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m_maddox-france
Community Member

Making a Winning Proposal Based on a Vague Listing

Greetings fellow freelancers.  I've just encountered a very vague listing for a job that could potentially net me a decent sack of change.  I did my best to address what information I could regarding said listing, but I must confess it felt like a bit of a stretch.  The listing and subsequent proposal are below this paragraph for anyone interested.

 

 *** Edited for Community Guidelines ***

 

Now I've become aware of some of the do's and don'ts of Proposal Writing: Use the client's name to help personalize the proposal, focus on what the client needs more so than your job history, give advice where you can in relation to the job, show where you can be an asset to the client, inserting some tasteful humor can be a way to differentiate your proposal from others, give compliments or friendly comments about the job when possible,  and never, ever, beg.  However, putting a lot of this and other advice into effect on a vague listing can be very difficult, especially with an inexperienced Freelancer desperately trying to cloak how desperate he is to get some work.  So I suppose my advice is this: How should I handle listings that are vague like the one above?  Should I do like I did above and try to fish for some sparse clues as to what the client might want for his/her job?  Should I simply list my capabilities and give them a gentle reminder that it's hard to propose a solution to a very vague problem?  Or should I cut my losses, save my connects, and skip such listings?

ACCEPTED SOLUTION
charles_kozierok
Community Member

Here's how I would have dealt with the listing in question: I would have never even opened it. If I had, I would have closed it 10 seconds later.

 

1. Entry level. Immediate skip.

2. Ridiculously vague description. Immediate skip, possible flag to Upwork. More on this in a moment.

3. Photo editing jobs always get tons of proposals. If there's nothing specific to make clear that you are a particularly good fit, nearly always a waste of time and connects. Since there's no information here, there's no way to know if you are a good fit or not, which means you're going to be fighting against Photoshop mills that bid editing jobs at under a buck an image.

4. Invite on the job. Lowers chances of getting accepted, because he already has his eye on someone.

5. Client has a 3.49 star rating. A 5 star rating doesn't mean the client is perfect, but a 3.49 on 2 reviews is a red flag.

6. Client gave 3 stars to a Top Rated freelancer with a 96% JSS and $30k+ earnings. Red flag.

7. Client has a 34% hire rate. Red flag.

 

You have to understand that vague listings are very often a sign of what I call "tire kickers" or "dazed wanderers." The former are just here to feel out the market and have no intention of hiring. The latter don't know what they want at all, which means they can't hire someone to do it. In this case it's probably Door #2, but the odds of you ever getting anything out of this were low from the start. And that's before taking into account all the red flags.

 

As for your proposal.. it's over 300 words long. If one is willing to give any benefit of the doubt to a client for a super-short job listing, then it is because the client is likely to be very busy. Do you really think any client who writes a seven-word job title and then repeats those same seven words for the description is going to even read that? ๐Ÿ™‚

 

You need to keep things short and sweet. Especially if going after something low-payoff like this. Say briefly what experience you have of relevance and why you can help the client. Say you'd like to learn more about the project and to please contact you.

 

Also, if you're going to bid on a zero-content flat-rate job, you must say that any bid is provisional based on the amount of work involved. This could be 10 photos or 10,000. Who knows?

 

I'm sorry if the above comes across as harsh. I'm not perfect by any means, and every single thing I said above represents a mistake I made in the past myself.

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7 REPLIES 7
charles_kozierok
Community Member

Here's how I would have dealt with the listing in question: I would have never even opened it. If I had, I would have closed it 10 seconds later.

 

1. Entry level. Immediate skip.

2. Ridiculously vague description. Immediate skip, possible flag to Upwork. More on this in a moment.

3. Photo editing jobs always get tons of proposals. If there's nothing specific to make clear that you are a particularly good fit, nearly always a waste of time and connects. Since there's no information here, there's no way to know if you are a good fit or not, which means you're going to be fighting against Photoshop mills that bid editing jobs at under a buck an image.

4. Invite on the job. Lowers chances of getting accepted, because he already has his eye on someone.

5. Client has a 3.49 star rating. A 5 star rating doesn't mean the client is perfect, but a 3.49 on 2 reviews is a red flag.

6. Client gave 3 stars to a Top Rated freelancer with a 96% JSS and $30k+ earnings. Red flag.

7. Client has a 34% hire rate. Red flag.

 

You have to understand that vague listings are very often a sign of what I call "tire kickers" or "dazed wanderers." The former are just here to feel out the market and have no intention of hiring. The latter don't know what they want at all, which means they can't hire someone to do it. In this case it's probably Door #2, but the odds of you ever getting anything out of this were low from the start. And that's before taking into account all the red flags.

 

As for your proposal.. it's over 300 words long. If one is willing to give any benefit of the doubt to a client for a super-short job listing, then it is because the client is likely to be very busy. Do you really think any client who writes a seven-word job title and then repeats those same seven words for the description is going to even read that? ๐Ÿ™‚

 

You need to keep things short and sweet. Especially if going after something low-payoff like this. Say briefly what experience you have of relevance and why you can help the client. Say you'd like to learn more about the project and to please contact you.

 

Also, if you're going to bid on a zero-content flat-rate job, you must say that any bid is provisional based on the amount of work involved. This could be 10 photos or 10,000. Who knows?

 

I'm sorry if the above comes across as harsh. I'm not perfect by any means, and every single thing I said above represents a mistake I made in the past myself.

It may have come across as a touch harsh, but I appreciate the feedback nonetheless.  This information will help me with future job searches and I'll keep a much closer eye on the client stats from here-on-out.  And if there's one thing I struggle with when making proposals, it's especially being long-winded.  I (obviously) have yet to master the art of succinctness despite valuing that in other persons' writings - it's a baffling flaw, to be honest...so I appreciate your feedback there as well!

 

If something results from this, then happy day, but if not, I won't lose any sleep.

Hi Michael.

 

I haven't seen the job and proposal that you posted, as they've already been removed by a moderator. But judging by Charles' description, my reaction would have been much the same as his. The only time I've responded to such a short job description was when I responded to "Details: TBA" with "Proposal: TBA". For some strange reason I never heard back from that client, but I doubt that anyone else did either.

 

I guess quite a lot depends on your line of work. In my case (developing Excel applications) nearly all my successful proposals were ones where the job description had sufficient detail for me to say something about how I could solve the problem. In many cases I've been able to show the client relevant work that I've done before. Once I realized that these were the proposals that worked, I largely gave up on replying to vague job posts. But sometimes, when I've got more connects than I can use, I'll send off a few quickie proposals to long-shot jobs. As far as I recall, none of them have paid off yet.

Thanks for your help. I read this carefully. You seem to be full of humour.

cylver1z
Community Member

Hello Michael,

 

You may check these articles to help you submit a winning proposals:

 

Submitting a winning proposal

Proposal workshop

 

You may also read this helpful article to avoid questionable jobs

 

Thank you and good luck!


Untitled

I feel your pain. I just saw a job with the discription, "need expert in civil engineering for quick task". How do you put a proposal together for that? Also how do you put a price together on this?

How do you respond to a vague proposal? I don't usually waste my time. If the client cannot take the time to adequately describe his or her problem, then they won't take the time to read your proposal. An alternative option is to propose writing a Scope of Work document to define what they need, instead of actually proposing to do the work.

 

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