This article is a part of the series on writing Upwork proposals that win clients. In this article, we’ll look at how to answer the cover letter question “what past project or job have you had that is most like this one and why?”
We’ll look at how to answer it in two steps and how to go about it if you feel as if you have no experience.
The first step is to pick experience relevant to the specific project and the second step is about how to highlight it in a way that makes it relevant even if it doesn’t feel relevant on the surface.
Step one: pick relevant experience (even if you feel like you don’t have any)
Behind the question “what past project or job have you had that is most like this one and why?” the clients are trying to judge if we can do a good job for them based on our past experience.
It’s a way of “outsourcing” their decision and it isn’t always the best approach to judge if we are a good fit. Many clients think that their business and project is so unique that only someone with the exact same experience can help.
That usually isn’t the case and it is our job to show that to the client. Of course, showing projects that are almost the same are best but we can make other projects relevant by highlighting specific aspects of them and explain why they are similar to this project.
Our first step is to pick which similar projects we want to highlight. To give you some ideas, look at these examples. We might compare a past project if:
- The customers were the same
- The processes were the same
- The type of graphic or creative work was the same
- The use cases were the same or similar
- The businesses are the same
- The deadline posed the same challenge
By choosing to highlight one or a few things from several past projects, we can put together a package that tackles most of the client’s concerns.
The most common example I’ve seen is with clients in countries like the US, looking for help with native English copywriting. Some do due to tax reasons but I’ve seen many examples of clients simply not knowing that there are plenty of freelancers outside their country who can do a terrific job for them at a more affordable price.
Step two: highlight your experience and make it relevant
So, we’ve looked through our portfolio and past experience and found a few things that might be relevant. Step two is how to highlight it.
To make it as easy as possible for the busy client to understand the connection, we’ll want it to be as similar as we can to their current project.
If we have done the same project before, that’s ideal. It will be easy to highlight since we can share the basic premise of the project so the client can see that it is almost the same project, the results, and a few paragraphs about the process.
It is sometimes good to bring up unexpected complications and show how well you’ve solved the challenge but to keep the cover letter short, you might want to save that for a potential phone call.
In case you haven’t worked on a project that is exactly the same, let’s go into how to highlight each of the ideas we found in step one.
If, for example, the customers were the same, we can talk about how the client’s product or project solved the same problem for both types of customers or that the customers had similar characteristics (in the project you are referring to and this new project).
Another approach is to show how the use cases of the products were the same. For example, two slightly different products that were used for the same purpose.
We can also talk about how the project process was the same. If the project is around email automation, we might share the overarching step-by-step process or a flowchart with e.g. how their leads or data will flow from the Facebook ads through Zapier and into a CRM system or spreadsheet.
If you want to impress them, you can use flowchart software but you might find a better balance simply writing the steps out in text within the proposal. Then go a step deeper and use software when the client has replied and you know they are interested.
We can also talk about how the deadline was the same if this is an important part of the project. For example, with a last-minute project where you picked the best, quick, solution instead of the best long term one because of a pressing deadline.
And finally, we can share how the businesses were similar or in a similar industry and why that is relevant.
The key is to explain what made that part of the past project similar to the new client’s project.
For example, you might explain how the customers were the same because they had almost the same demographic and that client’s business was solving a very similar problem for those customers, so there is likely an overlap.
Or if you help clients with email automation, you might share how the email funnels were similar to what the client in this new project is looking for. Perhaps, you used the same software but if not, you might point out how similar the two software tools are and how that helps your client get their setup fixed without any challenges.
Here is an example from a winning Upwork proposal for an email automation project:
What past project or job have you had that is most like this one and why – example answer
The answer to “What past project or job have you had that is most like this one and why?”
And the project was won. Earnings:
We always have to tie it back to how it helps the client, which is what most of us forget to do. In order to do that, we need to understand what the client needs. Sometimes it is explained directly in the project description but if not, you might want to use one of the following common needs until you get a chance to ask the client:
- More revenue, profit, sales, or leads
- Save time
- Work less/spend more time with family
I suggest asking the client whenever you get a chance because the better you understand what they are really looking for and the specific words they use to describe it, the better you can make them feel understood.
That is directly related to landing more projects and earning more money since freelancing is a relationship-business. Upwork is no different.
If you really have no experience
The elephant in the room is that we might really not have any relevant experience and if that’s the case, maybe this project isn’t relevant.
If we are sales expert, applying for a project to program an algorithm is just not going to happen.
Most of us are pretty good at judging whether a project is relevant for us. We might not be the master of it but we might recognize that we’ve done something similar before and feel confident that we can pick it up and help.
If you can’t find anything you think you are good at, consider looking at different projects that require less technical skill.
Lead generation research is a good example. It requires a few basic tricks that are easy to learn but besides that, it is mostly about time.
If you feel comfortable with the project even though you don’t have any relevant experience to show, you can share the process or plan of how you’d go about completing the project step by step.
If relevant for the project, you can also prepare some samples specific to the project to impress the client.
The trick is to prepare some that are slightly different or watermarked, so they can’t use them in the project but close enough that they can see the potential.
Other articles in the series:
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