To this point, I’ve tried to cover topics in a way that prepared you mentally for what to expect when the time came to actually do professional writing work. But, eventually, you need to get your hands dirty. In one of my recent posts, you learned where to find clients. In this one I’m going to discuss how to get those clients on your roster.
The most important thing to remember about the client hunt is this: it matters little what you are; it only matters what they see.
Most of the time, the way that you present yourself depends on the avenue by which you are trying to woo a particular client. That is because each method allows you to present only a limited amount of your overall self. Understanding the differences between your pitches will enable you to make the most of your opportunities and pick up the most paying jobs.
Keep reading to learn about the best ways to pitch different clients.
On platforms like oDesk and Elance
On these freelancing platforms, the process works in an established way and it is entirely client-driven. It begins when someone – an individual, an organization, or a business – develops a need for written content. What, exactly, they need could be anything. The client then posts his need for a writer with a description of the project. Interested contractors (like you) then express interest by submitting bids.
You win jobs with good bids.
Every bid is broken up into as many as six pieces:
- Price – explains how much work you’ll do for how much money. This can be noted as an overall fixed price or in terms of rates.
- Timeline – estimates how long it will take you to complete the workload.
- Introduction – a brief opportunity for a personal touch. Gives you a chance to mention your skill set, your personal interest in the project, and/or your specialties.
- Pitch – in short, the pitch is a masked version of the statement, “You need me because ________.”
- Questions – clarify the project by asking about terms, topics, expectations, etc.
- Answers – if you are presented with questions, you must provide answers. If requested, this includes samples of previous work.
Your bids don’t provide you with the opportunity to explain a whole lot about yourself. They will be submitted alongside a bunch of others and clients don’t have the time to read your life story. You need to be concise while addressing the points above.
The secret to good bids
Bidding is the professional equivalent of flirting. You want to put yourself out there enough that you are worth interacting with, but you don’t want to show your whole hand at once. I recommend playing to your client’s human nature by piquing their interest and forcing them to contact you.
The best way to do that is to leave out key parts of your bid. Generally, I don’t recommend ignoring them altogether, but I don’t always give them the hard answers they’re looking for. Here are two examples from bids I’ve used in the past:
“I usually charge about $0.17/word, but I’d be willing to negotiate a discounted rate for this particular project.”
“I don’t foresee this project requiring too much time, but I’d like to talk to you about research requirements before I commit to a timeline.”
The way that you make this strategy work for you is to have an otherwise great bid. Your bids should work like a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. While I think that “professional tones” are overrated, I suggest writing in that fashion to start. Over time, as you become more comfortable, I recommend adopting your own voice in your bids.
For those of who you enjoy multiple forms of writing, you should recognize the different between different literary forms. The novel, for instance, is long-form. You have tens of thousands of words to develop characters, emotions, tone, and to hook the reader. Poetry, on the other hand, is generally short-form. Therefore, poetry requires highly concentrated, well-selected language to have the same impact on a reader as a novel. In some ways, your job-seeking interactions are the same way.
And coldcalling is a haiku.
If you’re a good talker and can think well on your feet, coldcalling might be a decent way to pick up jobs, but you’ll need fortitude. As some other WAHtips members may be able to tell you, it’s hard to pull someone away from their morning muffin and then make a hard sell. However, it is possible.
To increase your chances, I suggest following these three tips:
- Target your local area
- Practice ahead of time
- Offer something specific
Targeting your local area
If you make calls to people all over the country (or the world) to try and pick up jobs, you have absolutely nothing in common with them. With people in your county or neighborhood, at least you have a starting point. If you’re lucky, they may ask questions about where you’re located or something in that vein. Even simple things like that make the transition into your pitch easier.
Targeting your local area also allows you to justify “special rates” or “sales” on your services. That small sense of community may be enough for some potential clients.
Practice ahead of time
Coldcalling is hard. Don’t make it harder by going in blind.
