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					6 Steps to Writing
Winning Elance
Proposals
Get Buyers Hooked with your Bids and
Proposals Every Time!


Salma Jafri
WordPL
July 2010
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           Table of Contents




           INTRODUCTION _________________________________________________ 4

           STEP 1: FIND YOUR NICHE AND BID EXCLUSIVELY IN IT _______________ 6

           STEP 2: INVESTIGATE THE BUYER ________________________________ 11

           STEP 3: WRITE THE BID USING THESE TOP 10 TIPS _________________ 15

           STEP 4: ATTACHING SAMPLES WITH YOUR BID _____________________ 23

           STEP 5: DETERMINE A FAIR BID PRICE THE BUYER CAN PAY _________ 26

           STEP 6: FOLLOW-UP CAUSE IT’S A GAME CHANGER_________________ 30

           APPENDIX: SAMPLE OF ACTUAL PROPOSAL _______________________ 33

           ABOUT THE AUTHOR ___________________________________________ 37




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                 Disclaimer

                 The views and advice contained in this book solely represent those of
                 the author and no other entity. The author has made every attempt
                 at accuracy at the time of publication.

                 This book is offered as a general guide for informational purposes
                 only. The author cannot be held liable for damage allegedly caused
                 by the information contained within.

                 Copyright

                 All information contained herein is copyright © 2009-10 by WordPL.
                 While this is a free downloadable ebook, the author would like to
                 request that no part of this book be used for your own work, or that
                 you sell this book in any form whatsoever. The author allows a 50-
                 word excerpt of the book with a link back to the original site
                 (www.wordpl.net) for download. This book and its content cannot be
                 sold, published, or distributed in any way without the express
                 permission of the author.




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    Introduction
                              Hi! And welcome to the exciting world of high award
                              ratios and on-target bids and proposals! In this book, I'm
                              going to show you the six crucial steps of any successful
                              Elance bid – if you follow these suggestions you will not
                              only get more projects awarded to you, you'll also receive
                              regular and repeat buyers who'll have been extremely
                              impressed with your bid and subsequent work.

                              Who am I to say all this?

                              I've been on Elance since Feb 2009 under the WordPL
                              banner. Since that time, I've racked up over $13,000 in
                              sales with an award ratio just shy of 40%. That means on
                              average I get awarded 2 out of every 5 projects I bid on.
                              I have 50% repeat business on Elance.

                              Clients leave me comments such as "your proposal was
                              perfect" and "your proposal was friendly yet professional"
                              before they award me the job.

                              So what's my green thumb of bid writing and why do I
                              want to share it with you? Well, first about sharing.

                              On the Elance forums and on their Facebook page and in
                              many other mediums, I often see people desperate for
                              information about how to land more projects. This
                              information is not secret; it just means a little bit of extra
                              research time on Elance. But maybe you don't have this
                              time. Enter "6 Steps to Writing Winning Elance
                              Proposals".

                              This book will reduce the amount of time you need to
                              experiment to find the perfect pitch and tell you about
                              tactics that have personally worked for me. I believe
                              these tactics are generic enough to work for anybody, in
                              any field of work.




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                              So here I am sharing my strategies with the hope they
                              will lead to more focused proposals from you! Lets get
                              started shall we?




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    Step 1: Find your Niche and Bid
    Exclusively in It
                              One of the first things you need to do as freelancers is to
                              look for projects that match your skill set. The way I see
                              it, if you don't care much for the topic you're writing on,
                              you won't write with enthusiasm, passion or dedication.
                              Although good writers can research and write on just
                              about anything, great writers write about what they're
                              genuinely interested in.

                              Your passion for your topic will come through in your bid.
                              And that’s what clients are looking for: someone to treat
                              their project with the same (or more) care and attention
                              than they themselves would treat it.

                              If you're an established freelancer who already knows his
                              niche, then that's great! But if you're a beginner who's
                              unsure about what topics and what kind of projects to
                              handle, then read on.

                              Why it's Important to Have a Niche

                              A niche is a specialty area. The logic behind having a
                              niche market is simple: it's easier to excel in one
                              dedicated area than be average in several different areas.
                              In others words, be a specialist rather than a jack of all
                              trades.

                              If you have a finance background, start off with financial
                              writing; if you're a mommy blogger, start off with
                              parenting articles; if you're into cooking, write about that.

                              Find what your passion is and channel it with your
                              writing. Don’t yet know what niche market you'd like to
                              claim? No problem. Read on.




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                              1: Identify your Skills

                              The first step in determining your niche is to make a list
                              of all the things you either love to do (or talk about) or
                              that you have experience in.

                              Fill out the table below as honestly as possible. There
                              may be some overlap, but that's okay. So long as you can
                              clearly identify the stuff that gets your motor running,
                              you're on the right track to finding your passion.

                              Your past or current work experience: _______________

                              Education: ____________________________________

                              Hobbies: ______________________________________

                              Passions in life: _________________________________

                              Things you're interested in: _______________________

                              Stuff you have unique insights on: __________________

                              Awards won or recognition received: ________________

                              When filling this out, think about what you like to do,
                              think about what people say you do well, think about
                              what past jobs you've enjoyed the most.

                              Here's what a sample filled out table might look like:


                               Your past or current        e-learning, instructional
                               work experience             design, marketing, technical
                                                           writing, copy writing

                               Education                   Bachelors in Business
                                                           Communication, Masters in
                                                           Business Administration

                               Hobbies                     gardening, cooking, playing
                                                           Facebook games, playing
                                                           tennis, reading inspirational



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                                                           books

                               Passions in life            parenting, writing

                               Things you're interested    tinkering with online
                               in                          gadgets, installing and
                                                           testing software, giving
                                                           presentations

                               Stuff you have unique       entrepreneurship, training,
                               insights on                 business communication
                                                           etiquettes, distance
                                                           education

                               Awards won or               Top 10 writing blogs,
                               recognition received        Certificate in Web Copy
                                                           Writing


                              Although this is just an example, you can see that a
                              typical person has many varied interests in life. How then
                              do you determine what your niche is to be?

