Proposal Mistakes Freelancers Make And How To Avoid Them

A successful freelance career requires good instinct and a willingness to take risks but it also requires careful planning and organization. In this guide, we’ll talk about one of the most important aspects of freelancing: making proposals. 

Proposals are where you can really stand out in your industry, find new clients, and hone your skillset. However, they can also be difficult to get right. If you’re struggling with getting proposals perfect every time, here’s what you need to know and how to avoid the common mistakes that many people make when writing them.

UPWORK MISTAKES 71% of Freelancers make & how to fix
1. Understand common proposal mistakes made by freelancers.
2. Tailor proposals to the specific needs and objectives of each client.
3. Showcase expertise and relevant experience in proposals.
4. Set realistic timelines and budgets in proposals.
5. Proofread proposals for errors and ensure clarity and professionalism.
6. Conduct thorough research on clients and projects before submitting proposals.
7. Learn from the experiences and insights shared in the blog to avoid common pitfalls.
8. Continuously improve proposal writing skills for better success rates.
9. Customizing proposals increases the chances of resonating with clients.
10. Effective proposal writing is a key factor in securing freelance projects.

You’re Being Too Modest

Just like the fact that you’re not a one-person operation, your client isn’t either. Their business may be small, but there are still other people involved in making decisions before the project gets to you.

This means it’s important for you to act with confidence when dealing with clients. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – whether it’s more time or a certain budget amount – and don’t be afraid to say no if something doesn’t feel right about the project or client (or even both). 

It’s okay that they may not understand why at first; they’ll come around eventually!

Just make sure that whatever rates/budgets/etc., you put on paper are based on previous work experience and current skillsets rather than a wishful thinking mindset. 

If someone tells me they can do something without asking how much time it will take or how much money it will cost, I’m likely going back through my contacts list again looking for another freelancer who won’t waste my time or theirs trying something impossible under budget constraints set by both parties involved in this agreement.

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You’re Not Using A Template

As you’re working on a proposal, there are two things to keep in mind: (1) how long it will take for you to complete the project and (2) how much money you’ll make per hour. A great way to make sure both of these considerations are taken into account is by using templates.

Templates can help guide your proposal completion process by providing an outline of what needs to be included and where it should go within the document. This allows freelancers who are new at creating proposals or have trouble with consistency some guidance that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.

When deciding whether or not you want to use one, think about whether or not using a template would save time overall while also ensuring that all-important information gets included in each section of your document without needing constant reminders from yourself every time something new needs added or removed from somewhere else

Your Proposal Is Too Long

You may be tempted to go into detail about everything you can do for your client. But it’s often best to limit the length of your proposal, especially if you’re sending it as an email attachment. If you’ve ever gotten a massive Word document attached in an email that wasn’t clearly marked “Revised Proposal,” then you know how frustrating and irritating this can be. 

Your client doesn’t want a huge document with paragraphs upon paragraphs of text; they just want a summary of what they’re going to get from working with you!

To avoid overkill on your proposals, use templates as a guide when writing them up (like this one). 

A template will make sure that your proposal maintains its structure and formatting consistently throughout so there are no glaring errors or typos that indicate rushed workmanship. The best templates also keep the content brief by structuring it logically and using bulleted lists where appropriate.

A well-crafted portfolio is a powerful tool for freelancers seeking to impress potential clients and secure rewarding projects. Learn how to showcase your skills effectively with our comprehensive guide on how to make a portfolio that gets you the job. Discover valuable tips and examples to elevate your portfolio and stand out in the freelance industry.

You’re Not Communicating Your Value

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that clients will be able to see your value. But what if you’re not communicating it clearly?

You have to show how you can solve the problem and why you are different from your competitors. Show how your service or product adds value to the client’s business, and how it benefits them personally, and make sure that this is communicated in all of your communications with them.

