Elance Blog

Elance Tips: Making Every Proposal Count

You've already read our 7 Tips To Win More Jobs on Elance and know that a great proposal is key. Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills on Elance, but in many cases, the first (and possibly the last) impression you’ll make on a potential Client is through your bid proposal.

Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you’re looking for only one outcome—to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:

Check Out Clients Before Submitting a Proposal
Some Clients have already posted numerous jobs. Peruse through their past jobs (see screenshot below) to get a feel for their businesses, the skills they tend to need, the scope of previous projects, and the budgets they are used to working with. Also, check their feedback, both given and received, to learn their preferences regarding work habits, communication and final deliverables.

Looking at a Client’s history can tell you what’s most important to him or her (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking questions early in the project), and help you spot “red flags” – signs that this may not be the right Client for you.

Price Your Services Logically

Pricing services is harder than pricing products, because most Clients know that product sellers calculate their prices by covering their overhead costs and adding a “markup” – while keeping an eye on what competitors are charging.

Pricing services, however, means you must also determine the perceived value of your services to the Clients. This involves some subjective thinking, since the prices buyers are willing to pay for your services may not “sync” with the amount of time and effort you need to deliver them. Pricing services is more art than science.

That said, the best way to establish your hourly and fixed rates is to:


  • Figure out your overhead costs
  • Set the profit margins you want to make
  • Research the rates recommended by your industry's professional associations
  • See what other Elancers are charging
  • Negotiate prices

One approach you can consider to be more flexible in your negotiations without simply reducing prices is to try packaging your services like products. For example, American Express packages its credit services in different tiers. A recent college graduate will receive an offer for the basic (“green”) card, which entitles her to a charge card that must be paid in full every month. People with good credit histories, however, receive offers for the gold card package, platinum card package, and so on – with the higher tiers featuring more features and benefits.

There’s no reason why you can’t package your services in tiers. An accountant could sell bronze, silver and gold packages. The bronze package might be limited to basic tax-preparation services, the silver package might include investment and money-saving consulting, and the gold package could include the services of strategic partners such as lawyers and wealth managers.

One seasoned Elance Contractor uses the tier technique when Clients want to hire him but are concerned about price. For example, he recently told one prospect that he could reduce his editing fee by offering her a “gold package” instead of a “platinum package.” The only difference between the two is that the gold package requires the Client to do the final proofreading – which is something the Contractor does with the platinum package. (Eventually, the Client agreed to buy the platinum package.)

Ask Questions
Use Workroom messages (see screenshot below) when you submit a proposal to ask questions, and get clarification and additional information from buyers. This will help you better understand the project, and you’ll start to build a relationship with the buyer.

Customize Each Proposal

You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don’t. Every Client and every job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Many Clients ignore proposals that appear to be generic boilerplate. Although it’s fine to use a template to avoid inputting basic information in every proposal, the bulk of the proposal should be tailored to that Client’s needs. It should demonstrate how you plan to solve this Client’s problems and achieve his goals.

The proposal should contain with one or two sentences that describe your credentials, experience and skills. Then, outline how you’ll apply your skills, knowledge and processes to achieve the Client’s objectives – step by step. Remember, your proposal isn’t about you – it’s about the Client. The Client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. Don’t waste space giving the prospect your complete CV. Instead, include a “Call to Action” at the end, which invites the buyer to visit your profile and contact you to discuss the project in more detail.

Don’t Oversell
Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do – and when – and use facts to support your claims. Attach relevant samples or links to previous work—the more relevant, the better. For example, Clients can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure that you created. If they need a website created, providing links to the sites you’ve designed will be much more effective than merely talking about them.

Let your personality shine: Share your enthusiasm for the project or the Client’s business. You and your Client will work together on this project and (potentially) many more. Show them that you’re polite and professional, but also give them a sense of you.

Review Your Proposal As If You Were the Client
Put yourself in the Client’s shoes. How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you’ll receive? Do you feel confident that the Contractor can deliver? Do you get a sense of the Contractor’s excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line: would you hire this Contractor?

Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic. Focus instead on what the proposal actually says about you and what you will do. Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after finishing. In that case, take a few minutes to review your old proposals. They won’t be as “fresh,” so you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you’ll find things you wish you’d done differently. Apply what you’ve just learned to your latest proposal.

Modify your proposal, when necessary: It’s not unusual for Contractors to update their job postings in response to Contractor questions and/or new developments – e.g., if they need to add new requirements. Elance now allows Contractors to modify their existing proposals instead of having to submit new ones. Monitor every project on which you’ve bid to see if buyers have updated their job descriptions. In some cases, you may have missed something in the RFP during your first read – something that could affect your price or delivery timeframe. In other cases, you may have missed an opportunity to sell yourself. Don’t be afraid to modify your proposals in response to new developments or altered circumstances.

What other ideas do you have for creating winning proposals? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or visit our Facebook page.