                              My advice is to pick 2 or 3 topics from the above and
                              experiment with them, carefully analyzing what you have
                              the most success with. It could be that while your three
                              passions in life are parenting, cooking and tennis, you're
                              only good at the first two as a business opportunity and
                              prefer actually playing the third for pleasure not profit.

                              It's okay to have more than one passion. You can
                              experiment with different niches and see what you have
                              the most success with. But know this: chances are that
                              you will have the highest success rate doing what you're
                              most passionate about.

                              2: Match your Skills with a Project's Requirements

                              Next up, identify how well you fit in with the project's
                              requirements. Use the following checklist:

                              - Do you have the experience needed for the project and
                              can you prove it?


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                              - Do you have the expertise needed for the project and
                              can you prove it?

                              - Do you have the passion needed for your proposal to
                              stand out amongst many?

                              One of the most important things you can do to
                              demonstrate your passion, ability and experience is to
                              have relevant samples. It's so important a point that I
                              discuss it in its own section at Step 5 of Writing Winning
                              Proposals.

                              3: Set up Alerts for New Projects in your Niche

                              Setting up alerts is a great way to receive info whenever
                              a project is posted in the niche area that you'd like to
                              work in. Alerts also help you be more productive by
                              cutting down your freelance job search time and replacing
                              it with qualified leads to follow up on.

                                 How to Receive RSS alerts

                              On Elance simply sign up to receive the RSS feed of the
                              topic areas you'd want to receive new job posting info on.
                              Just click on any Elance page, click the orange RSS icon
                              on the top of that page and subscribe using your favorite
                              RSS reader (mine's Google Reader).

                                 How to Receive Twitter Alerts

                              Simply set up a twitter alert using your key terms and
                              prefacing them with hashtags. So if you're a graphic
                              designer looking for logo design jobs, those could be your
                              search terms. If you're using TweetDeck, which I use,
                              simple add a column for your search term (e.g. #logo
                              #design #freelance #jobs) and the software will
                              automatically update and notify you when those terms
                              are used by anyone in twitterverse.

                                 How to Sign Up For Google Alerts

                              Perhaps the most widely-used alert service, Google alerts,
                              is accurate, free and easy to use. Simply go to

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                              http://www.google.com/alerts and fill in the search
                              criteria in the box. Remember to put your search query in
                              "__" (double quotes) to get accurate results otherwise
                              you might be inundated with trivia and irrelevant items.
                              An example alert query could be "technical writing jobs"
                              or "freelance technical writers". Google will send you an
                              email when it finds results that meet your criteria.

                              Well, that's it. The easy way to identify your passion,
                              carve out a niche from it and start bidding ferociously in
                              it. Once you find projects that speak to you, you'll be
                              racing to write that proposal for them and your words will
                              flow with enthusiasm at finding something that resonates
                              with you. Your mind will be full of creative ideas on how
                              best to tackle the project and your heart will be racing to
                              see if you got the job or not. That is the best kind of work
                              to do. And really, isn't that why you became a freelancer
                              in the first place?




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    Step 2: Investigate the Buyer
                              The thing about online work is that typically there's so
                              much distance between you and the buyer that there's
                              plenty of opportunity for miscommunication and
                              mismatch. It's important not to just be a good fit for the
                              project you're working on as discussed in Step 1: How to
                              Find your Niche and Bid Exclusively in It, but also to
                              evaluate whether you and the buyer would be a good fit
                              to work together. And then there's that pesky matter of
                              ensuring that a buyer is legit and serious about the work.

                              In researching a buyer, I would go so far as to say that
                              you need to be a little bit of a detective and ask all the
                              right questions and look in all the right (and sometimes
                              improbable, yet obvious) places. You may not be able to
                              do this for every single project and in every single
                              instance, but it's important to know what you're looking
                              for so that even when you're not consciously looking for
                              clues, your subconscious radar will pick up on them -
                              that's how finely tuned you need to be and can be with
                              the help of this handy guide.

                              1: Find Out the Buyer's Name

                              No, seriously. Do you have any idea what a huge
                              difference it makes to address a buyer directly in your
                              proposal by his or her name? Hello David vs Hello
                              hwueyb67. Get the picture? So how do you go about
                              finding out a buyer's name if they haven’t given it in their
                              buyer profile?

                                    Do a Google search on their company name (if
                                    they've given that) and read the About Us section
                                    to find out who's who in the company
                                    Look through past buyer feedback and see if any
                                    providers have left feedback addressing the buyer
                                    by name
                                    See if the buyer uses that same username on any
                                    other site, like Twitter, and then look up their
                                    profile to see their real name

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                              This is not sneaky, nor underhanded. You'll be pleasantly
                              surprised how well buyers respond to being addressed as
                              a person rather than a random alphanumeric word, even
                              though they have deliberately not divulged this
                              information in the project description or in their buyer
                              profile.

                              Addressing a buyer by name also shows them that you've
                              got pretty dandy research skills, and that you gave their
                              project enough importance to look them up and read up
                              on who they are and what their needs might be – an
                              important point that we'll follow up on in Part 3 of this
                              series.

                              2: Look Up and Read the Buyer's Website

                              For my very first project on Elance I looked up the
                              buyer's website and studied her style of writing, learned
                              what she was most passionate about, found out where
                              she was based geographically, and was also able to
                              download her e-book for more information on her and her
                              business.

