On your first day as a freelancer, you inherit a responsibility to be more than just a service provider. You’re now a business owner — a company of one. To succeed, you also need to become the accounting team, marketing team, and most importantly, the sales team.
Getting new clients is all about your ability to sell yourself — on your website, in an email, over the phone, and in-person.
This is perhaps the most essential of all freelancing skills and yet, it’s the primary reason why so many freelancers struggle to get new clients.
So if you’re planning to succeed as a freelancer long-term, you have to master the art of creating sales pitches.
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What is a sales pitch?
With self-employment rates skyrocketing, clients have more options than ever. They can hire anyone for any service, at any time.
A sales pitch is your best attempt at showing a prospective client why they should hire you. Typically delivered through a written proposal, it outlines why they should spend money and invest in your services.
Imagine a pitcher at a baseball game. He doesn’t just throw a 90mph fastball. His pitch actually starts when the batter first steps up to the plate.
He strategically decides what type of pitch to throw based on that specific batter, on that specific day, in that specific game. Once he’s ready to throw, there’s a brief pause before the windup, then he finally makes the pitch.
But he doesn’t stop there. He follows up two more times based on how his first (and best) pitch was received.
Just like a pitch in baseball, your freelance sales pitch actually starts during your first interaction with the client and sometimes you have to follow up to close the deal.
Using my strategic sales process, I’ve been able to close nearly 100% of the 5-figure projects I write a proposal for. In other words, by the time I send a proposal to a client, it’s almost guaranteed to come back signed.
Preparing the client to receive your sales pitch
The goal of any freelance sales pitch is, of course, to successfully convince the client to hire you for their project over the competition.
While some can be delivered in-person, many sales pitches are delivered using a written proposal — a document which outlines the problem, goals, and solution, along with details regarding the timeline, price, and scope of work.
Unfortunately, most freelancers waste hours writing proposals only to send them out and hear crickets. *chirp chirp*
That’s because the client was simply never ready for the pitch. Maybe the price was too high or they didn’t believe in your ability to solve their problem. Maybe it was because your proposal was cluttered with legal jargon.
This happens when you fail to demonstrate the value of your work and connect their underlying problem to the solution you’re providing.
If you provide digital services like web design, the sales process actually starts on your website. A prospective client should be able to find you, learn about the services you provide, view examples of your work, read testimonials, and contact you with ease.
The more informative and enticing your website is, the more likely it is that a client will contact you about their project.
Once they do, you’ve curated what’s known as a “warm lead” in the sales world. In other words, that person has already overcome a series of mental objections and is ready to share the details of their project with you.
Presumably, they need your services, like your work, and feel confident that you can provide the solution they’re looking for.
From there, it’s simply a matter of confirming these mental “checkmarks” and further demonstrating that you’re the best person for the job.
Timely communication, clear and concise answers, confidence, kindness, authenticity, and tone of voice all help in providing that re-assurance.
For example, I had a new client pay their entire $26k project fee upfront even though they previously had bad experiences with freelancers. Preparing the client to receive that proposal at every step is what made their final decision feel effortless.
Know who you’re pitching to
After a series of verbal and written conversations, you should have a keen sense of who you’re pitching to. Not just their position in the company, but who they are and how they communicate.
Some people have never hired a freelancer before and need their hand held through the process. Others know exactly what they need and want to get straight down to business.
Understanding who your prospective client is will help you speak and write in a way that resonates with them. That will yield a sense of connection, comfort, and assurance necessary to deliver an effective sales pitch.
Depending on the person, industry, and established etiquette, some freelance sales pitches are best done in person, while others are best delivered in a written proposal.
You’ll also want to make sure that your proposal ends up in the hands of a decision-maker at the company — someone who understands the value of the project, has the authority to receive your sales pitch, and the power to accept your proposal.
That’s exactly how I closed a $95k, 18-month freelance deal with one of the worlds biggest brands: by speaking intelligently and confidently to the decision-makers at the company.
