You made what you thought was a great pitch for a project and the client seemed like a perfect fit for your talents. Yet just when you were gearing up to do the work, you got a polite note saying that your services aren’t required.
Or maybe you never heard back at all – “ghosting” is seen as acceptable in the age of the email in a way that it never was when people had to go to the effort of picking up the phone or writing a letter.
However you found out, your big question has got to be Why? What went wrong? In this article we’re going to go over six basic reasons why seemingly good ideas don’t get taken up, and how to avoid them.
1. The Price Wasn’t Right
The ‘wrong’ price can mean three things:
- you priced too high for that particular client,
- you priced too low (which can affect people’s perception of the quality of your service), or
- you failed to justify your price.
Pricing is one of the toughest tasks a freelancer has to take on. You have to factor in all your living expenses and work costs, and pro rata them across the amount of hours you want to work in a year to arrive at an hourly rate. Then, you have to do an accurate estimate of the amount of time a project will take and add a reasonable amount on top of your expenses as profit.
To work out what’s reasonable, you have to keep an eye on what others in your line of business are charging – if you’re a long way out of line either way, clients will be put off.
Most clients have no idea what their project is going to cost, they just want to get the best they can for the money they’re going to spend. They may well have a budget with a top end, and if you go over that you’ll never win the contract.
If you’ve priced your services ‘correctly’, at least you’ll know that a refusal on financial grounds is because they’ve underestimated the cost, rather than some basic costing error you’ve made.
One thing remains constant regarding of pricing issues: regardless of the number of refusals you receive, you have to know the minimum rate below which you can’t go. Never work at a ‘loss’, unless you have a compelling reason to do so.
2. You Didn’t Do the Groundwork
Sometimes you are up to your ears in work when a new client comes along with a project proposal. You throw together a pitch in what spare time you have and you get the brush-off.
There are countless mistakes people make when they’re not paying attention. They don’t ask the right questions, they don’t show sufficient interest in the client or their requirements, and they don’t put in that vital research that demonstrates to the client that they understand their needs.
All pitches requires commitment and research, even if the client approaches you and seems really interested at the outset. If you can’t give that level of attention, don’t make the pitch.
3. You Over-Promised
While it might be tempting to gild the lily and promise the earth to win a client, it’s a bad mistake for two main reasons. First, if you win the contract you’ll find yourself struggling, and there’s nothing worse than a contract being terminated abruptly by a client who’s realized that you’re not up to the job.
Second, you may not win the contract at all ( which is actually the better option!). An astute client will have a nose for a tall tale, and while you may pride yourself on your charm and ability to lie convincingly, you’re bound to be sending up red flags.
Generally, if you keep running up against clients who want more than your skills can deliver, it’s time to polish those talents. If it’s clear clients are beginning to demand a particular thing, take a course. Being a freelancer means you have to be ahead of the curve, and part of this means knowing what’s hot in your field, and learning how to deliver it.
4. You Didn’t Read The Proposal
A friend recently asked me to look over a pitch she and a fellow freelancer were making to a museum to curate an exhibition. Before I even read the pitch, I went to the museum website and read their proposal, which set out exactly what they were looking for in the exhibition.
Comparing this to the pitch, I could see it delivered on roughly half of the actions the museum wanted. These were the things that excited my friend and her colleague, and that they felt were important. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of other things that the museum felt were important that they just hadn’t touched on.
It’s easy to forget when getting caught up in the process to look at all the details of the project. Make sure you’ve read the client proposal carefully and that you’ve done some research on them and know what their expectations are likely to be. You may have all the talent and enthusiasm that they need, but if you miss the point, you won’t get the job.
5. You Didn’t Follow Through
Winning work is about more than sending or delivering a pitch. It’s about your attitude towards the work, and whether your potential client understands that you’re as enthused and committed to the work as they are.
A follow-up email thanking the client for their time and summing up your discussions in a short paragraph or two proves (a) that you were listening to what they said and have taken it on board, and (b) that you were enthusiastic enough to write it all down and take the time to show your commitment.
It also looks very professional (providing you get the detail right!). Clients like dealing with someone who demonstrates that they have fully understood their requirements and is keen to act on them.
6. You Gave Out Too Much Information
This is a difficult one that many freelancers have come unstuck on. Your client wants to know what you’re going to do for them. You go out of your way to provide a detailed plan of everything that will go into the project, and then you don’t get the contract.
Next thing you hear, a rival is doing the project – to your plan! Or even, if you explained well enough, the client may be doing it himself or herself.
With the above in mind, one basic golden rule as a freelancer is to answer the questions your client asks, then stop.
The big problem is that ideas are not covered by copyright, though if you have put original work into the pitch (such as a logo or a form of words), those would remain your copyright.
Provide as much information as your client requires, and explain that once the project is agreed and a contract is signed, you will provide a full scope of works. That way, you cover yourself as best you can against this sort of theft.
Not winning clients can be painful, but it’s an important learning process, and there are several key lessons you need to learn to improve your ability to win projects:
- Make sure you’re charging a reasonable price
- Put sufficient groundwork into your pitch
- Don’t promise more than you can deliver
- Read the proposal carefully
- Follow up on your pitch with the client
- Don’t reveal every detail of how you’ll do the work
Do you have any thoughts about the best way to make sure clients get fired up by your pitches? Let us know in the comments section below!