                              As a result I was able to write a personal and friendly bid
                              addressing her passions and needs directly and also
                              showing her that I was passionate about the same things.
                              She saw in my bid that not only was I resourceful enough
                              to know all this about her, but that I shared her vision
                              and would therefore be the perfect writer to help draft her
                              next e-book.

                              There's so much info you can glean from a buyer's
                              website, I don’t know why anyone would miss out on this
                              crucial chance to really connect with the buyer.

                              3: Analyze the Buyer's Past Feedback

                              There are many things you should look for when reading
                              past feedback:

                                 What has the buyer paid in the past for a similar
                                 project?


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                                 When giving feedback, positive or negative, what is
                                 the buyer's tone?
                                 Is the buyer notorious for leaving unwarranted
                                 negative feedback?
                                 What do other providers say about the buyer – do
                                 they leave one line comments or more in-depth,
                                 descriptive comments?

                              From analyzing the above items, you should be able to
                              effectively gauge:

                                 What the buyer will be most likely to pay you
                                 Whether the buyer is courteous and professional in his
                                 or her dealings
                                 Whether the buyer is grumpy, difficult to deal with and
                                 never satisfied with anything
                                 Whether the buyer understands the rules of doing
                                 business on Elance and is aware of the policies and
                                 procedures, whether he pays on time and whether he
                                 is clear and precise in his directions and expectations

                              Using all this information, you should be able to
                              determine whether it's worth your time (and money) to
                              even place a bid on this project. If you feel uncomfortable
                              about any aspect of a buyer's portrayal of himself online,
                              then trust your gut instinct and stay away from the
                              project. If you feel a connection, then go ahead and place
                              a bid – your bid will come off sounding that much more
                              genuine because you really do feel a spark, having read
                              up on the buyer and knowing him/her a tad better.

                              There are a few more generic things which you should
                              look for in every buyer that you work with:

                                 Do they write out a detailed project description or
                                 work order covering all the relevant details you need
                                 to place an accurate bid?
                                 Are they responsive communicators and answer
                                 queries posted on the public message boards and in
                                 pre-bids?
                                 Are they aware of Elance's policies and rules, and if
                                 not, are they willing to be educated about it?


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                                 How long have they been a member of the site?
                                 How many projects have they posted since being
                                 members?
                                 What is their award ratio – how many projects
                                 awarded?

                              The richer the buyer's history, communication and past
                              performance, the more reason to take them seriously.




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    Step 3: Write the Bid using
    These Top 10 Tips
                              Writing a winning proposal or bid on Elance and other
                              freelance sites is probably the cornerstone of your
                              business. After all, if you can't sell yourself, your services,
                              and your business, then what chance do you realistically
                              have of winning new clients and sustaining your business?

                              Knowing how to draft a proposal that speaks to a client is
                              a skill, fortunately one that can be learned and perfected
                              with practice. One of the best ways to learn how to write
                              great proposals is to see how others have written them.

                              Hot TIP: On Elance, check out projects awarded in or
                              before 2007; most of them had open bidding so you can
                              see the great and not-so-great bid examples.

                              Components of a Winning Proposal

                              Here are my top 10 tips for putting together a rocking
                              proposal for any freelance project.

                                 1. Personalize it
                                 2. Match the tone of the buyer or the project
                                 3. Start strong with your main USP
                                 4. Make it easy to scan through
                                 5. Make it benefits-oriented
                                 6. Answer all the questions – asked and unasked
                                 7. Restate main points
                                 8. Discuss samples attached
                                 9. Proof-read
                                 10.Signature and links

                              1. Personalize it

                              As I outlined in Step 2: How to Investigate a Buyer, start
                              off your proposal (whenever possible) with a personal
                              greeting to the client. Hello Samantha versus Greetings
                              user01.

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                              2. Match the tone of the buyer or project

                              Match the tone of your proposal to either the buyer's tone
                              or to the nature of the project. A proposal for a serious
                              technical writing project should be logical in tone and
                              factual in substance, whereas a fashion blog's proposal
                              should be upbeat, use modern colloquialisms where
                              appropriate and portray you as someone already "in the
                              zone". The tone of your proposal will show prospective
                              clients a sampling of the personality needed for the
                              execution of a project. Moreover it'll also make buyers
                              feel comfortable with you if you're already speaking their
                              language.

                              Here are two examples of completely different styles that
                              I used while bidding for two completely different projects:

                              For a project on razor-sharp, edgy travel content:

                              "You want witty, humorous, original, upbeat, and slightly
                              wacky? It's here. I'm an online entrepreneur who believes
                              in the notion that to be successful (financially or
                              otherwise) you've got be a little crazy. How else are you
                              supposed to think outside the box, right?"

                              For a project on online education:

                              "As a former e-learning specialist, I have been
                              intrinsically involved in developing course material to be
                              sold through online distance learning programs (please
                              take a look at the verified work experience section in my
                              profile). I know the industry, I know its players, and I
                              have insider knowledge about its workings. "

                              3. Start strong with your main USP

                              The first paragraph of your proposal usually makes or
                              breaks the deal. No one has the time to read through a
                              clichéd, boring, irrelevant, egotistical or banal set of
                              statements. If you've ever been guilty of starting a bid
                              with the following sentences, STOP immediately!




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                              "With great pleasure, we would like to introduce us and
                              offer our services as a professional Writing and Editing
                              company. We have been writing on different projects for
                              five years and have a reasonable exposure to these
                              markets and audiences."

                              Bah, who cares? It sounds like a generic bid template
                              with poor grammar!

                              "Hello, I am the owner of XYZ freelance writing services. I
                              am a talented freelance writer with an Honors Bachelor of
                              Arts degree in English and …"

                              *yawn* boring! They've lost me already.

