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How To Get Jobs On Upwork

What Ivan Did To Beat 50+ Freelancers…

You’re here because you’re wondering how to get jobs on Upwork.

Watch the video above or scroll down for more details.

You might be thinking:

  • That your competitors on Upwork have it all figured out.
  • That they’re submitting perfect, polished proposals.
  • That it’s really hard for you to stand out because your competitors are all so brilliant and fantastic.

But here’s the truth:

Most of your competition on Upwork SUCKS!


Most of them are absolutely terrible.

And you’ll start to notice this more and more as you strive to become an A-player and do excellent work online: incompetence is everywhere.

Here’s how it roughly breaks down:

20% of your competition on Upwork simply doesn’t give a 💩

They just want to do the least amount of work possible so they can get paid.

They aren’t interested in doing good work. They aren’t interested in building relationships.

Another 20% of your competition on Upwork simply doesn’t know any better

They don’t have any training, they don’t invest in learning new skills, and they have no clue how to write good proposals.

They’re just flying blind and taking shots in the dark, hoping to get lucky.

That’s the bottom 40% of your Upwork competition right there

Since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume that these 3 things are true about you:

  1. You care about doing good work
  2. You’d like to build ongoing relationships with your clients
  3. You’re constantly looking to develop yourself and improve your business

Now if those 3 things ARE true about you, then already, by default, you’ve got that bottom 40% of your competition beat. You’re already way ahead of them.

And being better than that 40% is enough to start earning decent money on Upwork, because there’s no shortage of work out there.

But what I really want to get across to you here is that it’s not all that hard to compete with the top 60% of your competition on Upwork either.

Many of them really aren’t all that great.

Let me show you what I mean.

How NOT to get jobs on Upwork – 5 examples

Recently I posted a web developer job on Upwork and received 50+ proposals:

How to get jobs on Upwork: Proposals

Let’s go through a few of them. 3

(Note: the fact that this was a web developer job doesn’t really matter; I would have received the same kind of responses no matter what kind of job I posted.)

Vladyslav from the Ukraine – $30/hr – more than $10,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Profile 1

I invited Vladyslav to apply for the job, and he wrote back:

Hello, thank you for invitation!

Yes, that’s all he wrote!

He obviously didn’t care very much, so no way I was going to hire him.

Mihaela from Romania – $50/hr – more than $90,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Profile 2

Pretty much the same lazy response from her:

Thank you for your invitation, I look forward for more details about your project.

No thanks.

Bohdan from the Ukraine – $45/hr – more than $100,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Profile 3

This guy took the initiative to address me by name:

Hi Niall.

Thank you for invitation to interview.

But that’s all he wrote.


John from London – $25/hr, – more than $40,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Profile 4

At first glance John’s not so lazy because he actually wrote quite a bit in his cover letter:

Hi, I’m a front end coder with WordPress experience, my name is John. I work with individual clients and also provide ongoing services to a number of UK and USA based agencies. Your project description sounds interesting to me and I do have skills & experience that are required to complete this project.

My coding skills:

− HTML5 + CSS3
− JavaScript + JQuery + AJAX + JSON + XML
− ReactJS, AngularJS
− Bootstrap
− Grunt, Gulp, Webpack
− Git, SVN

Some recent projects that are already live:

[he included six links here]

On further inspection, that’s obviously just a copy and paste job. He mentions NOTHING specific about my job posting and just writes all about himself and why he’s so great.

No way I’d hire him.

Hassan from Pakistan – $10/hr – more than $1,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Profile 5

Here’s what he wrote in his proposal:

Hi sir,

I’m a top-rated frontend developer with 100% job success score.

I have experience with following
– HTML and CSS
– WordPress
– Sass
– Coding responsive layouts
– UI/UX design

Including the bonus Photoshop, jQuery, Git, WooCommerce.

I’m a reliable person who writes Envato standard code.

Sir, I’m unable to understand the relevant point but still sending you mine most recent project. [link to recent project was here]

Sir the button has a transparent background along with a black border of 2px solid black #000 and same font color.it turns to #2CD892 on hover.