You have suggested that providers

"Ask Questions
Use Workroom messages when you submit a proposal to ask questions, and get clarification and additional information from buyers. This will help you better understand the project, and you’ll start to build a relationship with the buyer. "

Workroom messages can only be initiated by the client - not the provider. This is what I find - am I looking at the wrong page or link?

Thank you.

I'm agree with you Shantz regarding this workroom messages initiation. And i amaze to find that no one, not even an Elance official explaining what they've suggesting.. Interesting!


when you get a reply, then you can ask relevant queries


while applying : Bold out your questions in the proposal, proposal should be long but not be a story !

Hope this suffice ...

It is true Shantz I am also looking for the workroom tab can Elance assist please

Same issue with all biders. Elance should fix/allow to bidders.

Thank you for the help.

I read and try to apply the rules you all give us. But, we don't have any more the workroom to ask before the client contact us, and even adding skills, feedbacks and attaching samples... frequently the clients choose the cheapest price. And there are providers that really offer ridiculous prices.
thank you!

I must agree with Debi, due to some contractors one needs to lower their Fee in order to land the job. But in my opinion, Clients who have some good experience on Elance and had some dealings with the contractors usually don't go for the lowest bid, instead they rather prefer experience and quality over saving some extra bucks. But for a new Client they only and mostly usually opt for freelance websites to get the job done in cheap. I know there are some caps when contractor submit a fee but they need to be more realistic (for example if a client mention a budget of under $500 then contractors should be bound to submit bids in the region of $350-$500) the cap margin needs to be reduced.

Some of the advice in the article are decent.

hello ,
if you are available plz let me know how to get job as i haven't received single job. In spite being enough qualified.


I'm available today and I want to know how yo start to work using elance ?
Please help me

I am new and feel like I would work for free to establish myself on the site, so of course I would bid low. Clients have to risk more to hire me than to hire a more established contractor. I think undercutting is inevitable, but the clients will probably learn over time that experience is worth more money.

That's a great attitude, but don't sell yourself short if you really are a skillful and creative designer. What I fear too with these sites, is what is known as "low-balling" in the business. There are those who will work for much, much less, just to get the job - even if they are great designers. But this only cheapens the market for the rest of us. So, I think we should all be on the same page about hourly fees and stick to it. Example: $45 - $65/hr, let's say. As freelancers, we should know whether a project should be compensated as hourly or flat rates. Again, don't sell yourself short - or you'll only attribute to degrading our profession - or yourself. Many of us are educated in the commercial arts, or have a lot of practical work experience. So far, I find that Elance is very thorough and offers some great, professional advice for the novice as well was the veteran freelancer. Good luck to you all and Happy New Year.

Thanks for your insight! Much appreciated

Thank you for this post-- I'm new here, but not new in my field. I'm appalled at some of the bids & the fixed pricing for some jobs. Having many years experience in my field, I know the time needed to do good work (effective, marketable, exciting, award-winning work) and I thank you for this advice. I know to get myself established I will have to low-ball a bit just to get established, but when others in my area are really reducing their fee it lowers everything.

I am very interrested in working with élance and writing technical subjects. So How i have to proceed for this? thanks

Hey I am very professional LOGO designer pic editing, illustration and much more even i've very strong portfolio with tested skills but why i am not getting jobs?????

Always make sure to follow writing rules when replying to the Client's proposal.

I am quite new on www.elance.com myself, but I want to add my opinion anyway.

It would be a great idea for you to edit ALL of your communications for correct grammar, spelling, and syntax before posting.

Were I hiring a freelancer, the likelihood of hiring someone whose proposal had several errors would be pretty small.

Just a thought.


Excellent advice!


I totally agree with Ouzair. Excellent advise, e-lance should cosider Ouzair's post.
Vikkar Rana

Yes, i also agreed with both,because if required and proper advise is not involve in the cheap manner , hence they have to pay more for this. WITH WITH WARM REGARDS

Thank you very much for your advice. I am new here and have sent a few proposals. After reading your tips, i can see clearly what I may need to change in my proposals.

Keep posing more tips on a diverse range of topics.


Knowing what one has to do at a particular time really counts.This makes one outstanding in a billion.
My thanks goes to the elance theme for giving us such great insights on how to better our jobs.
Thanks for your professionalism Elance.

Hi I am brand new so apprehensive about submitting my first proposal but should start sometime. So here goes ....

Am pretty new so I have just submitted my first proposal. My profile is still in the works, not fully there yet! Thanks Elance team for the many tips this is truly a professionals haven. Am learning so much. Am truly looking forward to making money here.

Hiii,Can u healp me pls ?