                              "I am very happy to learn that you are seeking a
                              professional to help you with your work."

                              Really? Well I'm very happy for you but how are you
                              addressing my needs (thinks the buyer)?

                              The above are all examples from actual bids I've seen
                              that have not won projects. The buyer is thinking "what's
                              in it for me" so stop starting your bid with statements the
                              buyer has no interest in!

                              Instead try starting your bid with your strongest and
                              most relevant points first. Project the most compelling
                              reason a buyer should hire you right at the start, just
                              after your greeting.

                              Examples of some great opening paragraphs are:

                              For an e-book on breastfeeding:

                              "I am bidding on this project because the subject matter
                              is near and dear to my heart. I nursed my two-year-old
                              son until he was 17 months old, participated in nursing
                              support groups, worked with lactation consultants, and
                              conducted my own research. I am intimately familiar with
                              the ups and downs, the tricks for solving problems, and
                              how nursing affects every area of a new mom's life."



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                              For financial website reviews:

                              "I've completed more than 300 reviews for various
                              websites and products on Elance alone. Attached are just
                              5 samples of our debt consolidation site reviews which
                              appear on this website: link"

                              When you use this approach, the buyer is immediately
                              drawn to your skill set and how it can help propel his
                              project, which is what he's really interested in knowing
                              about you anyways.

                              4. Make it easy to scan through

                              Proceed convincingly from your beginning sentence and
                              incorporate the following elements into your bid to make
                              it easy and fast for buyers to read and scan through:
                              (remember its all about making it convenient and obvious
                              for the buyer to choose you)

                                   Use bullets to highlight points
                                   Use links to direct buyers to your online portfolio
                                   Use short paragraphs where each para discusses one
                                   aspect of your bid (1 para for experience, 1 for price,
                                   1 for samples, etc)

                              Example:

                              "With me as your provider, you’ll get someone with:

                              a) 4 years of instructional design and content
                              management experience
                              b) An eye for aesthetically-appealing design combined
                              with user-appropriate interactivity
                              c) Software skills for Captivate, Presenter, Photoshop and
                              PowerPoint
                              d) Exceptional attention to detail, especially important in
                              an e-learning project"

                              OR

                              "Please see my published works at the following
                              locations:

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                              Elance Blog: http://bit.ly/aCpRTb
                              Suite101:
                              http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/salmajafri
                              My Blog- WordPL: http://www.wordpl.net"

                              5. Make it benefits-oriented

                              Use active, first-person, action-oriented language and
                              make the bid about the buyer, not about you. If they
                              want to know your education, your company's history and
                              other side details, they can take a look at your Elance
                              profile or your resume – don't include these details in
                              your bid unless they relate directly to the project. Buyers
                              are busy people too - they don’t have the time to sift
                              through the irrelevant stuff; they want to know the main
                              benefit of hiring you instead of the 50 other applicants for
                              the job; give them some solid reasons. You can only do
                              that by writing a benefits-oriented bid as opposed to a
                              self-centered bid. Instead of saying "I can do this" say
                              "you'll get this".

                              Example:

                              "You'll receive a fully formatted and saleable e-book
                              which you can immediately offer for purchase on your
                              website."

                              Or

                              "These articles will help in establishing you as the go-to
                              authority for financial markets explained in simple, clear
                              and non-technical language."

                              See how the language is focused on the buyer (as
                              opposed to the freelancer) and how your services will
                              benefit him or her? So find out what benefit the buyer is
                              looking for and then show him a way to get that with your
                              services. It could be anything – traffic, sales, goodwill,
                              convenience – it's your job to figure it out.

                              6. Answer all questions – asked and unasked




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                              Answering all the buyer's questions and being honest and
                              upfront about your responsibilities shows that you respect
                              them enough to read their project description and answer
                              accordingly.

                              Perhaps one of the most important things freelancers
                              don’t do is answer the unasked questions. Recently I had
                              a buyer who needed web content but didn’t yet have a
                              website. Although the project didn’t ask for it, I went
                              ahead and offered a site map consultation to build the
                              web pages that I'd write the content for.

                              Also, since I have digital artists on my team, I can usually
                              also offer images to augment the web content or e-books
                              or what-have-you. Not every buyer goes for it, but those
                              that need it (or want it) but haven't asked for it, are
                              immediately drawn to the value addition of my proposal.

                              So think about what else a buyer may need and see what
                              extra services you can offer them to seal the deal. If you
                              don’t know what else a buyer may need, ASK! Asking
                              questions is the number one way to build rapport with
                              clients. The percentage of projects I've received because
                              of establishing a line of communication with the buyer is
                              50% more than I would have gotten had I not bothered
                              to. So ask questions. Seriously.

                              7. Re-state main points

                              I was watching Top Chef one day and one of the
                              contestants won the quick fire round simply because she
                              repeated each order that came to her during her stint as
                              a short-order cook. Repeating the order not only gave her
                              confidence that she'd heard it right, it gave the waiter
                              confidence that the right order was being executed. The
                              same principle applies to your bid.

                              Re-state the scope of the project in your own words to
                              demonstrate that you've understood the scope and terms
                              of the project and to avoid any ambiguity that may arise
                              later. Sometimes it could be a simple few lines like:



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                              "I understand and accept all of the requirements you
                              have posted in the project description. The e-book will be
                              at least 100-page-long (300+ words each), grammatically
                              correct, typed in MS-Word format, delivered in a zip file,
                              100% original, unique, informative, useful,
                              uncomplicated, interesting, and based on your basic
                              outline as well as on my research."

