As a freelancer, you’re a business owner who’s responsible for selling your services. That’s the only way you’ll grow your business. Sure, your work speaks for itself to a certain point. But it’s on you to get your work in front of clients and to sell its value for their individual business. Even more so, your clients want to know what it’s like working with you as a person. You’re selling an entire package.
If you’re new to freelancing, navigating the sales process can seem like entering the great abyss. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. To help you get started, we put together this introduction to sales and closing clients as a freelancer. This guide focuses on what to do after you’ve already identified a lead. For more guidance on where to find your clients, check out this article.
1) Submitting the perfect pitch or proposal
Once you’ve found a client lead you know you’re a great fit for, it’s time to send the perfect pitch. First, do your research. Make sure you know everything there is to know about the company. Read through the job brief and identify their pain points. Then, as you look through their website, social channels and press coverage, start identifying areas of improvement and opportunity. When drafting your pitch, focus on how your skills and services will solve their pain points.
Sometimes, a client will focus on the services they need or think they need rather than problems. In that case, ask a couple questions about their goals before moving forward with your pitch. As Brennan Dunn from Double Your Freelancing says, “The truth is, if you’re a consultant, any job post or inbound inquiry is a request for your help educating on what the right solution to a problem is.”
Your pitch should demonstrate that you care about their success. If you can explain to them that one strategy will be better than another, you’ll likely hook them before even having to pitch. It’s even better if you can tell them how they’ll save money with your strategy.
Keep your pitch short, clear and to the point. Outline what you can offer, the impact it will have, and the timeframe in which you can accomplish it. Focus on how you can solve their problem and why you’re the best to do so. Include quantifiable results you’ve achieved in the past for similar clients or links to examples if you’re pitching visuals like a design project. For added credibility, either link to past client testimonials or offer to provide references.
You won’t always have a job brief to pitch from. Sometimes a lead is warm. Let’s say a friend sent an intro but you don’t know much about the job yet. In that case, your first email will be more causal. Introduce yourself, link to your portfolio and offer times to get on a call and learn more about their needs. After that, you can submit a formal pitch.
2) Discussing budget
Let’s say you’ve sent your perfect pitch and the client wants to know more about your rates. It’s time to negotiate. Sometimes this will be a quicker process than others. If the client shares a budget in their brief and that budget works for you, there’s not much to be discussed. But, if they don’t, it’s usually up to you to set a baseline rate to discuss.
If you’re new to pricing your services, check out our recent guide to pricing. To set your rate for an individual project, you have to first understand what the market rate is. Check to see what other freelancers are charging for similar projects, as well as client budgets. Then, factor in the quality level and demand for your work. Reflect on what you’ve charged in the past. If you felt like you delivered more value for what you received, raise your rates a bit.
Always be open to negotiations. If your client can’t afford the rate you quoted, scale back on the offerings a little bit to meet them in the middle. Or, consider starting off at a slightly lower rate and work a review period for rate increase into the contract. At that point, they can either pay you more or you can part ways amicably.
Communicate the value you’re providing again. Break down what you’re offering and roughly what goes into the work. Don’t go into detail about every task. Simply explain why the costs are what they are. They just want to understand what they’re paying for in order to justify the expense.
3) Following up
So you’ve pitched your client and discussed your rates. They seem excited, but then…crickets. They fall off and you have no idea if they’re going to hire you. It’s your turn to follow up!
In all likelihood, they just got busy and put hiring on the backburner. Or, they’re considering other freelancers for the job. Either way, don’t feel like you’re bugging them by following up.
If you haven’t heard back in 5-7 days, send a short follow-up email. There are two schools of thought around the follow-up email, both proven to be effective in different situations. One is to be super brief with something along the lines of:
“Hi [Name] – I haven’t heard back from you. Are you still interested in working on this? It might be helpful to jump on a 15-minute call to answer any questions about my proposal. Are you available any of these three times next week…”
The other option is to get slightly more granular and remind them of the value you’re offering. Check their social media accounts to see what’s new with the company and if there’s anything new you can comment on. This will show your commitment to and interest in the company. Remind them why you’re best for the job by giving something away. David Khim from Sidekick by Hubspot shared an example:
“Hi [Name] – I haven’t heard back from you. If you still aren’t ready to do a complete redesign of your website, here are three easy changes you can make in the meantime to improve your website …”
Deciding which approach to take is determined by your interactions with them. Go with your gut. If they don’t respond to your first follow-up email, send another one a week later. Keep it casual and short but show your enthusiasm for the project. Consider sending something along the lines of:
“Hi [Name] – I know you’re very busy. I just wanted to check in to see if you’re still looking for a freelancer. I’m really excited about working on the project because of X. I’d love to help you achieve X. Are you still interested in working together or have you moved forward with another option? Thank you for your time!”
4) Responding to a “no”
According to The Marketing Donut, 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes.” Sometimes this is in the form of a straight up “no.” Other times, it’s a “not now” or a “not yet.” Other times it’s “we decided to go with someone else but let’s keep in touch!”
No matter the format, a no doesn’t mean your prospect is never willing to work with you. That said, don’t be pushy. Graciously accept their no and thank them for their time and consideration. But keep the lines of communication open!
If you have a good relationship with your prospect, ask them for feedback on your pitch. Explain that you know they’re busy but if they have a few moments to share why they didn’t move forward with you, it’d be incredibly helpful for future work.
Check in with your prospects who say no a couple of months later to see how the project is going. Keep up with their company news to congratulate them on any milestones, etc. Depending on their response, you can ask how you can help. By staying in touch, they won’t forget your interest in their success and will be more likely to think of you for future opportunities.
A healthy client relationship is all about identifying how you can have a mutually beneficial experience. During the sales and closing process, you’ll learn how the client communicates and works. The process will likely reflect what it will be like to work with each other. If you’re both open, honest, and communicative, you’ll set yourself up for a positive experience from the get-go.
If you’re looking for new clients to work with, check out the available jobs on the CloudPeeps platform and make sure your profile is up-to-date!
*Above photo by Sarah Dorweiler.*
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