Offer something specific
If you ask a stranger “do you need any writing completed,” you’re actually asking them to do work for you by thinking about it. The easy answer (and the one they’ll give you) is “no.” When you offer something specific, you might actually remind them of their own need. Then you have a shot.
When I started this whole thing, I quickly gave myself a professional title. Even now, you can see it on my LinkedIn profile. It reads “Web Content Creator and Consultant.” Therefore, it makes sense for me to sell web writing services. If I were to coldcall, I would do a little research about the contact and then begin with something like this:
Good morning, sir! I’m Daniel and I’m a freelance writer in Delaware County. I’m calling today because I’m running a sale on my website writing services for residents and business owners of Delaware County. Your business is located in Delaware County, isn’t it? (Yes) Does your business have a website? (Yes) Well, for new clients who sign up this week, I’m offering my Website Revival package at only $200. It includes writing or rewriting of your About Us page, sales copy, and up to five blog posts on topics of your choice.
The trick is to get them saying yes and then offer them a fair deal. Intimidated by coldcalling? Then you need to pick up this classic book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
Networking, whether online or in person, works in the same way. It’s an upfront investment hoping to receive future returns. But get one thing straight: you will not be awarded a job on your handshake alone until you’re good enough to have long forgotten about this guide.
That’s just the way it is. Until you’ve received some level of notoriety, you cannot expect to be trusted from the jump.
Successful networking depends heavily upon your ability to be enjoyable company. Whether you are commenting on someone’s status update or telling jokes at your city’s chamber of commerce event, the most important thing is to be likeable. People want to work with people they like. In fact, people who like you may even refer you clients simply because you’re cool to be around.
If you’re not entirely comfortable in social situations where you have to “put yourself out there” a little bit, then networking may be difficult for you. You can get better with practice or by taking me up on my earlier suggestion and getting Dale Carnegie’s famous how-to book.
Social networking is about well-timed plugs and maintaining a presence. In-the-flesh networking, on the other hand, is a little more dynamic than that. Here are my top suggestions for real-life networking events:
- Have business cards – they’re like a side salad to your handshake plus it’s an easy way to exchange contact information
- Enjoy yourself – you work at home now, so it’s nice to have a morning, afternoon, or evening out. Take advantage of it, but don’t go crazy on the booze.
- Help other people – if you meet a guy who designs websites and have a friend who needs a website designer, refer your friend to your new contact. Scratching backs is a great way to develop professional relationships and increase your circle of influence.
Networking is really just a place to meet the kind of people you would call “work friends.” So be friendly and act like a friend would. Positive relationships (in your personal and professional lives) can lead to jobs just like anything else.
References are your best friend. They’re the easiest clients to convert because someone that the client trusts already sold them on you. Most references are simple. Often as not, they are little more than, “Oh, I know a writer, he’s a good guy. Here’s his email.”
The important thing to remember about references is that, usually, they are personal contacts of a) clients, or b) people you know in your personal life. Treat them well. If you don’t, there could be negative consequences. Another thing to note is that if a referral comes to you from an existing client, then the referral might already have an idea of what you charge. That can sometimes handcuff you a little bit during negotiations, but I wouldn’t sweat it. As long as you don’t do anything crazy, the referral client is already in the bag!
Wrapping it up
Winning your first few jobs makes you feel like a million bucks, because now you have some credibility. Plus, they enable you to start earning money from home.
Your hunt for clients might be different than mine, but here were the realizations that led me to landing more (and better) clients:
- In the end, you’re dealing with people. Treat them that way.
- When you get a response to your bid, coldcall, or networking, don’t be nervous. You’ve already impressed them and now they’re just making sure you’re not crazy.
- You don’t need to master all of these methods. If one is sufficient to fill your client roster, then that’s all you need.
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities and always have your elevator pitch ready. People in your life are going to ask what you do, so make yourself sound valuable.
Have you recently used and of these methods successfully to pick up a job? Tell me about it in the comments below!