                              8. Sell your samples

                              Most people just attach samples without ever explaining
                              them. This leaves the buyer to motivate himself/herself to
                              take action in clicking, opening and reading them. You
                              want to make the buyer WANT to click on your samples
                              and for that you're gonna have to sell 'em – it doesn’t
                              take much, just a line or so explaining what's attached
                              and how its relevant to the project.

                              Example:

                              "I've written over 30 e-books on this subject; please see
                              relevant excerpt attached matching the style and tone for
                              your project."

                              Another reason why it's important to tell a buyer what's in
                              an attachment is because people are usually wary of
                              clicking on unknown links or unexplained attachments
                              (especially those with suspicious-sounding file names). So
                              make sure your attachments are named correctly and
                              explained in your bid. Why give buyers a reason not to
                              explore your bid in more detail, right?

                              9. Proof-read your proposal

                              So obvious, yet so many of us overlook it in haste or
                              carelessness. You have to keep in mind that your
                              proposal is your first impression, it's the basis for any
                              further decisions that the buyer will make about you. Your
                              proposal is the first thing a buyer sees, even before your
                              profile, your work history, your feedback, your
                              testimonials, your ratings, your earnings. Make sure you
                              read and re-read it to edit for typos, grammar, sentence


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                              structure, complete info, answering all questions, and an
                              overall polite and inviting tone.

                              10. Signature and links

                              Your signature should contain your full name (and if
                              there's any confusion about your gender, that info as
                              well!), your position within your company (even if it's just
                              a one-man shop for now), your company's name, your
                              website's URL and when allowed (Elance doesn't allow
                              email), your email address, daytime phone and skype/IM
                              contact details. The idea is that the more contact
                              information the buyer has about you, the easier for him
                              to choose a channel to contact you on.

                              I'm going to end this step with a quote from Elance CEO
                              Fabio Rosatti's interview with Tory Johnson of ABC News;
                              he said "The most successful people on Elance think of
                              themselves as businesses". That is so true. When you
                              write a bid or proposal, you are marketing your services
                              as a business, make no mistake about it. To survive the
                              cut-throat competition you've got to learn how to market
                              yourself effectively and writing a winning proposal is the
                              first step in that direction.

                              Writing targeted proposals on Elance or any other
                              freelance site takes some practice, but once you start
                              implementing the tips outlined here, you'll immediately
                              see your award ratio rise and buyers contact you as a
                              direct result of your impressive bid and the sincerity and
                              passion displayed in it.




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    Step 4: Attach Samples with
    your Bid
                              Hopefully you'll have used the techniques described in
                              Step 3 to craft a highly intuitive and custom proposal for
                              your would-be client. After reading your tailored proposal,
                              a buyer will eagerly look to review your work and turn to
                              see your samples. If you don’t attach samples, you're
                              going to be in ample hot water and will potentially lose
                              the lead. Simple as that.

                              Attaching relevant samples is not an option. After writing
                              a winning proposal you must follow up with relevant
                              samples to accompany your bid – no exceptions.

                              1. Make Samples Relevant & Appropriate to the Job
                              at Hand

                              The ideal scenario for a buyer (and which will make it
                              easy for him to choose you) is to view highly relevant
                              samples to his posted project. Obviously the closer your
                              sample is to his project, the easier it'll be for him to
                              visualize you in the role of hiree.

                              So for a logo design project, that may mean you've got to
                              attach previously completed logos that match the
                              industry, the product category, the branding, the styling
                              and perhaps even the size. For a writing project it may
                              mean that you have to match the subject matter, the
                              writing style and the end product (web content, article, e-
                              book, etc). For other categories of work (finance, web
                              design & development, sales & marketing, etc) it'll mean
                              having a portfolio of samples relevant to those categories.

                              2. Three is the Magic Number of Samples

                              On average try to include 3 samples of work. If the
                              project is very specific and narrow and you've got a
                              sample that exactly matches the buyer's requirements,
                              then perhaps you can get away with just one sample. But

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                              in general, 3 is the magic number. Most buyers won't
                              have the time or inclination to wade through more than 3
                              attachments and if they're really interested in exploring
                              your work further, they'll click on your website or portfolio
                              link. But for the initial bid keep samples up to 3 so the
                              buyer can see enough of your work to judge diversity,
                              competence, skill and style.

                              3. Do Include Web Links Instead of Attachments

                              Its okay, even advisable, to attach links instead of
                              document samples. It's easier for buyers to click once on
                              a link that'll take 'em directly to view the sample instead
                              of the 2+ clicks it'll take to open an attachment. If you
                              can maintain an online portfolio of work, that would
                              definitely work in your favor.

                              4. Keep Ready a Portfolio of Varied Samples to Save
                              Time

                              When you've been freelancing a while you'll have built up
                              several projects to be used as samples – make sure
                              they're organized according to the types of jobs you
                              usually pitch for – e.g. for my writing content my sample
                              categories are web content, articles, SEO content, e-
                              books, training and user guides, newsletters, etc. So
                              anytime I want to bid on a project I just need to pull 3
                              relevant samples from the appropriate category. If the
                              buyer is looking for published works, I just give a set of 3
                              hyperlinks to my online work. The entire process takes
                              me about 2 minutes to do and presto relevant samples
                              attached!

                              If you're not yet a seasoned freelancer and don’t have a
                              portfolio of samples, MAKE SOME. This is so obvious; I'm
                              genuinely surprised when people lament the lack of
                              samples as a reason for not winning any jobs. You can
                              either make samples as you go along or if you know what
                              kind of work you want to do, just make samples that'll
                              reflect that (e.g. write travel articles if you want to break
                              into the travel writer industry).



