The most common reason that freelance writers have to pass on a project or have their proposals rejected is being unable to match a budget or being underbid by another writer. Money talks. But if you can make a strong connection and imprint your name on a potential client’s brain, you can out-talk money. You can prove you’re worth that extra cost.
Over the past month, I’ve had two people who initially passed on my proposals return to my inbox asking if I could still take them on if they were able to secure the amount needed to meet my rate. Is anything set in stone with these clients yet? No. But the fact that both are willing to work to increase their budgets in order to collaborate with me over the other, more affordable writers they were considering is enough to make my month.
So what drove them to do so, and how can you make that kind of impression in a proposal or preliminary correspondence? It’s all about genuine connection.
So how do you make a strong, genuine connection in limited correspondence?
Read with Care
When you’re reading through a “writer wanted” listing or an inquiry email, take your time and read with a magnifying glass. What, to you, is the most interesting thing about this project? If you were selected as this person’s writer, what element would you be most excited to work on and why? Do you and this person have anything in common? What about this project and the client’s specific needs aligns best with your expertise? If you can’t answer any of those questions, this probably isn’t the project for you. (Although I totally get that sometimes you just need the money—I’ve been there—and if you’re struggling, go for it. Just rely on your samples and credentials and skip the conversation starter.)
If you need more information about the project to properly answer those questions, ask for it. Once you have your answers, convey your interest to the client. Talk about that thing that stands out to you. Talk about that element of the project that gets you excited. For example, I really loved the message one of those two clients was seeking to convey through his novel, and the core concept behind the inspiration. I chatted about that briefly in my first message to him.
Don’t make crap up! This isn’t pandering. This isn’t manipulation. This isn’t saying what you think the client wants to hear to make yourself look good. First and foremost, that’s unethical. Second, if you try pulling that crap, you’ll probably either end up overselling or underselling, and the client’s likely to pick up on it. If you want to make a lasting positive impression, you need genuine connection.
Talk the Talk
The second part to making a lasting impression is showing that you are right for the project. Once you’ve connected with the potential client on a more personal level, finish off your message by asking any preliminary questions you have. I have a list of things I need to know in order to craft a proposal for a book ghostwriting project. It’s very rare that a potential client answers all of them in their listing or inquiry email. If you don’t have a list like this, I highly recommend making one.
Asking informed questions not only helps you work up a solid proposal, but it also shows the client that you know what you’re talking about.
If you have past experience or a personal passion that directly aligns with a specific or unique element of the project, be sure to highlight that in your first message. For me, it’s often a similarity in a book’s subject matter, whether that be mermaids, kidnapping, an anti-hero protagonist, etc. If I’ve worked on a project with a similar subject matter to the potential client’s, I mention that project, the role I played, the success of the book, and/or my favorite part about working with that subject matter.
Lastly, if you can, try to provide some brief guidance. If you work with large businesses, this probably won’t apply to you, but if you work with individuals, like I do, chances are your potential client doesn’t know everything about your industry. If you can briefly provide some insight that helps your client narrow down their goals, take the time to do so.
For example, I have potential clients who come to me unsure if they’re going to self-publish or submit to publishers. After a message or two back and forth regarding the nature of the book, I often provide a few pros and cons of both methods. Likewise, some potential clients are a little fuzzy on whether they need a book proposal or not. I let them know if a proposal is appropriate for their project and why.
Both those things only take a few lines and maybe a link, but they are valuable to the client, and he/she will remember you because you took the time to help.
Now that you’ve had some correspondence and made a positive impression, it’s time to send your proposal. Your final quote won’t be as intimidating if the client already feels you’re worth it and has a genuine connection with you.
Go above and beyond in your proposal. Don’t just list out your price and estimated deadline. Make it clear what your price includes and explain why that deadline is the most appropriate for the project. Don’t just send samples. Explain why you’ve included that particular sample and what aspects of your skills it showcases.
For an in-depth post on creating a tailored proposal, read Make Your Freelance Writing Proposals Stand Out.
Most clients can tell when you put in extra effort, and they appreciate it. They’re probably receiving multiple proposals, but if yours shows that you fully understand their project, that you share a similar passion with them, and that you have the expertise to create a final product that perfectly aligns with their vision, the client will take notice and remember your name.
Finding a way to connect with your potential clients makes the projects you land far more enjoyable. Taking a few extra moments to be a human rather than an automated answering system can make all the difference in proving that you’re worth every penny.