Did you know that companies like Product Hunt, Storefront and Timehop got started with one unsolicited email? Uber executives didn’t shy away from cold-emailing prospects when they wanted to launch in Chicago and several other US cities.
As a freelancer, a good pitch can propel your business to the new level, that’s for sure. Yet cold-pitching potential clients is a tough job. Communicating with a person you don’t know is complicated. How will they receive the pitch and how can you compel them to look or listen seriously? After all, you have just one chance to make break that ice.
There is a lot of advice out there on how to research prospects, organize your outreach and craft great cold pitches. Yet, most freelancers still tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. At Moonlighting, we asked 26 business leaders for mistakes they see freelancers make when they pitch them. The following list will outline exactly what you should not do to land that contract.
1. Sending out generic mass emails.
“Even with a compelling subject line, recipients will be turned off by a generic message. Without personalization, the email lands in the trash. Given all of the email tools out there today, you can personalize emails to a degree – use the recipients name, acknowledge their position and adapt the language accordingly; mention a shared connection if any.” — Karan Gupta, owner at Karan Gupta.
2. Failing to categorize those potential customers/clients, at least by industry.
“If you are a freelance writer, for example, you certainly would not send the same email to a law firm as you would to an online toy retailer. Always adapt the lingvo and the offerings depending on the industry.” — Brendan Monahan, CEO of Raleigh SEO Company.
3. Pitching the wrong person.
“The key to sending pitches that win business is to make the person feel that they are uniquely qualified to help you as in that case, you are more likely to encourage a real action. This requires some research to learn who the decision-maker(s) are. Pitching to the wrong person is a waste of time and energy. For a small business, try reaching out directly to the owner; in larger companies, purse someone from the marketing/HR department.” — Farhan Aqil, Managing Partner of Push Digits.
4. Failing to research each organization and discover its potential needs.
“Reviewing a client’s website is fine, but also check for news that can drive how you prepare your proposal and what you will include. Researching the industry as a whole and the competition that a potential client faces will give you ammunition for your pitch. If you have discovered a major pain point for the prospect, and you can deliver a solution – highlight it.” — Aimee Tariq, owner at Aimee Tariq.
5. Not having several different pitches based on potential client’s needs.
“These should be developed in advance and ready to go when you have that first contact with a potential client. You should have “levels” of services. Many potential clients may want to start “small” and see how you perform before they lay down a large chunk of money.” — Alex Vincente, Business Developer at e-Chat.
6. Focusing on your expertise rather than the value you can bring to the client.
“It’s all about that client, not you. If you have done your research well, you will understand the client’s pain points and can then focus your proposal on those rather than boasting about your own accomplishments. Your pitch should clearly communicate ‘what’s in it for them’. — Daniel Tilipman, President of National Debt Relief.
7. Beginning a pitch with an “apology.”
“Don’t undermine yourself and create doubt. If you have to begin a discussion (either via email, phone, or in person) by saying you are sorry that you have not worked out every detail, then you are not ready to make that pitch.” — Dorian Chase, CEO of TopSpot SEM.
8. Not providing enough detail.
“No one wants a general idea of what you can do – they want specifics based upon their needs. As you pitch your services, don’t use some general terms. Speak specifically to the results they can obtain based on other similar projects you did. For instance, how after a landing page redesign a former client has seen a 45% increase in conversions.” — David Brenly, CEO of Debt Consolidation Loans.
9. Avoiding the “tough” questions.
“Don’t dance around. Anticipate the questions and have direct, detailed answers. If you don’t have an answer, admit it, and say you will be back with a detailed reply for them shortly.” — Adam Legas, CEO of Nanohydr8.
10. Supplying the wrong references.
“That toy retailer doesn’t want that law firm for a reference as obviously their needs are rather different. Tailor up your case studies, testimonials and so at least depending on the business type (B2B/B2C) and reference someone in a close niche.” — Stephan Boehringer, Managing Partner of Get The Clicks.