If you deliver a pitch to someone without that authority who’s simply collecting estimates, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear back from them.
Once you’ve gathered enough details to feel comfortable giving the client a price and timeline for their project, it’s time to start preparing your proposal and putting together a winning sales pitch.
How to structure your sales pitch
Whether your presenting in person, over the phone, through email, or in person, there’s a proven structure for success.
The majority of your sales pitch ideas should focus on the problem, goals, and solution. However, it’s wise to include social proof such as testimonials or success metrics from previous projects.
Lastly, you’ll want to include pricing and timeline details along with instructions for next steps.
Here are six fundamental components all sales pitches should include:
- Identify the problem
- Summarize the business goals (or intended outcome)
- Outline the proposed solution
- Provide reassurance using past successes and social proof
- Provide high-level pricing and timeline details
- Clearly outline the next steps
Remember, your sales pitch should be concise and highly-focused. This isn’t the time to show off. These are your closing arguments, where no new evidence should be presented.
For the highest chance of success, your sales pitch should simply summarize everything that’s been discussed to date. Again, nothing you’re presenting should be surprising to the client.
This is a good way to gauge whether or not you’ve done an effective job of preparing them to hire you.
What to include in your sales pitch
While the components outlined above can be presented in any order, outlining the problem and solution first will provide an anchor for your pricing and timeline later on.
By the time your client sees your final pricing, they should already understand that the value of the solution far exceeds the cost.
In other words, if you’re proposing a $10,000 solution to their problem, they should already know that by doing this project, their business stands to make $50-$100k in the first year.
That way, instead of comparing your price to your competitors, they’re comparing it to how much new revenue their business can generate.
1. Identify the problem
By now you should have a clear understanding of the problem you’ll be solving for the client and why it’s important to them. This is your chance to further agitate that pain point in your own words. This accomplishes two important things:
- It reminds the client that you clearly understand what they’re experiencing and why it’s a problem.
- It reminds the client that not solving this problem right now could be devastating to their business.
2. Summarize the business goals
Next, you’ll want to summarize the business goals as accurately as possible. These are typically financial goals, so don’t guess. You simply want to reiterate what you’ve already discussed with the client at a high level.
By summarizing the goals, you’re helping the client visualize where their business will be after the project has been completed successfully.
3. Outline the solution
This is perhaps the most critical step in any pitch. When you outline the solution you’re bridging the gap between the current problem and the future goals.
The most effective sales pitches include financial predictions based on information provided by the client.
For example, maybe the client isn’t getting enough leads from their website. Through a series of questions, you may be able to learn what a lead is worth to the clients business.
From there, it’s easy to say something like, “If we can just get 10 more leads from your website each month, your business revenue could increase by $X next year alone.”
Remember, any predictions or forecasts should be carefully calculated and never guaranteed.
These three fundamental components show the client where they are today, where they can be tomorrow, and how you can help get them there.
Clients have to overcome a series of objections before hiring you:
- “What if they don’t provide good work?”
- “What if the results aren’t what I was expecting?”
- “What if they don’t complete the project on time?”
Social proof helps prospective clients feel more comfortable and confident in their decision to hire you. This is commonly presented in the form of testimonials, work samples, and success metrics.
Clients simply want to know that someone else has gone down this road before and come out on the other side with positive results.
Anything you can do to provide them with re-assurance will make their decision to hire you easier.
5. Provide pricing and timeline details
Now that your client has been properly primed, it’s finally time to share your pricing and payment details.
This tends to works best if you can present multiple options in a variety of price ranges. By offering more than one option, you’re increasing the likelihood that the client will choose to work with you.
At the same time, the client won’t feel the need to price-shop your services as they have a variety of options to choose from. They’ll be weighing the options against each other instead of against your competition.
It’s important to keep this part of your pitch short and simple. Too much focus on the price and you’ll have the client thinking twice.
Don’t forget to include an estimated timeline for each option as well!
6. Outline next steps
You can deliver the best sales pitch in the world, but if the client doesn’t know what to do next, it can quickly negate all your hard work.
