There are few better feelings than when you're at the starting line with a new client. Connecting with leaders, learning their ambitions, and knowing you can achieve their objectives is a very fulfilling corner of self-employment.
But, maintaining a healthy pipeline can also be a challenge for freelancers - and an ongoing undertaking.
As part of our new mini-series, Freelancing 101, we're exploring the fundamentals of succeeding in the freelancing world. So, here's how to secure brand new clients and build up your client portfolio - whether you're brand new to freelancing, or looking to polish your skills.
5 Steps to Securing New Clients With the Perfect Pitch
- Elevator Pitch. Succinctly demonstrate who you are, the skills and specialisms you offer, and any information that might be applicable to your prospect, like industry or experience with certain brands. Aim for no more than a few lines, or around 30-40 seconds.
- Assess Needs & Obstacles. Even the most detailed of briefs may not give the full picture. Ask about the why, a client’s stakeholders, current processes etc. Assessing the full spectrum of a business' pain points will help you hit the right notes, and subtly demonstrate experience and competency.
- Make An [Honest] Promise. If your skills align with a prospect's goals, (and your values and ways of working complement one another), it's time to close. Outline how you'll approach the project, highlighting how your specific services fit their brief, and the results you'll drive.
- Provide Proof Points. In some cases, up-to-date profiles and a portfolio or work examples could suffice, but in others, you may be required to develop a full-scale proposal. Incorporate key asks and objectives, include actions and deliverables, and the precise ways you'll measure success.
- Summary & Next Steps. Whether it's an initial conversation or a formal proposal, conclude every pitch meeting with a brief summary of what's been discussed, and set out firm next steps to manage expectations. It's not always feasible, but do try to schedule your next meeting then and there.
4 Best Practice Tips
- Read Between the Lines. It's as much about your own observations as what you're told. Be it their brief, in their comms with you, or even their digital channels, reading between the lines will give you a clearer picture of their pain points to provide more precise solutions.
- Consult. Chances are, your client wants more than delivered services. Most leaders look to talent for insightful recommendations, so offer a consultative approach - even if that means suggesting different or additional services to their initial brief.
- Spot Nonverbals. You won't gel with every single prospect, or nail every pitch. So look out for cues that they might be disinterested or uncertain. Hesitation and long silences, crossed arms and preoccupation elsewhere are all signs that shifting focus or wrapping up might be best.
- Prompt Follow-ups. 'Prompt' means different things to different people. Get ahead of the curve and send any information or resources you promised within a few days. Even if they can't commit to reviews for a week or two, it shows you're on the ball - and they're on your mind.
3 Ways to Find Great Client Prospects
- Former Colleagues. Brands are increasingly opting for freelance talent in a bid to maintain agile, flexible business models. So if you have contacts in an agency or business, it's always worth reaching out - particularly if they have experience of working with you directly.
- Other Freelancers & Professionals. Collaboration is an emerging trend in the freelancing world. Keeping close contact with fellow consultants and professionals will keep you stay front of mind for upcoming opportunities, and could help you break into new industries.
- The Work Crowd. Every day, our team connects business leaders across industries and regions with skilled freelancers just like yourself. Sign up to our platform to browse projects from every area of the marketing mix (and beyond), and find your next big opportunity.
Building up your portfolio isn't all about taking the first client or project you see. As you develop, you'll benefit from strategically assessing your portfolio against your own personal objectives, and seeking the right opportunities to help get you there.
Pitching isn't always the simplest - or quickest - of processes, and rarely do two ever happen in the same way. But like many skills, the more you do it, the better you'll become at pinpointing needs and frustrations, singing the right tune, and securing that signature.
For more insights and how-tos, we have the perfect resource for you. Our Ultimate Guide to Freelancing has been specifically designed to support with some of the biggest needs, wants and challenges facing self-employed professionals today and tomorrow.