Pitching for business is a tough yet essential part of any freelancer or small business life, but a key part of succeeding when pitching is knowing when to put yourself in contention for the work in the first place.
This is especially true when you’re going for those big clients who may be larger and more prestigious than you’re used to working with or who will be paying enough money to take care of your bills for several months.
While pitching for business from these clients may seem like a no-brainer, the bigger the client, the greater the risk. Will you overstretch yourself? What about your service to other clients? Will you be too reliant on their income? What if you need to take time off? To successfully pitch, win the work and produce great results for these companies, you need to take a few things into consideration.
Are you passionate about this, or is it a big money opportunity?
As nice as it would be to just pitch for projects that excite you, sometimes you may have to go for the well-paid projects to pay the bills, so make sure it’s a project you will be able to focus on. If you have several projects on the go, the ones that you lack interest in will be the ones that become less of a priority, while if you’ve taken the job because it pays well you could find your time gets dominated by the one big client and detracts from the type of work you originally set out to do.
If you believe there is a risk that taking on a new project could cause problems with other clients, you need to consider whether it’s worth going for. For example, if they’re a rival company, you’ll need to decide which will provide more value to your business, assuming there’s a conflict of interest.
Do you need to outsource?
If you want to pitch for a big project, but lack the manpower to do it alone, you may want to consider outsourcing or combining forces with another freelancer or sole trader.
If you don’t know anybody suitable, reach out to your contacts or Twitter followers for recommendations. If you do have a freelancing friend who offers a complimentary service, you may want to team up to pitch together. For example, if you’re a social media consultant, and your friend is a pro at blogger outreach, it makes sense to combine your skills and knowledge to offer a stronger pitch to the client.
If you are teaming up, remember you’ll need to take your combined skills and time into consideration when you’re working out your fee structure as you may need to charge more. You’ll also need to make sure you and the other freelancer are on the same page. If you disagree on a principle part of the project, or work in entirely different ways, it could cause problems later.
Make sure you know and trust your partner well – especially if they’re the primary contact with the client. For all the risks, it’s great having another person to work with on a project – especially if there’s an issue such as illness or a personal emergency that takes you out of action and you need your partner to cover for you.
How much should you charge?
Generally, the bigger the client, the bigger the budget, so make sure you do your research thoroughly on how much you can charge.
Ideally, the best approach is to try and find out if they’ve got a budget in mind first, so you know a ballpark figure, but if you can’t do that, go in a little higher than you’re expecting to do it for. That way, if they try to negotiate you down, you still have some wiggle room.
Another option is to give them a breakdown of your fees, so they can decide which bits they want to take and which bits they don’t. Again, if you’re working with another freelancer or virtual assistant, you may want to pitch with this in consideration.
A way to do this is to offer packages the client can choose from. So if they wanted one service, it would be one price. An added service (for example, extra monitoring from a second freelancer or extra consultancy and training) would be a higher package price. Packages also make it clearer to everyone what is included, and harder for the potential client to haggle you down.
If you are negotiating, try not to reduce your prices, just reduce how much work you will do for them. So if they want the service you offer but for half the price, offer to do half of the services. For example, if someone requests a quote for a copywriting project, but can only pay you half your usual price for 10 pages, tell them you can do 5 pages for half the price. If they want more later on, they can ask for it, and you maintain a price that reflects the quality of your service.
Who are you competing against?
After size and price, you need to consider the competition. Bigger clients usually means bigger competition. You may be pitching against large agencies with plenty of experience and a collection of brand names on their website. This does make your job harder – but go back to your unique selling point. What do you have that they don’t? You might have an amazing network of loyal contacts, a straight-to-the-point attitude or an award-winning service. Don’t be afraid to tell them about it.
Finally, make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong with the project. Many larger clients request that their freelancers have professional indemnity insurance, especially if you’re dealing with services like social media or copywriting. It’s not a big expense and may provide cover if there are any problems that emerge as you progress with the project.