In today’s Ask Danny I’ll be answering three different questions, all about Upwork proposals.
Since everyone seems to love this topic, let’s get right into it…
How do I write a good Upwork proposal when the job description is vague?
The first question comes from Stephanie. It’s a variation on a very common question that has to do with writing proposals when the client’s job description contains only bare-bones information. Or, as Stephanie puts it…
I’m new to using Upwork, and I love all your advice, especially to be human and be real, and not try to sell. I work in the Interior Design field, and clients do not tend to list as many details about projects as other industries.
It’s typically just a basic, “we’re looking for an interior designer for x amount of months and you need to be experienced in the programs and know how to source materials.” The way the jobs are posted, it makes me want to just blab about myself and my experience, which I know is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to get us to do.
My question, is there a way to translate your methods of writing proposals with the small amount of information and very vague job posts my field provides?
Though this question comes in many different shapes and sizes, the gist is always the same, basically amounting to: “Danny, is it possible to write a great Upwork proposal when the job description doesn’t contain any ‘useful’ details for me to go off of?”
The answer is most definitely yes — there is. But it isn’t immediately obvious and it goes against the way most of our brains are programmed.
To show you what I mean, let’s start with an analogy.
If you asked me how many Honda Civics I noticed in my last 50 hours of driving, I’d say zero. Does this mean Honda Civics aren’t popular in Omaha? Or that I don’t know what a Honda Civic looks like? Or that I’m driving with my eyes closed?
Of course, none of the above. The true, simple answer is that I just don’t notice Honda Civics. I know they’re out there because it’s a popular car — but I personally never see them.
But what if I bought a Honda Civic? Now I would see them literally everywhere.
I’d see 10 of them driving home from the car dealership alone.
Then another 20, 30, or 40 every single day (at least until the novelty wore off — and even then I’d still see them a lot).
Notice how, in either scenario, the number of Honda Civics on the road hasn’t changed. What has been altered is my perception. I’m in tune with a metric I was previously blind to because of a new behavior I’ve adopted (being a Honda Civic driver).
Here’s what I’m driving at (no pun intended): What if there’s more than enough information in some of these job posts to help you write a great proposal … only you’re not yet programmed to see it?
For example, what if you used your proposal as an opportunity to offer the client some expert pointers on what to look for in a good interior designer?
Maybe you could explain (and link to) some of the newest and most cutting edge ideas and techniques, showing them that you know what you’re doing, you’re helpful, and you care about their success?
Or what if you simply told them about some of the pitfalls you’ve seen clients run into — and how to avoid them?
As someone who’s spent the past couple of years as a very active client on Upwork, I can tell you that, if done right, any of those options (and many more) could make a very powerful proposal, even when you have the minimum amount of intel.
It all starts with seeing those Honda Civics on the road. They’re all around you! And being very focused on helping the client can give you the perspective you need when you sit down to bang out that proposal.
Should I create a portfolio website to link to in my Upwork proposals?
Next up, Kim has a great question about whether/how to use your portfolio in your proposals…
I have been following your success for a while and I wanted to ask a question about a specific thing that I couldn’t find an answer for in your blog.
Do you recommend creating a Portfolio Website to include in your proposals?
I can think of pro’s and con’s, but would totally love your opinion, but I totally understand if you can’t find the time.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a Sushi recommendation for Omaha, but if you ever come to Lisbon I’ll bombard you with recommendations.
Personally, I never created, nor do I have, a portfolio website that showcases my previous work.
Mind you I began freelancing with no experience, so I had no portfolio to speak of! (I created a Minimum Viable Portfolio instead, which took just a few minutes and was more effective at helping me land my first few clients quickly and easily.)
Apart from that, I’ve never seen a big need for a portfolio website, at least for me. If I have a relevant piece of work that I think will help me get hired for a particular job, I will definitely go ahead and show that to the client. More often than not, I’ve found that this alone can lead to an offer.
But one thing I would never do is send a client a link to my entire portfolio. It’s too overwhelming for them. Imagine a real estate agent trying to show you every house she has available, or someone at Baskin Robbins offering you a sample of all 31 flavors … it’s just overkill.
As an active client myself, I can assure you there are few phrases that will make clients’ eyes roll harder than “Feel free to check out my portfolio at (LINK).”
A better approach is to pick one or even a small handful of individual pieces for them. This way you can make sure they see the ones that are most relevant to them (and thus most likely to get you hired), while saving them the time and energy of having to sort through it all themselves. Win-win.
Should I apply to an Upwork job that already has over 50+ proposals?
Next, a question that keeps popping up in my inbox about which jobs are worth sending proposals to…
Hope you are doing well.
I am glad to say you that I become a big fan of you and your hacks and guides you are providing to the new freelancers.
I have a question, should I apply to a job on Upwork which already got 30 or 50 proposals?
Looking forward to your reply.
The answer to this question is, it depends. Now let’s get specific.
If you’re not going to tell the client anything different than what they’ve heard from everyone else, then no, you probably shouldn’t waste your time (or the client’s) sending in a proposal when there are already a few dozen people in line ahead of you.
Of course, if your proposals are bland, generic, average, or not special in any way, then you probably won’t do very well on Upwork anyway — even if you stick to jobs that have fewer proposals.
Your best bet is to worry less about how many proposals a client receives (quantity), and start thinking more about the quality of your proposals instead.
There are a few reasons for this.
For one thing, quality has far more impact over a client’s hiring decision than quantity. Think about what would happen if the client received 200 proposals, but they were all really bad.
Would they hire someone just because there were so many to choose from? Maybe, but, probably not.
On the other hand imagine if there was just 1 proposal sitting in the client’s inbox after posting a job … but this time, it’s an awesome proposal. If the client is serious, it’s pretty much guaranteed that this freelancer is going to get an offer.
Another thing: You have zero control over how many proposals a client gets for their job.
But you have complete control over how good your proposals are. I don’t know about you, but I want to be spending my valuable time, energy, and mental focus on areas I can actually impact!
That is one of the ways winners consistently seem to win (the reverse is also one of the many ways that losers appear to lose over and over again, as if they have a black cloud hanging over them, even though they don’t).
Finally, writing a great proposal that stands out and grabs the client’s attention above and beyond even 200 other proposals isn’t as hard as you might think.
That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for reading!
Have a question you’d like to see answered in the next Ask Danny post? Hit me up here and you might see it covered next.