Make Money

How to Write a Freelance Proposal to Win More Jobs & Get Better Clients

Freelance Proposal Tips
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Few freelancers put in the effort to create a brand. 

They may take the time to find an optimal freelance niche (like being a freelance travel writer), and they may even get a few clients here and there.

But often, their business plateaus — or fails to really take off at all — because there’s little or no differentiation between them and everyone else. 

It’s a crowded market out there, and offering the same service as everyone else means going head-to-head with a swarm of talented competition.

Fortunately, you don’t have to try and be the best in the world in your particular niche. There’s a better way to set yourself apart.

Below you’ll learn how to market yourself and your skills in a way that allows you to stand out from the crowd, including techniques you can use in your freelance proposal template to capture the client’s attention.

In turn, you’ll be able to:

  • Attract more prospects.
  • Convert those prospects at a higher rate.
  • Earn more money per client.

Let’s get started.

How to Determine Your Target Buyer

Your potential client is not looking to hire you for your skill. They’re looking to hire you because you can deliver a result for them. 

It’s your goal to make it as clear as possible what that result is. 

And in order to do that, you need to know exactly who you’re selling to

Here’s what’s great about freelancing: you get to choose who you want to work with. 

Ironically, however, most freelancers never put much thought into this, instead viewing themselves as generalists who are willing to work with almost anyone. 

One problem is that there are a lot of generalists out there, so it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.

But an even bigger problem is that nobody wants to hire a generalist, who may not have the specific skills and knowledge to solve their problem or deliver their desired result.

That means that, when it comes to generalists, there’s a big supply of labor and little to no demand. And that’s a game you don’t want to play.

So while it may seem counterintuitive…

You actually want to shrink the market by choosing exactly who it is you’re going to sell to. 

In other words, you don’t want to offer your services to any and all businesses. That’s the type of selection process — or lack thereof — that will keep you stuck making rates that are below what you could otherwise command.

Instead, you want to be precise in choosing who you work for, in what you offer, and in what the result of hiring you will be.

There are three different ways you can segment your buyers:

  1. Demographic: Age, education, geography, location and income.
  2. Problem: People with back pain, gardeners who want to eliminate weeds naturally, etc.
  3. Niche: Type of business (restaurant owner, chiropractor, food bloggers, YouTubers, Crossfit enthusiasts, etc).

Very few markets are too small these days, because now the actual audience for what you have to offer is worldwide. 

So, you might want to narrow down your target market using a combination of ways to segment your audience. 

For example, one of your primary segments might be six-figure (demographic) food bloggers (niche) looking to expand their reach on YouTube (problem). 

Beginner Tip: It’s OK for now if you have a wider customer base than in the example above. But over time, the goal is to narrow that lens and identify where you can deliver the most value for your customers — and thus earn the most money for your time. 

Getting to Know Your Target Buyer

Now that you know who your customer is, you’ll need to get to know more about them. 

As in, really know them. 

After all, your success depends on how well you solve their problems. So taking time to actually understand those problems is vital. 

Below, we’ll use the example of freelance writing in the “make money” niche as a case study for creating an irresistible offer. 

Freelance Writing Case Study Part #1

Say you decide to become a freelance writer who specializes in creating content for finance bloggers in the “make money” niche (something I know a bit about). 

In that case, what’s up next is getting to know who exactly is in this target market. 

Start with the easy stuff:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Geography
  • Education
  • Family situation

Next, start brainstorming the specific problems these customers face, such as:

  • Creating content that naturally attracts links.
  • Keeping old content constantly updated to satisfy partners and affiliates (and to keep it current).
  • Finding low-difficulty, high-demand keywords.
  • Sending out weekly emails to their email list.

(Hey, those problems sound familiar…).

What you’re trying to do here is understand your potential clients’ problems, and therefore envision the results you can deliver.

Creating an Offer for Your Ideal Buyer

I get a fair amount of freelancers pitching me on hiring them — mostly writers, SEO companies, and developers. 

On average, I get 30 to 40 per week. 

The pitch is always the same. And I have yet to hire even a single writer from a cold pitch. 

Here’s an example:

Example of a bad freelance writing proposal pitch
Example of a real email I received (you may need to view the image in a new tab to read to text).

There are a few issues with emails like this, but first and foremost is that the pitch doesn’t focus at all on solving my issues or problems. 

Now, say someone pitched me this email instead:

Hey R.J., 

I’ve noticed that sites like yours, which have a small team but a large audience, have trouble keeping old content fresh and up-to-date. 

