It can be the most baffling part of finding new clients, as a freelance writer: What initial freelance projects should you pitch, to try to get in the door?
You look at their website and you think…. uhhh…. I dunno. Looks great! You can’t tell what they need.
Well, good news — once you know what to look for, this is easy.
Most great first freelance projects fall into a few specific categories.
Once you know those, it’s simple to find a first project to propose that’s got a high probability of getting a ‘yes.’
What are these categories?
Here are my top five project types to pitch to new freelance writing clients for an easy sale:
1. The missing element
If you’ve spent much time looking at business websites, you know there are some fundamental items you expect to find. These include:
- Team bios
- A press page or ‘news’ area
- An About page that tells the company’s story
- Product descriptions
- Sales pages
- Contact information
- Some type of content marketing — press releases, blog posts, articles, special reports, e-books, white papers, case studies
Look at your prospect’s site. Is one of these standard items missing? That’s your pitch.
“I noticed that while most business websites have an About page that tells the company’s founding story, yours doesn’t. Since people buy from companies where they feel a personal connection, would it make sense for me to interview the founders to create a great company ‘origins’ story for your About page? Let’s tell the world about the passion behind this business!”
Pitch tip: Read their press releases. Did they announce a new product or partnership? Perhaps a follow-up that updates the public on their progress is the missing item.
2. The outdated item
Websites have a way of getting old and stale. If you spot a copyright notice at the bottom of the website that’s 5 years ago or older, that’s an easy pitch:
“Hey, I noticed it looks like your web copy was written quite a long time ago. I’m betting your business has some exciting new developments since then. What about hopping on a call to discuss a website refresh?”
You’ll notice that pitch script didn’t say, “Hi, your website copy sucks.” Even though it probably does.
Just note that it is out of date. Everyone likes to be current.
After 20+ years covering business, I can tell you if that business didn’t have some fresh news to add to its site after 5 years, it would be out of business. I promise you, there are new developments. They have added services or products, opened a new location, changed who their target audience is — there’s news to share.
Plus, online copy best-practices have changed a lot over the years, so the vibe may no longer reflect how the company wants to communicate with customers. Offer to do a style & tone rewrite, to convey a more 21st Century feel.
3. The interrupted marketing
Companies start many marketing initiatives. They have high hopes each will get them buckets of new clients.
Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But what happens is that like all businesses, they try many things, and then find they don’t have the bandwidth to keep them all going.
The most obvious example of this is abandoned business website blogs. Of which there are legions. Truly.
You take a look at their blog, and the last post was a year ago. They understood blogging could help build their business, but they ran out of ideas or didn’t have time to keep it up.
Now, they have a sad, dusty-looking, abandoned blog — and you have an easy pitch angle. Think up 2-3 snappy, new blog headlines that would fit their audience and send off a pitch.
It’s not just blogs, either. For instance, I recently checked out a fairly large national company’s press-release zone online — and discovered their most recent release came out in…2016.
That means they understand press releases are a good idea, and could help them get free publicity. And in turn, more clients. But…the effort sputtered out.
Perhaps a fresh set of outside eyes could help them develop a new schedule of weekly press releases to kick that strategy back into gear, hm?
What I love about this pitch angle is you spend zero time trying to convince them they should have a blog, or put out press releases. They already get it — all you have to do is point out they should resume using this form of marketing.
4. The industry best practice
Take the top 10 companies in any industry. Look at all of their websites. Now, look at the sites of your prospects.
You’ll probably immediately spot some forms of content that the big dogs do that the medium- and smaller-size companies don’t.
That’s your pitch.
“I was checking out your website, and I noticed you don’t have any (X type of marketing). Since all of the top 10 companies in (niche) use this form of marketing, I wanted to check in to see if it’s time to bring your company’s marketing up a level, so you look as authoritative as the big guys.”
The best-practice items will vary by sector — maybe it’s explainer videos or a podcast you should be paid to script, or bait-piece e-books for blog subscribers. But when you point out their top competitors all do it, you won’t get a lot of objections.
5. The authority builder
You probably know that one of the hottest forms of marketing today is aimed at building authority — setting up the CEO or other C-suite exec as the go-to expert in their field.
It raises their profile personally, and can greatly enhance a business’s reputation, making sales much easier to make. These authority pieces take many forms — placed articles in magazines, special reports, e-books, white papers, print book ‘in the back of the room’ for public speakers.
If you check out a company website and don’t see any obvious authority-building efforts, that’s your pitch. Combine with your best-practice research for maximum effect, as in:
“I notice many of your competitors put out special reports, e-books, and print books that help build their authority. But I’m betting you have just as much expertise to share.
Have you always thought you had a book in you, that would raise your profile in the industry? If so, I’m happy to talk about ghostwriting and making that happen sooner than later.”
If you’re not up for ghosting books, maybe pitch them ghostwriting an article or series. Choose your authority weapon, and go for it.
Easy pitches for more freelance projects
With these simple elements to check on a company’s website, you should be able to come up with a great pitch idea fairly quickly. And that’s key to being a successful freelance writer — you can’t spend hours researching each prospect.