Not everyone makes bad Upwork proposals. But enough new virtual assistants do that I have to talk about it.
I want you to succeed and be able to work from wherever. And with Upwork, most virtual assistants I know jump in without knowing what does or doesn’t work on the site.
I love that enthusiasm!
But it takes a little more than that to create a winning proposal on Upwork. For advanced strategy on how to use Upwork to get clients fast and make work for you check out the Ultimate Upwork eBook.
What's a Proposal on Upwork?
In the 9-5 world, you have job applications. On Upwork, you have proposals. In a proposal, you state what you can do for the client and how much you will charge them to do it. You also let the client know how long this work will take to complete and send samples of relevant work.
Sounds straightforward, right?
You would be surprised how many virtual assistants get their Upwork proposals wrong. When this happens, they don't get hired. They end up believing freelancing and Upwork are not for them.
I've seen these mistakes as a potential client, a mentor, and a fellow freelancer. My goal is to save you from making them in your own proposals. When virtual assistants start Upwork, they treat proposals like a 9-5 job application.
My goal is to move your proposals away from that mentality and get you hired.
7 Proposal Mistakes You Need to Stop Making on Upwork
It’s important to put as much thought and care into your Upwork proposal as possible. They’re like a first date, so you want to make a good impression. When virtual assistants start out on Upwork, their mission is a little different. They tend to apply for as many projects as quickly as they can.
Getting your name out there is good. But applying that much that fast leads to one thing: mistakes. I’ve seen a lot of them when I’ve turned to Upwork to hire virtual assistants. So let me help you make money by giving you the 7 proposal mistakes you need to stop making on Upwork.
Proposal Mistake #1: Seeing the Client's Budget as a Barrier
I know so many virtual assistants who bypass good clients because the budget is too low. And they do this believing they can't charge higher than the client's proposed budget.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
When clients write a posting, they have to put in a budget. But that doesn't mean they know what to pay. They're business people, so they go for a conservative amount. They don't want to overpay but admitting they don't know what amount to put opens them up to scam artists.
And no one wants that, right?
So what can you do instead?
Charge your worth. Write a killer proposal. Back up why your amount is better. Show them the work that goes into the project. This helps them see your value.
Proposal Mistake #2: Seeing Your Lack of Experience as a Barrier
There's a joke in the 9-5 world about needing 10 years of experience for an entry level job. When you write a cover letter for a 9-5 job, you talk about how your previous experience relates to the job. And most new virtual assistants think that proposals on Upwork are the same way.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: clients don't care about how many years you did or didn't do something. They care about the quality of your work.
Show potential clients how dedicated, enthusiastic, and intelligent you are about their project. They will want you on their team. You will need to bring skills to the table, of course. But some things, like the traits I mentioned, can’t be taught.
Proposal Mistake #3: Being Too Sales-y
We've all dealt with a pushy, sleazy salesperson.You know, the ones who are so focused on selling their product that they don't take the time to get to know you. Or even listen to a word you’re saying.
New virtual assistants often make this mistake. Sometimes they're not sure how to promote themselves without pushing for a sale. Other times, they’re so afraid of losing a potential client. So they push too hard for a sale without addressing the client’s needs. They’re easy mistakes to make, especially when we need that client to hire us.
But this approach makes potential clients run for the hills.
Instead of pushing why we should be hired, focus on your potential client. Use your cover letter to connect with the client as a human being. Establish trust. Focus on their goals, show your passion for their business, and how you can make their lives easier. Make it about them.
Proposal Mistake #4: Blowing Off the Additional Questions
When new virtual assistants sit down to write their proposals, their screen looks like this:
They start with the cover letter. They work their way down through the Additional Questions. They attach their samples, and submit their proposal.
So why is this a problem?
When clients receive proposals on Upwork, the Additional Questions appear first.
All the effort spent on an amazing cover letter disappears because of this mistake. And it's not common knowledge. Unless you've hired someone on Upwork before, you have no way of knowing this bit of information.