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                              5. Explain Complicated Samples

                              Anytime you're attaching a file format a little out of the
                              ordinary, ordinary being .doc. docx, .xls, .pdf, .mp3, .gif,
                              .jpeg, etc, follow it up with a brief tutorial on opening and
                              viewing the files. For example every time I send buyers
                              samples of training content developed in Articulate, the
                              system makes 3 files, which I then zip and send. I always
                              let the buyer know they have to unzip it and open the
                              .html file within the folder. (Yes I know you're thinking I
                              need to upload my training content online so I can just
                              give a link – will get around to that in a bit!). But until
                              you find a simpler solution, explain your attachments if
                              they're complex in any way.

                              6. Protect your Samples!

                              In this world of plagiarism and blatant stealing, its
                              imperative to guard your samples as YOUR SAMPLES,
                              which means a client may not use them in any way
                              whatsoever except to view to make a decision about your
                              abilities and skill. You also need to protect the client
                              whose sample work you're using. On documents and
                              images it's best to add a propriety watermark saying
                              "sample" or the "property of" or "do not distribute". It's
                              also best to save all regular docs as PDF files or JPEGs for
                              use in samples since that adds an extra layer of
                              protection. Always be sure to just use an excerpt of a
                              client's work as your sample (as opposed to the entire
                              project) and always with the client's express permission.
                              Do not use samples from work that you've previously
                              signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) on.

                              Samples are a chance for you to project and showcase
                              your best work and best fit for the job by demonstrating
                              that you've already done similar work. Use them wisely
                              and to your advantage!




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    Step 5: Determine a Fair Bid
    Price the Buyer can pay
                              So you've decided what your hourly rate or fixed fee for
                              this project ought to be and are all ready to place your
                              bid. But wait a sec, did you know that on Elance a very
                              high percentage of bids gets rejected because they fall
                              out of the buyer's budget? So how then are you going to
                              ensure that (a) your bid price is competitive and (b) that
                              you only bid on projects with a high chance of the buyer
                              being able to pay your stated fee?

                              Even if you've followed the steps of bid writing to a tee,
                              your bid can still go awry at the pricing stage. Therefore
                              it's extremely essential to not just determine what a fair
                              price for the project would be, but to also have some
                              level of confidence that a buyer will be able to pay your
                              asking rate.

                              There can be huge disparities in pricing expectations. For
                              example: a buyer posts up a project expecting to pay
                              $.01 per word for 20, 250-word blog posts (ridiculous I
                              know but bear with me for illustration purposes). Hence
                              he prices the job as falling below $500, expecting to pay
                              $50 for the entire project. You rate is $0.1 per word;
                              hence you'd make the bid for (250 x0.1x20), i.e. $500
                              (not counting Elance fees and any other expenses). You
                              can clearly see the disparity now, eh?

                              There's no way you'd be able to convince somebody to
                              shell out $500 when they've determined that $50 is the
                              fair price offer. So ideally you want to skip projects like
                              this because you'd just be wasting your time writing a bid
                              for it since the project won't come to you unless you
                              drastically slash your rates.

                              There's at least 4 ways (maybe more) to weed out the
                              buyers who aren’t willing to pay your asking price:




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                              1. Match the buyer's stated budget with the buyer's tone
                                 to gauge seriousness
                              2. Find out how much the buyer typically pays or has
                                 paid in the past for similar work
                              3. Gauge the buyer's reputation for paying on time,
                                 paying bonuses, etc both on Elance and on the Net in
                                 general
                              4. Consider whether the buyer has larger sponsors
                                 backing him

                              Budget + Tone = Willingness to Pay

                              Conventional wisdom would state that you place bids
                              within the stated budget range and while that's probably
                              the best technique 99% of the time, there are instances
                              when you should bid higher or lower. These instances are
                              when:

                                 The project's scope (in your opinion) seems to be
                                 greater or lesser than stated in the description
                                 The value addition and effort on your part justifies the
                                 rate

                              For example, I placed a $1440 bid for a project whose
                              stated budget was less than $500 and got the job – why?
                              And more importantly, why didn't the buyer just say their
                              budget could go higher so they'd attract quality bids?
                              Here's what I think happened: I bid that price because
                              the project entailed creative writing in another person's
                              voice and "tone" and required research of places I'd not
                              personally visited. As to why the buyer started with a low
                              budget, one theory is that often on Elance and other
                              freelance job boards buyers are unsure of the budget
                              themselves (they may not be the expert, you are!) and
                              they may be wondering if there are any quality providers
                              on these sites.

                              So I bid. But how did I know the buyer would be willing to
                              pay my bid price? After all, it seems like such a gamble,
                              right? I looked at the buyer's tone. She used phrases like
                              "show me what you've got" and "name your price",
                              indicating she was a serious buyer and not just a


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                              "proposal scout". I went with my hunch and it worked,
                              again proving how crucial researching the buyer is.

                              History of Payments

                              This is so easy and do-able; everyone should do it for
                              every project before bidding. Go through a buyer's
                              feedback history watching for what they've paid in the
                              past, both for similar work and for other work. Their
                              willingness to get the best quality will shine through in
                              each and every project they've commissioned.

                              Buyer's Repute

                              Gauge the buyer's performance in doling out bonuses and
                              paying on time. Do more than 90% of providers
                              recommend them for paying on time? Recently I worked
                              with a buyer who promised a bonus for the addition of
                              images. I added non-copyright images and provided them
                              in the file format he'd asked only to never hear from him
                              again – my fault since this milestone hadn't been added
                              nor escrow funded for it. Lesson learned. If a buyer
                              promises bonuses, add it in as a milestone and have them
                              fund escrow on completion of the bonus task. See how
                              they've treated other providers on this issue and you're
                              less likely to get burned.

                              Who's Pocket is the Money coming from?

