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New to Upwork: How to know if your proposals are getting anywhere?

carolineraphael
Active Member
Caroline M Member Since: Mar 19, 2021
1 of 14

Hi Upwork community,

 

I'm new to the app and honestly am feeling a bit discouraged by the proposal system. All but one of my proposals (of which I've sent about 20) are either in limbo or have been archived for unknown reasons (no one ever seems to leave a comment in the "Reason" column). I've applied to jobs in several different fields that I have experience in, usually either editing/proofreading or illustration work. I apply to jobs that have been posted within the hour, and hours later, they're already closed, sometimes without even giving me a notification that my proposal was archived.

 

Additionally, I've had two clients (one who accepted my proposal and one who didn't) both tell me that they have either never or only rarely received notifications of my offer or my messages. The client who didn't choose me actually messaged to let me know that, had he seen my proposal when it was sent, he would have considered me for the position. This lack of communication-- through no fault of my own, or even his-- cost me a potential job. 

 

TL;DR It seems to me that Upwork has issues when it comes to its communication options between clients and freelancers, stymying valuable opportunities. I feel like it's costing me work. Any idea as to fixes for this, or if it's an issue others experience with their proposals?

 

Thanks so much,

 

Caroline

gilbert-phyllis
Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
2 of 14

First of all, UW is a platform, not an app. (I'm not being pedantic, the differences matter when it comes to how you understand it and how you learn to use it to make money.) Second of all, 20 proposals is less than a drop in the bucket. I joined UW with >20 years of freelancing experience and it took me a month and 30 proposals to land my first contract; another month and about 30 more to land the second; and a good six months after that to begin getting real traction. This is simply to say that it's a long game, especially when you don't yet have an established track record of working as an independent contractor. 

 

In not quite five years, I can count on one hand the number of times I heard from a client who wasn't interested in hiring me. It just rarely happens, so just place your bid and move on.

 

Look for projects that are a precise match for your strongest skills and capabilities, where you are absolutely sure you can deliver beyond expectations, and bid on those. You are probably wasting your time bidding on editing/proofreading when your profile is all about being an illustrator. The platform is awash in highly qualified editors and proofreaders. Don't waste your time trying to compete with them.

 

Search for FLs who are doing the kind of work you want to do, earning what you'd like to charge, and study their profiles and the types of projects they've done. Be prepared to charge a bit less than you feel you're worth, to get started. But not much less because you don't want to attract bottom feeders and you also don't want a bunch of cheap jobs in your history, that can be tough to climb away from.

 

Good luck!

carolineraphael
Active Member
Caroline M Member Since: Mar 19, 2021
3 of 14

Hi Phyllis,

 

Thanks for your reply. I get what you mean about it being a big time investment to get any kind of results. I'm not new to the freelancing scene, but I am new to this platform, so I'm aware of the time it takes. I guess it's just frustrating to not know why my proposals are not getting through: is there something wrong with them, something I need to improve on, or is it simply that a potential client didn't even see my proposal? In that case, it could be that nothing was wrong with my proposal at all; I simply wasn't quick enough on the draw.

 

I do feel like I'm applying to jobs that work to my strengths-- but again, it doesn't seem to matter either way. As someone who has a decent client base elsewhere, but is looking to expand on that, it's strange to see my pool of interested clients shrink to a mere fraction, simply because of... I don't even know what. Do I need to display more of my work? Do I need to display my credentials more prominently? I have no idea.

 

What I meant when I said a client contacted me but didn't hire me, is that he reached out AFTER he'd already hired someone else for the job. He then messaged me to say that he hadn't gotten any notification of my proposal, but that if he had, he would have considered me for the position instead of tacitly rejecting me. I don't mean at all that he wasn't interested in hiring me: I mean that he WAS, but that Upwork's notification system led to a miscommunication that I found frustrating. I don't expect it to happen often, but wanted to bring it up here regardless, as it seems to me it might have to do with how notifications on Upwork are sent.

 

I guess in the end it really is a trial and error game until you start reaching those who are interested in your work. From there, you can sort of begin to snowball your reputation into something bigger. I just wish it would snowball faster (and who doesn't?). 

 

Caroline

 

elastella
Community Guru
Ela K Member Since: Feb 9, 2015
4 of 14

 

 


Caroline M wrote:

....

