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5 Proposal Tips from an Upwork Coach

You may be wondering about the secret to writing a winning proposal, and the answer could be simpler than you’d expect. There’s no secret formula to writing the perfect proposal, but there are a few best practices you can rely on to help you find your own proposal writing style and create eye-catching proposals effectively by also showing what makes you unique.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes

You don’t need to have hiring experience to be able to put yourself in the client’s shoes. When submitting a proposal, we naturally get excited about the potential collaboration which is why we focus on telling the client everything about our experience instead of putting the client first and focusing on what they may need. 


So, before you get started, take a moment to analyze the job post and check for specific requirements the client has listed, any information about their business, what challenge they may need help with, etc. This will help you focus on what the Client needs from you and how you can help them. 


Still, feel free to show your excitement about the project and tell them why you’re interested in working with them.

Decide what to include in the cover letter

The more experience you have, the more you think you may need to include in your cover letter. However, most successful cover letters are the ones where you include only information about your skills and experience that is relevant to the job post. 


Decide on what is most important to include in your cover letter. For example, this could be a previous similar project you successfully completed and any relevant data, numbers, portfolio examples, etc. 


You may wish to start with a simple salutation such as “hello” or “hi” and use the client’s name if known. Then, you could summarize the skills and experience relevant to the job, as well as include a couple of portfolio examples or simply detail the similar experience you may have had.


This is also a good time to ask any questions you have. After which you can ask for an interview and share your availability to speak or chat. Lastly, thank the client, and make sure you don’t include any contact information.

Create a structure for your cover letter

Clients may skim the cover letter, especially if there are a lot of proposals, so be aware of how you organize your cover letter. What you include in the cover letter is important, but how you present it is as important. Bullet points can help you present the information about your skills, education, past experiences, or anything else, in a more organized way that makes it easy for the Client to understand. Anything you can do to make the process easier for the client increases your chance of success.

Bonus tip: when there are screening questions included in the job post, try to write your proposal “upside down”. Make sure you respond to the questions first as this is what the Client will see first too, but don’t neglect the cover letter either.

Mirror the client’s style

Once again, focus on what’s included in the job post and what the client’s style is. If they are very detailed about the requirements, try to write a detailed cover letter and respond to those requirements in the same order. The same goes for simple, shorter job posts - try to summarize your experience and how you can help the Client in a succinct and clear way.


Also, if there’s insufficient information about the job,consider checking for other job quality indicators such as feedback from talent the client hired previously, total amount spent, verified payment method, and average hourly rate. Considering these and other indicators can help you to assess if the job is worth applying for. 


If you decide to proceed and submit a proposal, feel free to ask a couple of questions to learn more about the requirements. Asking questions helps show the client you’re interested in their job and that you’re already thinking about the next step. That said, make sure to ask the questions at the right time, ideally after having introduced yourself.

Review your proposal before you hit send

Now that you’re thinking from a client’s perspective, consider rereading your cover letter to check if you responded to the client’s requirements and if your proposal directly speaks to the client’s needs, as well as if it’s error free. This only takes a minute, but it will show attention to detail and the extra effort you put in this proposal.


Additionally, check that your verbiage doesn’t sound like you’re “bragging” about your skills, and if it does, try to rephrase it so that it’s in the context of you how you can help the client and not only how experienced you may be.


Lastly, many freelancers tend to bid lower on projects in order for their proposal to be more appealing to the client, but the truth is, they may connect it with a lower quality of work. So, if bidding on a project with a lower rate than the one you currently have, you might consider explaining to the client that while your rate is higher, the value you bring to the project is also higher, and list the reasons.

Like with anything else, it takes time to hone your proposal writing skills that will help you get the Client interested in interviewing you and even hiring you, so feel free to test different strategies out to see what works best for you.


What’s your top strategy when writing proposals? 


To get more insight from our team of experienced Upwork Coaches, check out our coaching cohorts in Upwork Academy.