As a freelancer on Upwork, you know that submitting a proposal is just the first step in the process of landing a job. But what do you do when your proposals are consistently getting rejected? It can be frustrating and demotivating but don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll dive into the reasons why clients may not be accepting your proposals and provide some helpful tips to turn your luck around. From lack of experience to poor proposals, we’ll cover it all. So sit tight and get ready to level up your Upwork game!
Lack of experience or skills
Clients are often looking for freelancers who have specific experience or skills that match their project requirements. It’s not enough to simply have a general understanding of the field or industry. They want to see evidence that you have successfully completed similar projects in the past.
For example, let’s say a client is looking for a freelance writer to write articles on cryptocurrency. They are more likely to choose someone who has specific experience writing about finance, economics, or technology, and can demonstrate a solid understanding of the cryptocurrency industry. If you don’t have any experience in these areas, it may be more difficult to convince the client that you’re the right person for the job.
So, what can you do if you don’t have the necessary experience or skills? Here are a few tips:
- Start with smaller, lower-paying jobs to build your portfolio and gain experience. Even if the pay isn’t great, the experience and positive reviews can be valuable in securing higher-paying jobs in the future.
- Take courses or earn certifications in the areas you want to work in. This can help demonstrate your expertise and make your proposal stand out to clients even if you don’t have a portfolio, yet. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, HubSpot, Hootsuite and many other companies offer certifications for their products as an example.
- Offer to do a test project or sample work for the client to demonstrate your abilities. This can help build trust and confidence in your skills.
- Highlight any transferable skills or experiences that may be relevant to the project, even if they are not directly related.
- Continuously work on improving your skills and gaining new experiences. Get the skills and experience you’re missing.
- Offer your services for free. Consider offering your services for free to a few clients (outside of Upwork) to build up your portfolio and gain some valuable experience. This can help you stand out from other freelancers who may not have any work to show.
- Volunteer for non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations often need help with various tasks, such as social media management, content creation, and graphic design. Volunteering for these organizations can provide you with the opportunity to gain experience and build your skills while also giving back to the community.
- Join online communities. Join online communities related to your area of expertise and offer your services for free or at a discounted rate. This can help you build your network, gain experience, and get your name out there.
- Look for mentorship opportunities. Look for mentorship opportunities in your field. A mentor can provide you with guidance, advice, and feedback, and can help you develop your skills and gain experience.
- Attend workshops and conferences. Attending workshops and conferences related to your area of expertise can provide you with the opportunity to network with other professionals and learn about new trends and techniques in your field — and, of course, potentially land new clients.
- Offer discounted rates. Consider offering discounted rates to clients who are willing to work with you despite your lack of experience. This can be a way to gain experience and build your portfolio while also earning some income.
- Sub-contracting. Sub-contracting for other freelancers in the same industry can be a way to gain experience and build relationships. Consider reaching out to other freelancers and offering your services as a subcontractor, but make sure to have a clear understanding of the expectations and compensation for the work.
Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and with dedication and hard work (and a little creativity), you can get past this road block and land clients on Upwork.
Poorly written proposals
Let’s be real, clients are busy people, and they don’t have time to read through a bunch of proposals that aren’t clear or well-written. Here are some ways that your proposal might be getting lost in the sea of proposals:
- Grammar and spelling errors: Nothing says “unprofessional” like a proposal full of grammar and spelling mistakes. If you can’t be bothered to proofread your proposal, why should a client trust you with their project?
- Lack of detail: Clients want to know that you understand their project and that you’re the right person for the job. If your proposal doesn’t provide enough detail or doesn’t show that you’ve done your research, the client may move on to someone else.
- Lack of personality: Your proposal should show your personality and let the client know why you’re the best person for the job. If your proposal is dry and boring, the client might not be inspired to work with you.
Here are some tips for improving the quality of your proposals:
- Research the client. Take some time to learn about the client’s needs, preferences, and past projects before writing your proposal. This will help you tailor your proposal to their specific needs and stand out from the competition.
- Use bullet points. Make your proposal easy to read by using bullet points to break up long paragraphs and highlight key points.
- Be concise. Don’t use unnecessary words or fluff in your proposal. Keep it concise and to the point.
- Showcase your skills. Use specific examples from your past work to showcase your skills and experience. This will help the client understand how you can help them with their project.
- Use active voice. Write your proposal in the active voice to make it more engaging and persuasive.
- Use a professional tone. While it’s important to be friendly and approachable, make sure your tone is professional and business-like.