At the end of your pitch, make sure the client is presented with an opportunity to move forward. This might be signing a contract or even making a down payment.
Remember, a sales pitch isn’t successful until the client commits to working with you.
3 strategies to use for written pitches
When you deliver a written sales pitch, you inherit a few disadvantages. Namely, your tone of voice and facial expressions are completely lost with a written pitch. You have to rely on your writing ability to communicate a narrative that resonates with your potential clients.
1. Provide a summary email
When delivering your written pitch, make sure it’s accompanied by a great delivery email. You can use this as a way to share your excitement, summarize what they can expect to find, and outline next steps (also found within the proposal itself).
This is also a great opportunity to include more personalized notes based on your previous discussions with that specific client.
For example, if you’ve learned that they previously had a bad experience with another freelancer, take a moment to reassure them that they’re making a good decision by hiring you.
Connecting with the client on a personal level is one strategy I use to close such large freelance deals. Skills aren’t enough. The client needs to be convinced that they will have a great overall experience working with me.
It’s also a good idea to provide a summary of next steps on how they should proceed. For example, tell them to review the proposal select the option that works best for them, and return a signed copy of the proposal within 7 business days to reserve the time in your calendar.
Finally, make sure it’s as easy as possible for them to make a down payment. Provide the client with all necessary info and multiple payment methods (check, PayPal, Direct Deposit, Wire Transfer, etc) and have your first invoice ready to go!
2. Treat your pitch like a story
When drafting your pitch, remember that you’re not just selling services. You’re painting a picture for the client of what their future looks like after hiring you.
You can do this by empathizing with their current situation (letting them know you understand the problem they’re facing), then crafting a narrative around your services.
Treating your pitch like a story will help you focus on crafting a strong intro, compelling content, and a strong conclusion.
3. Follow-up on a schedule
Perhaps one of the most overlooked and under-utilized sales tactics is the follow-up. Be sure to have a follow-up schedule in mind so you know when to check-in with the client if you don’t hear from them.
For example, if you don’t hear from the client within 24 hours, follow up to confirm that they received your proposal.
If you haven’t heard from them on day 3, follow up with a reminder that the offer expires in two days and they can request an extension if they need more time.
If you haven’t heard from them on day 5, send one final email stating that if you don’t hear from them today, the offer is no longer valid (subject to change) and they may lose the availability in your calendar.
It’s unlikely that it will take someone 5 business days to merely acknowledge your proposal, but if it does, that’s a big red flag and this type of follow-up becomes necessary so that your business can stay on schedule.
Even if you don’t have any other clients or projects at the moment, this approach will help you maintain control of your schedule and be perceived as a valuable business partner.
I casually followed up with one client for a few months and they were so impressed that I kept in touch with them, they decided to hire me for the project!
Written proposals you can download
When it comes to written sales pitch examples, Ryan Robinson suggests making a strong entrance to help your proposal stand out from everybody else. You have to kindle an immediate interest in your potential client’s mind.
Brennan Dunn has found success with price-anchoring by presenting multiple solutions at various price points for a single project. By offering 2-3 options, you’re making the least expensive route look cheap by comparison (even if it’s still pretty high).
When it’s time to discuss payments, Jonathan Stark suggests collecting 100% payment upfront before the project even begins. This is a rather unorthodox practice that yields surprisingly positive results for both himself and his clients.
3 strategies to use for in-person sales pitches
When you deliver an in-person sales pitch, you have several advantages working in your favor. For example, the physical space you’re meeting in, inflections in your voice, body language, and attire all come into play.
1. Leverage the physical space
Make sure your pitch meeting is scheduled in a room that can comfortably fit the client and part of their team. Visit the space once beforehand if possible.
Keep in mind that you aren’t obligated to sit while making your pitch. In fact, you’ll seem more authoritative if you’re standing and able to take a few steps in any direction.
Make yourself and the intended audience feel as comfortable as possible. That could even mean suggesting a third party location or renting office space for a day where you feel most in control.
