One of the most common questions we get asked by freelancers is how to approach pitching and winning new business. It can be one of the toughest parts of the job, as you want to impress, but you don’t want to spend so much time on wooing clients that you never make any money!
Getting the balance right can be tricky.You might not be able to read the minds of potential clients, but we’ve got the next best thing. From years of experience matching freelancers and businesses, we’ve built up a good idea of what works and what doesn’t when making an approach. Here’s our top pointers for maximising those precious leads when they come through:
The introduction: Your first opportunity to make an impact, a good introductory message should do three things. First, flattery will get you everywhere! So, briefly tell the client how excited you were to read their job post, how much you admire the company or what they have planned (something along those lines, without straying into cheesy territory of course!) Secondly, introduce yourself by giving a bit of background about your relevant experience, with a few brands names you’ve worked with in their industry and what you’ve achieved for them. You could also drop in what you consider to be your USPs. Finally, suggest a follow up call or meeting so you can find out more. If they ask any specific questions in their brief, make sure you also address those. But otherwise less is more. We’ve found it also helps to keep your writing style natural and friendly, rather than formal. Let your personality shine through!
A foot in the door: If all goes well, you’ll soon have a telephone chat or meeting booked in, giving you a chance to find out more about the project and show off why you’re the best freelancer for the job. Make sure you prepare thoroughly, having an idea of what you want to cover beforehand and do your research about the business, its competitors and the industry landscape. Showing your interest in their brand and project goes a long way and you can do this by having lots of insights and intelligent questions at the ready. Have a read of our blog on the questions you can expect from potential clients to help you swot up. The call or meeting is also a chance to find out more about how the client plans to choose a freelancer and whether a more formal proposal will be required.
Proposal time: It’s normal for clients with larger projects to ask a shortlist of freelancers to submit proposals for the work. If this is the case, it’s vital to qualify carefully what level of detail they’re expecting, the budget they have available and how many other freelancers you’re up against. As you’ll know only too well, when you’re self-employed, time is money. So, it’s only fair that you know it’s worth putting the effort in, and what level of time investment is required. If the budget is good and you know you have a decent chance of winning, then you can feel confident spending the time creating a plan that stands out. And remember, don’t feel like you can’t pitch for bigger projects if you don’t have all the skills required. The Work Crowd is helping more and more freelancers to work as teams, to spread the workload and involve specialist skills. Find out more in our blog on scaling your PR and marketing with a team of freelancers.
Making a personal impact: In our experience, clients are looking for a freelance partner who can work with them to understand their business needs and is confident leading and driving a project forward. Do remember to manage the client’s expectations in terms of what is realistic within the budget and timeframe. If you feel what they’ve outlined is unrealistic then say so, or face the consequences later! Ideas are important, but they should be balanced with the strategy, focus and direction for execution. It’s also important for both parties that you ‘get’ the brand and there is the right synergy in terms of personality and ways of working.
Keep those wheels turning: It is often said that time is the biggest deal killer, so don’t let it beat you! Keep the positive momentum going by being proactive and direct, prompt in responding and following up, and giving clear timeframes regarding your availability and what should happen next. You don’t want to hassle clients, but stay on top of the lead, or you could find it goes cold.
Win or lose? If you win – hooray! Time to get started. Be quick off the mark and keep that momentum going as you kick off the project. If you didn’t win this time, no sour grapes! It happens, it’s business and there are bound to be loads of lessons you can take from the process - why didn’t you win, what could you do better next time. See if you can get some detailed feedback from the client and above all, be friendly, polite and gracious in defeat. PR is a small world, so you never know when your paths might cross again.
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