Whether you're freelancing, a small business or a large agency - you'll be hunting for new projects and work you can take on.

Finding clients can be one of the hardest tasks for any company, regardless of their size. With lots of competition - how do you secure the work?

Pitching and Working Upfront in Freelance Marketplaces

Bidding For Work

There are a large number of websites for freelancers and agencies that aim to let designers and developers to submit their work and, in principal, bid for the client to select their work over everybody else's. Sites like People per Hour, oDesk and Design Crowd all work on this basis. But where is the incentive for you, is there any at all?

Typically any work you secure from bidding sites are often low budget small projects. You'll be in a pool of 25 or more other potential designers or developers who are all actively trying to secure the client, and often this results in a matter of 'he who bids the lowest gets the job'. This means you'll often find people will put hourly rates as low as a couple of pounds an hour, something that isn't feasible to support a business regardless of its size. Competing with these types of designers is painfully frustrating and can often lead to you feeling devalued as a designer. 

Building on top of this, if you do finally secure a small budget project you'll find yourself putting together something that isn't as high quality as your other work may be, for whatever reason. Where is your incentive to put together a masterpiece when your hourly rate is so low? If a client is only willing to put aside a limited budget on getting a task done, they'll more than likely end up with a poorly designed or developed end deliverable that lacks the quality or vibe they'd get if they contacted an agency or skilled freelancer directly about your design or development jobs.

So, you're browsing on a marketplace for designers and stumble across a brilliant project with a generous budget to put together a new logo. The brief is simple and snappy - "Develop a logo for a new cocktail bar that has just opened that represents the funk and grunge nature of the bar." Excellent, you think, instantly starting to plan out colour palettes and potential design ideas. You get to work drafting together some ideas you've got, probably setting aside a days work to realise your project from an idea in your head to a working vector logo. You save your work, submit it and then pack up for the day.

A week later the project closes new submissions and, having received no email, you check the project to see if you surfaced near the top. It tells you that amongst the 150 submissions the project received, they're sad to inform you that your design wasn't selected. This can be a massive hinderance on any designer, you've spent a large amount of time putting together a design and working free-of-charge upfront to end up no better off than you were.

On the flip side of this, you do get to gain experience and build on your skills through these methods. It allows you as a designer to build up a bank of knowledge and develop yourself to work under time restrictions and briefs with minimal information. Plus if your design doesn't get chosen, you can always change the name and resell it at a later date - never throw anything away! Archive it, as you will never know what may come in handy in the future.

You can see anywhere upwards of 50 new projects listed a day on sites like this and there is always a surplus of projects that are near-to their close date and have no active submissions (well not 100+ of them!). If you search and monitor the activity, you can end up securing a good project. If you're finding yourself not securing any work from the freelance marketplace and really struggling to find new work, I'd recommend you look into lead generation options and engage more actively in networking.

Pitching Your Proposal

Similar to working upfront on the freelance marketplace, you may be asked to put together a complete project pitch upfront, free of charge. Needless to say, projects that require a proposal and pitch putting together tend to have a large budget resulting in a larger incentive for you to complete a quality project. But is this method any better?

We recently joined a networking site that looks to pinpoint projects of interest and gives us the chance to pitch for the project. Sounds great, right? Diving into this workflow a bit deeper, we started working on a pitch, which was time consuming and meant we had to do a lot of research into the market and field of work the project was in. We were required to put together some ideas before submitting which meant spending a substantial amount of time on planning the infrastructure and then designing our workflow and consequently an initial prototype of the application.

Our pitch went through the submission process and was shortlisted, though that was after we were prompted to make a series of changes to the pitch to demonstrate a more thorough understanding and examples of the work we'd be delivering (you guessed it - more work upfront).

In the end, we didn't secure the pitch though we did gain a whole bunch of experience from the process. We researched into pitching and how to put together a professional pitch, what cases studies to include, what messages to put across, etc. Overall the experience did consume a lot of our time but pitching is a fundamental process of any business and everybody has to do it at one point. It's the skills that you acquire whilst putting a pitch together that'll help you further down your business career and what will, in the long-run, increase your chances of securing more projects.

"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." - Auguste Rodin

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