Bidding low or throwing in freebies is the absolute worst thing you can do. First, because there is always someone who will do it cheaper than you can. Second, it gives potential clients the impression that you don't value your skills or expertise. And if you don't value your skills, why should they?
All you're doing with that tactic is creating a race to the bottom. And that's a race that nobody wins, including the clients.
You need to show the client what you can do for their specific need, and convince them that hiring you (even if you cost more than whoever the lowest bidders are) will be more valuable in the long run, because you'll do it right.
Bottom line, charge what you know you're worth, and don't sell yourself short just to try and win contracts. Clients who are worth your time will be interested in your capabilities more than some artificially lowered price.
Bidding low is absolutely normal strategy. The purpose is to get rating. Words mean little if you have zero accomplished jobs. I've seen many profiles who made good career on Upwork by starting with low bids. Client often understand that a small cheap job is to get JSS and feedback.
I also saw profiles who had their first jobs as hourly with high rate. But much less often.
Michael's reply is quite impressive but ground realities deviate a little from his point of view even I think the same way. I started working as freelancer and initially there was no measure/evidence of my creativity, ability and skills. I had to bid low for a job to win a contract. I scored enough projects to show the world about my abilities with all performance measures to 100% (including JSS and clients who recommend me). Even clients made me do lot of work which was not even defined in job posting in the same price. Now that I have enough indicators of my performance, I am asking for fair price of my abilities, talent and skills but hardly winning a contract as quickly as before by bidding lower. But I am not going low just to win a contract again.
So, in my opinion, bidding low and work with full potential to gain good rating and reviews so that you can attract genuine clients in future. Don't get discouraged if someone ask more from you in start. Later you can work with your own terms with good performance indicators.
1. Learn to write proposals at breakneck speed. Cut and paste if that works for you. But always a) indicate somehow you have actually read the job posting and b) adapt the text when you need to and c) I had something here, but my mind went blank.
2. A low hourly rate will likely turn off a few clients looking for an experienced pro. Meanwhile, a high hourly rate will likely turn off a few amateurs who are looking for a quick, cheap solution to their problems. You will be happier attracting clients who are not hoping you can bail them out while paying nothing but sawdust.
3. Your rate looks very low to me, suggesting you will turn off the better gigs and appeal to the jokers. However, I am not the one to judge this. Do a survey of other web designers and aim for a medium rate to start.
4. As disquieting and unfair as it may be, one client can really push you in the mud with a lousy rating -- another reason to avoid the amateurs looking for a quick fix to their problems. (These guys are unreasonable and they strike back when you try to tell them the world is round.) So, keep that rating up by 1. Being honest, 2. Promising less and delivering more and 3) I can't remember the third thing ... what's with my brain today?
5. Oh yeah -- 3) staying away from morons.
It took me a month and 20 proposals to get my first job on Upwork. I eventually succeeded by sending the client a custom demo which showed enough of what he would be getting to convince him I would do a good job. I spent quite a lot of unpaid time on making custom demos, but I preferred that to working for peanuts. It was also useful for expanding my skill set and building up a library of reusable demos.
I started out charging 10-20% below what I felt I was worth -- no lower. Took 30 proposals to land my first project, nearly 30 more to land the second. The third project was a second contract with the first client. Took another six months or more to really start gaining momentum. Once I got a JSS and a good track record established, I was able to raise my rate several times over the next couple years.
When first starting out, you need to be more selective about clients than you will ever be again, because one less-than-perfect feedback can really handicap you. As you accumulate more closed contracts, each one weighs less and the stakes go down.
In your field, I think a portfolio is probably necessary, so it's worth your time to create some pieces specifically for your portfolio and/or find some pro bono work that will yield pieces you can display.
This is a long game that takes patience and determination. Good luck!
Start with fixed price projects, and make sure you receive stellar feedback. Whether you bid high or low it won't show on your profile, as it's not evident how much time you actually spent on the task. Any bonuses you receive from the client even after the contract is closed will increase the value of the project.