2. Use a presentation (don’t rely on memory)
When making your in-person sales pitch, it’s helpful to accompany your verbal presentation with a written one. This can take a variety of formats, but they key is to make sure your slides support your pitch, not deliver it for you.
If you use too much content in your presentation, the client will be distracted and miss the effectiveness of your verbal pitch. Make sure the slides are simply, minimal, and effective. You may only need one slide per “section” of your pitch to help tell the story and keep everyone engaged.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on memory. Your sales pitch should include details that you don’t want to forget and that are vital to the delivery of your pitch. If you stumble around the financial upside or what your pricing options are, you’ll instantly lose credibility with the client.
3. Dress for the occasion
Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of pitching (especially for the younger generation of freelancers) is the impact of a well-dressed individual.
Think your client is super casual with their cool open-concept office space in southern California? Don’t show up in shorts and boat shoes. Don’t have the attire for your super formal corporate client? Wear your absolute best or rent a suit for the day.
There is a delicate balance to be achieved here. You want to keep yourself comfortable without over or under-dressing for the type of client your presenting to. As a general rule-of-thumb, dress slightly more formal than your client would expect and you should be able to gain their respect.
Dressing well shows that you care about yourself, the impressions you make on others, and the way people perceive you. All of which are extremely valuable to a client deciding to hire you.
What to avoid when giving a sales pitch
While there are crucial components to include in your sales pitch ideas, there are others it could do without.
For example, keep an elaborate scope of work far away from your sales pitch. Instead, include this as an amendment in a separate document.
The goal is to keep the clients focused on the business goals and “financial upside” of the project. Adding too many details directly in your sales pitch will steal their attention and work against you.
Many freelancers also confuse proposals with contracts. While they are intertwined, the two are vastly different and conflating them can ruin your chances of closing the deal.
A proposal is your best presentation of the client’s problem, the business goals or intended outcome, and your proposed solution. It should be clear, concise, and only include high-level details about pricing, timeline, and scope of work.
A contract is a legally-binding document filled with the legal terms and conditions necessary to ensure both parties understand the expectations. This is best treated as an amendment and attached as a separate document.
You should also avoid making guarantees. Most of the time, there are factors impacting the project that are out of your control. Therefore, it’s foolish to guarantee results from your work. If you feel the need to guarantee something, focus on what you can provide such as clear and prompt communication, weekly check-ins, timely delivery, etc.
Lastly, not every project requires a sales pitch. If you’re doing work on job board websites such as Fiverr or Upwork, or subcontracting for an agency, there’s no opportunity for a pitch. You’re simply working as an hourly contractor.
Sales pitches are only necessary when you’re providing a valuable service directly to a client or customer (without an intermediary).
How to use a call to action in your sales pitch ideas
When delivering a sales pitch, you want to make sure the next steps are clearly outlined. You should actively prompt the client to sign an agreement, make a down payment, or otherwise commit to working with you.
Minimize the opportunity they have to change their mind. The more time you give them, the more likely it is that they may decide against hiring you.
Since many pitches are delivered digitally in the form of a written proposal, getting an immediate commitment often isn’t realistic.
To make sure the client is incentivized to respond, include a timeframe during which the client can commit to the specified price and timeline.
You can even take this a step further by offering the client a small discount for full upfront payment. This is a surprisingly successful trick that provides an enticing and effective call-to-action in any pitch.
However, you also need to clarify what happens if they don’t commit in the specified time frame. For example, if they don’t commit within 5 business days, they may lose the availability in your calendar or the price could be subject to change.
If you’re anything like me, you think of a shady used car salesmen every time someone talks about a “sales pitch,” but sales doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, it’s essential to your success as a freelancer.
Your ability to sell yourself and your services in an honest and compelling way is what will set you apart more than anything in a saturated freelancing market.
Many people can offer the same services you do, but there are very few people capable of communicating their value effectively to a paying client.
If you can master the art of your sales pitch, you’ll unlock the secrets of a successful freelancing career.
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