Winning work on a freelancing platform can be tough. There’s a world of competition out there. When you’re starting out, it can be tempting to think you should compete on price.

Maybe you’ve sent out dozens, hundreds even, of pitches and all you’re getting is the sound of crickets. Not a nibble.

The thing is, there’s more to hiring a great freelancer than the rate they charge. Reliability, skills, communication, and general ‘fit’ with the project a client has advertised are often more important than price. When you’re writing your pitch or cover letter, it’s worth keeping this in mind.

To stand out from the crowd, you need to shine in all those categories. Sure, pitching isn’t much fun — it’s the unpaid part of your job. Getting better at it will cut down on the time you need to do it because you’ll be busy working.

Two types of pitches

First off, there are two types of pitches on most freelancing marketplaces. Neither of them is a cut-and-paste job that you can use on any old project posting that grabs your fancy. Pitches should be tailored to each job.

There’s the cold pitch, where you throw your hat in for a job you saw advertised in the marketplace. Chances are, you don’t have the name of the client. On some platforms, like Upwork, you can do a little detective work and check out the client’s feedback from the freelancers they’ve worked with. Usually, this will uncover their name. Get to the point quickly and be concise with your words.

Cold pitches are a bit like cold sales, anything you can do to personalise it and break the ice will help you stand out.

Then there’s the warm pitch — this is the response you write to an invite someone sent you for their project. It’s still not a moment to waffle on. But you do have a little more information than you begin with on a cold pitch. For example, the prospective client’s name. You should use it. You may get a little more detail about their project than the advert includes. All the same, you should still check the project listing.

While the two types of pitches vary, the core principles remain the same.

Comprehend to be comprehensible

It may seem obvious, but before you type your salutation, read the project details carefully. That means all the way from start to finish. Make sure you fully understand what is being asked for and that you’re confident you can deliver.

If you can fully understand the deliverables, you’ll be able to write a pitch that shines. If there are gaps in the information that you need to do your job, note them. You’ll need these for later.

What’s more, some prospective clients hide unusual instructions within their project details to help weed out freelancers that don’t pay attention. Little things like ‘type banana at the beginning of your proposal if you’re interested in working with us.’ It’s sneaky, but it must work because I’ve seen that more times than I’ve had beach BBQs.

Understand the detail well and in turn, you will be understood better.

Who are you and why are you here?

Your next step is to explain who you are and why the project you’re pitching for has motivated you to respond. As you do this, highlight your experience and expertise. Mention relevant skills and experiences that matter, work to build your credibility with each word.

This is done by including brief specifics of similar projects you’ve worked on. Showing how you added value and the benefit you brought to that project. Include a link to your portfolio of work.

If you don’t have an online portfolio, note that examples of your work can be seen in the freelance platform portfolio you have built. Include a link to this if you can. Nearly every freelancing marketplace — Upwork, People Per Hour, Fiverr, etc. — has a portfolio option, so make sure you use this.

Start out with your greeting and an introduction that includes a concise reiteration of project needs. Something like this works well:

Hi [Insert client name if you have it],
Your [insert what the project is, e.g: website content project] sounds really interesting and I’ve worked on similar projects in the past. I’d love to learn more, but I expect you’d like to know a little more about me first.
I’m a qualified [type of freelancer] with X years of experience in [what your experience is in]. You can see examples of my work in my [relevant freelancing platform] portfolio and [other places your work can be seen].

How can you actually help?

Remember that whatever it is you do, you’re a problem solver for the prospective client. They may need a blog written, a logo made up, a new app developed or any other thing. They can’t do it themselves and therein lies their problem. They want to understand how you can fix that.

What’s more, they want to be confident you can make that problem go away and make them look great in the process.

So how are you going to do this?

By briefly explaining the methods and processes you’ll use to solve their issue or answer their project needs.

Something like this should do it:

Since working as a freelance [insert your expertise], I’ve noticed that projects such as these are often best approached with [insert your method and process].
I ensure that I am I’m meeting my client’s needs through the life of the project by [insert how you keep things on track].

Show that you have thought about the project

Remember when you carefully read the project description through and found gaps in the information needed to deliver a fantastic job? Now’s the time to use that to your advantage.

Asking questions to clarify a project is a great way to engage the prospective client and show them that you are already thinking about how to best meet their needs. It also gives you a bit of a head start when you win the project, because you’ll have a crystal clear understanding of what’s needed and how it should be delivered. You’ll be able to jump right in.

For this part of a pitch, I tend to go with something like this:

I have a few questions about your project and have noted these for you below:
· Question 1
· Question 2
· Question 3

Finishing up your freelance pitch

In some ways, finishing a pitch for work on freelancing platforms is almost as hard as starting them. How do you finish up in a friendly, confident, and professional tone without sounding desperate or uninterested?

Personally, I go with this:

I’d love to hear from you if you feel I’d be a good fit for the work you have in mind.
Kind regards,

Having potential clients get back to you if they don’t think can do the job wastes everyone’s time. And I hate coming across as over-confident. That can make a good pitch fail too, there is something to be said for humility.

Before you hit send, read through what you’ve just written. Look for typos and silly mistakes. Also, read it for the tone – you’re aiming for friendly and professional. Finally, make sure you have hit all the key points. You may even want to read through the job posting again before re-reading your pitch. And of course, don’t ever speak down to someone in a pitch, or call out mistakes you may have noticed in their job posting.

Pitching isn’t the best part of freelancing, but it is essential if you want to stack your workday with jobs you enjoy and can deliver great work on. Practice makes perfect. Remember to be clear about why you’re a good match for the project, show how you would deliver if successful with your pitch, and give a brief rundown of your experience. Be concise, be friendly and professional and be prepared to land that project.

You can check out my other freelancing tips in my blog.