I have hired hundreds of freelancers via Upwork over the years, and I worked with hundreds of clients via Upwork as well. So I know online freelancing and Upwork inside out. I know what works and why some freelancers make it or break it. Many of those who do not make it are guilty of these common proposal mistakes on Upwork.

The decision if a freelancer is in the shortlist or the bin happens in seconds! Yes, that is the reality how long a client looks at a freelancer proposal before deciding whether to open the proposal or not.

That means you got mere seconds to impress the clients! And here are most common proposal mistakes freelancers make on Upwork.

So here you go…

Most Common Proposal Mistakes on Upwork


Generalist Freelancer

When you portray yourself as a generalist or a freelancer who serves any client doing anything that is in the offer, you do not stand out.

Clients are very selfish, they only care that their project gets done and easiest way to get it done is to hire an expert. Too broad niche means you are fighting with thousands and thousands of freelancers for the same projects. It is highly unlikely you’ll stand out in the crowd when you offer pretty much same as everyone else.

Saying no means actually more $$$ – meaning choosing a narrower niche you will earn more and win premium clients! That is how I’ve made well over 100K from Upwork! 

I am very picky on who I work with and serve a very narrow niche. I literally do not send proposals or interview for projects, clients invite me to work with them!

Too Low Hourly Rate

Yes, you read it correctly – too low!

Clients often want an expert for their project to ensure it is done right. When you portray yourself as an expert but have a low rate, that does not add up.

If you are a new Upwork Freelancer you may need to lower your rate in order to win that first contract, but you still need to have high hourly rate and then proposal a lower rate and explain why you do so.

Ignore Additional Questions

Adding additional questions is by far easiest way to shortlist candidates!

It works wonders as most freelancers do not bother to answer or comment “see proposal letter above”. But the thing is, freelancers answer to the additional question is before the proposal!

Again clients are lazy and selfish, they actually want you to answer their questions.

proposal mistake upwork

Copy / Paste Proposals

I can not believe how many copy/paste proposal letters I get per job post.

Canned proposals are the total waste of freelancers time, and clients!

Copy/paste proposals have one thing in common – they fit any job post that is remotely relevant, yet they provide zero value to the client.

This is by far biggest mistake freelancers make. I don’t know if it is laziness or what but I so do not understand why freelancers keep doing it – nobody has won any jobs with copy/paste general proposal!

Client Value

Kinda goes with the first point and definitely goes together with the previous mistake.  If you try to serve everyone you are most likely also sending copy/paste proposals.

The client is only interested in what they get and they want value for their money. If your proposal does not clearly tell the client what is the value they get – you are in the bin.

A proposal letter is very little about you, it is about the value client is going to get by hiring you.

What Will You Do Differently?

So there you go, these are the mistakes I see daily on Upwork and as a client, it drives me nuts. But then again as long as freelancers keep making these, I keep win the contracts 🙂 No, but seriously winning work is actually quite easy when you put some effort to your proposal letters.

Let me know in below comments, what is your take away from the post and what will you change in your proposal letter?

About the author 

Nina Kolari

Nina loves creating how-to videos to help online entrepreneurs to streamline their businesses with high effective systems, tools and automations. She is completely location independent and travels frequently.

  • Thanks Nina…very nice and satisfying share.Believe me I have never read so easy to understand things before.

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