                              Some buyers are actually scouting for providers to
                              outsource jobs to from their current clients. Some are the
                              end clients. Determine which is which because in the
                              former case your buyer will be taking a commission cut
                              and will want you to reduce your prices as much as
                              possible. I prefer working with clients who are the end
                              client since they're much more likely to pay asking fees
                              and want quality work.

                              So, in a nutshell…

                              You've determined your price. Now determine if the buyer
                              will pay that price to the best of your ability and


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                              resources. If you don't you're just wasting time on
                              making bids that won't be accepted and then complaining
                              about how your bids constantly get rejected. And then
                              whose fault will it be?




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    Step 6: Follow-up cause it’s a
    Game Changer
                              You've finally placed your bid. Now the interminable wait
                              starts. Is the buyer going to award you the project, is he
                              going to reject your bid or is he simply going to do
                              nothing? The last is the most agonizing since you have no
                              way of knowing if the buyer will EVER award the project
                              to anyone! Well, what if I told you there's a way to
                              significantly reduce your anxiety and ensure that a
                              channel of communication opens up with the buyer?

                              There is. And it's called "follow-up". A follow up simply
                              refers to an action taken (after proposal is sent), to seek
                              dialogue with the buyer. There are ways to do this for
                              maximum effect but first let's see the advantages.

                              Why Follow-up?

                                 It gives you the chance to increase the number of
                                 times the buyer's eye will look at your name/company
                                 name/username. Everyone places bids, how many
                                 follow-up that bid with another personal message?
                                 Exactly.
                                 It gives you a chance to show the buyer you're human
                                 and personally care about your business and your
                                 clients.
                                 It establishes you as pro-active and confident; traits
                                 many buyers look for when they choose to outsource.
                                 It gives hesitant buyers a chance to talk with you and
                                 gives you a chance to add further value/clarifications
                                 to your bid/proposal.
                                 It shows your interest and can-do attitude to the
                                 buyer – trust me, they love that!
                                 It may get you not just the project at hand, but many
                                 more projects the buyers haven't even posted yet




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                              How to Follow-up

                              1. One day, or a couple of days before the bidding time is
                                 about to close, send the buyer a message via the
                                 personal message board re-stating your interest in the
                                 project and inviting the opportunity for questions or
                                 more info from the buyer.

                              2. Once the bidding time has passed and a buyer hasn't
                                 awarded the project to anyone, send them a PMB note
                                 asking if you can help them in their decision and give
                                 all your contact information to them. This may include
                                 email, phone, cell, skype ID, messenger IDs, Twitter &
                                 Linkedin IDs, etc. Chances are most buyers' interest
                                 will be piqued and they'll click on a link out of simple
                                 curiosity and appreciate the diversity of options
                                 available for contacting you.

                              3. If a buyer responds to your follow up messages,
                                 immediately put them at ease by talking as though
                                 you've already been hired to understand their problem
                                 ("our" project instead of "your project"). But also
                                 remember that there's a thin line between helping
                                 someone and harming yourself; be sure the buyer
                                 understands you're not going to do any actual work
                                 beyond understanding the scope of work until they
                                 formally award the project to you. So your goal at this
                                 pre-award dialogue stage is to be helpful, courteous
                                 and above all, show them how you'll add value to the
                                 project. It could be because you have world-class
                                 equipment (for an audio/video project), or because
                                 you can help them in various areas (SEO as well as
                                 content). The most important thing to remember is to
                                 keep the channel of communication open. You might
                                 be surprised at the results.

                              I once bid on a project worth about $3000. I didn’t get
                              the job but because of the excellent channel of
                              communication I'd opened with the buyer during the
                              follow up phase, they contacted me a few days later for
                              another small job. Then a few weeks later they gave me
                              some more work. This buyer is now a regular client – I've

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                              already done work worth about $3000 for them with
                              bookings of $25,000 (no typo) more over the rest of the
                              year.

                              I'm just saying; don’t underestimate the power of
                              communication. It really goes beyond the bid. The bid is
                              just a starting point; the follow up is where the value is
                              at. In a social context, the bid is the hello + handshake;
                              the follow up is the ice-breaker. Or in this case, the deal-
                              maker.




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    Appendix: Sample of Actual
    Proposal
                              The science of what makes a perfect proposal can be
                              baffling at times. But it can be quite simple too. I placed a
                              bid not so long ago for a project on Elance to which the
                              buyer responded:

                              "Your proposal is perfect, Salma. You clearly
                              understand what we are looking for, and you
                              articulated your understanding very well."

                              I'm going to reproduce the exact bid here for you and
                              then dissect it to find the 3 main take-home points that I
                              believe made this bid such a success.

                              Here's the project description:

                              "We are looking for a talented researcher/writer to
                              develop timely, interesting and even controversial topics
                              that can be used for blog posts and articles. The subject
                              matter of all topics must be nutrition related, preferably
                              protein related.

                              The topics should be timely (e.g., ‘breaking news’ in the
                              world of dietary protein or nutrition). The topics should be
                              interesting so that they encourage a reader to ‘click
                              through’ the title to learn more. The topics may be
                              controversial as they relate to social issues such as health
                              care, economy, or any other popular social issue.

                              We are also looking for the writer to draft a short article
                              (less than 300 words) about each approved topic. The
                              first paragraph of the short article should provide a
                              summary of the entire article.

                              Each article should reference some connection to our
                              company, so that the article is relevant to our company
                              and contains references to our company and our
                              products.




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                              The format, style and quality for the articles should be
                              comparable to articles seen in either the Wall Street
                              Journal, or other reputable journals.

                              This is an ongoing, long-term project, and we are looking
                              for at least 50 articles each month. We will provide you
                              with information about our company and our products.
                              Each article must be unique, original and expertly written.