- Include a call to action. Encourage the client to take action by including a clear call to action at the end of your proposal.
- Proofread your proposal. Make sure your proposal is free of typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes. This will help you come across as more professional and credible.
- Use Upwork’s proposal template. Upwork provides a proposal template that you can use as a starting point. This can help you structure your proposal and make sure you’re including all the necessary information.
- Get feedback. Ask a friend or colleague to read your proposal and provide feedback. This can help you identify areas for improvement and make your proposal more effective.
For example, let’s say you’re a freelance writer applying for a job writing blog posts for a travel website. You might start by researching the client’s website and social media channels to get a sense of their brand voice and the topics they cover. Then, you could tailor your proposal to their specific needs by including examples of your travel writing experience and highlighting your ability to write engaging, informative blog posts. You could also use bullet points to break up your proposal and make it more readable, and include a clear call to action at the end encouraging the client to contact you with any questions or to discuss the project further. Finally, you could proofread your proposal and ask a friend or colleague to provide feedback before submitting it to the client.
The majority of Upworkers simply won’t do the above… so, if you do, you’ll create higher quality proposals on a more consistent basis and stand out (in a good way) to potential clients. Many of those tips sound simple, but don’t underestimate their importance. Lots of Upworkers make these mistakes and it costs them jobs. Also, I’ve written a whole blog post that covers the top 10 best practices for writing Upwork proposals. Give it a read.
Clients on Upwork are looking for freelancers who can provide high-quality work at an affordable price, and if your rates are too high, you might be turning them off.
Let’s say you’re a freelance writer and you’re charging $100 an hour for your services. Now, that might seem reasonable to you, but it might be way above what the client is willing to pay. They might be looking for someone who can write quality content for $50 an hour, or even less. So, even if you’re the most skilled writer in the world, if your rates are too high, the client is likely to move on to someone else.
Of course, it’s important to value your time and expertise, but you also need to be realistic about what the market is willing to pay. You can do some research on Upwork or other freelancer websites to see what the going rate is for your services. You might find that you need to adjust your rates to be more competitive.
Another thing to consider is the client’s budget. If a client has a limited budget for a project, they’re more likely to hire someone whose rates fit within that budget. But if your rates are too high, they might not even consider you. So, if you really want to work with a particular client, you might need to be flexible with your pricing.
Here are some tips for pricing your services on Upwork:
- Research market rates. Before submitting a proposal, research the market rates for the job and make sure your rates are competitive. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don’t want to undercharge and undervalue your skills and experience.
- Be transparent. If you have higher rates due to specialized skills or experience, be transparent with the client and explain why your rates are higher. This can help the client understand the value you can bring to the project.
- Offer different packages. Consider offering different packages with varying levels of service or deliverables at different price points. This can give clients the option to choose a package that fits their budget and needs. Upwork’s fixed-price projects are a great place to do this.
- Showcase your value. In your proposal, highlight the value you can bring to the project and how your skills and experience can help the client achieve their goals. This can help justify your rates.
- Show your results. If you have a track record of delivering high-quality work and achieving results, showcase this in your proposal. This can demonstrate the value you can bring to the project and justify your rates.
- Be flexible. Be open to negotiating rates and finding a mutually beneficial solution. This can show the client that you’re willing to work with them and can help build a positive relationship.
- Consider the long-term. If you’re interested in building a long-term relationship with the client, consider offering a lower rate initially with the potential for a rate increase once you’ve proven your value.
- Be strategic. Consider targeting clients who have higher budgets or who are looking for specialized skills or experience that you can provide at a premium rate.
- Continuously improve. Continuously improve your skills and experience to justify higher rates and provide more value to clients. This can help you stand out and command higher rates in the future.
By following these tips, you can overcome the problem of overpricing in your Upwork proposals and increase your chances of getting accepted for projects that align with your skills and experience. Remember, it’s all about finding the right balance between pricing yourself competitively and valuing your skills and experience.
While it may be tempting to lowball your rates in order to win clients, this strategy can actually backfire and lead to fewer job offers. Here’s why:
- Clients may view underpriced proposals as a red flag: When a proposal comes in with a rate that’s significantly lower than the market average, clients may wonder why. Are they inexperienced? Do they lack confidence in their abilities? Are they cutting corners? While these assumptions may not always be true, they can create doubt in the client’s mind and make them less likely to hire you.
- You may attract low-quality clients: When you underprice your services, you may attract clients who are primarily focused on getting the cheapest option, rather than the best value. These clients may be more likely to micromanage you, demand excessive revisions, or even refuse to pay for your work.