You’re Talking About The Wrong Things

When you’re talking about your proposal, you should be focused on what you can do for the client. Not what you can do for yourself, or how great your skills are. If a prospective client knows all that and wants to work with you because of those things anyway great! but don’t assume that’s true without asking them first.

If you don’t know what the client wants from their proposal process, ask them. 

And keep asking until they tell you something more specific than “make me an awesome proposal” or “I want something like [someone else’s] who I also don’t want to pay as much as they charge but still want as good quality work so please make my life easier by doing this whole thing yourself so I only have one person to manage instead of two!”

If they don’t know what they need from their next project (or even if they think they do), ask them again until either: (1) They realize their priorities aren’t right and change their mind; or (2) You get an answer that makes sense for everyone involved in this project

The Design Is Forgettable

One of the most common mistakes freelancers make is to create a proposal that’s not memorable. This can be because of many reasons, but it usually boils down to one thing: not giving enough thought to the design.

When we say “design,” we mean both how it looks and how easy it is to read and navigate in other words, your proposal should look good as well as work well. Your design should also reflect your brand, website, and social media accounts. After all, what would Coca-Cola be without its classic logo?

When you’re designing a new proposal or writing up a new proposal template in Word or PowerPoint (more on templates later), make sure that each page has an attractive header at the top with your name/brand name/company name followed by some relevant information about what you’re offering (e.g., “Proposal for [client]”). 

In addition, include contact information such as phone number and email address so people can reach out easily if needed, and don’t forget about social media handles! If someone sees this info on every page of their proposal package then they’ll know exactly where they need to go if there’s any confusion somewhere along the line…

They’ll Have To Work Hard To Understand You

If you want to ensure that your freelancers understand your project, make sure that you use simple language and short sentences. Bullet points can help break up the text. If you have a template for proposals, stick to it. 

This will help make sure that the proposal is consistent and easy to read. You may also want to include a style guide with examples of what works well in past proposals so that your freelancers can get an idea of what kind of content needs to be included in this one (i.e., what questions are being answered).

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Your Proposal Is Copy And Pasted From Something Else

If you use a template, it’s easy to include all the important parts of your proposal. For example, if you’re working on a project for a client in France, your template might automatically include any local customs or cultural differences. 

You should also ask yourself if any unique requirements will affect how your work is delivered and what kind of deliverables you need to produce.

Including all the necessary components in your proposal can help ensure that it doesn’t get rejected by clients because they think they’re paying more than they should technically be paying for it or because they don’t feel like they’re getting their money’s worth out of what was delivered.

When choosing templates overbuilding everything from scratch each time, make sure that yours is easy to read and edit both on desktop computers as well as smartphones or tablets (if applicable). This is especially true if you’re writing proposals by hand rather than using software tools like Google Docs® or Word®.”

You Aren’t Accounting For Risk Factors

You should always consider the risks involved in a project, and it is your responsibility as a freelancer to address those risks in your proposal. If you don’t make this clear to your client, they may not realize that there are things that could go wrong and cost them more money.

For example, if an external party isn’t going to be available for an important meeting, you need to let them know upfront so they can adjust their schedule accordingly if you don’t tell them about this risk factor until after the fact, then it could put them behind schedule or even cause them to cancel altogether.

If other risks aren’t addressed in detail in your proposal but become more evident during the process (for example: If a key member of your team falls sick), discuss these issues with your client before work begins so they know what’s happening and how much extra work might be involved in resolving these issues.

You Don’t Highlight Your Expertise And Experience

If you’re a freelancer, it’s important to highlight your expertise and experience. Why? Because clients want to know that they can trust you with their project. Plus, highlighting your expertise will show them how qualified you are for the job and how much value you can add.

How Do You Highlight Your Expertise?

Share information about what makes your business unique. Do this by explaining the services or products that have made it successful. For example, if you have unique content creation skills, let potential clients know that they won’t find anyone else like them on Fiverr (or anywhere).

