The freelance platform Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance) can be an excellent resource for finding work, but here's the thing: There are over ten million freelancers on Upwork and roughly three million jobs annually.
You don't need to be a math whiz to see that competition for Upwork jobs is quite fierce, with many more freelancers than there are jobs. So, how do you stand out from the pack? While there are many factors like your portfolio, reviews and profile, winning a bid all starts with a successful bid and cover letter. Here's five ways to stand out from the crowd with your Upwork cover letter.
Write a great opening.
A lot of Upwork job postings receive a lot of bids—going through them starts to get overwhelming quick. Stand out by grabbing the client's attention right away. Start out with a catchy sentence, or a great statistic on a past project, such as the number of views or shares. For example, I often start this way when bidding for work writing a press release:
“Two sounds often drifted from the editor's office into the newsroom where I worked as a writer for over five years—grumbling followed by the sound of a poorly written press release flying into the full recycling bin.”
Every other proposal is going to start with “I'm writing to apply for...” so grab their attention with a great opening. Include some hard facts, like how much experience you have, and then spend some time revising the language until it's just right.
Don't cut and paste.
To find success on Upwork, most freelancers have to send out bids often. With so many bids to send and only so much time in a day, it's easy to fall into the trap of just cutting and pasting one cover letter into each bid. The problem is that it's usually pretty easy to recognize cookie-cutter bids.
Instead, start with a template, but customize the cover letter for each job post. Go through the job description and make sure you've shown that you have each skill that they are looking for. If you know the client's name, be sure to use it. Make sure that it's clear from your cover letter that you read the entire description.
Match the length of your cover letter to the job description.
How long is the job description? Often, that's a good indication of whether the client appreciates brevity or more detail. If the job listing is short and sweet, keep your cover letter brief as well. If the job description is full of specific details, be sure to flesh out your cover letter with detail about why you're the right fit for the job.
Don't just say that you can do the work, show it. Be sure to include links to other similar projects you've done. If you don't have links, draw attention to a specific item in your Upwork portfolio that is similar and note why that project was so successful.
Don't forget the technical details.
Before you conclude your cover letter, make sure to specifically spell out what's included in your bid. Are you bidding for the entire project, or just the initial portion? Be as specific as you can—as a writer, for example, I include an estimated word count, as well as specifying whether edits, graphics SEO research and formatting is included. Along with detailing what you'll complete for the price, be sure to give an estimated completion time too.
Upwork can be a great platform for finding freelance work—but it's also quite competitive. To stand out from the crowd, be sure to spend some time crafting a great cover letter to include with your bid.