- It may be harder to raise your rates in the future: If you start off with rock-bottom rates, it can be difficult to justify raising them later on. Clients may see the increase as unreasonable or dishonest, and may be hesitant to work with you again in the future.
Of course, many of the tips here are the same as overpricing your services, but here’s a few additional tips specific to underpricing:
- Consider your experience. If you have more experience in your field, you can justify charging higher rates. Make sure your profile and proposal highlight your relevant experience and skills.
- Consider your niche. Research the going rates for your particular niche on Upwork and adjust your prices accordingly. It’s important to price yourself competitively, but don’t undervalue your work. Or, consider tweaking or changing your niche.
- Consider your expenses. Factor in your expenses, such as software subscriptions or equipment costs, when setting your rates. Don’t forget to account for taxes and other business expenses as well.
- Offer value-adds. Consider offering value-adds like additional revisions or a faster turnaround time to justify your rates.
- Be confident. When setting your rates, be confident in your skills and the value you can provide to clients. This confidence will come across in your proposal and profile.
- Highlight your value proposition. Emphasize your unique selling points and explain how your skills and experience can benefit the client. This can help justify your pricing and make you stand out from other freelancers who may charge less.
- Set your minimum rate. Decide on your minimum rate and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to lower your rates to win a job, as this can create a cycle of underpricing and undervaluing your work.
Underpricing can be a major barrier to getting your Upwork proposals accepted. However, there are several steps you can take to overcome this hurdle and increase your chances of landing clients at fair rates. By doing your research, showcasing your value, and building relationships with clients, you can position yourself as a desirable freelancer and command the rates you deserve. Remember to stay patient and persistent, and don’t be afraid to negotiate or pivot your services if necessary. With these tips in mind, you can tackle the issue of underpricing head-on and take your Upwork career to the next level.
Lack of a complete profile
When a client is looking for a freelancer to hire, they want to make sure that they’re getting someone who has the right skills and experience for the job. One of the ways they assess this is by checking out the freelancer’s profile. If your profile is incomplete or missing important information, it can make it harder for the client to determine if you’re the right fit for the job.
Imagine a client is looking for a freelance graphic designer to create a new logo for their business. They come across two proposals that are equally impressive, but one freelancer has a complete profile with a portfolio showcasing previous logo designs, while the other freelancer has a less complete profile with no portfolio. Who do you think the client is more likely to hire?
Similarly, imagine a client is looking for a freelance writer to write a series of blog posts for their website. They come across a proposal from a freelancer who has a detailed overview explaining their experience in writing blog posts, but their profile is missing any examples of previous work. Then they come across another proposal from a freelancer with a complete profile, including a portfolio of previously written blog posts. Again, who do you think the client is more likely to hire?
So, what information should you include in your profile to make it stand out to clients? Here are some key elements:
- A professional profile picture: This helps to put a face to your name and makes your profile feel more personal.
- A catchy and informative headline: Your headline should be short and sweet but give a clear indication of what you do and what you’re good at.
- A detailed overview: This is your chance to showcase your skills, experience, and personality. Make sure it’s well-written, informative, and engaging.
- Your portfolio: Your portfolio is a great way to showcase your best work and give clients an idea of what you can do.
- Your skills and certifications: Make sure you list all of the skills and certifications that are relevant to your work. This can help clients to find you when they’re searching for freelancers with specific skills.
It’s also important to keep your profile up-to-date. As you gain new skills and experience, make sure you add them to your profile. This shows clients that you’re constantly improving and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in your field.
Ultimately, having a complete profile is crucial if you want to stand out to clients and increase your chances of getting hired. Make sure you include all of the key elements we’ve discussed, and keep your profile up-to-date as you gain new skills and experience. With a killer profile, you’ll be well on your way to landing your dream projects on Upwork.
Picture this: a client has just posted a job and within minutes, their inbox is flooded with proposals from eager freelancers. They’re scrolling through the list, trying to decide who to hire, but they quickly realize that they don’t have the time or energy to read through all of them. So, what do they do? They start skimming, looking for something that catches their eye.
This is where timing comes in. If your proposal is buried under dozens of others, it’s less likely to get noticed. But, if you submit your proposal when there are fewer competing proposals, you have a better chance of standing out. So, how can you time your proposals for maximum impact?
Here are a few tips:
- Submit your proposal early. If you see a job post that you’re interested in, don’t wait to submit your proposal. By submitting it early, you can increase your chances of being seen and considered before the client is inundated with proposals.
