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Written by
Slava K.

Story Shardik

How to communicate with a customer to sign up

Note: this article is a part of our Upwork series. See the first article here and
the previous here.

Today we’re going to explain how you should communicate with a customer to sign up for the new deal. Also, we will share some insights from the other side of the process - our experience as customers.

Why is it so hard to get an offer?

Well, it’s all about the competition. Many freelancers are out there, and they may compete with you on that offer you aim at. You may be a perfect fit for the role; your profile might be a superstar. But the client might not even have a chance to see it! There are so many proposals for each fruitful job offer that the client will not be able to go through all the candidates.

Competition Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Furthermore, to make the client’s choice easier, the platform offers multiple filters for the candidates. Don’t you have more than a thousand hours of work on the platform? Out! Your timezone is one hour different from the filter? Out!

Your chances to get the client’s attention vanish. The client will see your proposal hidden from the top ones.

You are lucky, and the client opened your proposal. Next, you still have to convince him that you’re a good fit. You have limited space and time to persuade the client that you’re the one. You have to get the client to call you.

You sell your services. This is the key in the process described above. You’re on the market, and your first job is to sell, whether you like it or not.
So better, be prepared!

We made a lot of trial and error on this path. The first proposals we wrote took us hours to prepare, discuss, rewrite. Repeat all over again. And again. And again. The process was utterly slow and demotivating. We made several mistakes and lost offers. While this is a legitimate way to learn, we share our experience to let you build the communication toolset faster.

Where to start?

First of all, make sure you did your homework. Check out our previous articles on how to set up your profile, text, and project samples.

Now imagine you found your dream job offer. Urge to send your proposal is very strong. What is the worst thing you could do to spoil everything?
Right, a copy-pasted template! A copy-paste approach might give some effects on a scale, just because there are so many proposals sent. Bombing with template proposals may work. Though, it’s never a good service. Great clients appreciate good service. Also, the platforms limit the amount of proposals you send, and even could ban you in case there are too many not answered.

You can get ban on Upwork if you send too many proposals without answers Photo by Morgane Perraud on Unsplash

Finally, each client considers her project special, and copy-pasted responses are usually the last ones to consider. Often a client wants to opt-out the copycats and asks to include some keyword in your response to make sure you read the proposal.

Always try to think about the proposal from the point of view of the customer. You might even try to hire somebody to do a simple task just to go through the process. This helped us a lot to get a better understanding of what our proposals should look like.

Rule #1: write customized proposals

Take some time to understand what the project is about. Describe similar projects you worked on in the past. Make assumptions about the project that show a deep understanding of the client’s needs. Ask questions about the company that runs the project. For startup owners the company is their child. For big companies managers, the company is a part of their identity. They will be happy to see your interest and involvement.

Also, ask questions that will help the client to understand his project better. Keep in mind that the clients often don’t have the exact picture of the final solution. They might not know some details about the technical challenges of the project. Show the client your experience by asking the right questions and, most importantly, by showing that you can handle it.

Customized responses are the must, but you still have to make a client open your proposal. Here comes the second rule.

Rule #2: catch attention with the very first words

You can go into detail later. The very first sentence is the catch to obtain the client’s attention. The client will only see the beginning of the offer until she clicks on it, so make sure the beginning is worth it. And no, “I’m a very professional developer” is not a unique and intriguing entry.

Here are several tricks that you can use based on the project specifics:

  • Use the name
  • Be specific
  • Use a bait
  • Be confident

Use the name

Everybody loves to be approached by name. Spend a little effort to find out the name of the customer, notably if it’s missing from the original post. It’s usually effortless, you will most likely find the name in reviews. Though it’s a small trick, it shows that you engaged with the proposal. This is already a good sign. It makes the client more positive about your proposal, just by this minor step.

Be specific

Sometimes the project needs experience with a tool or technology. Be specific and write your experience right in the first sentence. “Ten years of experience with X,” “Twenty projects completed on Y.” This will make the client open your proposal since it’s relevant from the very start.

Use a bait

Yeah, right. The fear of loss is extreme in each of us. Clients fear to make a mistake with the wrong hire. Everybody hates to make mistakes.

Eliminate this fear by offering the solution from your side. Offer a client free of charge period in the beginning. The day or even a half will make the client’s decision easier. You will get an opportunity to show yourself up.

This worked perfectly for us when we looked for our first gigs. After several months of work, the client shared with us that the trial day was a major incentive to hire us. We worked with this client more than a year after. The free day is a worthwhile investment. If you’re good in your field, you will get the job. Companies often do not see that hire and fire is cheaper than a series of time(money) consuming interviews. Help them to catch this.

Be confident

This is an important part. Your proposal should balance between technical details and bragging. You should sound solid and confident about your fit, experience, and success in the project. Use a minimum of technical information that is necessary to support your offer. Make sure your proposal is not yet another boring list of technologies every freelancer works with, but rather a professional introduction of yourself. It’s precise, powerful, and, yes, selling. Remember, you still need a call with the client!

First call

Congratulations, you’ve scheduled a call with the potential client! The further process depends on the client, but your communication rules are the same. Be positive, precise, and be ready to describe your experience.

Different clients often ask the same questions. “Tell us about yourself,” “What was the biggest achievement?” and so on. Prepare this part in advance. Read more about the interview process in this book.

Write down the answers for typical questions and read the answers out loud. Record a video and review it until your speech is smooth and confident. Successful negotiation is about you being prepared. There will be differences in the interview process from what you’ve prepared. Make sure you can make adjustments, not just memorize the texts.

The interview is always a stressful experience. It will be harder to speak freely and flawlessly in the interview rather than you can in normal circumstances. Prepare as much as possible. You will look and feel much better.


First of all: rejections are ok. Don’t take them personally. Rejections are an essential part of the freelancing experience. You don’t know the reasons for refusal by default. Your rate might be too high for the project, which might not mean it’s generally too high. You might be over skilled for the role.

Don’t blame yourself, and take the chance to improve. It’s ok to ask the client why they rejected you. Be grateful and accept it if they decline to answer. Thank them if they explain and take action to eliminate possible weaknesses. Even if they responded, be critical about the explanation. They might not wish to tell you the real reason and come up with made-up reasoning. Don’t let the rejections demotivate you!

Go ahead and use this knowledge with your own first-hand experience!
Be ready with Shardik.

We are happy to hear about your project, answer questions or just chat: