Have you ever wondered, “How many proposals should you submit on Upwork to reach a full-time income?”. If so, you’re in for a treat. We’ll be discussing the number of proposals you should submit to run a full-time business as a freelancer or agency, so stay tuned…
- 1 Who is Upwork for?
- 2 My Experience
- 3 How many freelance proposals should you submit on Upwork to build a 6-figure income?
- 4 Important Things to Watch Out For
- 5 Important Goals for Upwork Freelancers
- 6 How to make sure that your proposals are chosen
- 7 How to ensure you can deliver the tasks on time and with high-quality
- 8 Realistic expectations from Upwork
- 9 Things to keep in mind to avoid getting banned
- 10 Conclusion: How many proposals are right for your current state?
Who is Upwork for?
Whether you are a web developer, web designer, writer, video editor, SEO specialist, or product manager, you can always rely on Upwork to get your next clients. The question is: will Upwork be enough source of clients when you’re looking to grow a full-time business? Quick answer: Yes.
I have been on Upwork for over 6 years now, and I have already tackled more than 1000 jobs and earned more than $300,000 USD. Is Upwork my only source of clients? No, but 80-90% of our clients come from Upwork. You, of course, can build a website and market it properly to gain even more clients from all over the world, but that could take time.
Reaching the first page of Google is no easy feat, and it involves thousands of dollars spent on SEO and content marketing. There are a lot of online marketing strategies you can employ. However, if you ask me what the fastest way is, I highly recommend you take Upwork more seriously to gain immediate sales.
Here, I’m going to talk about how to build a 6-figure income with Upwork and how sending more proposals is essential to build a full-time business in this robust platform.
How many freelance proposals should you submit on Upwork to build a 6-figure income?
For me, crushing it on Upwork, especially when you’re trying to build a business or agency, requires numbers game.
Especially if your manpower is ready, I suggest you submit as many proposals as you can. My account sends at least 25 proposals every single day.
How much does it cost to send proposals?
I invest in ‘connects’ in order to reach that volume. Each connect costs $0.15 and every project costs 2-6 connects depending on its scope and nature. That’s $7.5-22.5 every day for connects alone. In one month, that’s $225-$675. That is excluding the salary I give to the ‘bidder’ I hired. Yes. I don’t personally send proposals. I outsource the work.
What’s the Return on Investment?
Now is the cost worth it? Yes, because I earn at least $2000 from new clients’ sales per month. Those new clients will soon become repeat purchases, which makes the investment even worth it.
Important Things to Watch Out For
1. Sending too many proposals when you’re already busy
However, if you DO NOT have the manpower to process all the orders. It will be a waste, especially if you end up declining incoming orders because you already have a lot on your plate.
2. Not Responding or Providing Quality Customer Support
Also, if you are too busy to reply to inquiries promptly or you do not have an assistant to help you manage the inquiries and orders, do not send this many proposals. When you’re trying to build an agency, it’s not just about the sales. It’s about whether or not you deliver and make the clients happy.
3. Poor Quality of Work Due to Over-Commitment
If you do become successful at earning more clients but your over-commitment harmed the quality and integrity of your work, that’s definitely not good. If you end up haphazardly delegating the work to unqualified workers, you’re not really doing business right, and that’s a selfish way to operate.
Doing business is all about giving solutions to the needs of a target market. If the work you deliver is not up to the mark (because you just wanted to reach your goals in terms of sales or client count), your client’s first impression of your work will be poor, and that’s a lost opportunity of forging a long-term partnership.
Important Goals for Upwork Freelancers
On top of earning, the goal is to make sure that each client will love the results so much that they will turn to you as a go-to service provider for that niche. To do that involves way more than submitting great proposals. To make sure that clients choose to work with you and choose to ‘continue’ working with you, deliver the following:
- Quality submission
- On-time submission
- Prompt responses and project updates
Top this with being a kind and professional human being and you’ll surely have clients doing business with you for years.
More than 85% of our total monthly sales come from repeat purchases. Does that mean our content writing agency has never displeased a client? Nope. You can NEVER satisfy everyone, but the key is to handle each challenging encounter with grace and professionalism nevertheless.
If you DO have the capacity to handle high-volume orders though, you can choose to hire an assistant to send proposals on your behalf. This requires some training, great scripts, and organized workflow. In the next section, we’re going to talk about how to increase the chances of getting your proposal noticed.
