We all want a more of ’em.
So why do they feel harder to come by than an albino Tasmanian Devil?
Unless you’re juuuust lucky enough to be the first freelancer the client talks to, or your proposal hit their inbox at juuuuust the right moment.
In the last 5 years, I’ve gone from dumpster-diving for freelance gigs at the last minute to pay the rent to consistently closing 4-figure and even 5-figure freelance projects.
And in the course of my freelance shenanigans during that half-decade, I’ve found work in eclectic niches and WTF-is-that-even industries like Anti-Motivation, Video Autobiographies, Machinist College Online Classes, and Satellite-Based Telescope Software.
In these non-traditional niches, I’ve scored projects worth $2500 on up to $10,000+. Here’s some proof.
The objective of this article, therefore, is give you 2 juicy-as-f*ck insights on how to trigger a “HELL YES!!!” when pitching your services to prospects
(based on what freelancing in 36 wildly different industries has shown me what it takes to land long-term, high-paying clients)
My commitment to you as a new reader of Beyond Freelance is to offer you more actionable, doable, “get results NOW” resources that goes waaay beyond the drive-by advice I found online when I was a mere freelance hatchling.
The kind of advice from the Googlable Gurus I’m talking about?
“Want more clients? Start a blog! Just do networking! Print business cards! Build up a social following and pitch to people on LinkedIn!”
Anyone can say you should do these things—and lots of cash-scamming sleaze-muffins do.
But without an actionable plan to access the kind of rewarding work to day-dream about, drive-by advice leaves us with more confusion and questions than we had before the advice!
For example, a reader here on Beyond Freelance commented on following the typical freelance advice scrounged up on the likes of Google makes you go, “Um…so now what?”
Yikes. If you’re not sure what the objective is, how is the advice going to help?
That’s why, with this article, you are getting 2 implementable, actionable, “Wow I can totally do this!” tips for crafting a pitch for your freelance services that’s so damn good, your competitors never had a chance.
WHAT FREELANCING IN 36 DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES HAS TAUGHT ME (INSIGHT #1):
Build a personal brand that makes potential clients see you as more than just “a freelancer who does [type of work].”
To differentiate yourself from competition (even those with more experience or credentials), make potential clients see you as more than just “a freelancer who does [type of work].”
In my early days of freelance, my Client Attraction Framework (as the experts would call it) was simple:
The more I talk about how good I am at what I do, the more clients will want to hire me.
Guess what that got me?
Years of proposals being ignored, client after client expecting discounts, “We’ve hired someone else” emails, and no clue WTF actually worked to get consistent freelance work.
No matter how low I priced my services or how many proposals I blasted out every day, I couldn’t make clients see my as the valuable asset I thought my skills to be.
And that was the problem.
Every time I got in front of a design agency owner, a main street USA small business owner, an ecommerce startup, or a thought leader worth drooling over—what could having a client at that level do for my career?!—here’s what I said in my pitch, my proposals, and my sales presentations…
- “I’ve got 5 years’ experience.”
- “Look at my portfolio and all this great work I’ve done!”
- “Your project is a good fit for me.”
Do you see the problem?
“I, me, my…”
I made my freelance pitch all about me.
And what effect did that have on my prospects and their perception of me?
“Oh, that’s nice. Good for you. Next!”
Because I built my freelance personal brand from my perspective—focusing on talking the services I offer, the perks of working with me, etc.—I became a commodity.
If there is a way to guarantee we never become the Go-To Freelancer of our niche, it’s being perceived as a commodity to your target market.
Among freelancers like us, this isn’t just a problem—it’s a plague.
Scroll through freelancers’ profiles on Upwork, and you’ll notice how most freelancers never give a reason to choose them over competitors.
These freelancers are using the exact same words to describe what they do:
Are ANY of them giving us a reason to choose one over the other?
If you’re focused on trying to out-compete other people in your niche, this is what happens—you don’t end up differentiating yourself, you UN-differentiate yourself! You look the same as everyone else.
In fact, this is SUCH a problem in the world of freelancing and in business as a whole that it got included in a textbook by a Harvard Business School professor:
Think about how you may have done this, too—if I were to pull up, let’s say 5 websites or Upwork profiles of your competitors…would I see them talk about themselves and pitch their services the same way you do?
Would I see the same words, the same ideas, the same here’s what I do, the same here’s how many years of experience and credentials I have?
So the deeper issue we’re seeing here points to the question mark in your clientele’s heads, “How would I as a client know which freelancer to hire—you or one of your competitors?”
When we look out at our target market, we want to try EVERYTHING we can to get their attention—and that often means we talk about how great we think we are in hopes that will get them rushing to the bank, draining their account, and wiring us their kids’ college funds.
But when we realize that our brand is not what we say, but what our clients hear—it’s like, “Oh sh*t! How do they REALLY perceive me?”
The reason why freelancers struggle with competition and low wages that often come with it, is that we become indistinguishable from competitors when our brands are all about us.
When I landed a $4,000+ online presence relaunch project for an aerospace engineering firm, it was not because I made my proposal “The Story Of Joshua Lisec And Why He Thinks He’s Awesome—Unabridged.”
Nope! The client said, “OMG, can we hire you yesterday!?” because—in my proposal—I explained how their current online promotional strategy was missing the mark, and how I was going to fix it step by freaking step.
