Enhance Your Upwork Proposals with The Mind Map Method

Let’s face it.

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Pumping out proposals day after day isn’t helping you win more clients on Upwork.

Truth is, you lack the key ingredient needed to get clients comfortable with hiring you.

You guessed it. Credibility.

How am I able to skyrocket my credibility and leave clients fighting for space in my inbox?

Today, I reveal my secret weapon - The Mind Map Method.

But before I get into the method itself, I first need to lay some groundwork.

Why Most Freelancers Suck at Building Credibility

Building credibility into your proposals is essential if you wanna start crushing it on Upwork.

Unfortunately, this is also the area where many freelancers struggle the most.....

Take a look at this cover letter I received recently:

As a client I look at this and think, okay...

You say you communicate well.

You say you deliver high-quality work.

You say you have experience writing copy.

But where's the proof?

These are just empty statements. Bold claims with nothing to back them up.

The problem is lack of credibility.

Anyone can ramble on about themselves and hit send. There's no shortage of that on Upwork.

And simply telling someone how amazing you are doesn't necessarily make it true.

The secret is to SHOW how amazing you are.

Hacking Your Credibility with Sample Amplification

One solution to this problem is using a work sample.

Providing a high-quality sample alongside your proposal is commonly used to build instant credibility.

But why stop there? -- Why not take it one step further than everyone else?

Don't just give them the cake. Make them eat it too.

Pull back the curtain. Take them behind the scenes. Provide a deeper insight into your thinking.

Outline your entire process from start to finish.​

Instead of sending over a sample and calling it a day, show them the framework behind it.

This is what I call sample amplification and it's how I've managed to build INSANE credibility with my proposals.

Using The Mind Map Method for Sample Amplification

The concept of sample amplification is fairly straightforward, but the magic lies in the execution.

This is where The Mind Map Method comes into play.

Using this method, I saw an immediate boost in the number of prospects who responded to my proposals.

Responses on Upwork are called 'Interviews'

More responses = more work = more money

Look, I love statistics as much as the next nerd.

But you know something is really working when clients go out of their way to tell you.

Check out this response I got the other day:

Make no mistake:

This is hands down the most effective credibility-hack I've ever applied to my Upwork proposals.

Roll up your sleeves. It's time 🙂

4-Steps to Using The Mind Map Method

The Mind Map Method can be broken down into 4 steps:

Step 1: Identify your 'one thing'

Step 2: Brain-dump your workflow

Step 3: Create your visual framework

Step 4: Power-up your proposals

In the rest of this post, I'll break down each step and show you how to apply The Mind Method to your proposals

Step #1: Identify Your 'One Thing'

The first thing you need to do is identify your speciality, or what I call your 'one thing'.

This is a particular type of job that...

  • You consistently apply for
  • You're exceptionally good at
  • You enjoy the most

Sure, you might be a writer, designer, developer, etc.

But what’s your ONE thing?

Is it writing informational blog posts?

Is it designing feminine logos?

Is it developing iPhone apps?

Lewis' Pro Tip
If you don't have a 'one thing' and prefer to take a more general approach to freelancing - you can still use this method.

Of course, it will take a bit more work upfront since you'll need to repeat this process for each job type.

As for me?

My one thing is writing high-converting sales pages (which I’ll also use as an example throughout this post).

Once you’ve identified yours, move on to step #2.

Step #2: Brain-Dump Your Workflow

Ask me to write a killer sales page? No problem.

Ask me to tell you exactly how I do it? Hmmmm.

This happens because - like most other freelancers - that process is some fuzzy, unstructured thing inside my head.

In this step, we’re going to take our 'one thing' and brain-dump the entire workflow behind it.

Grab a piece of paper (or open a document on your computer) and start writing down your process. Your system.

Imagine yourself doing a job from start to finish…

  • What are the individual steps involved?
  • What research is required?
  • What tools do you use?
  • How do you use those tools?

Lewis' Pro Tip
You may find it easier to open up some of your own work samples and reverse-engineer your workflow, instead.

Don't worry about mistakes or making it look pretty - just get everything documented.

We'll sharpen it up in step #3.

Here's One I Prepared Earlier

To give you an idea of how this might look on paper, let me show you a section from my own brain-dump.

This highlights my headline creation process:

Headline Formula:

- Pre-headline: Call out the problem. This should be a statement or question that speaks directly to the prospect and hooks their interest. Make it about them.

- Main-headline: Promise a solution and include the main benefit of that solution. If possible, also tie in some kind of time element or time-frame.

- Post-headline: Include an additional benefit. This is optional and should only be used if it makes sense.

Clearly no masterpiece.

But we'll fix that, later 😉

Lewis' Pro Tip
Struggling with this step? -- It may be that you don't have a properly defined workflow yet.

If that's the case, you can always take a step back and leverage existing resources to help you fill in the gaps.

For example, a quick Google search brought me to this 87-point checklist for sales page copy:

See where I'm going with this?

If I was stuck, I could use this resource as the foundation of my brain-dump (adding my own expertise where possible).

Step #3: Your Visual Representation

This is where it gets interesting.

We’re going to take your brain-dump and give it a makeover.

The finished product will be a visual representation that outlines your process in a way that anyone can understand.

Mind maps work GREAT for this

Lewis' Pro Tip
Some people may prefer to use a flowchart instead of a mind map. Both work, this is just my personal preference.

