When you’re hired to freelance for a company, it’s possible your employer will have a project ready for you, complete with set guidelines and a deadline. Some companies have online bulletin boards with lists of projects for their freelance workers, allowing you to choose the ones that fit in your schedule.
However, there’s another option that not all freelancers take advantage of — pitching their own projects. Freelancers who do this approach clients with ideas for new blog posts, websites, art designs, and other projects designed to help the company reach its goals.
Understandably, pitching your own project can be nerve-wracking. It’s sometimes more comfortable to just take whatever assignment you’re given and let your client come up with the ideas.
Even so, pitching is an important part of succeeding as a freelancer and comes with many benefits. To help you master this skill, this article covers some of the best strategies for crafting winning pitches.
If you’re new to freelancing, it might surprise you to learn that pitching isn’t something done by only established freelancers — it’s a skill you should learn before applying for your first job. Here are some ways pitching helps you throughout your freelancing career.
Some beginning freelancers find work by going to online job boards and filling out applications. Others take a more direct route by sending “cold” emails to companies they’d like to work for, and advertise their freelancing services to the manager or director.
But it’s not enough to say you’re a good freelance writer or web designer — you have to show you’re a good fit for the company. And while including a link to your online portfolio might showcase your skills, a well-crafted pitch reveals you know how to apply those skills to that company’s goals.
Offer some ideas for projects you could do for the company based on what you learned about their business. Even if the manager doesn’t use them, showing you were willing to research their goals and craft some thought-out pitches elevates your email and makes you a more viable job candidate.
Once you get hired, you shouldn’t limit yourself to projects assigned to you. Instead, spend some time pitching ideas to your client or on the company’s online forum. Some forums have a space for freelancers to submit ideas, making it easier to share pitches.
Why should you keep pitching? Because the more your client realizes you’re willing to take the initiative to come up with your own projects — saving them time and effort — the more valuable you become.
Suddenly you’re no longer some random freelancer who takes on a few spot projects — you’re an important member of their team who contributes to the company’s goals. This will come very handy when it comes time to renegotiate your contract.
One of the biggest pet peeves freelancers have concerns the infrequency of their work. Some months are filled with plenty of projects attached to big paychecks. Others are sparser, trapping freelancers in a “feast or famine” cycle.
But that doesn’t need to be the case if you know how to craft great pitches. Once clients know you can come up with good project ideas — and if those projects perform well — they’ll be more willing to let you fill your work schedule with projects you pitched yourself. That’s a great way to assign yourself all the work you want during an otherwise “lean” month.
Conversely, if you feel like taking some time off, you can plan on cutting back on your pitches and open up your schedule. Since you know your clients are receptive to your pitches, you won’t have to stress about not having enough work once you come back. As long as you manage all of your projects with an effective project management system, your workflow will become much easier to deal with.
Let’s be honest — given the choice, we’d all rather work on projects that fall in our interest areas and not some generic assignment anyone could complete. A lot of freelancers take a bunch of routine assignments hoping their clients will eventually move them up to something more stimulating.
But why wait for that to happen? When you pitch your own projects, you can make sure you’re immersed in subjects that you’re passionate about. Frankly, your interest in the project will make your pitch more enticing, increasing the likelihood that you’ll be given the go-ahead.
Better yet, since you’re already know a lot about your project, you won’t have to spend a lot of time researching, meaning you can work faster and create a better end product. That in itself makes you a much more valuable resource for your client.
Building a personal brand allows freelancers to show they specialize in niche areas, allowing them to be hired for high-paying jobs in those fields. However, if you just take random freelance assignments, your portfolio won’t showcase your special skill set.
Start pitching projects that fall into your desired niche area. Then you’ll amass more experience and credits in the field you enjoy, allowing you to build your brand. As your pitching skills improve, you’ll be able to control how your portfolio grows and choose the direction of your freelance career.
Now that you know why you should create pitches, let’s look at how to craft pitches your clients will love. Regardless of what freelance industry you’re working in, all successful pitches require you to use the following four strategies.
The success of any project hinges on how well it meets the needs of your client’s audience. So, to craft a winning project pitch, you’ll need to learn what that audience wants.
Start online. Visit websites like Quora that allow people to ask questions about different industries. Find out what issues keep coming up and brainstorm potential projects that could provide useful resource to solve common problems.
Consider what’s missing from current offerings.
Sometimes, all that’s needed to create an innovative pitch is to find a new angle for something that’s been redone multiple times.
For instance, there are plenty of blog posts advising job seekers on how to answer questions during a job interview. But there aren’t as many articles that focus on the questions job seekers should ask the interviewer during the meeting. Realizing this, I pitched an article on “Questions to Ask Your Freelance Client During a Job Interview” and got the okay from my editors at Moxie.
No matter how creative your ideas may be, they still need to fit within the framework of your client’s business plan. A blog post on the best ways to get in shape at age forty might attract attention, but if the website you’re pitching it to is aimed at twenty-year-old readers, it won’t fit its theme.
That said, if an idea for a pitch excites you, save it. Odds are you’ll come across several opportunities where you can rework it into a viable pitch for future clients.
One of the best ways to get your pitches accepted by your client is to show how your proposed project will benefit the company. One good way to do this is to show how your pitch enhances the company’s other projects. For instance, when I noticed Moxie had published an article on how to calculate higher rates for freelance services, I pitched a follow-up article that offered tactics for how freelancers can actually ask for that raise from their employers.
Since the company has already invested resources in projects related to (but not identical to) your pitch, your chances of having your project accepted become much greater.
At the end of the day, pitching is a numbers game. You might spend a lot of time crafting a single perfect pitch, but even if your client agrees it’s a great idea, it might not fit into their work schedule at the time.
That’s why it’s important to offer multiple pitches on a regular basis. Don’t spend too much time turning your pitch into a full-blown freelancing proposal — just provide a few sentences explaining your basic idea, how it fits within your client’s vision, and how it benefits your client. If they accept it — great! If not, don’t worry. You still have more ideas to share.
Get in the habit of jotting down potential pitches as the ideas come and then transfer them into a Word document to be referenced and reworked later on. After a while, you’ll be surprised by how fast your brain comes up with potential projects. And having a database of ideas ensures you’ll always be ready to offer some viable pitches when the time comes.
If you got into freelancing to build your own business, you likely have a lot of creative ideas about the job you want. So, why not use that creativity to pitch the projects you want to tackle? As long as you research your client’s needs, your employer will appreciate your efforts, and your work will become more fun.
More importantly, pitching helps you decide how you want to evolve as a freelancer. As you get more comfortable coming up with projects, you’ll gain a better understanding of the jobs you’re best suited for and the type of work you enjoy. This will help guide you toward clients who share your vision and take your career in a more fulfilling direction.