When starting out as a freelancer, there are some clear steps you can take towards pitching successfully for work.
Being able to chase new leads and pick up fresh freelance work on a regular basis is of vital importance when trying to set up your freelance career. In order to be successful you need to be approaching clients, pitching ideas, and converting those pitches into contracts. When getting started, some freelancers will either depend on on-going long-term projects or supplement their freelance endeavours with some shift work. While this may seem like betraying the ‘freelance cause’ it can be a sensible move, ensuring that you keep some contacts in the industry who you see regularly; and having these contacts are important when you are trying to ensure a constant flow of opportunities and work. This can also help you to realise who you need to make contact with going forwards, getting tips from current clients on who are the deal-makers/breakers in other businesses. Having contacts is one thing, but in order to progress you need to make the ‘right contacts’. Yes, this can seem like shallow networking, but this is the best way to find new avenues for work.
Getting to know the deal-makers
When you’re looking for new projects to work on, it can seem helpful to talk to anyone at any level in various start-ups and businesses, but getting to know the deal-makers is of real importance. You want to find out who is responsible for green-lighting work and what they are looking for, what sort of freelancer appeals to them? This takes a little bit of sleuthing, to find out what they want and what they like, and a little bit of leg-work to ensure they know your face, your work, and your quality. Think of it as being similar to dating – but dating where there is no time to simply ‘let love happen’ (after all, you’re looking for work, not ‘the one’). You want to know what impresses them, how you can make a good impression, and then you need to make your name stick. You want to get them hook, line and sinker; you want them calling you to ask for your services. Like dating, it may not be that simple in the end – there may be some pitching required – but putting in the extra time and effort up front can reap rewards further down the line. You can’t afford to leave the search for work until all of your current streams have dried up, some time in your working week (even while you’re busy) should be dedicated to reaching out to potential clients, practicing your pitch and building on relationships you have already established. Look for new projects and make sure you aren’t taking current clients for granted.
The call after the ‘first date’
If you spent any time watching sit-coms in the 90s and 00s you’ll have learned how much people can obsess about when to ‘call back’ after a first date; just the same fuss can be made when pitching for work. Timing is everything. It is probably worth mentioning that unlike a sit-com, you are simply looking for work and you are trying to make the ‘deal-maker’s’ life as easy as possible. With that in mind, it can help to send across a quick email or make a polite phone call just to remind them that you are here, still producing the same quality work, and still looking forward to any opportunities to work with them. Reminding them of your presence and enthusiasm (neither of which is guaranteed to last in the freelance trade) can be what is needed to push a project your way. This will mean putting a little extra effort into your elevator pitch – just like they work on their flirting in those sit-coms – to make it clear what you are proposing and why working with you is a good idea for all parties. It’s not so much about rigor or detail as it is about inspiration and imagination. Don’t leave them cold, this wastes everyone’s time.
Preparing to flirt: using your elevator pitch
Being a freelancer comes with lots of roles, and as a part of that you need to make sure you’re always prepared; you need to be ready to let your pitch loose at a moment’s notice when you stumble across a prospective client. This doesn’t just mean reeling off a title, such as ‘freelance journalist’ or ‘web designer’, because this doesn’t allow you to really sell yourself or your skills. Rather than a title, you should prepare a brief advertisement of what you do, aiming to get across the most important details and information about your business. We meet people all of the time, in various situation and places, where there will be plenty of opportunities for making connections. Whether you are at networking events, conferences, or press events, you want an elevator pitch which creates intrigue, awareness of what you do and interest in your services. Make sure you cover who you are, what you do, what your best skills/projects are, and why clients should care. You can be specific and succinct, giving key details in a clear and concise manner. In most ways, this is like a laid back job interview, but where the interviewer knows very little about you or your job. You need to be ready to be informative and persuasive, without coming across as a salesman (it’s a good idea to practise so that it becomes second nature to you, while not sounding like a robot).