When many freelancers pitch to clients, they find it to be one of the scariest parts of the freelancing process. But it shouldn’t be. Trust me, I’ve seen hundreds of pitches come across my desk and most freelancers aren’t doing it right. That offers you a way to step in and impress future clients easily.
Start by learning these 5 quick steps to disaster. (If you’re NOT doing these, you’ll be way ahead of most other freelancers.)
Learning to pitch clients is an integral part of how to start freelancing so make sure you understand how to do it well from the beginning.
1. Making the pitch too long
Nobody has time to read an essay of a pitch. You’ve got to put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes and understand that they have an inbox filled with messages. They’ve also got Asana or Trello boards filled with messages, Slack channels blowing up with things they’re needed for … and that doesn’t even begin to touch on all the things going on in their personal lives.
So the last thing they want is to read a long drawn out email all about you.
Here’s a tip I can tell you (as a freelancer who got successful quickly by figuring out how to pitch clients properly) and as someone who has hired hundreds of other freelancers in the time since. It’s going to sound a little harsh but here it is:
I don’t care about you. I only care about what you can do to help my business.
Remember this every time you’re getting ready to pitch clients. You always want to structure things around what benefit they will get from working with you.
Granted, as time goes on and we begin to develop a long-term working relationship I will get to know you and care about your life but when that email first lands in my inbox I don’t.
I have problems, I’m busy, your pitch needs to quickly give me reasons why I should work with you and help me understand how you can fix my problems. (See more about this and an example email in tip 5).
2. Making the pitch too short
I will never hire someone who gives me a quick couple of lines that tell me virtually nothing. No quality prospective client is going to respond to an email like this:
Why? Because it just screams laziness all around.
- I don’t know what you do
- I don’t know what your relevant skills are
- I have no idea what position you are interested in or qualified for
- I don’t know if you’ve checked out my business and have genuine ideas for ways to help me with my needs
- I don’t feel like going through your resume and looking for possible matches between what we need and what you do
- (Also, I believe resumes are mostly bullshit … I was the queen of BSing my skills back in the day to make them sound more important)
All I do know is that your interest in a job was such a low level that you wrote one sentence, attached your resume, and forwarded it off hoping that a job would magically fall in your lap. It won’t.
(Bonus dating tip … the above is basically the equivalent of throwing up two crappy photos and not filling out your Tinder bio. I’m not swiping. You put in minimum effort. This tells me everything I need to know about you.)
3. Not including the most important details right away when you pitch clients
When you’re going to cold pitch clients you need to immediately give them something to care about when reading your pitch. (On average, busy professionals receive 120 new emails each day.)
I once helped to edit a book that ended up on a NY Times bestseller list. THAT catches someone’s eye because so many people have heard of the NY Times bestseller list. Listen, guys, first of all, it was an e-book by a popular finance blogger, not a hardcopy book. Second of all my name wasn’t credited anywhere on the book but it was true that I helped to edit it and could prove that if asked. But I didn’t lead with that. I spun it positively.
If you and your potential client both know some of the same people, you need to name drop and name drop fast. Establish a connection. (Bonus tip! If you’ve got testimonials that neatly fit into a sentence or two you can include one in the email as well.)
If you’ve worked on some pretty big projects and gotten amazing results you’re going to want to include that. It doesn’t matter if you did this stuff freelance, with a previous client, with an agency, or with your former employer, the important thing is you’ve got to highlight it.
Put the most attention-grabbing stuff upfront when you pitch clients. Because if you don’t, the client might not even get to the later parts. Include visuals if you’ve got them. For example, you could include a chart showing how your efforts increased revenue by X amount for a previous client.
I once pitched a prospective client (with this free script) and he called me in 10 minutes!!!
I didn’t even have his email address, I’d submitted the pitch through the contact form on his website. He even said to me, “Your pitch is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. So many people bury the important stuff way down in the bottom but you got my attention right away.”
Always, always, always put the most important stuff at the top when you pitch clients.
4. Not customizing the pitch to the person on the other end
What’s wrong with this email? It’s obvious that it’s not customized. This person just thought they could pitch clients by typing up a generic email, and then sending it out to a bunch of people.
Only trouble is, the one to me wasn’t sent until June. They didn’t even take the time to update the body of the email — a sure sign that it’s a copy/paste pitch to clients versus customized to me.
Here’s another example …
Here’s another example … in this one the person doing the pitch didn’t even bother to find out about my client’s businesses. She’s pitching us for hotel stories and a brand partnership that would encourage her followers to stay with us and we’re not a hotel!
This is super inauthentic and just goes straight to the trash. While you can use a base template (like this pitch I give away for free) it should always be a base! Each detail should be customized to the client’s specific business and needs.
5. Talking about yourself too much when you pitch clients.
Don’t talk about your background unless it’s relevant to the client’s problem and how you can solve it. I don’t include where I went to school because it doesn’t matter. But if I went to MIT and that was somehow relevant and important to the client, then I would include it.
No one cares that you’ve been looking for freelance work for a while, or that you made the transition to freelance work after you broke up with your boyfriend and started a life over from scratch. Or that you’re thinking of moving to Australia and buying a van and doing the #vanlife thing for awhile.
They don’t care. They’re focused on their business goals and it only matters what you can do for them.
The email below breaks tip 1 (making the pitch too long) as well as talking too much about yourself. This guy genuinely seems like a nice guy, but I don’t understand how he can help solve my problems. I can’t say it enough, you’ve got to focus on your clients’ businesses every time you pitch clients. Focus on how you can help them with their problems!
Keep these 5 tips in mind the next time you go to pitch clients and you’ll be far ahead of the rest of the crowd.
If you’re not sure how to start your pitch, come and join our online freelancing community! Connect with me and a host of other amazing and talented freelancers and ask all the pitching questions you may have.