- Check the client’s time zone. Clients on Upwork are often located in different parts of the world, which means they may be working in a different time zone than you. Before submitting your proposal, make sure to check the client’s time zone to avoid submitting your proposal at an inconvenient time for them.
- Be quick to respond. When a client reaches out to you or shows interest in your proposal, be sure to respond as quickly as possible. This shows that you are interested and engaged in the project.
- Be concise. Keep your proposal short and to the point. Clients don’t have time to read lengthy proposals, so make sure to highlight your key skills and experience in a clear and concise manner.
- Set expectations. Be upfront with the client about your availability and turnaround time. This can help manage their expectations and prevent any miscommunications down the line.
- Use Upwork’s messaging system. Message the client after submitting your proposal and let them know they can reach out if they have any questions. Just keep it short and to the point (and not overly pushy or aggressive).
- Ask for feedback. If your proposal wasn’t accepted, don’t be afraid to ask the client for feedback. This can help you improve your proposals in the future and increase your chances of getting accepted.
- Be patient. Remember that clients receive a large number of proposals and it can take time for them to review and respond to each one. Be patient and don’t give up hope.
- Keep trying. Finally, don’t let rejection discourage you from submitting more proposals. Keep trying and learning from each experience to improve your chances of getting accepted in the future.
But, what if you’ve already submitted your proposal and it’s been a few days with no response? This is where follow-up comes in. As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to give the client time to review proposals, but you don’t want to wait too long.
If it’s been a few days and you haven’t heard back, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a polite follow-up message. Keep it short and sweet, and don’t come across as pushy or desperate. Here’s an example:
“Hi [Client Name],
I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to follow up on the proposal I submitted for [Job Title] to see if you had any questions or needed any further information from me. I’m still very interested in this opportunity and I’d love to discuss it further with you.
Thank you for your time, [Your Name]”
Remember, timing is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting your Upwork proposals accepted. But, by being aware of the client’s schedule and following up in a timely manner, you’ll increase your chances of standing out from the crowd.
Competition can be fierce on Upwork, with dozens of freelancers vying for the same job. It’s important to understand how this competition can affect a client’s decision to accept a proposal and what you can do to stand out.
One way to think about competition is to imagine you’re a client looking for a freelancer to design a website. You post your job and within minutes, you receive 20 proposals from different freelancers. Each proposal promises great design and a fast turnaround time, but how do you choose?
Here are some factors that may influence a client’s decision in a competitive field:
- Reviews: If a freelancer has a lot of positive reviews and a high rating, they may stand out from the crowd. Make sure to build up your profile and ask clients for reviews after completing a job.
- Portfolio: A strong portfolio can make a big difference in a client’s decision-making process. Make sure to showcase your best work and highlight relevant projects.
- Customization: If a freelancer takes the time to customize their proposal and show an understanding of the client’s needs, they may be more likely to stand out. Take the time to read the job description carefully and tailor your proposal accordingly.
- Personality: A friendly and professional demeanor can go a long way in making a client feel comfortable with you. Make sure to introduce yourself and show your personality in your proposal.
Upwork is so competitive it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Be specific: Instead of promising great design or fast turnaround time, be specific about what you can offer. For example, “I have experience designing responsive websites using WordPress and can have your website ready within two weeks.”
- Offer something extra: Think about what you can offer that other freelancers may not. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could offer to create social media graphics for the client’s new website.
- Offer a unique solution. Instead of simply fulfilling the client’s requirements, offer a unique solution or suggestion that can help them achieve their goals in a more effective way.
- Show your personality. While professionalism is important, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your proposal. It can help you stand out and make a personal connection with the client.
- Provide social proof. Have you received positive feedback from past clients? Include testimonials or reviews in your proposal to show that you have a proven track record.
- Follow-up: As we mentioned earlier, following up can be a powerful way to remind a client of your interest and stand out from other freelancers. Just make sure to follow the best practices we outlined earlier in this post.
- Create a video introduction. While most freelancers will submit a written proposal, creating a video introduction can help you stand out from the competition. Use the video to showcase your personality, skills, and experience in a way that is engaging and memorable.
- Offer a free sample. If you have a relevant skill, consider offering a free sample of your work to the client. This can help them see the quality of your work and give you an edge over other freelancers.
In a competitive field like Upwork, it can be tough to stand out. But by focusing on your strengths, customizing your proposals, and showcasing your personality, you can increase your chances of getting your proposals accepted.