I took the role of the Trusted Expert by saying, “Hey, here’s why your current strategy isn’t working. Here’s what we can do to fix it—I’ll offer deliverables XYZ, etc…”
No “features and benefits” to be found! I wanted to be perceived as the Go-To Freelancer for this type of project, so I made myself the Go-To Freelancer for that project by communicating how my services would solve the client’s worth-paying-for-to-fix problems.
Here’s a screen cap of a portion of that invoice:
Want results like those in your own freelance career?
Here’s 1 thing you can immediately begin doing…
Make your target market perceive you as the Go-To Freelancer for their projects by using Coherency Connectors.
These are proclamations of value that you can pepper throughout every piece of brand messaging you have (proposals, blog posts, emails, etc.)
This will allow you to immediately change the way you pitch your services, your work, and yourself so that clients see you as the worth-paying-good-money-for Go-To Freelancer.
Examples of Coherency Connectors (that make prospects go, “Wow, that sounds exactly what I’m looking for. Can you tell me more about what you do?”)
- “As a [insert freelancer title], my job is to… [solve expensive problems, achieve goals, help realize a big dream]“
- “While I am a [insert freelancer title that everyone understands], what I really do is… [offer a worth-paying-for result that the prospect REALLY wants]“
- “Before bringing me onboard, my clients… [tried this or that solution, and here’s why it didn’t work…]“
- “That’s why I don’t just ‘do [your service],’ but I… [address root problem/cause of client’s frustrations through your services]”
Want to be seen as the “Ideal choice” for long-term, high-paying work? Start showing your prospects how you already are the ideal choice.
The Coherency Connectors will help you do that.
WHAT FREELANCING IN 36 DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES HAS TAUGHT ME (INSIGHT #2):
Your freelance services are a means to an end – clients get excited about the end. In every interaction you with a prospect or potential client, make that your entire focus.
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career was assuming that clients knew more than they did about the value of my services.
In every proposal I emailed or elevator pitch I delivered, I made a big deal about what clients get when they hire me.
If you’re a freelance audio engineer, your clients get high quality media.
If you’re a freelance copywriter, your clients get online sales pages.
If you’re a freelance consultant, you clients get branding work.
But what are each of these?
They are the means to an end.
If you’re an entrepreneur prepping to launch your 3rd online product after you’ve had 2 barely-break-even launches, are you laying awake at night sweating profusely and thinking, “Man, if I only I had a freelance direct response copywriter who offers timely, high quality work at affordable rates!” ?
So why do freelancers write proposals like that—where the focus is alllll on what clients “get”, aka the means to the end the client wants?
Think of it this way—
There is what your freelance services are—like copywriting, graphic design, coaching, programming, whatever.
But then there is what your freelance services are for—this is what clients “gain” from the work they “get” from you.
For example, let’s say a freelance graphic designer has a nonprofit client.
From our graphic designer friend here, her nonprofit client GETS a trifold flyer promoting their fundraiser.
But with that deliverable, her client GAINS an emotionally compelling tool for attracting high-end donors who can fund the nonprofit’s mission for years to come.
So which result should she talk about in her marketing, in proposals, etc.?
What results—what “gains”—could you talk about in your marketing, in your proposals, in your prospecting emails, in your elevator pitch, etc.?
Before giving you your action step, I want to give you an example of this get vs. gain idea in action.
A couple of years ago, I got the chance to write a proposal for a service professionals’ resource association that struggled with marketing themselves effectively.
That was the key, by the way—this potential client’s priority wasn’t to hiring a freelancer, it was to solve their problems and achieve their goals.
A means to an end.
That’s why, when I pitched my services, I made my proposal alllll about what the client would gain from hiring me—I described in juicy-as-f*ck detail the payoffs of high-converting, emotionally compelling marketing campaigns…
…and how my services were specifically designed to help him achieve those goals.
If this guy was going to perceive me as the Go-To Freelancer, then I had to be darn sure he realized I was more than “just a freelance copywriter and marketing strategist.”
Because I told the client not only what he would GET (strategy for creating emotional connections with his target market) but I made a big deal about what he would GAIN (the ability to cut through the noise with ads that get and keep his prospects’ attention long enough to close the sale), he became a client.
Here’s proof (his testimonial).
Want results like this in your own freelance career?
Here’s 1 thing you can immediately begin doing…
Show clients how your services are the means to the worth-paying-for end they desire by describing both the Get’s and Gain’s of your freelance services.
In every proposal, marketing email, or in-person pitch you give, give a quick-n-juicy description of the payoffs (gains) of the particular service, offer, or deliverable you’re proposing they hire you for.
For example, if you’re a freelance graphic designer and you’re pitching brochure creation services, you could include 2 columns in your proposal – 1 for the Get you’re offering, 1 for the corresponding Gain.
Here’s how that would look:
The best part about this layout is that your clients never have to wonder what they’re paying for—because you’re “translating” what you do as a freelancer into the language of what they want most to solve their organization’s challenges and achieve their goals.
To take a prospect from “Maybe” to “You’re hired!”, do these 2 things that your competition either don’t know how to do or aren’t willing to do.
- Build a personal brand that makes potential clients see you as more than just “a freelancer who does [type of work].”
- Your freelance services are a means to an end – clients get excited about the end. So make the payoffs of your services the focus of your proposals, your pitch, and your presentations.
Want even more actionable strategies to become the Go-To Freelancer of your niche?
Then you won’t want to miss what I’m putting down—