It’s clear that Hassan actually read the job posting and is making an effort to reply with specifics, BUT:

  • His grammar isn’t good.
  • He wrote that he was “unable to understand the relevant point.”

Those two things tell me that communication would be difficult with him. 4

For those of you reading who are native English speakers, this is where you have a MASSIVE advantage over cheaper freelancers from places like Pakistan, India and the Philippines. Clients like me are happy to pay more for ease of communication. And it’s way easier to communicate with freelancers who are fluent in English.

How to get jobs on Upwork – Ivan’s winning proposal

Let me show you now who I actually hired for this job.

Ivan from Bosnia and Herzegovina – $25/hour – more than $10,000 earned

How to get jobs on Upwork: Winning freelancer profile

Here’s what Ivan wrote in his (winning) proposal:


Relevant example: [he included a link here]

This example demonstrates my command over HTML, Javascript (ES6, React), CSS (Bootstrap 4, SCSS), Responsive Design, and AJAX request.

In regards to the buttons, you shared. First of, since I have no experience with the library being used I inspected the code of the button website. I checked out the documentation and there are clear instructions for usage
(https://tympanus.net/codrops/2016/05/11/distorted-button-effects-with-svg-filters/ ).

I would enqueue the necessary scripts in WordPress in the functions file. Then work on integrating the SVG snippets needed for the buttons. That could be done by modifying the template files of the theme through a child theme or by replacing the theme buttons using Javascript if no other editing interface is available. For something more portable I would consider developing a plugin that automates this process and puts out shortcodes for the buttons.

I hope this covers your questions. I am free today to discuss details if you are interested.

Best regards,

Note that he didn’t tell me ANYTHING about himself.

Instead, he went straight into addressing the problem I needed help with, and demonstrating his expertise that way.

He provided the relevant example that I asked for, and laid out a clear plan for how he would do the job if I hired him.

At one point he writes:

“I have no experience with the library being used…”

You might think that would have put me off hiring Ivan, but it didn’t bother me since he sounded confident and realistic overall. So don’t be afraid to admit your shortcomings or be honest about what you have or haven’t done before. That honesty will often be a mark in your favor.

And his last line in the proposal is great as well:

“I hope this covers your questions. I am free today to discuss details if you are interested.”

He’s not making any assumptions there. Not pushy at all. He strikes just the right tone.

So I ended up hiring Ivan.

I received over 50 proposals for the job, and he definitely wasn’t the cheapest, but he wasn’t the most expensive either. I hired him because he seemed capable of providing the most value, the greatest return on investment.

Now having shown you all of that, what I hope you’ll take away from this is that the competition out there for online work really isn’t that tough.

Out of those 50+ proposals I received for that job on Upwork, literally only 5 of them were worth considering. The rest were terrible.

As I mentioned, by default you’re probably ahead of 40% of your competition already, and so long as you develop some decent skills and put some thought and care into your proposals, it’s not that hard to get ahead of 50% more and be in the top 10% of people submitting proposals on Upwork.

And that means:

  • Better jobs
  • Better pay
  • More freedom to live life on your own terms

Let’s wrap this up with a quick summary…

How NOT to get jobs on Upwork

  • Don’t bother reading the job description
  • Write short, impersonal cover letters
  • Submit copy-and-pasted cover letters
  • Don’t address the client by name when their name was provided
  • Call the client “Sir” repeatedly
  • Use bad grammar
  • Only talk about yourself and how amazing you are in your proposal
  • Don’t give any indication in your proposal that you can actually do the job
  • Be cocky
  • Make lots of assumptions

How to get jobs on Upwork

  • Read the job description. Carefully. More than once.
  • Address the client by name
  • Be honest
  • Include a relevant sample of your work (or at least describe something similar you’ve worked on before)
  • Instead of talking about yourself, talk about the problem, and how you can help solve it.
  • Invite the client to discuss the project further with you if they’re interested.

Get more Upwork success tips

This article is part of an 8-part series:

Want feedback on your proposals?

