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Submitting a proposal without a bid

Hello everyone,

Do you think is worth to submit a proposal without a bid when there are over 50 applicants and bids are going as high as 60 connects? 

Community Member

It depends:


Has the prospective client described their project in enough detail for you to know you are the ideal freelancer for them? And can you provide information about prior work that will convince the prospective client to hire you?


If I remember correctly, 60 connects are worth US$9. Is the potential payment for completing this project well above this amount? Assuming you win 1 out of 10 of such projects, you'll have spent $90 to win one project. Assuming you win 1 out of 20 such projects, you'll spend US$180 to win one project. Are those worthwhile costs?


I don't submit any proposals on projects that already have 50 or more applicants, I certainly wouldn't spend US$ 90 or more boosting my proposals in order to win 1 out of 10 or more projects. But that's just me....




Thanks, Will. Very useful analysis. I really appreciate it!

Community Member

Theoretically, admin could post scam jobs in order to drum up bidding and have no one at all win the work/pay promised to inflate purchasing Connects. Of course, one only hopes this kind of thing doesn't happen...


Theoretically, yes. But this would be a HUGE legal risk for them if something like that were exposed. I don't see them taking that gamble. So yes... let's hope no one is going down that road!

Community Member

Hello Martha,


If there are 50 applicants and only 50% of the clients hire anybody, you only have a 1% change of getting hired all else being equal. I would not apply for any job that had more than 20 applicants regardless of the Boost feature. By the way, I have completed 340 Jobs on Upwork with this strategy. Have a great day!

Thanks, William. I did not know that only 50% of the clients hire anybody. Have a great day too!


You are most welcome! Fifty percent hiring per post isn't too bad considering all the reasons why there is not a hire and yes the 50% is a published number.


Unless someone uses both a freelancer and client account, then don't understand how the system truly works. Someone can have a wonderful cover letter (which is needed), however if 50+ freelancers apply for the job, most clients will never review all the freelancers proposals. In my experience, most of the job proposals are from freelancers with $0 Earned especially if opened up to international freelancers.


Have a wonderful day!

Nobody outside Upwork knows that only 50% of clients ever hire a freelancer for their posted jobs. 


That number may or may not be right, but it should have no effect on any freelancer's bidding strategy. 


If you are a perfect match for a well-defined job posting, submit a proposal. The chances of your proposal being chosen are more dependent on the quality of your cover letter and the algorithm-based positioning of your proposal within the entire list of a job's proposals. (But I admit I don't bid on jobs with 50 or more existing proposals because I have more potential jobs than I can handle and I believe it is possible clients leave their job posts active even after they have chosen a freelancer and they plan to hire no more. Submitting a proposal on those jobs is a clear waste of time and connects.) Much more important is how long the job has been posted  on Upwork. Upwork used to remind us that most clients hire within a short time of posting their jobs (three days?) so if I see a job posting that's a week or more old and the client hasn't checked the job's proposals list for a week or more, then I assume they either have already hired a freelancer or they won't ever hire one. (I could be wrong, but I'd prefer to bid on fresh job postings, not the stale ones.)


As far as the "right" length of proposals, I often exceed the 5,000 character limit on cover letters and have to pare them back a bit.


But I do jobs that have a lot of options and potential complexities, which I don't want to be left unsaid and know will put off some of the kinds of clients I don't want to work with anyway. Many potential clients thank me for my detailed responses, and those are the ones who likely understand the complexities of their own projects and don't expect it will take me only a day or two to do the work. I also make it clear in my cover letter that we'll need to have a number of phone calls during the project and I'll charge them for time spent on those calls and I expect their active participation throughout the project,


In my opinion, the cover letter is a one-way communication that sets the stage for defining exactly what I will and won't do for the client and how long I expect, but can't promise, it will likely take to complete their project. (I only apply to hourly jobs).


So, the length of every freelancer's proposal/cover letter needs to be long enough to convince the client the freelancer can do the work needed within the client's budget. Is there a maximum target word count that gets the highest percentage of successful proposals? No. Say as much as you think you need to say - and not a word more.


Good luck!



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While I mostly agree with Will L and William T C's viewpoints, I'm in the middle on this.


I don't submit any proposals on projects that already have 50 or more applicants...


I would not apply for any job that had more than 20 applicants regardless of the Boost feature...


I have operated this way on Upwork for a long time. But I recently started thinking about the fact that those 20-50 proposals could possbily include:


  • Inexperienced freelancers who do not submit compelling proposals
  • Inexperienced and experienced freelancers who submit mediocre proposals
  • Auto-generated, spam proposals
  • AI-generated proposals that are clearly recognized or suspected by the client


As far as I know, the client does not see proposals in the order in which they are received; instead, Upwork determines the order based on best-match (and probably a few other things).

If I could verify that all 20-50 submitted proposals are equally great, I would never submit. Since I can't confirm the authenticity and quality of other's proposals, I submit my own if the job is something for which I'm sure I can provide quality service.


It's sort of like applying for a job; if I think I'm the best candidate, I don't think about the number of resumes being sent by others--I send my own.


I guess the question becomes, are you willing to spend Connects to submit your own, no matter how many other proposals have been submitted?




Because I have been on both sides of the equation, once there are too many proposals, only the most diligent clients will view all of the proposals, therefore even if you are the best freelancer for the job, the client may NEVER view your proposal. That is one of the main reasons for the 20 limit strategy.



I certainly understand that strategy.


How would you view a scenario where Upwork limited the length of a proposal? Meaning, do you think more clients would be inclined to view more proposals if proposals were limited to 75 words or less?


(I'm not really advocating for this; I'm just wondering how it might affect clients. Maybe they would read more proposals and get to the cream-of-the-crop that might otherwise get overlooked with 50+ submissions.)

In many fields, I would think clients would have no incentive to look at proposals at all if freelancers were limited to three or four sentences.

Community Member

If you have unique skills or experience that you believe make you a top choice for the gig, yes. If you think it's likely that several of the freelancers who already sent proposals are just as qualified as you are, no.

Community Member

Yes absolutely! If you think you have something to offer, definitely send a proposal!

Community Member

Thank you, everyone, for all of your insightful answers. I have learned a lot from your comments. I did not know that Upwork used an “algorithm-based positioning of your proposal.” Why I don’t understand then is how is it possible that there are jobs that appear with one hire little after they are published. Does it mean that the client does not wait for the algorithm-based positioning? It is impossible to “position” applicants if the algorithm does not “know” how many applicants there are, right? Have a great Saturday afternoon/night/ morning!

Martha C.,


The algorithm is apparently dynamic - each time a new proposal is received on a project the algorithm puts it into its ranked place within the existing list of proposals already received and ranked.


If a project appears with 1 hire immediately after it's posted one possibility is that the job was posted with the intention of hiring a particular freelancer, who has been hired. The odds of the same such project needing more than one freelancer is probably very small, but you never know.

Community Member

Hi Martha,


Based on my exprience, I don't bother sending proposal anymore with 50+ applicants. I move on and find another one. You'd waste your time and money for connects. Try those job posts with at least 20+ max applications but still better to apply if it's less than that.

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