The great thing about pitching is that the more you do it, the less scary it becomes.
It also helps to have some great tips for working on your pitch, though. Here are some things to keep in mind when you want to craft the perfect pitch to book your next client:
Embody the solution
When you’re working on a pitch, the best way to structure it is to show the prospective client’s very real problem, and then show yourself as the solution to that problem. One design firm uses the mantra “make ‘em sick, make ‘em well” to approach their pitches.
Your goal in the pitch is to demonstrate your expertise, not only in the client and the issues they face, but in the solution. A good way to do this, from a technical perspective, is to introduce the client, discuss the client’s problem, outline a solution (a la “what [client] needs is new branding that speaks to [audience] through its colors, graphic elements, and positioning….”), and then highlight yourself or your agency as the ideal service provider.
One of the strongest ways to make a good case for yourself is to show your results. Good results demonstrate, objectively, that you have deep knowledge of the power of web design, the strength of the specific elements you envision for this project, and your technical expertise to make it all happen. Pick the items from your portfolio that most closely relate to the issue your prospective client has, and leverage those to demonstrate how you’ll be able to get the same results with the new guys.
One of the questions I often get from new freelancers is this:
I spent a lot of time polishing my pitch, and now it’s time to interact with the client again. Do I have to keep it as formal as my pitch was? Will it be too inconsistent if I respond in my “regular” voice instead of my pitching voice?
I have one answer to this question: Always, always, always be yourself.
There’s a caveat, though. Hear me out.
You hear this “be yourself” battle cry a lot, but it’s easy to overlook. In our culture, we’re groomed to think that “professional” acts a certain way, speaks a certain way, and does not behave in a certain way. Switching that reflex off isn’t always natural.
Many creative professionals like their line of work because they get to “be themselves” in their jobs and there’s a lot of room for personality, quirks, and even some weirdness. That said, we also tend to have at least some element of professional demeanor that we’ll don when it’s time to interact with a client.
That is the balance you want to strike. Be you – your web designs are infused with your personality, after all, and the client needs to know what he or she is getting into – but be the “real pants and mascara” you, not the “yoga pants and unbrushed hair” you.
Whether your proposal is given in person or in writing, you need to project an air of confidence. You know what the client needs, you know yours is a good solution, and you know that you’re worth it.
What you absolutely cannot do is approach this gig from a position of need. You may “need the money” or “need to get something like this in your portfolio,” but if your neediness is what you focus on while you’re nurturing this prospect, it will come through. Clients can smell desperation a mile away, and it doesn’t smell good.
Instead, what you should do is focus on them. You really need to land a gig this month? Nobody cares (except you, and maybe your boss, and maybe your spouse). What people care about is what you do for them. Focus on what you can offer this client, who is also in need. Present yourself as the solution to their problem, rather than seeing them as the solution to yours.
If any of this confidence stuff feels easier said than done, here’s a tip: Write the proposal like you assume you’re getting the gig.
It’s easy to act confident that you’ll land the gig if you’re already pretty confident that you’ll land it. Assuming you’ll get the gig positions you to approach the pitch from pretty steady ground. Use phrases like “we will” and “you’ll get” when you speak about the – admittedly still hypothetical – project. Don’t hedge with “if you pick us” language. Assume they pick you, and write the proposal from there.
Show them the end-game
Your clients don’t just want websites. What they want is results.
Over the course of your pitch, you should demonstrate that you understand where they are and where they want to get. You’ve proven that you’ve been able to get results for past clients. Don’t stop there, though. You need to show this client the results you can offer.
Paint a clear picture of what it will look like when you finish up the design project and it goes live. How will it be a month out? What results can they expect, and when? This is a great time to layer in some a la carte options for ongoing maintenance. Think about what happens the day after you hand over the site, and address any and all questions and issues that may arise.
You may even be able to put together some mock-ups, but only do this if you have a very clear sense of what they want from the project; otherwise they’ll pounce all over the design and get distracted by everything you did “wrong.”
Final thoughts on pitching
Ultimately, these aren’t the only things to keep in mind when you’re working on a pitch, but these are some of the best things to keep in mind when you approach the proposal stage of the gig. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be prepared! Doing the right preparation makes everything else a lot easier.
What’s your best tip for pitching to clients?