I know this is quite important for both user experience and search traffic (Google seems to be prioritizing recency in YMYL niches), so I created a service that offers to regularly update content for financial bloggers in the make money space — with the aim to increase search traffic.

Let me know if this is something you’re interested in and I’ll happily share more. 

Thank you, 

Now, which one do you think I’m more likely to reply to?

This is the type of in-depth understanding of a potential client’s problems that you want to aim for, because it allows you to not only get more work but also charge a higher price. 

Freelance Writing Case Study Part #2

So, we’ve gotten to know who these people are, as well as what their problems are. 

Next is deciding what it is that we’re going to offer to solve their problems. 

We’ll accomplish this by first narrowing down what it is we can do to solve those problems. 

And second, by developing a crystal clear understanding of what it is we offer (the deliverable) to these clients.

Exercise #1: Turning our customer’s problem into a solution.

Here, we’ll need to take the problems we’ve identified in the previous section and turn them into potential solutions. 

The formula is simple: 

State the problem > Determine how you can fix that problem

So, take the list of problems your customers have and start brainstorming potential solutions. 

Example #1:

  • Problem: Creating content that naturally attracts links.
  • Solution: Create content using proven formats that naturally attract links.

Example #2:

  • Problem: Keeping old content constantly updated to satisfy partners and affiliates (and to keep it current). 
  • Solution: Offer to update blog posts instead of writing new content.

Example #3:

  • Problem: Finding low-difficulty, high-demand keywords.
  • Solution: Include keyword research in your writing process.

Example #4:

  • Problem: Sending out weekly emails to your lists.
  • Solution: Offer a service that sends out weekly emails.

Now it’s your turn. 

Run through the following formula with your own idea, using what you’ve learned up until now about who is buying what you have to offer and the problems they face.

Remember, here’s the formula:

State the problem > Determine how you can fix that problem

Features vs. Benefits in Freelance Proposal Writing

In the marketing world, there’s a concept known as features vs. benefits

Features are facts about what you sell. Think of things like “I’ll update three articles a week,” and “I have three years of experience.” 

But benefits are what a customer gets. Think of things like more search traffic, higher revenue, and time savings.

People buy (and hire) because of benefits, not features. 

So it’s important to lay out as clearly as possible what the benefits of your services are. 

Freelance Writing Case Study Part #3

There’s a good trick for translating features into benefits, and that is to constantly ask the question “so what.”

Example #1:

  • Feature: I update three articles per week for financial bloggers in the make money niche.
  • So what?: My client keeps their website up-to-date, and therefore provides more value to their readers.

Example #2:

  • Feature: I update three articles per week for financial bloggers in the make money niche.
  • So what?: My clients satisfy Google’s desire for fresh content, and therefore get more organic traffic to their website.

Example #3:

  • Feature: I update three articles per week for financial bloggers in the make money niche.
  • So what?: My client can focus on creating new content.

Your action step in this stage is to come up with three different features for your service. 

Then, aim to come up with three different benefits for each of those features by asking “so what?”

  • Feature #1: I have three years of experience working in the finance industry.
    • Benefit: You’ll save time, as it’s rare that you’ll have to edit any of my work.
    • Benefit: You’ll be improving the overall content on the site, and therefore creating more value for your readers.
    • Benefit: I can just go in and edit the content without any back and forth from you.

Defining Your Deliverable

While we just identified our customers’ problems (and then their solutions), there’s one more important step. We need to turn what it is we accurately defined into what it is we want to offer. 

We’re going to use this example:

  • Problem: Keeping old content constantly updated to satisfy affiliates (and to keep it current).
  • Solution: Offer to update blog posts for bloggers.

Now, updating old blog posts is a valuable service. 

But, as someone who needs this service, it still leaves me with a lot of questions. 

And when you’re pitching clients, it’s important to be as clear as possible about what you have to offer. 

So, there’s actually one more step we need to take. And that is to determine the deliverable — or what exactly it is your client will get by engaging with you. 

  • Problem: Keeping old content constantly updated to satisfy affiliates (and to keep it current).
  • Solution: Offer to update blog posts for bloggers.
  • Deliverable: I’ll update three articles per week.

Too often, freelancers are vague about what it is they offer. And as a result, clients are not sure what it is exactly they’re getting. 

It’s your job to be as clear as possible with what it is you offer. 

Crafting a Compelling Elevator Pitch

When I was working in financial services, I’d regularly attend sales seminars put on by the Fortune 500 insurance and financial companies we partnered with. 

The one thing that was taught in every one of those classes was the idea of an elevator pitch. 

An elevator pitch is sales terminology for what you’d say to someone you just met in less than 30 seconds (the length of an elevator ride) to get them interested in what you have to offer. 