If so, screenshot one of the jobs you’ve applied for, and your cover letter, upload both screenshots to imgur, and post the links in the comments below.

We’ll take a look and suggest some changes to help you get more responses and win more jobs on Upwork.

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Leave a Reply to Pierre Vincent Cancel Reply

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  1. Hi Niall. You insights and methods on writing a perfect cover letter are very impressive. I would definitely implement them while writing my proposals.
    Although, it’s sad to see that a wise man like you would demean such a huge population – Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos.

    Your statement regarding these countries is wrong on multiple fronts.

    Let me put down some of them for you –
    1. Assuming that people who do not speak english or are not fluent in English are not worthy of getting hired for a Skill or Job that has no direct relation with it, is wrong to the core.
    English is an official or most spoken language only in a small part of world – United States and some countries in Europe. The world is bigger then this particular region. Reminder – Asia and Africa are bigger continents with much more population. So your assumption of ‘English’ language being the yardstick of measuring a person’s worth is extremely wrong.

    2. Indians are one of the most valued minds in entire world. Specially in US where English is a dominant language. Indian Techies and India’s IT sector is a very valuable asset to entire world. Not to forget Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, Indira Nooyi to name some of the few brilliant minds who are CEOs of world’s biggest companies. So not so much a country for ‘cheap labour’.

    3. You belong to Irealand where Irish is native language. But in modern times English has been the predominant first language. I embrace the idea of internationalism with open arms but the fact that your native language was displaced by a foreign language, to be precise a Colonial language, should make you see this as a product a Neo-Colonialism and not something to be proud of. And it is ok if you don’t have a feeling of patriotism with Ireland but you should develop a critical perspective on English being a dominant language.

    Lastly, I am in Indian. I hope my grammar and communication skills were good enough for you to understand my message and respond to it.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. Naill this is the amazing guide I have ever read. I liked it very much and I am sure that I can win numberless projects now.

    I disliked only one thing… You said Pakistani and Indian freelancers are cheap. It is not good to target the whole community due to some nonsense persons. I am a Pakistani and I am charging like a PRO of Fiverr. I think you will understand it 😉

    1. Thanks for the comment, hamza, glad you like the guide.

      You said Pakistani and Indian freelancers are cheap. It is not good to target the whole community due to some nonsense persons.

      Hmm, I don’t see where I said or implied that ALL Pakistani or Indian freelancers or cheap. I know that there are plenty of high-quality and high-earning freelancers from those countries, you being a prime example 🙂

      But there are also many cheap freelancers from those countries, especially compared to the USA and Western Europe, which is where most of my readers are located.

  3. Tried so many times and so many things, but never got a luck. Got to see some new things here. will certainly give it a try. Thanks for this info.

  4. I have really learned a lot from this article. All this while I have been sending proposals without addressing the clients by their name and also I tend to be “selfish” by always talking about myself. Henceforth, I will apply these steps and I’m certain that I will get results. Thank you Naill and have a great day!

  5. And that John, who wants to be called [removed], now thats interesting too! Copy paste without even looming, proofreading, just the skill a web dev needs!

    Nice summary Niall, same communication rules work when writing the text of your portfolio website or responding to clients emails.

    1. It first decides whether they click on your link (good SEO site description)

    2. It then decides, whether they use your contact form. (Good on site texts and approach)

    3. It then ultimately decides, whether they hire you, once the foot is in the door (good email response that confirms their intuition in choosing you)


    1. Thanks for the comment, Lukas.

      And that was actually my mistake with the names. I changed all the names of the freelancers but one original name slipped through, so it was me slacking on the proofreading!

  6. Love this article. Thank you once again! To answer your question, the one thing he could have done that he didn’t do at the start of his letter was: addressing you by name. That way, he would have made a connection with you.

    1. You got it, Pierre.

      Such a simple thing but most of the proposals didn’t have my name in there. I’m always suspicious reading a proposal that doesn’t include my name because it immediately seems like an impersonal copy and paste job.

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