How to build the perfect pitch

Why would a business spend hard earned cash on you?  What are you going to give them? When we try and sell our services we so often focus on what we think we are good at and very rarely focus on what the hirer needs.

Pitching is all about nailing down a proposition that makes sense to your potential client. Once you achieve this, pitching becomes easy. Here’s an exercise I’ve developed to help you achieve this. Actually sit down and answer the questions, then scrunch up the piece of paper and try again. This exercise can be done in a few minutes but should ideally be done before every pitch, even if only very quickly. 

When you pitch for work, you should be making a portfolio/proposal specifically for that job. You can do that very easily with a portfolio builder like this one. If you build a good structure, you can always duplicate the portfolio and make small changes so it feels like a pitch built specifically for the job at hand which makes a BIG difference. 

Here are the seven questions you need to answer to build the perfect pitch:

What is your vision/goal?

This might not seem important as part of the pitching process, but having a bigger objective helps you know what you need to achieve and plan it out more effectively. You can approach this in two ways; either you can set a big objective like ‘I want to work for my dream company as a lead on a significant project’, or you can set practical goals such as, ‘I need to earn £1500 a month from freelancing’. The former is better for helping you target clients that can help you build towards your vision, but the latter is better for planning what you want to get out of your business right now. I recommend the latter for people getting started, but you should have the former in the back of your mind. 

If you want to pitch for a job, maybe your goal is to actually do a bigger second piece of work for the company once you’ve proved your value with the first, or to use this job as a stepping stone to a bigger company you really want to work for. Having an answer to this question will help you lock down a more refined pitch. 

What do you do?

What category does your work fall into? Examples might be videographer, stylist, consultant, marketeer, etc. A question I get asked a lot is, ‘what if I do lots of things? and the simple answer is, that’s fine. But what is relevant right now to this pitch? There is no point putting photographer down next to business strategy consultant or app development, because no one who’s hiring a photographer will care that you are also an app developer. If however, you want to put UX designer and app developer together it might make sense. Know what you’re pitching for and write down the most relevant things you do in order of relevance to the client. If a company is looking for a graphic designer but you also do social media management, then it would be fine to mention that, but as a note at the end, or by saying ‘my understanding of social media management helps me design with social media in mind’. Don’t have content about your social media management skills when pitching for work as a graphic designer. 

What problem do you solve?

The single most important thing to do when pitching is that it makes sense to your client and that you make it with their perspective in mind. Understanding the problem you solve is the key to this. It’s even more important when your work is creative and the outputs of your work might not be so easily quantifiable. If you are a salesperson who says you’ll make 10 sales a week for the first month, that is an easily quantifiable role you know the client will understand, but if you’re a copywriter or logo designer, it is much harder to quantify how your work will help the business. 

The best way to understand what problem you solve is to think of your craft as a tool that serves a purpose specific to the client, not an end in and of itself. That means that you have to think of your craft in terms of what it is the company is trying to achieve by using your skills and therefore, how does your skill solve their problem. If a company is looking for a copywriter for emails, they’re not looking for copy, they’re looking for someone to make copy to make their emails more engaging to generate customers. Therefore, the copywriter should think of their copy as a tool to create engagement for the company. 

It might sound complicated, and it takes a bit of time to get your head around this change of perspective, but it is the single most effective way of making your pitches successful. If you want to practice, go and find some job opportunity postings and work out what problem they need solving (even if the listing isn’t immediately relevant to you, it will help you get in the mind of the client). 

Who has that problem?

This should be a simple question to answer, what company are you pitching to and what do they do. Do your research. Even just ten minutes on their website making sure you understand their company could be the difference between you and the next applicant. Companies want to work with people who know, understand, and like them. If you can tick those boxes, you are already ahead of the mob. 

What is your solution?

Hopefully by this point we are getting back to solid ground.is exercise is all about combining the above to turn your craft into a solution for the potential client’s problems. Take the job you do and show how it can solve the problem your potential client has by describing it in terms of their problem, rather than as a thing unto itself. That means saying ‘I can do x to achieve y for you’, instead of just ‘I can do x’. 

For example, if a client is looking for a graphic designer to build their brand, learn who the company is and why they are building a brand. Maybe they are just getting started and they need a visual identity, maybe they are currently focussed on one type of customer and they want to target a new group. Write down how your craft, in this case design, solves their problem. For instance, let’s say targeting a younger market.  Instead of writing ‘I am a sick graphic designer’, you write, ‘I create brands that are exciting and vibrant to attract a young audience’. 

Client problem + your craft = solution

Why are you the right person for the job? 

While the above is a great way of understanding and clarifying your proposition, it can still be hard to differentiate yourself from others. I get to see a lot of freelancer outreach messages from my community to clients and from people looking to work for UnderPinned. The most successful are always freelancers who find a way to connect to their potential employer. You can do this effectively by showing relevant experience and by showing relevant interest.  

Showing relevant experience is all about making the potential client comfortable that you understand their business. The more you can show how your experience relates to them the better. However, it is also a clever way to use experience you might not think is immediately relevant to the job at hand. If you are just starting a career in graphic design but you studied psychology, talk about how your time researching human behaviour inspired the creation of more engaging designs. Everybody has a wealth of experience that can be relevant to working with clients, you just have to connect the dots. 

The second part is the most powerful tool in your arsenal; relevant interest. Pick businesses to pitch to that you are genuinely interested in because it will show. If someone pitches me and they are genuinely enthusiastic about  UnderPinned and understand it, I am way more likely to be interested. Take your hobbies and interests and make them relevant to your work. If you love skateboarding, look for jobs with skate brands. It makes the world of difference when pitching for work. You aren’t always going to be pitching for jobs at companies you’re passionate about, but you can always find parts of it you’re interested in, whether that’s people in the business you admire, or a campaign you loved, find ways of personally connecting with the company.

What is your offer?

Now you have all the answers to the above questions, this should be easy. The single most consistent  piece of advice I give to new freelancers is never assume the client is going to look for a reason to hire you, assume you have a cursory glance to convince them and pack as hard of a punch as possible. Never send a 10 page portfolio as a pitch, and tell them why you are right for the job in 1 sentence and 2 pictures. The rest doesn’t matter if they don’t get past that first hurdle. When we do portfolio classes, we focus on reducing the content as much as possible until you have one page of highly relevant content with links to more. 

If you can summarise your offer in one sentence and it makes sense to you, it is likely that it will make sense to someone else. If you can’t, it won’t. If you can work through these seven steps to build a solid understanding of what you can offer for each pitch, it will take care of itself and the work will come. I can’t guarantee you’ll be right for every job, but I can guarantee that if you do this, you’ll get the ones you are right for. I see way too many brilliant freelancers lose out on jobs because they don’t pitch it right. Take these steps to make sure you do.

Put theory into practice, sign up to UnderPinned.

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