In my last blog post on selling yourself as a freelance web designer, I talked about how to develop value propositions and elevator pitches to show prospective clients why you’re the right fit for them. In this final post of the series, I’ll explain how to get out and start selling yourself effectively at pitches and events to develop your client base.
So, you’ve been invited to pitch by a client that you would love to work with. It’s highly likely that there will be strong competition for projects such as these with a variety of freelancers applying; this is why it’s important to be as prepared as possible to give yourself the best chance of success and following the points below will help you to do just that.
Before attending the pitch, you may have been sent a brief for the project to have a look through. Researching this thoroughly helps you to become extremely familiar with the project that needs to be performed and gives you a decent start in the pitching process.
Go through the brief carefully and make notes on relevant details including…
• What you have to deliver
• What the different stages of the project are
• How your experience matches the requirements
• If you’ll be working or liaising with anyone else on the project
• What resources you’ll need to do the work
• Who you report to
• The timescale on which different stages have to be completed
You should also research the company as much as possible and, in cases where the project doesn’t yet have a defined brief, you should focus on this even more to ensure that you’re prepared.
Your research should cover…
What is the website’s look and feel like?
How do they describe and position themselves?
Are they up to date or years behind?
Their social media channels
Are they active or inactive?
How much do they engage with their followers and friends?
What kind of content do they post?
Who are their major competitors?
What advantages and disadvantages do they have in relation to the company you’re pitching to?
The person you will be pitching to
If you know who this is, research their position and experience on LinkedIn.
The company’s larger goals
What are they?
How does this project fit into them?
Why do they want to achieve these goals?
Any suppliers the company works with
Who are they?
How does the company work with them?
What do these relationships say about the company as a whole?
Reviews of their products and/or services
What do customers like and dislike about the company’s products and/or services,
What do these results tell you about the company?
Any recent news stories in which they have been featured
Which online publications have they been featured in?
Do these articles tell you anything about their success or positioning?
Make a note of all the relevant information you find in your research and use this to your advantage when pitching to the prospective client. This information can also be particularly helpful when coming up with the questions that you want to ask them during the pitch. When going through the information that you have gathered, what would you like to know to help you to do an amazing job on this project?
Examples of these questions could include…
What desired outcomes are you looking for this project to produce?
What problem does this project intend to solve?
How does solving this problem relate to your future goals as a company?
When you attend the pitch, try to bring some examples of relevant work with you to prove that you have the ability to produce great results on the project. Consider before the pitch how you will talk about the work and be sure to include clear facts and figures to show how successful your work was.
When you’re in the pitch, make sure that you are your best self, but don’t put on an act that you think will impress them. When you’re being genuine and letting your personality shine through the client will be able to tell and be more likely to warm to you and this can also take some of the tension out of a pitch. Be friendly and clearly passionate about the project and company.
Try to get the key elements of your value proposition and elevator pitch from the previous post in this series into the pitch. These elements can be used within your pitch to present yourself as a fantastic candidate and to provide excellent responses to any questions in which you must describe yourself, your style of working, your experience and your key strengths. Having these statements and knowing them comfortably should also help to make you feel more confident and at ease during the pitch because they will make you feel more prepared.
Later, if the client contacts you to say that you’ve won the pitch, be sure to reply within 48 hours and aim to set up a meeting to discuss further details before getting started. Congratulate yourself on your success and take stock of what you have achieved.
If you’ve been unsuccessful, try not to take this too hard. You may have been extremely close to being selected and you’ve now got even more experience of pitching to draw upon for next time. It’s still a good idea to send an email or note to the client thanking them for the opportunity because this will make them more likely to remember you if someone they know mentions an upcoming project that you’d be right for.
Events are another great way to meet prospective clients and to sell yourself to them. They also give you the opportunity to engage people in a deeper level of communication than if you were to have a conversation with them over the phone or via email and this makes it easier to start creating business relationships.
It’s best to talk to just a few people at an event so you can develop a rapport with them and have more time to discover how you can help each other. If you try to speak to lots of different people during the event, you might find that you end up without many connections keeping in touch with you after the event is over. Remember that you’re attending events to see what you can do for others and this is the approach that will help you the most.
When you speak to people, take a genuine interest in what they have to say because, even if they don’t have a direct need for your services, they may know someone who you could form an excellent long-term business relationship with who they might be happy to put you in touch with if you present yourself in a confident and friendly way.
Whilst you’re talking to someone, take a moment every once in a while to consider the body language that you’re using.
For the best results…
• Smile genuinely
• Have an upright posture
• Make consistent eye-contact
• Move naturally
• Use hand gestures
Try to avoid…
• Folding your arms
• Checking the time
• Putting your hands on your hips
• Tapping your feet
When your conversation with someone at an event has come to a natural end, remember to exchange business cards so you can contact each other later. You also want to make sure that you arrive at an event with more cards than you will need and that your cards are designed to convey your values as a freelancer. If you are highly professional and are looking to perform web design for people in professional or corporate industries, make the messaging and design on your business cards convey this as well, whereas if you’re keen to work in the arts for small businesses you might want to adopt a slightly less formal style.
When the event is over, you should follow up with the people you had great discussions with. An email is often the best way to make contact after an event and you should try to send one within 48 hours. In your email, let them know how much you enjoyed talking to them and try to develop some of the opportunities you mentioned to each other. The way in which they respond will give you clues as to how to proceed and which methods of contact to use for this. It might be a good idea to have a phone conversation to further your relationship or even meet face to face again.
If you’d like any further advice on selling yourself as a freelance web designer, feel free to post your questions in the comments below along with any tips you have on this subject.