Show off any awards or recognition from previous clients or publications/websites that have featured your work in some way (e.g., “Our SEO agency won an award last year”). Clients like seeing proof that others are impressed with what they do as well!

Your Proposal Looks Like A Resume

The first mistake you can make is to use a generic resume template. This makes sense you want to show off the best work you’ve done for other clients, so why not just use the same one? 

Unfortunately, this isn’t how proposals work. Though it may seem like sending out a repeat of your resume will be familiar and comforting to your client, they will see it as unprofessional and impersonal.

Instead of using a generic resume as your foundation (which also means including information not relevant to the project), create something custom-made for each proposal that shows off your knowledge in detail without being overwhelming or confusing.

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You’re Repeating Yourself To Fill In Space

Do not be afraid to repeat yourself. When you write a proposal, it’s tempting to fill in space by repeating what you’ve already written. This isn’t necessary and will make the client feel like they’re being swindled out of time and money. Instead, take the time to reword sentences so that they’re more interesting or relevant each time they appear in your proposal.

You needn’t be afraid of asking for what you want or need as long as it’s reasonable! Don’t shy away from requesting payment upfront if that’s something that would make sense for both parties involved (and check out this article about how much money freelancers should charge). 

It’s important not just for budgeting reasons but also because some clients may think less of a freelancer who won’t ask for what he deserves at work; this can affect future opportunities down the road, too! 

You don’t want all your hard work going unappreciated because someone thinks he can get away with paying less than he should since no one else is willing to complain about it…

Your Proposal Isn’t Personalized

This is a common mistake that freelancers make and can be easily avoided by implementing the following tips.

Personalize your proposal by using the client’s name in the subject line of your email, introduction, and throughout the body of your email. For example, if you’re writing an email to Jane Doe about her project needs, don’t just write “Dear Client”. 

Instead, write something like: “Dear Jane,” or even better: “Dear Jane Doe.” This will help you get off on a good foot with your client.

It’s also important for clients to know that they are receiving an individualized message from you as opposed to a mass-produced copy-and-paste template that has been sent out across multiple platforms at once (which could make them feel disrespected). 

Be sure that each message feels tailored specifically towards them perhaps even mentioning specific details about their business or project requirements which means no generic signoffs like “Best regards” or “Kind regards” either!

You’re Not Highlighting Your Testimonials And Reviews

A testimonial is a short statement of praise or recommendation for your services, written by someone who’s used them. Testimonials can be extremely powerful in building trust with prospective clients.

You must include testimonials on your website and/or proposal, so people can see what others have said about you. You should also list out any awards or recognition, including:

  • The number of years in business (for freelancers, this is typically one year)
  • The number of projects completed successfully (for freelancers, this is typically over 10 projects)

You Don’t Ask For What You Want At The End Of The Pitch (And You Make It About Them, Not About You)

If you want to be successful in your freelance business, you need to ask for what you want. That doesn’t mean that you should go into every pitch with a specific number in mind. 

But it does mean that when the client asks about how much money the job will pay, don’t be afraid to say “I’d like $150 an hour” or whatever amount would make sense for the work that’s being done.

You’ll be surprised at how often clients will say yes when they’re given this kind of information. If they’re not interested in paying your rate, they won’t hire you anyway; so there’s no harm in asking for what you need and there could be some great benefits if they agree!

Make Better Proposals So That Clients Are More Likely To Say Yes!

  • Proposals are a sales tool.
  • Proposals are a way to communicate your value.
  • Proposals are a way to communicate how you can help the client.
  • Proposals are a way to communicate how you can solve their problem.

Building a strong client base is crucial for freelance copywriters and editors seeking sustainable success. Discover actionable strategies to attract and retain clients in your spare time with our guide on how to build freelance copywriting & editing clients. Explore effective networking, marketing, and relationship-building techniques to grow your freelance business.


Hopefully, we’ve got you more excited (and maybe a little less nervous) about embarking on your freelancing journey. We know the struggle, and we came to these tips even the one about watching badminton! through our trial and error. 