Lack of relevant portfolio samples
One of the common reasons why your proposals may not be getting accepted is the lack of relevant portfolio samples.
Imagine you’re a client looking to hire a graphic designer to create a new logo for your business. You receive several proposals from different freelancers, all with varying rates and experience levels. However, one freelancer stands out because they included a portfolio sample that showcases their logo designs for other businesses in the same industry as yours. This freelancer has demonstrated that they understand the style and tone that works for your industry, which makes them a more appealing candidate for the job.
So, how can you fix this issue if you don’t have any relevant portfolio samples to showcase in your proposal? Here are a few tips:
- Create portfolio samples specifically for the job: If you don’t have any relevant portfolio samples, take the time to create some specifically for the job you’re applying for. Research the client’s industry and create designs or content that align with their brand and style.
- Use personal projects: If you don’t have any professional work to showcase, consider using personal projects. For example, if you’re a web developer, you can showcase a personal project where you built a website for a friend or family member.
- Create your own portfolio samples. If you don’t have any relevant portfolio samples, create your own. You can create sample projects that showcase your skills and experience, even if you haven’t worked on similar projects before. Nothing says the items in your portfolio have to be client work. Clients just want to see what you can do. So, create your own samples solely for putting in your portfolio. Something is better than nothing.
- Showcase transferable skills: Even if you don’t have specific examples that match the client’s needs, you can still showcase transferable skills. For example, if a client is looking for a copywriter for their tech startup, you can showcase previous writing experience for a different industry that demonstrates your ability to write clear and engaging content.
- Showcase your process. Instead of just showcasing final products, consider including your process in your portfolio. This can give clients a better understanding of your workflow and approach… and it’s better than having nothing in your portfolio.
Remember, clients want to see that you have relevant experience and skills before they hire you. By showcasing relevant portfolio samples, you’re demonstrating that you’re the best candidate for the job. And, ultimately, something is better than nothing. So, create samples for yourself, family members, friends… or showcase your transferable skills or your process to get something in your portfolio. Don’t leave it up to chance or the client’s “goodwill”. Give them compelling reasons to hire you and more and more of your proposals will start getting accepted.
Inadequate communication can be a major factor in a client’s decision to accept or reject a proposal. Here are a few scenarios to illustrate how:
- Scenario 1: You submit a proposal that’s well-written and showcases your experience, but you don’t ask any questions or provide any suggestions for the project. The client may interpret this as a lack of interest or creativity, and choose someone else who seems more engaged.
- Scenario 2: You submit a proposal and ask a lot of questions, but they’re all general or irrelevant to the project. The client may see this as a sign that you haven’t read their job posting carefully, and choose someone else who shows a better understanding of their needs.
- Scenario 3: You submit a proposal and ask a lot of specific and relevant questions, but you do so in a way that’s confusing or hard to follow. The client may feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and choose someone else who communicates more clearly.
So, what can you do to improve your communication skills and increase your chances of getting your proposals accepted? Here are some tips:
- Read the job posting carefully and make sure you understand the client’s needs and requirements. A large part of communication is what is being communicated. If you’re not talking about the things that matter to the client most in your proposal, you’re not communicating effectively. Research is the only way you’re going to figure that out.
- Show your enthusiasm for the project by providing suggestions or ideas that demonstrate you understand the project clearly and that you’re genuinely excited to work on it. Both are critical hiring criteria for most clients.
- Be concise and clear in your communication. Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms that the client may not understand.
- Make sure your tone is professional and polite. Avoid being too informal or overly familiar with the client.
- Follow up after submitting your proposal to show that you’re still interested and available. Keep your follow-up message short and to the point, and ask if the client has any further questions or needs more information from you.
By improving your communication skills, you can increase your chances of getting your Upwork proposals accepted and building a successful freelance career.
The Even Bigger Problem Keeping You From Getting Upwork Clients
Upwork’s algorithm is a bit of a mystery, but it’s not impossible to figure out. The algorithm is designed to match clients with freelancers who have the skills and experience they’re looking for. So, if you want to rank higher on Upwork and get more clients, you need a coherent strategy for how you build your profile and bid on jobs… based on a deep understanding of how that algorithm works.
It’s easily the biggest mistake I see Upworkers make.
That’s why I wrote my book, Upwork Essentials. I reveal the strategy I discovered that helped me get my first clients on Upwork and has since helped tens of thousands of other Upworkers land their first clients and grow their profile. If you’re serious about making Upwork work for you, it’s a must-read. Right now, you can also get $50 in bonuses when you order the book on Amazon. All the details on that are here.