When I was just starting out, I assumed this would be easy. After all, I had just got done writing 10+ page papers on complex financial topics in college, so a 30-second sales pitch would be a piece of cake. 

I was dead wrong. 

The more I learned — and specifically, the more I learned about selling, consumer behavior and psychology — the more I realized how hard this task actually is. 

The French philosopher Blaine Pascal famously wrote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

There’s a lot of truth in that quote. And it’s for this reason why some of the best copywriters in the world often spend as much time writing the headline as they do the entire sales message.

Fortunately, you’ve done a lot of the hard work in creating an elevator pitch already.

You have:

  • Identified your target market.
  • Learned about your ideal buyer (including their) demographic information and (most importantly) what their real problems are.
  • Brainstormed the different features and benefits of what it is you have to offer.
  • Identified how exactly you can fix those problems.

Now it’s just a matter of putting this all together to create your elevator pitch. 

But first, know that the reason you’re creating this is not so you can have the perfect thing to say when you’re asked, “what do you do?”

Instead, the goal is to create a consistent sales message you want to send to potential clients. 

So the work here can be used in potential cold emails to prospects, proposals, conversations, freelancer profiles, your website and more (this is what branding is). 

Step #1: Draft a Clear Opening Paragraph

When you brainstormed the potential benefits of working with you, what was most important? In your opening sentence, let your client know exactly what that benefit is:

I’m a (insert skill) who specializes in (delivering this primary benefit) + (this niche)

Examples:

  • I’m a freelance writer who helps bloggers in the make money space keep their content up-to-date to increase overall search traffic.
  • I’m a freelance writer who produces revenue-generating articles for travel bloggers.
  • I’m a digital video marketing specialist who helps food bloggers increase revenue with video.
  • I’m a college exam prep tutor who works with high school students looking to get into a U.S. News Top 100 College.

Step #2: Identify What’s Unique About Your Service

Now it’s time to let your potential clients know you understand what their problems are, as well as how you will fix them. 

Here’s where you’ll tie together their main problem and how to fix that problem. 

Example #1:

Updating content is vital for not only delivering top quality value to readers but for Google as well.

Therefore, I’ve created a seamless service for financial bloggers that keeps their most important content up to date.

The result is increased visitors from search, and in the end, increased revenue. 

Example #2:

For anyone who has never produced and marketed videos online, it can be a big hurdle to climb.

Not only that, it’s hard to understand exactly how videos increase revenue.

So, I’ve created a system that takes no more than an hour of your time per week, but which will help you reach more of your ideal readers in the first week. 

Step #3: Create Bullets

Bullets are the key features and benefits of your service. Their name comes from the fact that they’re usually formatted with a bullet point. 

Use these to help clarify exactly what your clients are getting.  

You’ve done this work already when you stated a feature and asked, “So, what?” 

Now, it’s time to just add them.

Insert your three most important bullets that build on your previous two paragraphs. 

Example for an online college prep tutor:

  • 1-1 tutoring. Each week your child will work with me in a one-on-one setting.
  • Customized lesson plans. Every child is different, so I customize each lesson plan to make the biggest impact for your child’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • 12-week program. Provides you with full preparation for every area of the SAT. 

Step #4: Put It All Together

Now it’s just a matter of putting together a series of paragraphs. 

Example:

I’m a college exam prep tutor who works with high school students looking to get into a U.S. News Top 100 College. 

SAT test scores are among the most important criteria for your child getting into college. My 12 week, one-on-one program allows high school students to get proper training across all key subject matter based on their individual strengths and weaknesses to have the highest score possible. 

For a one-time fee, here’s what you’ll get:

1-1 tutoring. Each week your child will work with me in a one-on-one setting.

Customized lesson plans. Every child is different, so I customize each lesson plan to make the biggest impact for your child’s strengths and weaknesses. 

12-week program. Provides you with full preparation for every area of the SAT. 

Writing a Great Freelance Proposal: Final Thoughts

There is both good news and bad news. 

First, the bad news: This isn’t easy work. Putting yourself in your prospects’ shoes is hard. 

But here’s the good news: Because it’s hard, few freelancers and businesses put in the effort to craft a compelling message — one that hits a prospective client the right way, so that they understand, without a shadow of a doubt, that you’re the one and only person who can deliver the results they’re looking for. 

That’s the mark of an effective freelance proposal.

And when you achieve it, you’ll no longer have to compete against an army of international talent.


This article concludes our in-depth series on How to Get Started Freelancing.

If this is your starting point, you’ll want to read:

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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