Project Proposals, A Winning Recipe

We’re all familiar with spam, be it the “dear sir/madam” opening or the completely irrelevant content, it’s easy to spot spam from miles away.  When you’re bidding on jobs on Upwork,, or anywhere else, you’ll want to avoid submitting project proposals that sound spammy. If you can’t put the effort into your very first communication with a potential client, it doesn’t set a good precedent for the relationship going forward. There are three sections to every good project proposal: the opening, the body, and the closing/call-to-action.

Opening Project Proposals

The first sentence of your project proposal may be the only sentence the recipient reads.  You want to make sure that you hook them early on.  You should avoid boilerplate salutations such as “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” and stick with the less formal option such as “Hey!” or “Hello,”.  It’s also a good idea to avoid the word “I” in the first paragraph.  This can be very hard to do, but it forces you to frame everything in relation to the needs and desires of the client.  Questions can be great to open with too, since it starts a conversation

Don’t overcomplicate the opening.  These people have several bids that they’re trying to parse through and they don’t want to have to read a 3,000 word essay for every proposal.  The following is an opening I used later led to winning the $1,700 job:


Are there any additional requirements such as the type of database required or the reports that may need to be generated?

Drafting the Body of Project Proposals

After you’ve hooked them with your simple but intriguing opening, you can work to impress them with your qualifications.  It’s important to realize that the client is not your mother and won’t be excited to hear about all the things that you’re good at.  You’ll want to limit your discussion to skills that are relevant to the job.  For instance, if the project is to create a WordPress template from a PSD, your MailChimp or Magento experience is irrelevant.

It’s a good idea to include any samples of past work you may have, but avoid just pasting a bunch of URLs.  Ideally, you’ll send links to 3-5 past projects that have similar elements to what the client is asking for.  Be sure to explain how the project is relevant and what specifically the client should be looking at.

Closing Project Proposals

At the end of your proposal, give them instructions for the next steps to take.  Again, simplicity is key.

I am confident that this can be completed in [insert deadline they provided] and I’d be happy to discuss the project further with you if short listed.  I can be reached on Skype at [insert skype name] if you’d prefer to discuss there.

[your first name]

The total word count of your proposal should be about 150-250 words.  The goal is not for you to give them a detailed roadmap and provide details about how you will complete the project, but instead it’s meant to introduce yourself and convince the client that you’ll be able to complete the project for them satisfactorily.

With these simple modifications, you should be able to win more jobs and also simplify your bidding process so that you can place more proposals.


Jonathon Klem

I'm an entrepreneur and tech-enthusiast. I have provided front-end development for numerous award winning websites and an advocate of AGILE development practices. I've also given talks at conferences such as Ohio Linux Fest. In my spare time I am a licensed Ham Radio operator and enjoy disc golfing.


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