11. Forgetting to validate yourself.
“You already researched a lot about your prospect, but what do they know about you? Showcase your authority and credibility is the way that is relevant to the person on another end in one-two quick lines. For instance, mention the big name clients you’ve worked with or the industry publishers you have written for.” — David Baddeley, Director at Finance.co.uk.
12. Exhibiting lack of confidence.
“If you project lack of confidence, you are “dead.” Your goal is to project an image of complete expertise and skill. Finding the balance between confidence and humility is key.” — David W. Craig, Attorney at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC.
13. Not enough preparation in general.
“Prospects will have questions when they receive your pitch. Freelancers not prepared to answer them look unserious. Don’t make that mistake.” — Mark Leman, Marketing Director of Blinds UK.
14. Being vague about pricing.
“Clients need specifics, or they cannot make decisions. Whether you charge by the hour or by the project, have a base price. It can always be negotiated as you work through the details of your proposal.” — Chris Rush, Founder and CEO of Staff Outsourcing.
15. Not researching costs of competition.
“You need to be in the right ballpark and provide greater value for your pricing. This is easily researched, and it looks bad if you come in either too low or too high.” — Vijay Nair, CEO of Sleep Aider.
16. Not providing options.
“If the project is multi-faceted, you should have options for basic, mid-level and premium products or services. Each of the facets should be priced in detail.” — Scott Grossman, Managing Partner at The Grossman Law Firm.
17. Not being flexible at all.
“Every potential client is unique. Freelancers must be flexible to accommodate those individual needs. A canned, one-size-fits-all approach will never work.” — Dr. Elyassi, Founder and Owner of Wilshire Smile Studio.
18. Appearing desperate.
“You may need this contract badly. But you must never project that to a client. Desperation will cause a client to wonder what might be wrong with you or your services.” — John Fitch, Founder of The Fitch Law Firm.
19.Not asking enough questions of the potential client.
“The freelancer should have a list of questions to ask the client about his/her needs. Letting the client identify these needs will let the freelancer prepare the right proposal.” — David Lovely, President of Health Testing Centers.
20. Not having a website with a portfolio.
“This is how you can provide evidence of your expertise. And your portfolio must have at least one example that relates to the client’s business niche.” — Adam Steele, Founder of Loganix Link Building.
21. Not having a LinkedIn profile.
“You need to “look” professional. A LinkedIn profile contributes to that. Ask past clients for recommendations, polish up your summary and include a good-looking headshot.” — Ariel Chiu, Principal Planner at Wonderstruck Weddings.
22. Ignoring personal branding all together.
“Prospects will google you. The lack of a “web print” around your name won’t impress them to work with you. Plus, branding is what makes you stand out from the crowd.” — Ryan Hulland, Vice President of MonMan.
23. Forgetting to follow-up.
“Pitches start conversations but only follow-ups close most deals. The key here is to limit yourself to one follow-up in order to not appear annoying.” — Daniel Jung, Law Professor at Abraham Lincoln University.
24. Submitting a proposal without enough information.
“Do not rush with a final offer. Be certain that you have all of the detail of the client’s needs before preparing a proposal. If you don’t address every detail, you haven’t asked enough questions, and you look unprofessional.” — Vikram Tarugu, MD, CEO of Detox of South Florida.
25. Not allowing the client to be in control.
“From a psychological standpoint, the client needs to feel in control of all decision-making. Your job is to submit the proposal(s). The client’s role is to have the final word on that proposal.” — Dana VanDeCar, COO of Optimally Organic.
26. Being too pushy.
“Once a proposal is submitted, the client may need to involve others in the decision-making process. Back off and give that client some time before re-contacting.” – Marc Webb, Managing Partner of Real PDL Help.
No freelancer begins with the skills to effectively cold-pitch clients. It’s something you develop by continuously experimenting — testing different subject lines, working on the timing, using software to track the opening rate and working on different offers. You cannot stay in business without new clients, and, while it may take some time and effort, becoming an effective “pitcher” is one of the most important skills you can develop.
If you recognize yourself in the items above, it’s time to make some changes. Are you ready to turn your passion into a successful business? Join the amazing community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and gig workers changing how America works and sign up for Moonlighting today!
This article was originally featured in the USA Today.