The best way for a freelancer to do work they love is to pitch their way into it. But pitching is hard and scary and sometimes confusing. So I asked my friend Austin Mann, an experienced freelance photographer who has successfully pitched projects to companies like Apple and Nike to share what he’s learned about making a great pitch. Here’s what I learned from Austin:
First thing’s first: Why do we pitch?
Pitching is nerve wracking. Vulnerable. And even in a best case scenario ⎯ the pitch is accepted ⎯ we are left with the anxiety of having to deliver. A lot of freelancers get their start because work comes to them. Friends find out they can design or take pictures or whatever and odd jobs just start coming their way. But freelancers who only ever let work come to them rarely, if ever, find themselves doing the work they’d love to be doing for the clients they’d love to be doing it for. If a freelancer wants to take control of their career and do what they love, they have to learn how to pitch their ideas to clients.
Here are 4 important steps to making a good pitch:
1. Establish What You Want
What work do you want to do? What work are you good at? Pitch the overlap.
2. Find Someone Who Needs It
Who should you pitch your work to? Easy. Someone who needs it (and values it.) Keep in mind, if you’re a photographer and you pitch an organization that has no photography at all, they may not value it.
3. Establish Trust
You are always pitching two things: What you can do and who you are. It’s much easier to buy into a person’s work if you buy into the person themselves. Establish yourself as an authority. Be active on social media. Contribute to blogs and publications. Make your expertise and opinions visible and obvious. Nobody trusts an empty restaurant. When a potential client looks into you, they shouldn’t think they’re the only one interested.
4. Make the Pitch
Alright. Time to pitch. Here’s how to do it.
First: Name the Enemy
What problem are you going to solve? Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t downplay the problem because you’re worried about hurting somebody’s feelings. Turn the problem into the enemy. Then show them how you’re going to vanquish it.
Second: Why Now?
Your potential client probably already knows about the problem you want to solve. But there are a lot of problems, and your client has apparently decided that fixing this one can wait. You need to convince them that it can’t. Clients don’t hire people to fix problems that can wait. Your problem can’t wait, and you need to tell them why.
Third: Show the Promised Land
A good pitch isn’t just about solving problems; it’s about casting vision. When the enemy is defeated, things don’t just go back to normal, things are better than ever! Show your client what life could be like on the other side. Make them want to be there. But be careful how much you oversell. Once someone gets a glimpse of the promised land, they never forget.
Fourth: Show Evidence That You Can Deliver
Have you done this before? Have you at least done something kind of like this before? Show what you can do. Show how you fixed someone else’s problems. Show how you changed someone else’s world. Don’t speak in generalities. Show results. Show work. Get specific. And don’t be modest. You’re here to sell.
Follow the steps above (in order!) and you should have a solid pitch on your hands. And with a little bit of luck, a new client. Now there’s only one thing left to do. Deliver.
Empathy might just be the most important part of a pitch. You MUST believe you and your ideas are absolutely the best way for your client to solve their problem. If you truly believe it, the client will too and you’ll be off to the races doing the work you love.