by Niall Doherty Updated: September 12, 2017
Upwork is the largest freelance marketplace online, with thousands of jobs posted every day.
Getting started as a freelancer on Upwork can be tough, because you’re often competing with dozens of other freelancers for a single job, and many of them are well established on the platform, with lots of great ratings and reviews.
So, how can you compete?
Well, it helps to submit A LOT of proposals.
In the words of Wayne Gretzky…
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
And it follows that the more shots you do take, the more likely you are to score.
But you should also ensure that you’re submitting QUALITY proposals, proposals that will help you stand out from the crowd and give you a solid chance of winning the job.
So, QUALITY and QUANTITY.
That’s what you should be aiming for.
And that’s where the following list of Upwork proposal templates can help. They will enable you to apply for more jobs without resorting to generic copy-and-paste tactics.
Each template below is derived from a real proposal that won a real job on Upwork.
I’ve included screenshots of the original job postings and cover letters so you can see exactly what the job was and how it was won.
Below each example you’ll find a corresponding template you can use to quickly craft your own proposal for ANY job on Upwork.
There are 4 templates in total:
- The Short And Sweet
- The Screencast Standout
- The Honest Newbie
- The Quick Lister
Note that each example you’re about to see was submitted by a student of 3 Months → $1,000. Two of them were responses to job invites, and two were cold pitches.
Let’s dive in…
The Short And Sweet
This first proposal sample comes from Justin, a freelance web designer and digital marketer.
The Job Description
Justin was hired for the job at $50/hour.
I typically use the same model for Upwork proposals: I ask about 3-4 relevant questions about the job in the first paragraph, and I qualify myself in the second paragraph.
So the template is as follows:
Hello Client Name,
If applicable: Thanks for the job invite. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Ask 3-4 short but relevant questions about the job here. This shows that you’ve read the description and know your stuff, and also invites the client to begin a conversation with you.
Qualify yourself briefly here. 1-2 lines that communicate why you’d be a good fit for this job.
- Justin addressed the client by name at the beginning of his proposal, even though the client never mentioned their name in the job description. Often you can find the client’s name mentioned in the reviews section of their profile. Going to the effort of finding their name and including it in your proposal will help you stand out from the crowd.
- Keep in mind that Justin was invited to this job, which gave him a much better chance of being hired. I asked Justin about this and he believes the key to getting hired is his strong profile and track record on Upwork.
- Justin taught himself web design in a two-month period, then started on Upwork at $9/hour. A little more than a year later he’d also taught himself digital marketing and was earning $45-55/hour consistently. Read more about his journey to Upwork success here.
The Screencast Standout
Natalia explained to me via email:
This was my very first proposal screencast. It saves time to make a screencast to review a client’s website rather than writing endlessly to explain what you mean.
This proposal was an answer to an invite to apply, but he invited a few people so I wanted to stand out.
The client was impressed:
Natalia ended up getting paid $350 for this job, but that wasn’t the end of it:
I’m still working for this client, and he is constantly thinking up new jobs I can do for the campaign because he is always happy with my work.
First, a warning:
- You should be selective with screencast proposals. They are are not always appropriate. Use them if you find yourself trying to explain something to a client in writing that would be more easily explained on screen.
The template is as follows:
Hello Client’s Name,
If applicable: Thank you for your invitation.
Share a link to your screencast and briefly explain what it contains. You want to give the client a compelling reason to click the link and watch. Tell them what benefit they will get from it and note that it will only take up a few minutes of their time.
1 paragraph explaining why the job appeals to you. Bonus points if you can share why the goals of the client resonate with you personally.
1 paragraph sharing an example of your work, ideally closely related to the job you’re applying for.
If you want to collaborate with me let’s discuss it in more detail over the chat.
- Use the free Jing software to create and share screencasts up to 5 minutes in length.
The Honest Newbie
This next proposal sample comes from Gray, a freelance graphic designer.
The Job Description
Gray was hired to do the job at a 10% discount, but that was only the beginning. As he explained to me via email:
This also led to ongoing work and was for the guys who I am pricing up that $8,000 job for. Its looking like it is going to be a bit more than that btw. Its for a complete game, and Im currently going through the spec with them bit by bit.
I came at it with an honest approach and said basically ‘look, I have a lot of experience, but none on upwork, help me out and Ill do it for a 10% discount. Win win.’
So the template is as follows:
Hello Client’s Name,
I’d really like to work with you on this one if possible!
I do have a couple of questions, but first I’d like to make you an offer and some background so you can check my work out.
Short paragraph explaining your work experience relevant to the job.
However, I am new to Upwork and looking to get a few clients that I can build upon. If you take a look at my work and feel that I could help you, I’ll do it for a 10% discount.
You’ll get all the expected stuff like a great professional service and a fast turn around, at a bit less, and I get a bit more exposure.
If applicable, include a link to your portfolio website here, or invite the client to check out the work samples you’ve attached to your proposal.
Ask 1-2 short but relevant questions about the job here. This shows that you’ve read the description and know your stuff, and also invites the client to begin a conversation with you.
If the above offer sounds like something you would be interested in, I’d love to hear from you.
- Not included in the template: the word TOKYO at the top of Gray’s proposal, which was a response to the client’s request at the bottom of the job description. Many clients use this trick to quickly determine if you’ve actually read the job description.
The Quick Lister
This next proposal sample comes from Susan, a freelance editor and proofreader.
The Job Description
Susan explained to me via email:
I bid $125, and it was accepted immediately. This job took me 90 minutes to complete and 30 minutes to double check. As this was a legal document, I was careful to edit in a way that did not change the meaning of any of the sentences. This Swiss lawyer had English that was near perfect.
I delivered the files within 2 hours and the client added a $40 bonus to my payment and left me 5-star feedback. $165 for 2 hours is a pretty good rate.
Hi Client’s Name,
I would be happy to work on your document/job/whatever immediately.
Numbered list covering the most important requirements mentioned in the job description, and how you plan to meet them. This shows that you fully understand what’s needed and have a plan for making it happen.
1-2 paragraphs detailing your background/expertise, as relevant to the job at hand.
What you’ll receive:
Short list that paints a clear picture of what you will deliver (and by when) should the client hire you to do the job.
Send me a quick message and we can figure out if we are a good fit to work together!
- Not included in the template: the “Code 833” at the top of Susan’s proposal. This was a response to the client’s request hidden within the job description. Many clients use this trick to quickly determine if you’ve read it thoroughly.
- Want to know how Susan earned €1,226 in just her second full month working online? Check out an interview with her here.
What To Do Now
- Pick your favorite template above, jump on over to Upwork, find some jobs you like, and use that template to quickly craft and submit effective proposals. 1
- Report back and share in the comments what kind of response you receive.
- Subscribe below to my free 10-day Work Online Mini Course for more tips and strategies for finding freelance clients, both on Upwork and elsewhere. 2
- Make sure each proposal counts by learning how to find the best jobs on Upwork.
- There are two places better than Upwork for finding freelance clients, both of which you’ll learn about in the Mini Course.