5 Main Reasons Clients Reject You On Upwork

Stay updated


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.

Don’t want to read over 2,000 words on why you’re getting rejected on Upwork? I got you. Here’s a podcast:

Rejection is never fun especially when it comes to freelance clients on Upwork.

You work so hard to craft the perfect cover letter or pitch. You read it and then reread it, and then have a friend read it to make sure it’s a strong proposal.

Then you send it off to the client and you know, YOU JUST KNOW it’s gonna really resonate with them. And, they’re going to respond excitedly, EMOTIONALLY maybe, and tell you that you are the freelancer they always dreamed of hiring.


Flat out nothing.

You don’t hear back at all.

Days become weeks and pretty soon you realize: you’ve been rejected on Upwork. And, as your rejection sets in even further, you begin to wonder that soul gnawing question: “Why?”

  • Why did they reject me?
  • Was it really me?
  • Was it them?
  • Could I have done something differently?
  • Who actually GOT the job?
  • Are they that much better than me?
  • Should I have lowered my prices?

And, while it’s not good to dwell on the past, it is good to take a second and reflect.

Doing that is not some form of self-punishment. It’s just what it takes to learn and grow as a freelancer.

It’s what it takes to make sure that getting rejected by an Upwork client becomes less and less and getting hired becomes more and more.

Getting Rejected on Upwork Isn’t a Mystery

When something happens that doesn’t make a lot of sense in our minds we tend to assign mystery or magic to the reason why it is the way it is.

Why was Michael Jordan so good at basketball? Must be some kind of magical basketball genetics.

How do rich people make so much money? They must be really lucky.

Why do I keep getting rejected on Upwork? Must be a mystery.

But, the truth is, there are some really solid patterns that begin to emerge from most outcomes no matter how mysterious they appear at first glance.

Could there be cases where certain outcomes or results have a bit of mystery in them? SURE.

But, I think it happens a lot less than we’d all like to think it does.

I know this to be true when it comes to getting hired on Upwork. A lot of the people that I’ve known to be really successful are all doing the same things and getting the same results.

So, if you want to be successful on Upwork you can’t chalk your rejections up to fate or “getting a bad deck of cards.”

You’ve got to look rejection square in the face and say, “I’m gonna figure this out.”

To get you started here are the 5 main things I see freelancers doing that get them rejected on Upwork.

1. You’re Not Pitching to the Right Projects

Most freelancers get rejected on Upwork because they are pitching to projects they got no business pitching to. Plain and simple.

If you’re going to even out the number of wins to the number of proposals sent you’ve got to think really clearly about who you are and who your ideal client is.

You do that by understanding what makes you unique as a freelancer.

Believe it or not, every freelancer has a unique combination of talent and skills. And, we’re not just talking about the hard skills like Photoshop skills or JavaScript skills. We’re talking about soft skills as well like communicating or empathizing.

There is no other freelancer out there like you. So, you’ve got to figure out what sets you apart.

To do that you think about the things in your own life that have come naturally to you where others struggled. Those are the things that set you apart.

It could be a hard skill. But, it could also be the ability to stick with something until you’ve got it figured out.

If you’re having trouble PHONE A FRIEND. Ask, 10 people close to you if they’ve noticed anything in your life that is unique or something that seems to have been easy for you specifically to figure out.

After you’ve got a few ideas about what makes you unique it’s time to think about which clients are looking for those unique giftings and skillsets.

This way you don’t waste your time with clients that won’t really appreciate what you bring to the table AND you stop getting rejected on Upwork because you’re not pitching to clients who aren’t very likely to hire you.

2. You’re Not Paying Attention

Have you ever tried hiring someone on platforms like Upwork?

You should try it. It’s crazy.

A lot of the people that send in proposals don’t even read the project’s description.

How do I know?

Because I ask specific questions in the job posting and at most 25% of the freelancers that send in proposals answer those questions.

This isn’t true of Upwork alone.

We get the same thing at the company I work for full-time, Showit.

Tons of developers respond to our job openings. BUT very few actually take the time to really read through the posting and then answer the questions we intentionally put in there to filter out the folks that aren’t taking it seriously.

It brings light to the reasons why you hear so many folks saying things like, “I sent out 100 resumes and didn’t hear back from one.”

Before you pitch, slow down. Read the job posting.

Take some time to think about the client. See if there’s anything they’re looking for you to answer in your cover letter.

If you really want to get extra credit, do a little bit of research on them.

See if you can dig up the name of the company they work for or own. Just get any kind of information that will show them you took a good look at their job description and you weren’t just shooting out proposals like shotgun spray.

3. You’re Not Addressing the Real Want

Have you ever the expression, “No one buys a hammer because they really want a hammer?”

Think about it.

No one really wants a hammer. They want a hammer because of what the hammer can do.

Hammers can put nails in walls.

But, then again, no one really wants a nail in the wall. Right?

They want to hang pictures.

Then again, no one really wants to hang pictures. They want to be reminded of memories of their loved ones or places they’ve gone.

