When I first started freelancing, I never really had a plan or process for landing projects. I just tried my best to communicate what the client was getting for their money and how I was going to help get them to their goal. Projects were hit or miss for a while. I felt like most of the project leads I was getting just fell through the cracks.
I was slipping into self-doubt about my ability as a freelancer… And I started to lose sight of why I went freelance in the first place.
There’s a realization of knowing that if I couldn’t land a project, then I wouldn’t be able to get paid, and if I’m not getting paid, then I can’t make ends meet. My self-pity led to doubt which made it hard to close clients which led to more self-pity.
I had to put an end to those negative vibes and reevaluate my process of landing project leads — For my own sanity and for my business. I can’t meet my goals by being stressed all of the time and neither will you. Having a process focuses you and gives you the confidence you need to push through the hard times.
That’s what I’d like to share with you – my process on landing more client projects.
Establishing a sales process
I used to work retail before I made the jump to freelance, and the key to success on the sales floor is to “close the sale”.
When a customer walked through the doors, I’d greet them, ask how I could help, and then educate them on the product they’re looking to spend their money on.
Take this approach and apply it directly to how you can start landing new project leads — The customer is walking through your doors ready to spend their money. They need you to educate them on what they need. Then, you need to close the sale, just like the a sales person would do in a store.
Have you ever had a store associate ask you, “Can I carry that to the counter for you?” That’s their line for closing the sale!
In your freelance business, it’s up to you as the professional to figure out how to educate the client on the value you bring to the table. You’re the “product” they’re ready to spend their money on, but, before giving them a price, uncover their needs and let them know how your services can make their business more profitable. Then once they’re on board with your process (and your product), close the sale!
If you position yourself as an investment instead of an expense right from the start, the client will be more likely to pay what you’re worth. The client is ultimately the one that determines the value you have to offer – so it’s you that facilities that process.
My process for landing client projects
Right from the start, I have the client fill out one of the project forms (also known as a questionnaire or project brief) on my contact page if they haven’t already done so.
I do this for several reasons:
- If the client can’t take the time to fill out the project form, this raises a red flag. I don’t want to work with someone who isn’t interested in their own project.
- The project is briefed right from the start and I can evaluate them and their needs.
- The brief is now on file (in my email) and can be referenced at any time.
If I’m interested in taking on the project, I respond and give the client an idea of how I work and what they can expect from my services. I detail my process and lay out how each step will play out: when they’ll pay, what I’ll need and when, etc.
Let me give you an exact example of how I’ve responded to a logo project. The first contact I made with this client was through my project form. I reviewed their submission and was interested in working with them. Here’s how I responded:
Thank you for taking the time to fill out my project form! I’d really love to work with you on your new logo for [project name].
After reviewing your information, I have a pretty good understanding of what you’re looking for, so let me explain my process and convey the steps I’d like to take in developing your new logo:
- Project brief (check!)
- Project approval: budget and contract agreement (next step)
- 50% Down payment to begin project production
- Logo concepts (3-5 sketch concepts with 2-4 revisions)
- Vectorization of the approved concept
- Color scheme development
- Final approval, then final payment
- Project files delivered
With that, if you have any questions or concerns about the process, please feel free to ask. The time on each task can vary, but my priority is to respond quickly and deliver each phase of the project as soon as possible.
If you’re ready to get the ball rolling on the project, we can discuss the budget. Then I’ll deliver a simple contract agreement that I’d love for you to sign at your earliest convenience.
Thank you for your time, [Client]. Going through these steps will help ensure a smooth process.
I look forward to your response.
All the best,
Once the client is on board with my process and has no further questions, it’s time to move onto pricing.
When it comes time to discuss pricing, fear might cause you to undervalue yourself, especially when you’re just getting started, but don’t let it! Not every project will follow through or go as expected.
If you’ve done your job educating the client, they should find value in your services and will find the money for it. You’re not a commodity – you’re the solution to their problems.
If the client just doesn’t have the ideal budget, try working with them as best as you can. In these special case scenarios, try providing them a few different packages at various price points. Different prices can be achieved by adding or removing services. You can do X with their budget, but if they find the value in Y, then here’s the price. Doing this can help the client by not having to just say “yes” or “no” to the project due to budgeting. Based on the menu you’ve provided them, they can determine the project’s cost based on the level of services they wish to receive.
At this point once a price is agreed upon, you need to send the client a contract to sign and an invoice for a downpayment. If the client has an issue with completing these tasks, then that’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t work with them.
Using this process I’ve been able to brief, get a contract signed, and get a down payment all in the first day of receiving the project lead!
To summarize how to handle project leads and land more client projects:
- Brief the project: understand the client and their needs before talking costs.
- Your first email response after the brief should educate them on the value you have to offer and your work process.
- Answer any questions or concerns they may have about your process (if needed).
- Base the price off of their needs, your time, and ultimately your value. Quote the project accordingly and if needed, be flexible with the budget within reason.
- Get a contract signed and invoice for a down payment.
- Start the project!
Your process for handling leads should evolve as you learn what works best for you and as you discover the gaps in your current process.
I hope by seeing my process, you can gain some insight and apply it to how you land client projects.
How do you land client projects?
Do you have a specific method for landing client projects? Feel free to share some of your own tips in the comments below!