I have been on Elance for a while, I have taken all of your advice but I am not able to break into the market. It's pretty disappointing

I have to say I agree with you somewhat. I've submitted banging proposals -- especially to recommended jobs ; I've highlighted my skills, creativity, and client-oriented approach; I've tested numerous skills with fairly decent results. The only thing I haven't done is slash prices to win a job (which, according to a more recent comment, is somewhat of a common practice, especially since first time clients tend to look for low rates). I've decided to take a new angle on the jobs I write a proposal (apply) for:
Though I have a strong grasp on color theory, branding, and other aspects of graphic design I love, I've been told over and over that typography and layout are my forte (or, as I think of them, my natural, innate skills). So now, rather than bidding for a job I'd like to do -- with potentially less-than-great results -- I'm moving toward jobs that fit me (and not the other way around), jobs I know I can do. For me, this is ebook publishing, cover design, and magazine design; for you, it might be banner ads, web graphics, or social media. The trick is going back to your "school days" and really considering the feedback you received from your peers. You may have a passion for branding, but if your best skills are in packaging, you might as well start there.
Your passions -- the jobs you'd like to do, but don't exactly know how to get -- all of a sudden become secondary in terms of importance. By all means, however, don't quit trying for those. The secret here is to "break into the [graphic design] market," to get the first client that is absolutely astounded with your professionalism and work. This increases your Elance reputation, and shows when you bid for jobs that may be just a bit out of your "natural, innate" skill set (in terms of feedback, award ratios, and ranking).

This is precisely what I find myself doing. I work hard to build my skills and education in new areas, but, when it comes to going after projects, I do tend to gravitate back to business and technical writing. Its where the bulk of my experience is, and I could do it in my sleep, because I have done such endless amounts of it over the course of my adult life. Not NEARLY as much fun and interest as voice acting, but, well... *sigh* I was stuck doing little else for the last eighteen years ( I was V.P. of a mid-size company ), and one would be hard-pressed to even slow me down on a writing project for any business related area. I do try to stray for creative writing whenever I get the chance... I admit it - I go for the cookies and the ice-cream before the brussel sprouts :)


Hi, Thanks for sharing useful Information.

Adding more to Ouzair comments that there should be a category for small project between 200 to 300. It will give some more space to the contractor to have the better understanding that what exactly budget the client is looking forward.

One More thing, I would like to suggest to Elance to consider the following suggestions as well. For example, a project is posted by a client and 50 contractors submit their proposal, if the client could be bound to review all of the proposal and decline them step by step with appropriate reason it will also help the client to make their decision and to the contractor as well to know the exact reason why the contractor has declined the project. By this way contractor can improve their proposal and services as well.

Thanks, Imad

im really hoping this market will favour me

I am also new to Elance and have yet to be awarded a job despite my experience and ability. I believe as well that clients should be bound to respond to each proposal and give reasons for the rejection. I find myself changing my proposals each time with really no guidence or feedback from clients that have declined my previous proposals. So I could be making the same mistakes and not knowing it.

Also, I really think you would be doing us a great service by providing us with samples of proposals - and how those good proposals include information about prior work without breaking any confidentiality of prior clients.
Thank you

I agree with SaharYounes, some sample proposals will help us improve.

I very much agree! I even looked for sample proposals, and the closest I came was this Elance Webinar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szl2pjpxOgg

The proposals shown in this webisode do highlight skills, relevant work, etc. but they seem very general in nature (e.g. they don't really become personable to the client, don't provide a very strong idea of how to approach the job, don't list expectations of the client, etc.) I can't say whether or not these specific proposals actually resulted in a job, but they are nothing like what I'd expect to submit when following the suggested practices.

It would certainly be worthwhile to see what kind of proposals are actually winning jobs. For confidentiality reasons, the name of the contractor and/or client could be removed.

I conquer with Sahar,kindly please provide us with winning proposal without braking any confidentiality of prior clients.

I am new and getting ready to submit my first proposal. It really would make life easier if samples of proposals were available. Wish me luck.....

i am also new one and just landed i am looking for some sample proposal it will really help us.

Greetings all,

I am a newbie and for my first proposal... I just jumped in. I'm a trial an error type. But with all of the advise and input you've all contributed, I look forward to more trial than error. I look forward to share what I've learned from my experiences, once I've gained them as you all have. Thank you, with much appreciation~

i am new and looking for some good jobs...

I'm also a new freelancer, and even after submitting extremely well thought out, articulated proposals, nary a response at all. I have tested skills, a full profile, etc. Perhaps I'm jaded, but it seems like many clients either opt for the cheapest bid they can find, or never hire anyone at all. It would be beneficial if Elance asked the Clients why they did not hire anyone.

i AM NEW HERE BUT Have not been able to breakthrough, really desire you can help me.

im new this site

Hello everybody
I read all above comments all are very much confused about their proposals.Writing proposal is an art so with every new proposal submission for a new project you will improve yourself.so be confident and workhard.try to create uniqueness in you proposals.Each project have different demand depending upon the project description nature you have to write proposal.I don't think any body will guide us or will show us any sample proposal.I am also new just like all of you.


I am new in Elance please anybody guide me how to send proposals and how to make good Profile

Im new in Elance and I want to know how to start by easy way and how to set a good proposal .

I am new in elance.i put the job.and attached the sampoll file.please any body help me.and also flow the elance guide line.

have a any problam my profile.let me know