, it is highly likely that the client would have hired you anyway. That means you are not increasing the risk of not getting hired by implementing this strategy. The clients want the applicants to give them reasons to hire you, and risk reversal is a technique to show them proper reasons why you are the best-suited candidate for the job. 

Another benefit of this technique is, very few other freelancers will come up with a similar strategy. Risk reversal will label you as a unique candidate who is knowledgeable and already have a plan to complete the task. This is exactly what clients are looking for. 

7. Provide a Lower Barrier to Entry

Lowering a barrier to entry means reducing the headache of the client while hiring for the job. When clients look for freelancers for larger projects in particular, they tend to be more cautious while hiring someone. You need to show them that the risk associated with hiring you is significantly lower than hiring someone else. 

Make it as easy as possible for them to hire you, especially for larger jobs. They have to take a leap of faith when hiring you, so perhaps offer that they hire you for only a few hours, instead of 100. This will allow you to show your expertise and good communication. Once a relationship is established it’s much easier to continue.

If you are hired for a few hours, then it is up to you to do a great job and extend your contract. If you agree to work for a few hours to prove your worth, the clients will be more likely to hire you as they have a lot less to lose even if you fail to deliver. On the contrary, the clients will face wastage of a lot of time and money if the hired freelancer fails to complete the project after taking the whole job. 

By lowering barriers to entry, you put the clients in a comfort zone. In cases like this, your first priority should be building a long term relationship with the client. Once the relationship is built, the client won’t hesitate to give you larger projects, and even future projects. 

8. Make the Proposal Industry Specific

The objective of sending a job proposal to a potential client is to let them know that you have what it takes to complete the project. If you can show the client that you have industry specific knowledge, then your chances of getting hired will exponentially increase. Clients prefer master of few things over jacks of all trades. 

For example, if you are pitching your SEO expertise to an automobile company, then you should give your insight about the automobile industry in your job proposal. Prove that you are well-informed about the industry already, and will be able to create and implement such SEO strategies that are best suited to the industry. 

Only apply this technique if you actually know enough about the industry. Don’t try to fake it by providing false information to the client. Even if you get the job by doing this practice, you will not be able to deliver according to the client’s expectations. 

9. Keep the Pricing Competitive

upwork proposal best practics

Pricing is an important aspect when it comes to freelance jobs. At times freelancers don’t understand how to write a bid proposal and end up asking for outrageous amounts. No matter how much budget clients have, they will always try to get the best value for their money. If you demand an outrageous amount that is way above the market standard, then you will not get hired for sure. 

The best way to go about is to explain in your job proposal why you deserve the payment you have asked for. Explain what you are going to provide for that price, and how the price is justified. 

The client won’t mind giving you a higher rate if you can prove your services are worth the price. But if someone else offers to provide the same services for a lower price, then you might not get the job. That’s why you need to be fair while setting up the price. Here’s a helpful freelancing pricing guide for you. 

At the end of the day you need to use your own judgment while writing the proposal, but these simple strategies are very helpful to make the correct judgment. Did you find these tips helpful? Did you understand how to apply for a job on Upwork? Let me know in the comment section.

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