It sounds silly, but I see this all the time when I hire from Upwork. I’ve had plenty of virtual assistants blow off my Additional Questions but give me an amazing Cover Letter. It’s hard to shake that first impression. And I’ll be honest: if I’m not wowed by those first few sentences, I move on to the next proposal.
I’m not saying you should blow off your cover letter. Instead, writing your answers to the Additional Questions first. Not all postings on Upwork have them, so don’t worry if you don’t see them on all the projects you’re interested in. But when you do, give them the extra attention they deserve by working on them first.
Proposal Mistake #5: Always Using the Same Cover Letter
Upwork is a very fast-paced platform. I tell my students to apply for projects within the first 3 hours or don’t apply at all. Clients often suffer from proposal fatigue. They get overwhelmed by the amount of proposals they receive. It gets to the point where they stop being interested in new ones coming in.
It’s harsh but it’s true!
To save time, many new virtual assistants will just use the same cover letter for every proposal. But what they don’t realize is most clients will read that kind of cover letter and put it in the reject pile.
Why such a harsh reaction?
Here’s what the clients read when they receive a form letter:
This person has no interest in this project and won’t produce their best work for me. If they didn’t care enough to write a letter to me, how can I trust them with a part of my business?
It’s okay to have a template to use as your starting point. But make sure you read the posting carefully and personalize it to each proposal you submit. You show the client they’re worth your time, effort, and that you care about the project. And that will make your proposal stand out.
Proposal Mistake #6: Thinking Clients Only See Your Words
On Upwork, your profile image matters just as much as the contents of your proposal. Sure, the client reads what you've submitted. But if you’ve caught their interest, they’re going to look at everything on your profile.
This is where things can fall apart for new virtual assistants.
The profile photo you use on Upwork needs to leave a good impression with clients who stop by your page. You need to make sure your photo makes you look friendly, professional, and competent. These traits will draw clients to you.
But not all virtual assistants have the money to spend on professional headshots. Because of this, they're left with images used on popular social media plaforms. And they don't always make the best impression on future clients.
So how do you make sure your photos have that kind of appeal?
Use photofeeler.com to get real and unbiased feedback on your photos for free. Other users vote on how your photo makes them feel. Three categories are covered: competency, likeableness, and influence. And you have the chance to vote on others’ photos, helping them put their best foot forward.
Proposal Mistake #7: Not Charging Enough
When new virtual assistants start using Upwork, they cheapen their prices. Many are afraid of not being competitive with other virtual assistants on the site. Some believe that because they’re new, they shouldn’t be charging too much. Some even do this out of desperation because they believe they will be hired by asking for a lower rate.
Here’s the important thing you need to know about inexpensive work: you get what you pay for.
Are there clients who are attracted to low prices? Absolutely. Are they the clients you want to work for? That’s something only you can decide. Will you want to work for someone you know isn't paying you what you're worth? Many are not.
But I will tell you this: quality clients are not afraid to pay more money for good work.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Look over your own proposals and see if you’re making these errors. It’s okay if you did. Upwork is a great platform, but they don’t tell you upfront how to attract the clients you want. Make whatever tweaks you need. Then get back out there and start working from wherever!
Before becoming a virtual assistant, I helped companies connect with quality remote workers. Since starting my own business, I've spent a lot of time hiring freelancers on Upwork. So if you've been struggling with finding clients, I have a way to help you succeed. Check out the Ultimate Upwork e-book! You’ll learn my exclusive step-by-step strategy to turn Upwork into a mini-goldmine. Click here to get your copy today.
Not sure if you’re ready to strike out on your own? Do you have everything you need to be successful on your own? I have a free training series for you to check out. You’ll learn to start and scale your own successful virtual assistant business. Interested? You can reserve your seat for it here.
Don’t forget to join the Work from Wherever Lifestyle Society on Facebook! We’re the perfect group for new virtual assistants just like you. Click here to join us today.