When New Freelancers Pitch Prospects: 7 Things to Never Say
You don’t want to make yourself out to have experience you lack. But at the same time, you don’t want to give away that you’re a greenhorn.
The best course of action is to focus on your strengths and present yourself concisely and professionally. Remember, pros write one sentence or two about themselves as a bio — and in my experience, new freelancers write two paragraphs or more.
If you pitch right, your lack of experience may never come to light and you’ll have the best chance of getting the gig.
Whatever you do, don’t run afoul of these common problems I’ve seen in new freelancer’s prospecting pitch letters:
1. Highlight what you lack
Common examples of this approach include:
“I don’t have any samples yet.”
If you don’t, you don’t — definitely don’t pretend you have a bunch of clips if you have yet to do even a free sample for a pro bono client.
But why go out of your way to specifically mention it? You’ll be surprised how many prospects might not even ask to look at your portfolio before they hire you.
For freelance writers especially, a well-written letter of introduction or query letter may just get you the gig on its own merits. So if your portfolio isn’t in great shape, simply don’t bring it up.
2. Broadcast that you’re a newbie
I know writers and designers who have years of work under their belt at staff jobs. Then, when they start freelancing, they feel all insecure about their credibility. Not sure why, but if you’ve done this work in any context, you have experience.
Which is why you never want to volunteer a statement like:
“I’ve only been freelancing for a few months.”
That’s not really relevant, and certainly not putting your best foot forward. What’s important is whether you can show you could do the assignment.
So stress any related experience you have, not how long you’ve been a freelancer.
3. Make yourself unavailable
Here’s a comment I’ve actually seen in a proposed letter of introduction:
“I’ll be leaving town to travel through Europe for several months shortly.”
Even if that’s true, why would you mention it? Maybe you can work remotely as you travel. Maybe they’re the kind of client that doesn’t really care where you are.
If you’re truly about to be unavailable for work, wait to pitch until you get back. Otherwise, the fine details of your work schedule are something to discuss once you’re on the phone with a prospect and nailing down a firm contract to do a project.
4. Indulge in oversharing
While friends may be touched and inspired by the story of how hardship compelled you to turn to freelancing, prospects don’t really care how you got into the business.
You want to avoid statements like this one:
“I got fired from my job, so I turned to freelancing as a last resort.”
If you’re not 100 percent thrilled to be a freelancer, then that’s your private business. It’s the last thing you want prospects to know.
Who wants to hire a freelancer who’s not happy with their line of work and didn’t choose it? Nobody.
Present yourself as fired up to take on client projects, whether your heart is truly in it or whether you’d rather be on vacation.
5. Let them know you’re desperate
Often, being a new freelancer is synonymous with being broke. It’s important that you keep this information to yourself and not share it with prospects.
Once they know you’re starving, you’ll be earning rock-bottom rates for sure. So don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a statement like this one:
“I’m new at this, so I’d be willing to work for less than your usual rate.”
Your fee is a conversation to have farther down the road, once you’ve defined a project with your prospect. You don’t want to raise the issue when you’re first introducing yourself — especially not to broadcast that you’re cheap.
This positions you as a low-quality provider. You might be surprised how many prospects will pass when they get the feeling you’re not successful, in-demand, and able to command professional rates.
Give yourself a chance to earn a fat fee, and just state your relevant knowledge or experience without tipping them off to the state of your bank account.
6. Flaunt your ignorance
Are you pitching an industry or type of client that’s new to you? Again, this is information you don’t want to broadcast with statements like:
“I don’t know a lot about your industry, but I’m willing to learn.”
With the wonderful internet we now have, you could be at least passingly conversant in the recent history and current issues facing any company or industry within 24 hours. Bone up quickly if your prospect calls, and they may never know the difference.
To start, it may be a better approach to simply target companies where you can show relevant knowledge or experience…so if you find yourself worried you don’t know enough, consider aiming for more likely targets.
7. Play up your hobbies
I see statements like this a lot from freelance writers:
“My first love is my fiction writing (or screenwriting, or poetry).”
That may be true, but it is the last thing prospects want to hear. They want to think you’re excited to tackle their copywriting challenge or their website redesign.
Your heart may be in sculpting, or your fine-art screen prints, or acting in community theater, but keep it to yourself if you’re pitching your graphic design, photography, or website design services.
To sum up, your job when you’re pitching prospects is to emphasize your strengths. Tell them what you can do — that you’re prompt, responsive, and focused on meeting clients’ needs.
Don’t tell them what you don’t know or can’t do.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to line up some pro jobs at nice rates, even as a newbie, if you just present yourself like a pro.