Most freelancers I know aren’t confident about the proposals they send. Whether they’re unsure of the rates they’re charging or the services to include – it’s always a crapshoot.
As a serial entrepreneur, owning and managing different businesses have given me an excellent way to try and fail and try again. I was able to learn from different angles as well, since my businesses were all different. I own a WordPress design company, a digital marketing company and until 2015 I owned both a travel agency and a beach wedding company. I’ve been the Senior Project Manager for an eCommerce company selling over 5000 products online, and the Executive Editor of an online magazine with an accompanying app. All this means is that I’ve tried and failed – a lot. But I learned two simple techniques that have helped me more than anything else. In fact, I now close 90% of the proposals I send to prospective clients and customers.
First things first: I wasn’t communicating well. I poured my heart and soul into formal proposals and contracts. I learned about who was getting the proposal in depth, whether it was a business I was building a website for, or a couple planning a wedding. I wanted to see a big picture – all the ways I could help them. I would then craft a proposal that outlined the basics and a price. The problem? I looked like I was too high, when in fact the little extras I included weren’t spelled out. I didn’t show my value. For example, the copy that I wrote based on their business wasn’t cookie-cutter text, it was professional copy tailored to their business and full of keyword rich, search engine friendly content that was sure to get them noticed. I handcrafted alt-tags on all the images for better ranking, and I made sure the site was fast and optimized for mobile and tablets. On the wedding side, I included fresh floral that was in-season and not going to wilt in the high salt humidity of the island we lived on. I took care of the things they needed me to take care of. When you’re in the corporate world, these things are part of your job, and you don’t expect praise for them. As freelancers, we need to communicate what we do more carefully, so we’re showcasing how we’re fixing their problems – problems they don’t even know they have, in some cases.
The details I managed for them were sometimes costly, but where I went wrong was I assumed that people knew the value, therefore I didn’t communicate the value. I easily gave them their money’s worth, and then some. And yet I still found it challenging to defend my rates whenever anyone questioned them.
The takeaway? Document every single thing you do on a proposal. Everything, no matter how trivial. It will help you defend your worth, and if you are in a bidding war it will be a transparent way for the client to compare apples to apples.
Every business that I’ve worked with could trace their success back to this one simple step: defining your ideal customer and chasing them relentlessly and persistently. This required discipline because as a freelancer it was easy to take any money that was offered, rather than staying in the niche or skill set that I had defined. For example, I chose to specialize in WordPress sites, but there were several times I would “drift” and work on sites built in other editors. Because it wasn’t my specialty they would take longer, and that often led to frustration, time away from marketing, and not enough money to make the project worthwhile. I fixed this by using Facebook Ads to define and chase my audience. I communicated with them and solved their problems, which helped clear the way to them requesting a proposal quickly, which I would send with all the details, as I mentioned above.
The lesson I learned was to stay in my lane. Turn down work that isn’t in your wheelhouse.
These two techniques have helped me grow my freelance business immeasurably. Do you struggle with closing deals? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try and help!