Even from there, you could keep going because our true motivations as people are always much deeper than surface level.

The same is true with freelance clients on Upwork.

So, if you want to stop being rejected on Upwork your job is to try and uncover what the client REALLY WANTS.

I like to think of a client’s wants by splitting things up into 3 levels.

Level 1 is the surface-level stuff. It’s:

  • the website redesigned,
  • the logo created, or
  • the copy written

This is the main motivation level you’ll see in the client’s job description. BUT, you’re going to have to go further if you’re going to win the job.

You’ll have to at least get to motivation Level 2 which is the immediate reason behind level one. Level two deals with things like:

  • making more money
  • taking responsibility off their shoulders
  • giving them freedom to do what they do best with their business

A lot of times, this will be a deep enough level to stand out to a client BUT there’s a deeper level still: Level 3.

Level 3 has to do with things like:

  • Feeling successful
  • Giving them peace back in their day
  • Allowing them to focus in on their purpose

If you really want to “wow” a client try to tie the results you’ll be able to give them with these deeper level motivations. You’ll start getting rejected on Upwork a lot less AND you’ll also be able to deliver more meaningful results to your clients.

4. You’re Making it All About You and Your Not Backing it Up

I see so many Upwork freelancers fill their pitches with a laundry list of all their skills and achievements.

Their proposals look something like this:

“I’m a trustworthy freelancer with 5 years of experience. I know JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, React. I get projects done on time and I’m super communicative.”

Now, on the surface level that doesn’t sound bad.

The problem is you didn’t mention the client once. It was all about you!

Me, me, me, me, me, me.

If you want to stop being rejected on Upwork you’ve got to make your pitches all about your clients.

So, say things like “I’m excited to make your project a success,” or “it sounds like you’ve got a really interesting business and I’d love to help you,” instead of mentioning all the reasons why you’re awesome.

The key difference here is pronouns.

If you notice yourself saying “I” or “me” much more often than “you” or “your” you need to go back and change some things up.

AND, don’t use generalities or platitudes when you do talk about your own achievements. Use hardcore data that backs up your claims.

Instead of saying, “I’m super communicative,” quote a past client who mentioned how good you were at communicating. Or if you have hard numbers like, “after I redesigned my last client’s website they went from selling X number of products to X number of products.

Make it specific and factual.

5. You’re Not Leaving a Call to Action

You have to spell out the next step for your future client when you come to the end of your proposal.

This isn’t because clients are stupid and won’t know what to do if you don’t BUT your goal is to try and remove as much friction from them saying yes to you as possible.

It also communicates a sense of professionalism that can help you stand out.

The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be anything special.

You could tell them, “Just reply to this proposal to get the process started.”

But, one really great thing I learned from Morgan Overholt is to leave a link to a calendar sign-up in your pitch. This keeps you from the back and forth trying to figure out a time AND it makes things really simple for your client.

In other words, it removes the resistance.

So, show them how to move forward with hiring you. rather than making the client figure out what to do next.

Wondering Why You Keep Getting Rejected on Upwork? Just Ask

Getting rejected on Upwork doesn’t have to be a mystery.

There are some things you can start doing TODAY that will likely increase your chances of winning projects on the platform.

But, after it’s all said and done. After you’ve

  1. Fine-tuned the projects you pitch to and which ones you ignore
  2. Taken extra effort to read through the project description
  3. Learned to go a little deeper with client’s real motivations
  4. Made it more about the client than yourself
  5. Left a call to action

If you’re still getting rejected on Upwork, here’s the one simple thing you can do to vanquish rejection almost instantly: ask.

Aski clients why they chose to go with someone else. OR ask the clients that DO hire you why they chose you instead of someone else.

Even questions like “what stood out about me verses all of the other freelancers that you hired?” can be a game-changer.

After you’ve got a little bit of that information you can use it to your advantage in the next proposal. Highlight the things they liked. Minimize the things they didn’t by getting better at those things or learning ways to play to your strengths more.

BUT whatever you do, don’t let the reason you’re getting rejected on Upwork stay in the “mystery zone.”

You can do this!

It’ll take some work BUT you can figure it out if you stick with it and keep fine-tuning your pitch.

Pretty soon you’ll look back and see that your pitch to win ratio is getting closer and closer to a whole number.

Woman with sad face drawn on paper bag over head to illustrated the sadness of getting rejected on Upwork


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join 1,000s of other web designers, web developers, UX designers, product designers and freelancers and get a weekly email that will help you grow.

Invest 5 minutes a week & Improve your freelancer/web designer skills

Come learn the same steps I use to land projects for $6k+ on Upwork. You'll walk away knowing:

• How to stand out from other freelancers
• A cover letter template that wins
• Profile MUST HAVES that most freelancers miss

3 Simple Steps to Land High Paying Projects on Upwork

This free, 4 video course will give you all the tools you need to start freelancing as a web designer and earning extra money.

• How to get started from scratch
• How to find your first clients
• How to charge higher rates

Become a web designer and land high-paying clients