Edit: well, there's no option I can find to close the thread. If it's already been discussed to death then forget I said anything.
Nearly every single job I've ever submitted Proposals to have needed the phrase "I need to ask you for some additional information so I can form a custom Quote to suit your needs, please disregard the budget I've posted here, it's simply a placeholder." We need to be able to probe the client for additional information first, as they generally post a brief overview, nothing more. In order to formulate an accurate Proposal (or to even assess if we're even interested or a good match) we need to submit a Proposal with little to go off of. It's putting the cart before the horse when we do this, you need to find out what all will be involved in the project before you can calculate a realistic quote for the project. More often than not the client posting the job isn't familiar with what the project entails and therefore doesn't know what information would be useful for us to know, more-so how much it would realistically cost-- and rightfully so, we're the experts here, we should be able to chat with them in advance to probe for that information, information which should get added to the job listing for everyone to see. I won't name names, but similar sites have features that let freelancers do this. One completely unrelated site which I think would be safe to name is Ebay, which lets you ask questions about products which are up for sale prior to purchase, the Q's and A's of which get posted publicly on the product's listing for all to see. Why can't we have this? Related: I attempted to post a Proposal to a job today, but was presented with an incredibly vague error when attempting to do so. Long story short, if you are attempting to post a Proposal to a job but in the meantime the client retracts the job post, you'll just see "Something went wrong, please try again." The site should give a more verbose error message, stating that the client retracted the job listing. Better yet, the page should display a popup the very moment it gets de-listed, so we don't waste our valuable time writing a well-presented Proposal for naught. Even now the listing still shows as open on my end, only support personnel are currently able to see that the listing was retracted by the client. (see ticket 19233086) Furthermore, a bigger issue comes to mind, in that there should be an alternate means to reach clients in the event that communications become unavailable. For instance, support should be able to relay messages to the client on our behalf if the site begins spitting out errors like this. The main Marketplace portion of the site often becomes unavailable, as does the Messenger service. However, it's not common that both go down simultaneously, so being able to communicate via either of the two services would allow added redundancy. Even so, we cannot contact prospective clients via the Messenger service until an interview is set up, which creates a chicken-and-egg issue whenever we cannot submit Proposals for whichever reason. If Upwork wants to make the most money out of our time (as we freelancers as well as the clients are both their product), we should be able to make the most efficient use of our time. This would greatly improve productivity.
The ebay model is not a good analogy and it is not comparable at all.
This has been discussed many times over and most of us agree that it is the worse idea ever. Allowing this feature means clients would be inundated/spammed to death - none of us wants to see anything that po's the clients faster than getting 400 emails with questions about a job post.
As Jennifer says, ask any questions in your bid.
If you can't accurately quote a price or turnaround for the job, just guess or bid your standard rate and explain in the proposal that you can make an appropriate bid after you get more details.
If the job post has so little information, consider whether you should bother applying at all.
Exchange email addresses or Skype IDs or something if you want alternative means of contacting your clients.
Probably you had the problem with applying to a closed job because the job status doesn't update immediately. Or maybe it was just a bug. If it takes me a while to write a proposal, I reload the job post page (not the submit proposal page) to make sure no one was hired and the job wasn't closed while I was typing. I do that before I try to submit the proposal. That would probably eliminate that confusing error you saw.
Yeah, it most likely was a bug, I did try reloading the page and even opening it in a browser I've never used on Upwork, but it still showed as open. Odd that support was able to see the status update sooner on their end. Oh well.