There's a lot of answers about how to be a high-quality Upwork freelancer. But with a limited number of Connects each month, how best to high-value projects to bid on?

The Upwork forums (which I don't think I can link to here) have an excellent post about avoiding fraudulent and unethical projects. I'm still worried about the legitimate ones that aren't likely to pick me.

  • If a project has too many proposals already, should I not bother? How many is "too many"?
  • If the project already has "hires", should I not bother?
  • If the project is still open after a week, and has no recent activity, should I assume the client has moved on and never gotten around to closing it out?

In case the answers depend on the type of project: I do Excel development, VBA programming, technical writing, copy editing, and proofreading.

  • 1
    Taking a wild guess here..... I'd say bid on the ones you want to complete.
    – Scott
    Apr 21, 2016 at 2:30
  • Just a point of curiosity: why did you ask only about Upwork? Is there a difference in bids on Upwork as opposed to other freelance sites? Oct 29, 2016 at 6:18
  • Because I don't know anything about other sites. And its probably best for me to focus on Upwork, where I have a decent reputation, than try to join other sites as well. Oct 29, 2016 at 6:55

6 Answers 6


First, as more of a philosophical angle, it's better to look for high value client, not high value projects.

[Quick note, I've not really used UpWork since the departure from oDesk, and I'm not at all a fan of the upcharges just to get better access to data.]

First, your specific questions:

If a project has too many proposals already, should I not bother? How many is "too many"?

When I was bidding on projects, my rate would always be near the top (if not the highest). I wasn't concerned with how many proposals there were, what I looked at was the average rate vrs the average interview rate. If the interview rate was at least a little higher, it told me the client's primary interest was not the lowest hourly rate.

It now looks like UpWork charges for access to those kind of stats.

If the project already has "hires", should I not bother?

This depends on the type of work you're doing. If I had to choose between two jobs, and one already had a hire, I'd probably pick the other. But this could also be a useful indicator about the client. If it's a job where more than a single contractor are obviously needed, can you identify the hire? If so, what does that tell you about the client?

If the project is still open after a week, and has no recent activity, should I assume the client has moved on and never gotten around to closing it out?

Time itself isn't necessarily an indicator of that. Have they moved anyone to interview (if so, perhaps they've just not found anyone yet)? What do the average bids tell you (lots of low bids may mean they're waiting for someone with what the consider 'reasonable' pricing)?

Some general tips: I'd always use bidding on projects to expand my area of expertise. As a contract developer doing API integrations, if there was an API I wanted to play with, or wanted to become an 'expert' in, I'd focus my bidding on those jobs.

Think about your reputation when you bid - specifically, does this job seem like it will end successfully with the client leaving positive feedback.

This may no longer be true, but oDesk used to match you in search results to not only your profile, but the keyworks in the jobs you bid / won. Keep that in mind, because what terms your profile matches will affect the job invites you get.

And on that topic, your profile may be the thing you can improve the most. Right now you're asking how to validate that a job is worth using one of your available bids. Wouldn't it be better to just filter inbound requests? How valuable is a good profile? Valuable enough that mine has been copied multiple times.

(Which was an interesting story, I found out about that interviewing another contractor for a client, and thought some of their profile sounded familiar. Turns out it was mine.)

I touch on some other tip in this rather dated guest post on the oDesk blog, parts are still relevant.

  • I like your advice, Tim, but when you ask "Wouldn't it be better to just filter inbound requests?", I'm tempted to blurt out "WHAT inbound requests?" (That probably speaks to how good my profile is. I'd be glad to know your opinion on it if SO lets me post the link.) Apr 23, 2016 at 20:39
  • 1
    @ShawnV.Wilson regardless of SO allowing you to post the link, they should allow you to upvote my answer. :) Right now your profile lists some experience / companies as just a list of names. Expand on that, explain what you accomplished for specific companies. Keep in mind it's (based on my observation) what you have in that profile that determines where you show up when people search.
    – Tim Lytle
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:43
  • @ShawnV.Wilson But I get the frustration not having inbound requests - my main point is to also evaluate potential projects on how they will impact the placement of your profile in search results as well. Is this description the kind of job you'd want to be contacted about? I don't know how UpWork does it now, but I did observe that after just responding / bidding or / getting projects, I'd place higher in search results for related keywords (back when it was oDesk).
    – Tim Lytle
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:45

So I started on Upwork about a year ago, have completed 5 projects and apparently am now considered top rated.... My selection process:

  1. Only consider clients that have a history of filling roles and have a reasonable average hourly rate paid out
  2. Avoid anyone who says they want an expert but add the lowest pay bracket to the job
  3. I generally try to focus on jobs in Australia as that is where I live. Its just easier with timezones and Aussies tend to favour bids from within AU
  4. Offer a suggestion of how to acomplish the task in the proposal, ensure English is perfect
  5. Expect that 80% of proposals will be ignored because a bloke from Bangladesh has said he would do it for $12. Consider it a lucky escape
  6. I did NOT offer to become a slave at rock bottom prices. A very low bid will not compete with other bidders and gives the impression your work is no better valued
  7. Instead of above, put more effort into the proposal without writing an essay and boring everyone to tears

Above all, I didn't quit my day job to focus on Upwork and anyone who does is crazy. I consider it a way to build my portfolio as a consultant in order to pitch myself to local companies with whom I can forge a long term, valuable relationship with.

  • It actually says a lot about upwork if you've only completed 5 projects are are considered "top rated" -- it reflects poorly on the poole of workers there, not you... but the fact that all it takes is 5 decent project completions to be among the "better" workers.
    – Scott
    Dec 9, 2016 at 10:45
  • @scott I agree. To have completed 5 projects successfully and be rated towards the top of the pile says a lot about the platform. Upwork for me is a necessity rather than something I use by choice.
    – Paul
    Dec 14, 2016 at 3:49

There are now "invitations to interview" that go out to a limited number of applicants at a time.

Accepting these invitations leads to substantially more hires than bidding on jobs from search -- you are in a smaller pool of applicants and the job listings are tailored to your skills and work history.

It's easier for the clients/employers than sifting through endless proposals and you don't have to devalue yourself and your work by bidding with lower rates than you would normally charge just to be considered.


Of course it's a lot of projects because there are 100k+ contractors. So it's up to you to find the one that:

  1. you can finish

  2. you can do it properly and with quality

  3. meet the deadline

  4. earn money for time you spent on it, but also for the time you're looking for other projects

  5. work with the client you like or that seems like a good client

Once you narrow down projects that meet, you will have just a few projects daily to bid on.

  • I wouldn't bid on anything that didn't match 1-4. As for 5: who "seems like a good client"? Oct 29, 2016 at 5:36

Have a look on the left side of upwork.com's filter. You might find exactly what you're looking for with the right filter. It looks straight forward but there's quite a bit to choose from. Read everything. Once you see a project you like save the search. That worked for me. Good luck.

  • A "project I like"? That's not hard, but I need to know which ones are likely to like me enough to respond. (See my original post.) I don't want to use my limited Connects on projects that are already filled or have gone MIA. Dec 5, 2016 at 21:38

Bid on php project on upwork Watch this Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtdurH2u8Ik

  • How does this help me? PHP isn't in the list of skills I mentioned. Oct 29, 2016 at 5:38

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