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Thoughts on Winning Proposals (Share Your Tactics)

I originally made this as a reply to a thread, but It seems like people were sharing/reviving with their own tactics. Let's make a new thread for proposal tactics. Please share your ideas, as we are all in this together.




Hello. I would like to offer my experience to help out other people struggling with proposals, their rate, and the competition. Bidding is hard and eats so much time. It takes a ton of practice, and even then you may lose most proposals. This is the way of the contracting beast. With that in mind, I will call bidding a mix of targeted solutions, human psychology, realistic expectations, and pure desire for that holy grail ongoing contract. So on with my thoughts:


You can see other freelancers in your profession by using the Upwork profile search. You can check out their profiles, reviews, and most importantly, their posted rates versus what they actually make on past jobs. For example, here is a search for USA based web developers: https://www.upwork.com/ab/profiles/search/?q=web%20development&user_pref=2 You can also check out freelancers by browsing open jobs and checking out past work from the client. You can often find repeat clients this way if you have a good memory of trends (city, spent amount) or past jobs/freelancers. I recommend you check out completed jobs for every proposal you bid on...at the least to see how other freelancers reviewed them. Combined with client average rate paid, location (cost of living/business), and total amount spent, this will give you a stronger understanding of your bargaining power.


You do not need a portfolio, nor do you need any tests, nor do you need a high-level college degree to win good jobs. Those three things help a TON, but from what I have found, it's all about an expertly written cover letter, having confident solutions while bidding, and locking down a solid profile description with real work experience. I have won jobs against freelancers/agencies with massive stacks of portfolio/tests and completed jobs. Why? Because I'm a real human, and I talked to the client about solutions instead of wordy lists of experience. You have to know exactly what you are talking about however and already have a plan + solution/design in mind.


Each cover letter may start and end the same, but the guts of each are made for the client and are tailored specifically to the job. Imagine the client is sitting face to face with you talking about what they need. Your answer can naturally imply "expert", or it can imply "salesman". Trust me, you want to be an expert. Leave the wordy experience and pitches [mostly] to your profile. It's good to talk maybe 1-2 sentences about your specific experience/pitch, but clients are more concerned with a solution, fast turn-around, and professional grade work done correctly. Additionally, having a personality, a strong desire to work with them, and availability [for future jobs too] goes a long way. Please keep in mind, sometimes you do not want to share too much information with the client. A simple CSS/content/etc fix pasted into a proposal could mean the client just implements themselves.


Choosing your rate and keeping competitive at the same time is the hardest part of all of this. If you are a pro, base your rate on a high-average from the profile search discussed earlier in this post, but don't expect to get that every time. For example, it appears that an expert web developer with real work experience across the full stack could realistically easily command $40-$80 on most jobs. This is true, but that doesn't mean every client is a right fit for that bracket, nor does it imply that the client sees you as "worth that rate". Crawling through completed jobs in freelancer profiles often paints this picture. You will see many jobs below their rate and many above. The following is not a hard truth, but this is what I have observed: What are the below rates? Hourly jobs. What are the above rates? The lesser hours they spent on fixed rate jobs. How often do they actually nail their profile rate? It depends, but much of the time, not that often. The mean high-average still works out. Just keep that in mind, take a hit on rate sometimes, but never below your absolute minimum.


Finish each proposal with a strong desire to meet, get to know each other, and learn more about the project/requirements/tasks. If you have *any* questions at all, make sure you let them know that. Ask a couple in the cover if you want, but save most of them for a meeting. This will entice the client to want to meet, and you will reduce a communication barrier which may otherwise turn them off. Speaking via text/chat is ok for certain things, but nothing compares to a face-to-face (either literally via video/screenshare or a phone call). If the client prefers chat, that's ok too. Work with whatever channel you need to.


Always thank the client for their time and the opportunity. Don't grovel at their feet, but don't expect that they read past the first sentence either. It's very important that you are grateful that someone is even considering you and have gotten as far as the end. A thank you goes a long way, especially after a well thought out, solution-oriented, outside-the-crowd cover letter.


With that in mind, thank you for your time reading my thoughts. I hope these help reduce anxiety about the Upwork process for freelancers. Have a great day 🙂


My reply was moved from here: https://community.upwork.com/t5/Programmers-Developers/Having-No-Luck-With-Proposals/m-p/591624#M274...

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I try 3 different techniques:


1. Go through the client's needs, and then structure a proposal answering how I can do everything they need.


2. If what they want is simple, or the answer is just a "google" or something I know about, I will just tell them what to do, without being too specific. Haven't had much success with this, but it's for jobs that pay very little and I don't really want, so I just want to make sure they know how to solve it themselves. This is for things like "Why is my email landing in people's spam folder?"


3. If it's something that needs a project to be managed, I will map out what they need to do, going into detail about how I'd do it. The more technical, the better, because it makes them realise that you are an expert and that they can't just hire anyone and expect good results.

The more technical expertise I can demonstrate, the higher the fee I can charge. If they have a "beginner" level, I will ignore these ones.


1 and 3 have had success. 2 hasn't, but it's basically me doing a favour for the client so they don't end up paying someone who doesn't know anything and might rip them off.

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