Remember that the important thing is to keep on trying. As we covered earlier, you don’t have to go super hard on yourself for slip-ups, because this journey can take time and looks different for everyone. 

Plus, don’t forget that the best way to keep yourself on track is to keep it fun, keep positive, and keep yourself engaged with the people and the world around you. After all, caring about others is a great reason to switch to this lifestyle in the first place!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to explore for further insights into common mistakes freelancers make and how to avoid them:

Common Mistakes Freelancers Make: Learn about the common pitfalls that freelancers often encounter and discover practical tips to overcome them and thrive in your freelance career.

The 7 Biggest Mistakes Freelancers Make with Their Proposals: Dive into this article to uncover the seven key mistakes freelancers frequently make when creating proposals and gain valuable insights on how to avoid them to increase your chances of winning clients.

9 Project Proposal Mistakes Freelancers Should Avoid: Explore this comprehensive guide that highlights nine project proposal mistakes commonly made by freelancers. Discover actionable strategies to rectify these errors and enhance the effectiveness of your project proposals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Proposal?

A proposal is a document that outlines your services, timelines, and pricing for a client. It’s usually created when you’re applying for a job or trying to get a new client. A proposal helps you stand out from the crowd of freelancers who are competing for that same job or client. 

Your proposal should be tailored to the specific needs of your prospective client, so they can see how you can help them achieve their goals.

How Much Should I Charge?

The amount you charge depends on your experience level, location, industry, and other factors. You can use tools like Fiverr’s Pricing Calculator or Upwork’s Freelancer Fee Estimator to get an idea of what other freelancers in your area are charging. 

You may want to start with a low price point and adjust as needed based on feedback from clients or requests from them for additional work.

Can I Make My Proposal In Multiple Parts?

Yes! Our system is designed to let you build a proposal in whatever way works best for you. You can send us one big document that’s organized in any way you think will help us understand your project, or you can send us several smaller sections that are organized however makes sense to show each part of your project. 

We’ll take what you give us and put it together however works best for our team.

How Do I Know How Much Time To Budget For This Project?

This is a great question and one that can be hard to answer without knowing more about your project! You can use our estimator tool as an estimate of how long it’ll take you to complete your project if everything goes smoothly (and then adjust based on how many times things go wrong). If there are any parts of the

What Is A Proposal And How Do I Write One?

A proposal is a document that describes your project, who you are, and why you’re the best person to complete it. It should be short (a few paragraphs), professional, and easy to read.

How Do I Know If My Proposal Is Good Enough?

It’s not about the length it’s about clarity and professionalism. If a client can’t understand what you’re offering or why they should hire you and trust you without asking for clarification, then your proposal isn’t good enough.

What Information Should I Include In My Proposal?

Include as much information as possible about yourself, your skills, and your experience in the industry or with similar projects. 

You want to make sure that clients know exactly what they’re getting when they work with you and that means telling them how long it took you to complete similar projects and how much experience you’ve had with them. This will help them feel confident hiring someone like yourself!

Why Should I Hire A Freelancer?

Hiring a freelancer can be a great way to get the job done right, especially if you’re short on time and resources. Freelancers are experts in their field, and they can have a lot to offer your business. If you work with the right ones, they’ll help you grow your brand and make more money.

How Do I Find The Right Freelancer For My Business?

When looking for a freelancer, it’s important to ask yourself why you need one. Are you looking for someone who has experience working with clients like yours? Or are you looking for someone knowledgeable about your industry? These questions will help narrow down your search so that you only see quality candidates that match what you need.

What Is A Proposal?

A proposal is a document that explains why you’re the best person to do the job.

Why Do I Need One?

Because it’s your opportunity to set the tone for your relationship with the client.

How Long Should It Be?

It depends on what kind of project you’re working on, but generally, shorter is better because it’s easier for someone to read and digest quickly.

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