What I meant when I said a client contacted me but didn't hire me, is that he reached out AFTER he'd already hired someone else for the job. He then messaged me to say that he hadn't gotten any notification of my proposal, but that if he had, he would have considered me for the position instead of tacitly rejecting me. I don't mean at all that he wasn't interested in hiring me: I mean that he WAS, but that Upwork's notification system led to a miscommunication that I found frustrating. 

...


This is the bit I don't understand: he says he rejected (=archived) your proposal but somehow posits he didn't see it? How does that work? And only after hiring somebody else he then starts going through all the bids he received?

As other people have said, there is no alert on the client side for every single proposal. So either this client is also new to this and/or doesn't understand how it's supposed to work, or he's after sth else.

kinector
Community Guru
Mikko R Member Since: Dec 26, 2015
BEST ANSWER
5 of 14

Caroline M wrote:

Hi Upwork community,

 

I'm new to the app and honestly am feeling a bit discouraged by the proposal system. All but one of my proposals (of which I've sent about 20) are either in limbo or have been archived for unknown reasons (no one ever seems to leave a comment in the "Reason" column). I've applied to jobs in several different fields that I have experience in, usually either editing/proofreading or illustration work. I apply to jobs that have been posted within the hour, and hours later, they're already closed, sometimes without even giving me a notification that my proposal was archived.


Caroline, Phyllis had valid tips, so I try to dig a bit deeper here.

 

I've suffered a bit from missing notifications, disappearing messages, and such things from time to time. But they don't play any bigger role in how well my business runs over here. I report bugs, someone goes and fixes it, and we go on, business as usual. No system is flawless, so what YOU can do is try to improve it and work around the problems.

 

But in general, I think you have not yet thought through this thing called freelancing. I cannot see your profile, I have no idea how good your proposals are, or whether or not you're in a saturated field, so I won't go there. I'm assuming you're after your first Upwork contract. Is that the case?

 

I noticed that many who join Upwork think that signing up makes them freelancers. That's not how it works! More like the other way round. Those struggling with identifying their niche, defining their best types of clients, formulating their value proposition for each individual won't make it out here any better than elsewhere. I've seen some trying to build an Upwork-based business of a type that cannot even be done in an efficient way online!

 

Good freelancers figure out very quickly if some platform helps them find the best kinds of clients or not. If not, try something else (why settle for the second-best). Blaming some system's features sounds like avoiding the responsibility of one's own business. Who else's responsibility could it be? Smiley Very Happy

 

There is no "investment" of any kind other than what you'd need to "invest" somewhere else. Some details are different in terms of the process, that's all.

 

For a comparison, imagine you need to go to a physical meeting to have a chance to talk with every potential client in the same numbers as what chance you have out here. I bet it would take MORE time than writing just 20 proposals. These kinds of online platforms are highly efficient in making connections with people who might need you. Still, you'd need to have a good offering and a solid process for converting them to paying customers, and some consideration to the market in general. Without these, you'd be in limbo in the physical world too. Just a different kind of limbo. Running after customers (literally!), having endless coffee or lunch meetings, attending day-long meetups, calling a dozen guys a day, etc. (I know because this is what I did my first 6 months.)

 

So, maybe put your efforts into figuring out your unique offering, practice your writing to make it obvious in your proposals, make sure the profile repeats the message, and keep going. You've probably seen all the official guides on profiles and proposals, I'd imagine.

 

You have all the tools you need, as perfect or imperfect as they might be. There is no system that can build your business for you. Keep going, make your business. 👍

 

Good luck, Caroline!

View solution in original post

carolineraphael
Active Member
Caroline M Member Since: Mar 19, 2021
6 of 14

Hi Mikko,

 

Thanks for your additional feedback. This is all very valuable, no doubt-- but I think people are missing my point. I am, and have been, a freelancer for multiple years now on my own platform. I understand how this works, and have most certainly "thought this through". My business has been done online ever since it started, so I am also aware of the struggles and pitfalls one faces when doing online work; it's a totally different setting than in person, you're right! The difficult part is adjusting to a new platform (or additional one, I should say, as I still do business on my own terms elsewhere), where the methods of communication and business are different. I simply find Upwork to be frustrating (at times) to navigate, is all, and this is what I'm looking to improve on as I continue my time on the platform. This thread has provided me with some new avenues to explore in this area.