How to make sure that your proposals are chosen
You can use scripts, but it’s important to edit each script in such a way that it still seems personalized and custom. Clients hate proposals that sound downright spammy. The following are some tips for writing Upwork proposals that work:
1. Mention the project scope
You can start with something like: “I understand you need someone to _________________.” This shows that you have read the proposal. Yes, even if you’re using scripts to make the proposal writing faster and more efficient, you still need to read each proposal and only bid for projects that are within your skills and abilities. If not, you’re wasting your time and money on connects and you’re wasting the client’s time as well.
2. Attach relevant samples
If you have samples related to exactly what the client wants, attach them. The more related it is to the client’s niche or scope, the better.
3. Mention the client’s name
Sometimes, clients put their name in the job proposal. Mention his/her name to make your proposal sound even more personal and less spammy.
4. Set the right budget for the bid
Some clients go very specific with the job post, and from the job post itself, you can already set the estimated cost. Setting a proper estimate also lets clients know that you’ve read the full scope and that you respect their time.
It might be tempting to state the bidding amount low for clients to notice the affordable amount, but if you end up stating a different amount as you start communicating, that would be a turn-off.
Be transparent straight off the bat. If the client’s job post is not specific, you can include this in the script: “Final quote will be finalized once the full scope is received” or something along those lines.
5. Make the proposal short and simple
Most clients are busy, and they don’t have the time to read 10 paragraphs. 2-4 paragraphs is the sweet spot for me. The proposal can include 3 parts:
1. Reiterating the client’s need
As mentioned, you can start with something like “I understand you require ___________”.
2. Stating what you have to offer
Here, you can briefly talk about your experiences and how long you’ve been in the industry, your degree or certifications, and everything else that builds you up.
3. An invitation to check the samples/portfolio
Clients will appreciate it if you send your portfolio right away, so they can immediately check what kind of results you produce. Just wrap it up with a ‘Thank you” or “Looking forward to working with you” or something similar.
You’re free to experiment what works best for you. Perhaps if you’re starting out, you can try different approaches for the first 2-3 months and see which one attracts more inquiries.
You know your industry better, you understand what clients need, and it’s always smart to start from there. Craft proposals with the intention of meeting clients’ needs and letting them know you’re happy to contribute.
How to ensure you can deliver the tasks on time and with high-quality
We’re not just going to talk about ‘getting the work’. Let’s talk a little bit about actually ‘doing the work’. After all, no matter how many incoming clients you have, if you don’t have the capacity to cater to them all, you’ll always end up declining opportunities sooner or later.
So we’re going to briefly talk about one thing: scalability.
For sure, once clients start to notice your proposal, they will send you a message and you’ll have to reply promptly to not waste the chance. You’ve worked hard to perfect your proposals, and it’s just about right to work as hard in closing the deal and delivering the order.
How can you make sure you respond on time?
If you’re personally doing the work and you do not have a team backing you up, you may not have the time to respond to inquiries right away. You can only do so much. In my case, I have project managers who respond to clients’ messages and relay instructions to writers.
I am not really obliged to do any work and even if I step out for a week, the production line is going to be okay. That’s because the workflow is designed to be independent of me.
Although I’m the one who brings order to chaos, once the order is achieved, I can step back and watch the whole scene run by itself. And I’ll just be back in the corner, waiting for crises to happen.
And I think that’s what entrepreneurs should do—set the business up, wait for problems to arise, create long-term solutions for those problems, and wait for the next problem to solve. The good thing about this cycle is it’s bound to make your business get better and better. As long as you face each crisis head on, you’ll emerge stronger.
How can you make sure you deliver the work on time?
The keyword is “system”. There are project management tools you can use– even free ones like Trello. It’s great to have multiple freelancers on file so that by the time your orders go up and you need more people, you don’t have to post a job post and hire from scratch.
Even if you have zero sales right now, source your freelancers as soon as possible, and make a spreadsheet with all their names and contact information. This serves as your buffer when orders suddenly shoot up or when existing freelancers are not available.
How can you make sure clients are satisfied and will repeat orders?
Repeat orders are ideal because it means you will have recurring revenue even without submitting more proposals, or paying for ads. Here are a few essentials to keep in mind so repeat orders are more probable…
1. Hire Skilled People
When hiring your freelancers, although work ethics and such are all important, I personally think the major criterion is the skill. I only associate with freelancers with about the same level of skills as me, or even more. They should be as talented or more talented than I am. This way, you don’t have to spend a lot of time training them as well.
2. Learn from Good and Bad Feedback
And if clients still end up dissatisfied despite you doing your best, that doesn’t mean you suck. Perhaps you do because clients are always right. But perhaps it’s also just a natural business phenomenon.
Especially in the content writing industry we’re in, the measures of client satisfaction can be subjective. I do my best to learn from every dissatisfied client, but I also don’t beat myself up when a client is not satisfied.
