When it comes to freelancing, being brilliant at your craft is not nearly enough.

Even the most technically gifted freelancers will falter if they don’t have a clear plan to get clients.

And here’s where a freelance proposal makes all the difference.

How to Create a Freelance Proposal

For freelancers, it seems like the hustle for work is never-ending.

Of course, you love the autonomy and flexibility that comes with freelancing. No more endless commutes and boring meetings. You have total control over your life.

On the other hand, that regular paycheck is gone too.

And if you’re frequently worried about your financial future, you’re not alone.

The unpredictable nature of work is one of the key stressors for freelancers, according to this Endelman Intelligence study of New York-based independent workers.  

Now consider that the talent pool is getting bigger and bigger.

There’s been a steady shift away from traditional employment. In the U.S, there were 59.7 million freelancers in 2018. By 2028, the figure is expected to rise to 90.1 million. Across the Europen Union, freelance growth is surging ahead overall employment growth, according to Morgan Stanley.

What this means is that the freelance landscape is going to become even more competitive. To stand out and win high-quality projects, you need to submit high-quality proposals.

For those new to self-employment, proposals can help land those first clients. And even if you’ve been in the game for a while, freelance proposals keeps your pipelined stacked with potential projects.

But here’s the deal: sending proposal after proposal without any results is just a waste of your time. You want to pull together a proposal that generates new business with some kind of frequency.

Use these strategies to increase your freelance proposal win rates.

Grab attention

Imagine this scenario. You’re on an elevator ride with your dream client. You only have a few seconds to convince them to hire you.

What do you say?

The elevator pitch has several origin stories, but the premise is always the same: you have a brief opportunity to propose your idea to a decision-maker.

Memorable pitches hook the audience with a “logline”, explains the Harvard Business Review, like this one from a sales rep of a tech company:

“Our product will reduce your company’s cell phone bill by 80%.”

A successful elevator pitch needs to be concise, engaging, and customized.

Consider this short, straightforward example:

“I’m a copywriter with a decade’s worth of experience helping photography businesses get more sales with web copy and email sequences. I’ll compose sales pages that engage your target audience of hobby photographers and move them to action.

Other ways to stand out:

  • Know the client. Ramit Sethi, of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, shared this email from a freelance programmer. The thing that stood out to Sethi was that the programmer clearly did his research and, as a result, was able to make this pitch more persuasive. But it can be as simple as addressing your potential client by name.
  • Use an attention-grabbing subject line. Make a Living Writing studies a few examples, including revealing your idea, e.g., “40 Questions to Ask Every Copywriting Client.” Another option is to gear it towards the client, e.g., “I can help you generate more leads for your healthcare technology business.”

Developer a Freelance Proposal Checklist

If your freelance proposal doesn’t cover all the basics, the client might be left with several questions. Even worse, they might worry you don’t fully understand their business and needs.

Draft freelance proposals with the following checklist, so you include the key points each time.

Summary

Show the potential client you’re focused on their business problem.

What does the client need? Why do they need this accomplished?

Identify the client’s problem, e.g., if you’re in SEO, this might be low traffic. Discuss why this matters. Are they leaving money on the table? Include any insights you have into the client’s industry. Does web traffic drive sales for their biggest competitors?

Explain your plan to solve the client’s problem and make a positive impact on their business. Back to our SEO example, your pitch would be to attract more readers and improve the client’s rankings.

Costs

When it comes to costs, you want to get into granular detail. No one wants any surprises when the bill comes due.  

How will your work will be billed? A writer, for example, might charge per word or per article. There’s also the option of hourly billing or per project rates. If you’re unsure about what to charge, check industry rates reports. Be wary of underquoting just to get the job. You might find you barely end up making any money.

There are online rate calculators that can help determine industry rates if you get stuck.

Payment

It’s a familiar story and it goes like this.

You’ve done the work, sent the invoice, and now you wait. And wait.

Most freelancers have had to deal with late payment. A 2015 study from the Freelancers Union found 71% of freelancers have battled to get payment for their work at least once.

That’s why it’s worth being specific in your payment section. You may want to add a late fee for missed payment dates.

Things to consider are:

  • How many revisions are included?
  • When is the first payment due?
  • Do you require a down payment?

Timelines

Timing is everything for freelancers.

First, blowing deadlines usually cost you clients.

Second, as an independent worker, you’re typically juggling multiple priorities and projects.

That’s why realistic, clear timelines are so important.

Let the client know when they can expect the work to be completed. It’s a good idea to build a buffer into your deadline. This will give you room for any unexpected issues, e.g., your computer crashes.

Next steps

Brief the client on the next steps. How do they proceed with your proposal? Even better, use a tool like eversign and add a signature field so the client can sign electronically. Now the client can accept the proposal immediately.

Why Should They Hire You?

Out of all the pitches they’ll get, make it clear why yours is the best.

Maybe you offer additional services? For instance, let’s say you’re a writer. In addition to the article, you could research topics, source images, add internal links, and format the article for the web.

Perhaps you’re a designer that knows a thing or two about front-end development? Focus on the unique ways you bring additional value to the project.

Throughout your proposal, show your client that you have done your homework.  The goal should be to “overwhelm your client with how much knowledge” you have about their business and industry, suggests Liam Veitch of Freelance Lift.

Showcase your Strengths

One easy to win the deal is to lead with the skills that match the client’s needs.

This approach means you let previous experience speak for your strengths in the client’s industry.

There are a few ways to get this right. Highlight relevant testimonials, samples, and skills.

Talk about how your expertise helped the client achieve their goals. Add a concrete example about the impact of your work.  Let’s say you’re a marketer. Maybe your content strategy doubled the CRM database.

If you’re pitching for a healthcare online marketing project, describe the profitable Google AdWords campaign you ran for another organization in that industry.  Want to produce a whitepaper for a cybersecurity firm? Talk up your degrees and work experience in that field.

Now, if you’re new to freelancing and don’t have past clients in your target sector, start your own portfolio site and write about topics in your desired niche, for instance. Once you start positioning yourself as an expert in your client’s niche, you’re automatically giving yourself a unique competitive advantage.

Tips for Winning More Proposals

The only way to win more freelance proposals to put yourself in contention.

Truth is you should never stop promoting yourself and building relationships.

Find companies you want to work with and email the decision maker. Use a tool like Hunter to find email addresses. Some freelancers have built six-figure businesses just through cold emailing. Of course, again, you’ll need to have a strong freelance proposal to win business.

Use social media and online forums to land clients. You can, for example, maintain a presence on Reddit or Quora if that’s where your prospective clients find information about your services.

Twitter is a great resource for writers and web developers, for instance. Follow the right hashtags and make valuable contributions. Remember that each of these channels requires a different approach and it can take some time to build a presence.

Build a Thriving Career with the Freelance Proposals

As a freelancer, you’re clear on what you want from your professional pursuits.

What you’re after are high rates, interesting work, and great clients. Those are all the hallmarks of a satisfying, sustainable freelance career.

And it’s all possible with freelance proposals.