how to write upwork proposals

How to get “YES I want to speak to you!” responses on Upwork (without a portfolio or testimonials)

Sending proposals on Upwork can make you feel like…


You spend 30 minutes crafting what seems like the perfect proposal. Send it out. And… crickets. 

And that happens over… and over… and over… again.

It’s enough to make you wanna bang your head against the keyboard! 

Thing is…

The *good* jobs (aka the ones that pay well) often receive over 50 applicants. So if you want a response, your proposal has gotta *really* stand out. 

But… how do you write Upwork proposals that stand out from all the others– and get responses from dream clients? 

Well, with a response rate that hovers around 40%, I guess you could say I’ve cracked the code to writing winning Upwork proposals. Oh and I’m not talking about shitty jobs that nobody wants. I only apply to jobs that pay *at least* $100/hour. 

And you wanna know the best part? I created a personalized template. All I do is copy and paste that template, tweak it to the job posting and… send! So applying to a job almost never takes me more than five minutes, tops.

Here are just a few responses that I’ve gotten from that templated proposal: 

I highly recommend you create your own personalized template. It will make the process SO much easier. 

But that still begs the question…

HOW do you write proposals on Upwork that get those kinds of responses? 

Nope, you don’t need a portfolio. Or even testimonials. Sure they help, but I’ve gotten work with a barely-there portfolio and zero Upwork reviews (and not bottom-of-the-barrel type of work. Legit jobs). 

Instead, try this…

Stop talking about you.
And start talking about your client.

One time, a client  responded to my proposal and said this: 

 Wanna know what I said to stand out amongst 50+ submissions? 

On our call, the lead told me that in my responses (and on my website), I spoke to HIM. And that’s something that apparently nobody else did.  

I know…so simple, right? 


Start writing your proposals like the awesome *copywriter* that you are.

For starters, write as if you’re actually talking to the person you’re addressing (I mean…that’s what a copywriter is supposed to do, right?). 

Ditch the formalities that you might be used to from traditional cover letters. Instead, write like you speak.

Look at the job posting and see what the client’s pain points and hesitations are. Then address them head-on. 

For example, check out this job that I applied to just the other day:

Note how the client said they are looking for a “self-starter.” Someone who they don’t have to nag for updates. Someone with a close eye to detail. 

In my proposal, I tried to overcome those objections. 

And… it worked. The client responded and hired me for a test project at $147/hour (which has since led to more work).  

TLDR; tell the client how you can solve their unique problems and make their life easier. If possible, personalize your proposal based on the job posting.

Think of any objections that they might have and counter those objections head on . 

For example…

Most clients are worried about hiring a copywriter that doesn’t get them results (and wastes their money). 

So address that fear, and tell them how you will do whatever you can to make sure that doesn’t happen. Think: unlimited revisions or some sort of guarantee.

Show instead of tell

Throw those ol’ school, stiff AF cover letter templates out the window. 

Saying things like “I’m detail-oriented” or “I think I’m the best fit for this job” aren’t gonna get you anywhere (I mean…did they ever?).  

Everyone says that so a) it doesn’t stand out and b) it isn’t believable. 

Instead, SHOW how you’re the best copywriter out there for the job. 

Sooo if the client provides their website, give them some feedback on it. 

You could create relevant work samples (if you don’t have any). Or share a story of a similar project you completed in the past.

Add a lil' personality

You could also share unexpected nuggets of information (after all, being unexpected is one of the keys to making your message—and you—stick in the client’s mind). 

Add a little personality (come on, copy is supposed to be FUN to write—you aren’t writing a dissertation here). Make the person on the other end *feel* something. Make them smile! 

Create a killer Upwork profile

You could have the best proposal in the world but if your Upwork profile sucks… 

Well you probably won’t get many responses. 

I see *way* too many copywriters on Upwork with profiles that start with “I’m a copywriter with 2 years of experience in content writing and copywriting…” blah blah BLAH. Nobody cares! And certainly not your prospect. 

Think about your ideal client. What’s something they’re struggling with right now? How can you draw them in with copy that really resonates and makes them think “YES this person gets me!” 

Here’s how I did it in my profile: 

And guess what? It WORKS. I’ve had clients reach out to me based on my profile alone:

BTW, that client reached out to me when I had ZERO reviews on my profile. 

Here’s another one that reached out to me directly: 

And another…

(I ended up selling her on a VIP Week for $2,400.) 

My point here? Your Upwork profile is SO important to landing leads and clients. 

As you write your profile description, the same copywriting principles apply. Write your profile like you’re writing a letter to a good friend. Thinking again about any hesitations that your ideal client may have about hiring you. 

For example, if you don’t have any reviews, then you could address that in the copy. Talk about that kick-ass guarantee you offer. Or include a testimonial from a previous employer or two.

If you need a little more inspo, check out the profiles of other copywriters with a high hourly rate ($100+). 

(Oh and this should go without saying… but definitely do *not* copy anyone else’s profile description! That’s NOT what I’m recommending here!) 

Go on – and write those killer Upwork proposals 

So now…

I’m gonna pass on the baton to you. Go on and be the unexpected in a sea of blah. And start reeling in those cannot-wait-to-speak-to-you responses.

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