Words & Phrases to Avoid in Your Upwork Proposals

The words and phrases below cause freelancers to get skipped over all the time. 

(If you're on Mobile, you might find it easier to grab the Google sheet here.)

Avoid

Example

Why not use it?

What to say instead?

Cost

It will cost $100 to work with me.

First, this is jumping the gun. The client hasn't even decided if they want to work with you yet. Second, it gets them thinking about money and expenses and how much they are going to lose by working with you.

When you work with me, you can expect an affordable (copywriting, design, accounting etc.) fixed rate.

Pay

As soon as you pay me I will get started.

This one is similar to the cost problem, and it also suggests that you care a lot about getting paid when your focus should be on how you can help the client.

Nothing. Don't use this word unless you are using it to say you have developed for Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Price

I can quote you a fixed price after discussion.

Talking about price works the same as talking about costs. You're getting the client to think about what they stand to lose rather than what they will gain.

Swap the word "price" with "rate" because it changes the mental associations.

Spend

You won't have to spend much money to get this done.

Same problems as above.

If you absolutely feel the need to use this word, swap it out with "invest." You won't invest much to get this done...

Hate

If you hate my work then it costs nothing.

This word carries a strong negative connotation. When combined with other words like "my work" it can trigger a subliminal suggestion to "hate my work" which isn't going to go well for you.

Instead of "hate" try something like, "I you're anything less than 100% satisfied, then it's free."

Risk

There is absolutely no risk to you.

There is always some risk, so when you say there is no risk, you get the client to start thinking about the possible risks. Thinking about risk can trigger deeply-ingrained psychological fears. Skydiving sounds like a lot of fun until you start thinking about the risks (such as your parachute failing mid-fall).

Instead of "no risk" try, "To ensure you feel completely comfortable..."

Other(s)

You won't find other web designers who offer a deal like that.

Talking about "other" freelancers is a surefire way to get the client thinking about his other options.

Avoid mentioning "others" at all. Stay focused on your own services and solutions.

Impossible

What you are asking for is impossible.

Everything is impossible only until it is not. The client already believes the task is possible, so when you say it is impossible, you prove you are not the right person for the job.

Instead of "impossible" try "I'll make it happen" or "It sounds like a challenge, but I love challenges" or "It will be tricky, but I can handle it." Then just find a way to make it work.

Can't

I can't do it how you want but I can do it this way...

Same reason as the previous one. If I need someone to solve my problem and you say you can't solve it for some reason, then I am absolutely not going to hire you.

Instead of "Can't" just say, "Roger that, I'll make it happen." Then find a way to make it happen.

Guarantee

I guarantee you'll love my work or your money back.

The word "guarantee" sounds good in theory until you realize it is associated with a lot of negative ideas (slick car salesmen for instance). Avoid talking about guarantees. Also, making guarantees is a good way to ensure you get poor feedback since if you fail to deliver on your guarantee, the client will be disappointed in your work.

Instead of offering a "guarantee" go with something more dutiful such as, "I'm committed to doing great work for you, so if you're anything less than 100% satisfied, it's free."

Must

You must use Shopify instead of WordPress.

Avoid using the word "must" to tell clients what they must do. Clients don't like being commanded like that. It comes across as arrogance and will signal to the client that you might be difficult to work with.

Instead of telling the client what they "must" do, try asking them if they have "considered" an alternative. "Have you considered using Shopify instead of WordPress? It is designed to solve the problems you mentioned." This will add value for the client for free.

Look Forward To

I look forward to your response.

I like that you are presupposing (assuming) that they will respond to you, but in the client's perspective, it's kind of like a stranger coming up to them in a restaurant, proposing marriage, and then expecting a response. You've only just met, so what you are looking forward to sounds insane.

Instead of looking forward to their response, why not give them some direction. Tell them to contact you, message you, or reply to you. "If any of this sounds like what you need, reply and let's chat." Giving the client direction and taking charge with a call-to-action will help them feel like you are a professional. Clients want to give up control and let you take over. But it has to be done in a professional way.

Waiting for

I will be waiting for your response.

Same as above.

Same as "Look Forward To"

I love

I love your project.

Avoid talking about what you love, because the client doesn't give a shit what you love. They only care about how you can help them.

This is fluffy filler text that usually comes up because the freelancer doesn't know what else to say. Stay laser focused on your solutions and how you can help the client.

Degree

I have a degree in accounting.

The client doesn't care about your degree UNLESS it is extremely relevant to their needs. For example, I have two degrees in psychology. Those are not relevant for accounting gigs, but they are highly relevant for copywriting clients.

Avoid talking about your degree unless it is highly relevant. Talk about your solutions instead. How will you help the client? How have you helped other clients like this client? What makes you credible for THIS specific job? Find relevant credibility.

I want

I really want to work on your project.

Same as above. The client doesn't care what you want.

Same as the "I Love" issue. This is fluffy filler. Get rid of it.

Qualified

I am qualified to handle this for you.

If you are so qualified, then back it up with proof. Nobody in their right mind will entrust you with their money if you say you are qualified but don't prove it with some kind of evidence (i.e. portfolio pieces, reviews, references etc.)

Demonstrate what makes you a credible expert through relevant samples, attention to detail, describing success stories with past clients. But never tell the client that you are "qualified" because they won't believe you. You have to show them instead.

