A few days ago I posted a job on Upwork. I needed freelancers to publish content for a website. Within two hours I had over 100 applicants. I rejected all but one, here’s why…
It’s not that they were unqualified. Some were newbies. Others had freelanced for years. But all of the applicants made the same mistakes freelancers around the globe make every single day. Mistakes I’ve taught thousands of people to fix.
Here are those mistakes (and how you can avoid them).
Mistake 1: “I Love Me” Syndrome
Have you ever written a proposal that started with the word, “I”? Be honest. You know you have. In fact, I’m willing to bet you start most proposals with one of these exact phrases:
- I have 10 years of experience…
- I have a Bachelor’s degree in…
- I am interested in your job because…
- I am qualified to do this…
Everyone does it and that’s why it’s a mistake. Because the truth is (and this is gonna sting a little) clients don’t care about you.
Just like you care about getting hired so you can get paid, clients care about hiring the right person so they don’t waste money. In other words, they care about them.
Since everybody cares about themselves and nobody cares about each other, there’s only one way to stand out. How?
You start to care about other people.
The way you show that is by not starting your proposals with the words, “I,” “Me,” or “My.” Those words alert clients to your selfish intentions.
Instead, start with “You,” or better yet, start with something totally off the wall that will surprise and reward the client for reading your proposal. Something like…
- What if your content spewed rainbow worlds of passion?
- The best writing you’ve ever seen just landed in your lap.
- You need a content writer who doesn’t suck.
Start with anything that doesn’t talk about yourself and you’ll get more responses, guaranteed.
Mistake 2: Salting What Needs Sugar
Alright, so you got the client’s attention. Gave ‘em a taste of your freelance delight. Now they want more. Hope you saved the recipe. If you salt what needs sugar you’ll put a bad taste in their mouth.
Of all the proposals I got that day, most promised to deliver SEO optimized content fast. Thing is, that’s not what I wanted.
What I wanted were high-quality articles with personality. Someone who would take their time. Someone to craft content that leaps off the page like Superman on crack.
A big freelance mistake is not understanding what clients need. You can’t just assume you know. You’ve gotta go deeper than that.
To solve this problem, push pause on your proposal. Step back and put yourself in the client’s shoes. Ask yourself these questions before you submit:
- What specifically did this client say they needed?
- How did they describe it? (Professionally? Casually? Hilariously?)
- Have I really addressed what they want?
Seems like there’s a rush to push send.
Freelancers spray ‘n pray word bullets hoping for a win. But the only thing you’ll slay that way are your chances to get hired.
To avoid rejection, spend a little longer on each message and try to understand what the client really wants.
Mistake 3: The Bomb Squad Temp Problem
Imagine there’s a ticking time bomb in front of you. You need an expert to disarm it. So you call the bomb squad and tell them, “send a pro!”
But when the b-squad arrives, it’s a temp.
He’s never defused a bomb before, first-timer. But he’s got a degree in marketing, and ten years of sales experience, and he really really wants to do the job.
Do you hire him?
Not a chance. You’d be better off defusing the bomb yourself. So you send the temp home and wait for a specialist.
And that’s exactly what freelance clients do.
They wait for the exact right person for their job. The person with relevant experience. The person who has helped others with similar problems before.
It doesn’t matter if that person is the first to apply or the 50th. Clients hate to waste money on freelancers who haven’t proven they’re the best.
To fix this mistake you’ve gotta prove what makes you the right person. Prove you are the real deal. Prove you’ll deliver exactly what I want and more.
How do you do that?
Here’s a few tips to help you out:
- Don’t apply to jobs you clearly aren’t a fit for (i.e. a web designer applying to write articles)
- Tell a story in your proposal about how you helped a similar client and the awesome results they got
- Add relevant credibility markers that support your authority and skill
- Stay focused on client problems and ask targeted questions about their needs
So yeah, I rejected 100 freelancers.
100 people who started their proposals with the word “I,” who solved the wrong problems, and who didn’t prove they were the best fit.
I rejected 100 freelancers. But one got hired.
That person stood out. They barely had to try. Because most freelancers make the same mistakes. But the one who did things differently was the only one for me.
So now you know what not to do. You know how to fix the mistakes. I’ll clock out with that. You go get some clients.