 

Make no mistake: I am not blaming Upwork solely for my lack of traction. As I said, I understand it's a long game to play. I understand I can always improve on my own proposal and own work as a whole. I'll admit I'm frustrated that people here keep assuming that I am "avoiding responsibility", when this is entirely not the case. I will continue to better myself until I reach the goals I've set-- it just leaves me a little bereft at times when it feels as though I have no feedback from clients (specifically on Upwork) to go off of. Really, it's a trial and error scenario. I'm committed to that. 

 

Regardless, thank you for your feedback. I wish everyone the best in their freelance work.

colettelewis
Community Guru
Nichola L Member Since: Mar 13, 2015
7 of 14

Caroline M wrote:

Hi Mikko,

 

Thanks for your additional feedback. This is all very valuable, no doubt-- but I think people are missing my point. I am, and have been, a freelancer for multiple years now on my own platform. I understand how this works, and have most certainly "thought this through". My business has been done online ever since it started, so I am also aware of the struggles and pitfalls one faces when doing online work; it's a totally different setting than in person, you're right! The difficult part is adjusting to a new platform (or additional one, I should say, as I still do business on my own terms elsewhere), where the methods of communication and business are different. I simply find Upwork to be frustrating (at times) to navigate, is all, and this is what I'm looking to improve on as I continue my time on the platform. This thread has provided me with some new avenues to explore in this area.

 

Make no mistake: I am not blaming Upwork solely for my lack of traction. As I said, I understand it's a long game to play. I understand I can always improve on my own proposal and own work as a whole. I'll admit I'm frustrated that people here keep assuming that I am "avoiding responsibility", when this is entirely not the case. I will continue to better myself until I reach the goals I've set-- it just leaves me a little bereft at times when it feels as though I have no feedback from clients (specifically on Upwork) to go off of. Really, it's a trial and error scenario. I'm committed to that. 

 

Regardless, thank you for your feedback. I wish everyone the best in their freelance work.


_________________________

I don't think anyone is missing your point. And nobody has said anything about your  'avoiding responsability'.  

You are up against massive competition on Upwork, so climb down from your high horse and take Phyllis's advice and see how you can turn your next proposal into a positive contract.   

kinector
Community Guru
Mikko R Member Since: Dec 26, 2015
8 of 14
Hey Caroline, I can see your profile now!

Everything looks like you're alone in your own silo not knowing or not caring about what happens outside of it. Your profile doesn't connect with anyone.

I'd recommend:
- Specialize more. Your profile is too generic. Experts win all the good gigs around here. Generalists have it tough. For instance, "cartoon illustrator" looks more specialized than a mere "illustrator"

- Make the portfolio more targeted. Who wants to see more and click on it when they only see one cartoon pic labeled as "various works"?

- There's no mention of the people who might be your clients. Feel free to imitate the targeting approach I use. My headline says who I work for.

- Do a competitor analysis. Who are you up against? Make sure your profile looks better than most people with a similar skill set.

So, I'd still say that your value proposition is not thought through, or if it is, it's not obvious in the profile. You have experience, you know who your clients are, you know what they appreciate and want to pay big bucks for. Just write it in! Not some generic things. 😉

Best of luck!
kinector
Community Guru
Mikko R Member Since: Dec 26, 2015
9 of 14
One more thing. Your work history works against you. I think you made a strategic mistake in accepting your first project that seems to be outside your core offering.

Now it looks like you want make illustrations, but the only guy who thought your time is worth money so far only hired you for reading some comic books. Not illustration work.

Moreover, there isn't any feedback on the first job. It makes potential clients wonder why...

Getting these things right from the beginning is essential, but it's not obvious perhaps. Unfortunately, the impact is permanent.
petra_r
Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
10 of 14

Mikko R wrote:
One more thing. Your work history works against you. I think you made a strategic mistake in accepting your first project that seems to be outside your core offering.

Critique of a comic book is entirely related to illustration. Accepting such a contract won't have done any harm at all.

 


Mikko R wrote:
Moreover, there isn't any feedback on the first job. It makes potential clients wonder why...

It literally JUST closed. Give feedback time to show. 

 


Mikko R wrote:
 Unfortunately, the impact is permanent.

Nonsense. 1. it does no harm and 2. if it did, the impact would last only as long as it would take for the contract to drop down and eventually off the page.

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