3. Track Client Satisfaction
I track all my clients and have an actual metrics as to client satisfaction rate, and so far, more than 90% of the clients per month are satisfied. As long as I meet that score, I don’t fret. I want 100% client satisfaction. I mean who doesn’t? But I also understand that you can’t serve everyone.
Some clients’ needs are too specific and may not be your best match. Don’t consider that as a personal failure. Consider that as mere data, telling you that the client is better off with some other freelancer or agency, and you’re better off working with clients who are happy to work with you while you constantly make your services better.
Realistic expectations from Upwork
Here are some things you should know about Upwork to set expectations right.
1. Building a strong Upwork account may take time
If you’re still starting to send more proposals, don’t expect things to pick up right away. Just focus on one inquiry at a time. Improve your negotiation skills one client a time. Start delegating work slowly but surely. Learn as you go, and as long as you push on, everything will fall right into place.
2. Some clients won’t pay
Now this sounds scary, but it happens, and it’s always a possibility. Just make sure to never start working without a contract in place. Always have escrow payment when working on fixed-rate contracts. That is a layer of protection, but that is not a guarantee that clients won’t ask for refunds.
They can ask for refunds when they feel the need to, and sometimes, it’s subjective. You did your best, you put in the work, and the client just chose not to pay.
How Often Should you Expect Client Payment Problems?
The good news is it doesn’t happen all the time. Probably just 1-5% of the time based on personal experience. My advice is to always start small when dealing with new clients. For example, I always start with one article first per new client. That way, if he/she doesn’t pay for the first article, it was only one article worth of wasted effort.
But if the client does pay, that’s the time I start to receive more orders from that client. Don’t let this scare you though because as long as you do your best, clients do pay. And there are more kind people than unreasonable people overall—at least based on my 6 years on Upwork.
3. Most clients do pay and even send a bonus
As mentioned, over 90% of the time, as long as you do good work, clients do pay. Some even send you a bonus for a job well done. And as long as you meet the needs of those happy clients consistently, you’ll have a steady stream of repeat purchases that are instrumental for growing your business.
4. Upwork is reliable
Upwork is a great system and a huge platform. Over 5 million clients from all over the world turn to Upwork to outsource different jobs. The escrow payment is secure, the system is fair, and the reach is great as well. The fees can be a bit high, but the new and repeat sales you get out of it make it worthwhile.
It’s not the only platform and you can choose to work on different platforms all at once to check which one works best for you. But personally, Upwork has been a great contributor to my agency building the client base that it has today. It can become a huge contributor to your business too as long as you play it right.
Things to keep in mind to avoid getting banned
You need to follow the rules to continue maximizing the platform. The following are common reasons for having your account banned:
1. Not following Upwork’s payment rules
Both freelancers and clients can get banned if they choose to work and settle payment outside the platform. It might be tempting to initiate or agree to work outside the platform to ditch the 20% Upwork fee, but remember that once your account gets banned, it’s banned forever. Upwork is a great place to find clients or talent, and not following their payment rules is just not worth it.
2. Be civil and professional when solving disputes
Sooner or later, you may encounter disagreements with clients, but despite the clash, make sure to stay objective, helpful, and professional. Cursing clients or treating clients maliciously could also lead to accounts getting banned forever.
3. Consistently delivering poor work
Upwork’s vision is to help clients find the right talent, but if you are barely offering anything valuable or usable, it makes sense for Upwork to let you go. If you keep on receiving complaints, disputes, or 1-2 star ratings, your account could be in trouble.
If you want a thorough coverage, I suggest you read Upworl’s Terms of Service. Take the time to know the full rules and guidelines of if you have any questions, visit Upwork’s Help Center If you choose the live chat option, you’ll get connected to a customer support representative in a matter of seconds. Maximize that to learn the ropes.
Conclusion: How many proposals are right for your current state?
So, going back to the big question, how many proposals should you submit regularly on Upwork to have a full-time business on Upwork? Quick answer: as many as you can handle.
The exact number depends on your current state. That is how many freelancers you have on file and how simple or complicated your projects are. Each type of task is different. In our industry, a small article writing project might get completed faster than other types of projects like web development or mobile app development.
The important thing, if you want to turn it into a full-time business, is to not work in the business but on the business. Yes, you’re a great freelancer—you have the skill and talent. But entrepreneurship is not about that. It’s all about gathering the right talent to fulfill a shared mission. Master hiring, delegation, negotiation, and customer retention. These are key elements to making it far and making it big—be it on Upwork or beyond.
If you have additional questions, leave them in the comments section below, or schedule a free consultation to get advice on growing your freelance business.