As much as Upwork’s been raising eyebrows lately, I’m not convinced that they’re a completely poor choice, especially for new freelancers. They’re going to continue to attract most of the companies new to the freelance world and put in the time and effort to keep a large footprint, regardless of how much they charge freelancers and clients.
They’re still far from the only game in town though, which is why I wanted to put together a few tips to help you send strong responses to jobs and invitations you run across on bidding sites across the Internet.
Side note: If you’re looking for more information on sending more traditional proposals, Freelancers Union has a good one here. I personally tend to look for more low-key clients who aren’t looking for that level of formality (I started freelancing to reduce stress after all), but reviewing the structure can be very helpful in understanding a base framework for your responses.
Make a List
So any job listing, no matter how long or complicated, is basically just a list of requirements—a list that the posting company believes will solve whatever business problem they’re having at the time. If you can address this list point by point in your response, you’re already half-way there.
Pulling out those points is actually pretty simple…just read through, and start making a list of all the requests you see in the posting. It will be even more useful if you break them down into “requirements” and “bonuses.”
Some posters will actually do some of this for you and include a list of bulleted requirements, but don’t stop there. Many times they’ll include hints outside of the bullet list as to what they want. For example, a closing statement that mentions a short deadline, or past issues with getting the work done. Definitely include information like this in your notes.
Play the Matching Game
After you’ve got a list, take some time to see where your skills and experience add up. You might find that the job requires familiarity with platforms, topics, or concepts that you don’t even list in your freelancer profile, which is why it pays to take each item and think about it thoroughly in terms of your history as a freelancer.
You might even want to go as far as making a quick note beside each point on your list as to what skill you bring to the table and using that as a base structure for your response letter.
Do Your Research
Sometimes taking the time to do just a little bit extra can go a long way in getting a potential client’s attention.
For example, on some sites, you’ll be able to see the name of the company that’s posting a job. A visit to their website can give you a much clearer understanding of the challenges they face and the type of culture they have. The job listing itself might even include some keywords that you can pop into a search engine to help familiarize yourself with news or topics that might catch the poster’s attention.
Either way, letting someone know that you took a few extra minutes to better understand their business problem can make all the difference in the world.
After you work through what we’ve talked about so far, you should have a pretty solid list of points you want to hit on in your response.
Before you write though, take a hint from the original posting and rank your ideas in order of importance. People looking for freelance help are generally pretty busy, so don’t waste their time (or your chances) by burying your strongest points at the bottom of your response — open strong and let them know right out the gate why you’re a good choice.
Address What They Might Have Missed
Sometimes, job posters don’t know everything they need — this is where experienced freelancers especially can shine.
If you see something that might make their project even better, don’t hesitate to mention it — just remember to do that in a way that doesn’t come off as lecturing or like you’re correcting them.
I have…such a hard time with this, but it’s essential.
Write your response, and walk away.
I mean it…walk away for 10 minutes, maybe even half an hour to an hour, then come back and read the whole thing after you read the initial post again. See how it makes you feel. Put yourself in the place of the job poster and see how you think you sound.
If it sounds off in any way, don’t feel bad about making some adjustments.
Responding to a job posting and nailing down a new client is all about making a case for why you should be hired, and that doesn’t stop at your first contact. Check out 5 Ways to Make Your Hire Me Case to learn about a few more.