Over the past 10 years, I’ve sat on all sides of the marketing table, from being a freelance creative associate selling concepts to senior level clients, to running RFPs for FORTUNE 500 corporations in search of global agencies. During a recent stint at The IdeaLists, a company that acts as a liaison between all of the above, my vantage point became even more interesting.
One of the most common questions I got from our creative community was how to position their offering to better appeal to clients. Here are five tips that I’ve picked up myself after watching thousands of others pitch their services over the years.
1. Get Your Story Straight
While clients respect the deeper philosophical underpinnings of your work, they are busy and need to quickly understand exactly what you do and how you do it. If you’re a UX designer, say so – front and center on your homepage and in the first paragraph of your proposal/email/deck/etc. Save the details of why UX is the path to spiritual enlightenment for a follow-up meeting or blog post.
2. Lead with What You Do, Not What You Don’t
Clients want to hear what you’re doing now, the exciting things you plan to do in the future, and where you think the next smart moves are going to happen in your industry over the next few years. Beginning your presentation with a history of what your company used to do, but doesn’t do anymore can be confusing. Your background is important, but not at the expense of distracting your audience.
3. If You’re Not Qualified, Sit It Out
As an open marketplace, one of the ongoing challenges The IdeaLists faces is striking the balance between offering our creative community exciting new opportunities and making sure our clients only speak to fully qualified candidates. When a client has specific needs that require specialized skills like e-commerce, mobile development, or high-end luxury branding, you absolutely must have demonstrable skills in that area. Spin things too much and you lose credibility, which decreases your chances for future work. In other words, be ambitious yet realistic.
4. Spell Check!
Being a visual thinker is no excuse. Even minor typos broadcast a lack of attention to detail. Proper spelling and grammar is a deal breaker for many people, but is easy to avoid. Always have a second set of eyes look at anything and everything you’re putting in front of a client.
5. The First Answer Is Always Yes
In improv comedy, one of the first lessons is called “Yes, And.” In a nutshell, no matter how crazy the scenario you’re presented with is, the answer is “yes,” and you build on that. Saying no shuts the scene down and leaves nowhere to go. Even when you disagree with a client, there is almost always some valuable information you can extract by keeping an open mind and letting the dialogue continue. Build on that seemingly outlandish question or idea; if you’re a real pro you can even steer things right back to where you want them.
(This post originally appeared in slightly different form at freelancersunion.com.)