                              We want to avoid over-promotion of our company and our
                              products in the articles, however, our company and our
                              products should be referenced [for example, you may add
                              information into an article that either (1) delivers a
                              message that profiles our company's understanding of a
                              challenge in the field of nutrition, and our unique value
                              proposition for addressing that challenge, or (2) discuss a
                              case study that demonstrates how a specific customer's
                              use of our products helped them. In either case, our
                              product and company should be subtly (not too overtly)
                              promoted in the article]."

                              And here's my bid:

                              "Hi Steve*,

                              After reading your project description, I did some quick
                              internet research on breaking news topics in the field of
                              nutrition (especially protein-related). I came up with
                              some ideas and I'll appreciate if you let me know if this is
                              the direction you were looking for.

                              Example 1: I could tie the breaking news in this article
                              American Diabetes Association Helps Moms Find The Right
                              Balance
                              (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184956.php)
                              to how [name of product] can be used for when moms
                              haven't been able to strike the perfect nutritional balance
                              for their family (and we all know moms have days like
                              that!).

                              Example 2: This news story on Middle-Age Americans
                              Less Mobile than Ever
                              (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_973
                              20.html) can be related to how [name of product]
                              stimulates your metabolism & reduces fat stores.




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                              As a professional content developer with a dedicated
                              team of writers and researchers, I can offer you at least
                              50 expertly-written, error-free, 100% original,
                              informative and click- and share-worthy articles every
                              month. All articles will be approximately 300 words and
                              contain a short intro summary paragraph. The articles will
                              be written in an unbiased journalistic style.

                              Please see some sample reference articles attached with
                              this bid.

                              If you require more samples, I shall be happy to provide
                              them. I am available to discuss your project on Skype
                              (username below) and am very responsive via email. I
                              would really welcome the opportunity to work with you on
                              a long-term basis to our mutual satisfaction.

                              Thank you so much for your consideration - I hope to
                              hear from you soon!"

                              * named changed to protect privacy



                              3 REASONS WHY THIS PROPOSAL ROCKS

                              1. It Connects with the Buyer

                              Notice how I addressed the buyer by name even though
                              I've never worked with him before, nor does he mention
                              his name in the project description. Researching his name
                              was a simple matter of scanning the buyer's feedback
                              history and reading the reviews, one of which addressed
                              him by name. A quick Google search of the company
                              verified that a person by that name was indeed part of
                              the firm. (Note: I also scan buyer feedback to get a sense
                              of the buyer's work ethic and payment history).

                              So addressing the buyer by name immediately caught his
                              attention, personalized my bid and (hopefully) made the
                              buyer feel like I was directly talking to him since I had
                              taken the time to find out about him and his company.

                              2. It Prioritizes the Buyer/Project's Needs

                              Notice how in my proposal, I barely talk about myself. No
                              reasons as to why I'm so great for this job, no hoopla

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                              about my experience or qualifications. Nothing. Just a
                              straight-forward approach to showing the buyer that I
                              understand his project.

                              This can be achieved in many other ways, including
                              providing a short re-cap in your own words of the
                              project's needs, scope and depth.

                              Just make sure you communicate to the buyer that you
                              understand the project and can add some real value to it.

                              3. It Gives Specific Examples of How I (Provider)
                              Can Help Him (Buyer)

                              The examples I give in the bid are really the crux of the
                              entire proposal. They instantly show the buyer that I
                              know what I'm talking about, have the goods to back it
                              up and have actually spent some time and effort on his
                              project, thereby indicating that I'm eager and willing to
                              put in the required effort for this project.

                              Elance doesn't allow specific-to-the-project, custom
                              samples and I wouldn’t really spend my time making
                              them either. But simple research such as this, which took
                              me less than 5 minutes to do, is a definite, concrete and
                              professional way to show you care.

                              This buyer is now a steady client. We've increased the
                              number of articles each month, and its regular continuous
                              work for my team. 15 minutes. That’s all it took for me to
                              research and write this proposal and now I have a long
                              term client on board who I'm very happy to work with.



                              Your perfect proposal need not be long, wordy, full of
                              your qualifications, or impressive in any way. It MUST
                              provide real value and address the buyer's and the
                              project's needs. Your only role is to figure out how you
                              can best help. Articulate that in the clearest way possible
                              and you've got it made. Good luck!




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    About the Author
                              Salma Jafri is an award-winning internet entrepreneur
                              and a work-at-home mom. She has been a professional
                              freelance writer and marketer for the past three years
                              after working in the corporate sector for nine years as an
                              e-learning specialist.

                              She runs her own content development & online business
                              building firm, WordPL, which currently caters to an
                              exclusive roster of delighted international clientele. Salma
                              is a prolific writer and regular contributor for various
                              publications such as the online Canadian magazine
                              Suite101, an American parenting site Planning Family, a
                              Pakistani print technology magazine Spider (for which she
                              writes the monthly "Money Matters" column) and she
                              blogs at http://www.wordpl.net. Her blog at WordPL
                              recently won the Best Business Blog award at Pakistan's
                              first-ever blog awards ceremony.

                              You can hire Salma on Elance for writing and research
                              work. Her area of specialty is business writing where she
                              concentrates on e-books, newsletters, web articles, web
                              content, copywriting, reports, training content, technical
                              writing, user guides and help manuals. You can also email
                              her directly for a quote at salma@wordpl.net.

                              Salma is an active and vocal participant of utilizing social
                              media for business. Through her Facebook Page she
                              connects with other online entrepreneurs. She has over
                              1000 followers on Twitter, the popular micro-blogging and
                              social networking site and uses Linkedin for professional
                              business correspondence.




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