Expert

I am an expert in the skill you need.

Same as above. REAL experts don't call themselves experts. They just show it. They demonstrate. Show, don't tell.

Same as the issue with Qualified. Show them you're an expert. Prove it.

Won't

I won't accept hourly payment.

The client doesn't care what you won't do. If you won't do what the client wants you to do, then you won't get a response and won't get hired.

Instead of telling the client what you won't accept, trying sharing what working with you WILL be like instead. "When we work together, you can expect simple fixed rates, so you always know exactly how much you'll invest."

Refuse

I refuse to do work before payment.

Refusing to do something on principle might make you feel warm and gooey inside, but it tells the client you are going to be a pain in the ass to work with so they should skip you for someone else.

Same as above. Describe what you CAN do. Not what you refuse to do. "The first step in working with me is to add a milestone and send the contract. Once our contract begins, I can start immediately."

Limited Time

I will only be available for a limited time.

If you only have limited availability, then why are you applying to their gig? Don't use this persuasion tactic in proposals because it won't work. It will only work for invitations where the client comes to you.

Instead of trying to trick the client into thinking you have limited availability, try letting them you know are available practically 24/7 so they can always reach you. If you can make yourself available for clients, they will love you.

Terrible

Your website looks terrible.

You don't know if the client built his own website, wrote his own copy etc. He/she might have spent a load of time on it and feels quite proud of it. If you tell them something looks terrible, you might trigger them to feel terrible. Then they'll associate those bad feelings with you, and you won't get a response.

Instead of telling the client that their website, project, or anything else looks terrible. Why not tell them you can see that they've spent a lot of time on this, and here is how you think you can help them make it better: then give 3-4 bullet point suggestions of what you might improve.

By a High Schooler

Your site looks like it was built/written by a high schooler.

Avoid saying this as a joking insult. On numerous occasions, the existing site/design/copy WAS built by a high schooler and it was the client's son/daughter/niece/nephew and you just insulted their family. NEVER do this.

Use something similar to the suggestion above for the word "terrible"

Understand

I understand what you need perfectly.

How do you understand what the client needs when you have only read their job post? It seems quite arrogant to say you understand something when you lack the full context and scope of the project.

If you're going to use the word "understand" then use it like this. "I really want to better understand your needs, so would you have time for a quick call this week?" This way tells the client you care about them, and it also calls them to action in a professional manner.

Perfectly

I understand what you need perfectly.

Perfect doesn't exist, so making this claim is making a huge exaggeration, especially considering how little you know about the client and their problem. Avoid using words that indicate absolutes such as "perfect" "always" "never"

Same as the previous response. Let them know you want to get a better understanding, or that you want to make sure you understand their problem correctly. Then call them to action.

Competitors

This is what makes me different from my competitors.

This is kind of like talking about "others" - if you talk about your competitors, then the client knows you have competitors and he should have a look at them before he moves forward with you.

Avoid talking about competitors at all. Talk about what makes you a great fit, but never compare yourself to others. When the client is reading your proposal, competitors don't exist unless you bring competitors into the frame by talking about them.

Bothered

You won't be bothered by problems with me.

Saying the words "be bothered" plants a hidden suggestion that you don't want in the client's head. Avoid talking about being bothered.

Instead of "bothered" let's try, "When we work together, you can expect to professional quality work with fast turnaround."

Trust Me

Trust me, that isn't how you want to approach this.

When a freelancer says, "trust me" before we have a working relationship, I become much more suspicious of them. Avoid telling clients to trust you when they have no reason to do so. It sends up red flags.

Instead of telling the client to trust you, what if you asked them a clarity question instead? "Have you considered approaching this in a different way such as..." Doing it this way might add value for the client. Then they will have a reason to trust you. Show, don't tell.

Assure You

I assure you that you will be completely satisfied.

Avoid assurances that end in absolutes like this. You might be committed to making them completely satisfied, but do not assure them that they will be completely satisfied because if they aren't, then you will get negative feedback.

Instead of assuring the client that they will be satisfied, tell them you are committed to their satisfaction. "I am committed to ensuring a great experience for you." This doesn't make any guarantees, and will help ensure you won't end up with negative feedback later on.

Jumps out at me

In reviewing your job it really jumps out to me.

The client doesn't care that their job post jumped out to you. This is fluff so avoid saying it.

This is another fluffy filler statement. Cut it from your proposals. It isn't needed.

Charge

Our first call is free of charge.

The word "charge" is kind of like the word "cost" - it gets the client thinking about the money they are going to lose by hiring you.

Instead of charge, just use the word "free." As in, "Would you have time for a free call this week?" That way it feels like they're getting something rather than being focused on what they'll soon lose with you.

Truth Time..

Most of these words and phrases won't guarantee that you instantly get skipped over by clients.

The thing is, freelancers usually don't just use one of these words or phrases when writing proposals.

In my experience, they combine entire sets of words and phrases.

From talking about their irrelevant degrees, to telling the client what they must do, to offering spammy limited-time offers and no-risk low-cost services.

When you weave them together, it starts to look unprofessional, and that can signal to the client that you're not the right person for the job.

There are many more words and phrases that I avoid. I'll add to this list as I think of them, so bookmark this page and come back to it from time to time. 🙂 

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