Choosing Your Mind Map Tool

There's a bunch of tools on the market, but I recommend Coggle.

Coggle has an awesome web-based editor that allows you to you build beautiful looking mind maps.

The software also has a generous free plan (which is more than enough for this purpose).

Don't like Coggle?

Here are some alternatives you can try:

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what software you use.

What’s key here is being able to present a clear framework without being too overwhelming.

Moving Your Brain-Dump into a Mind Map

Next, we need transfer the bones of our brain-dump into the mind map software (I’ll be using Coggle).

This process will vary slightly from person to person, depending on how ‘messy’ your brain-dump is.

Regardless, the idea is the same:

Take the core elements of your brain-dump and break them into small, bite-sized tiers.

I'll explain using the section I wrote earlier:

Headline Formula:

- Pre-headline: Call out the problem. This should be a statement or question that speaks directly to the prospect and hooks their interest. Make it about them.

- Main-headline: Promise a solution and include the main benefit of that solution. If possible, also tie in some kind of time element or time-frame.

- Post-headline: Include an additional benefit. This is optional and should only be used if it makes sense.

This section would naturally be broken down into 3 tiers.

For example --  Headline --> Pre-head --> Call out the problem

I would then plug each one into my mind map, one-by-one to get something like this:

Looks awesome, right?

Repeat this step for each section of your brain-dump until you have a complete mind map.

Step #4: Power-Up Your Proposals

Okay, hard part's over.

You've just built your secret weapon. A killer resource that will strengthen every proposal you send from here on out.

Now, let me show you how to use it to obliterate your competition.

Leverage the Cloud for Higher Open-Rates

Let's get the obvious out the way.

You need to know how you're going to present your mind map within your proposal.

You have 2 options:

  1.  Attach it as a file
  2.  Link to a live version of it

Now, just because it's in your proposal, doesn't necessarily mean the client will see it.

With the first option, clients tend to miss attachments or avoid downloading them to prevent clutter. Even when they do, compatibility issues can prevent them from opening it.

Not good.

This is why I recommend the second option - using the cloud to link to a live version of your mind map.

A live version allows you to:

  • Point clients to your mind map from within your cover letter (significantly reducing the chance of them missing it)
  • Reduce the number of steps involved on the clients end (increasing the odds of them following through)
  • Avoid any potential compatibility issues (remove the risk of losing them at the last hurdle)

As you can imagine, these are all crucial elements for increasing the open rates of your mind map.

(This stuff also holds true for your sample, by the way)

Creating your Shareable Link

If you're using Coggle, you can easily generate a live share link for your mind map.

​In the top right corner, click the little arrow pointing up generate your link:

Anyone who follows your share link will be able to see your mind map without needing to register for an account.

This way, they can easily navigate your mind map and zoom as needed (but won't be able to make any edits themselves).

This also works great because you never have to update the link when you make changes to your mind map. It all works in real-time.

Can't Use Live Sharing? No Worries...

If you're using another mind map tool that doesn't allow live sharing, there is a workaround you can use.

The first step is to download your mind map as an image.

This should be do-able with any respectable mind mapping software.

Once you have your image, you need to host it.

If you have your own website, you can host it yourself and generate your own share link.

Otherwise, just use an mage hosting services such as:

They're all pretty much the same, just pick one and upload your mind map image:

After a few seconds, you'll get a bunch of different links.

The one you want is the direct link. This will be your image without any branding or additional information.

Now anyone who visits that link will only see the image of your mind map. Perfect.

Keep in mind:

If you're using a third-party image host, you will have to repeat this process every time you update your mind map. {insert sad face}

Lewis' Pro Tip
I recommend shortening your links using Google's URL shortener, which you can find here.

This will transform long, ugly links into more shareable versions that look MUCH cleaner in your cover letter.

And as you can see, it also allows you to track the number of clicks on the link which is always handy.

Plugging Your Cover Letter

Finally, you need to plug your share link into your cover letter.

Don't just throw the link in there and expect clients to click it. You need to give them a compelling reason.

Here's a template you can use:

"Here's a sample from my portfolio that I think you'll really resonate with: [INSERT LINK]

And if you like that, you'll love this. I've gone ahead and outlined the framework behind that piece for you here: [INSERT LINK]"

Remember, the idea is to show them a sample first, and back it up with your visual resource (framework).

And try not to use the template word for word. Make it your own.

That's The Mind Map Method!

Before I finish:

I want to address something people immediately think of when I explain this approach.

"But couldn’t the client just use my framework to do the task themselves?"

In theory, yes. They could.

But it doesn't happen for 2 reasons:

  1. They don’t have time to do it themselves - which is why most clients are on Upwork in the first place.

  2. It doesn’t matter what cookbook, ingredients or utensils you give me, I won’t be able to whip up a steak dinner like Gordon Ramsey.


2 thoughts on “Enhance Your Upwork Proposals with The Mind Map Method

2 comments

  1. I like this post! As a freelancer who hasn’t tried upwork, it’s interesting to hear about a method like this to present yourself to a prospective client in a creative and credible way. I think sub-consciously that not knowing a good way to approach the client and stand out from the rest is why I haven’t tried upwork yet. Perhaps I will give it a 2nd thought.

    • Thanks Tim!

      Absolutely, and as a client on Upwork I can’t stress how few freelancers are implementing this kind of approach. Good luck!

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