Elance Blog

3 Ps – Proposal Secrets Your Clients Can’t Resist

I love freelancers on Elance. Many are experts in their fields, who routinely deliver top-quality work, even on short notice.

Having a list of strong freelancers you can count on is a fantastic resource. It gives you the power of a highly specialized work force at a cost that’s far, far less than employing such a force full-time. That’s why one of many reasons why I use freelancers in my own accounting software company, Billy’s Billing.

When I need special resources beyond what I’ve got in-house, I typically turn to Elance. In reviewing proposals I receive from Elancers, I very often encounter people who are missing out on great opportunities, simply because they aren’t selling themselves well.

Their proposals lack some important elements that could win them my business. With this post, I want to reach out and help deserving people, so they can land more projects and earn more money. Not just from me, but from any other client on Elance-oDesk.

Let’s get started so you can bring in more customers. At the end I also have some bonus advice for you, on a subject near and dear to any freelancer’s heart: Pricing.

First: Three questions and three rules.

First, in writing your proposal, ask yourself the following three questions:

1.     How can I get this client to trust me?  

2.     What problem does the client want solved, and how will I solve it?

3.     What is a fair price for solving the problem?

Each connects to a good rule of thumb for proposal writing. We’ll get to the rules themselves in a moment.

P #1: “P”rofiles and Proposal—Build Client Trust.

We naturally want to do business with people we trust. When trust is absent or iffy, we take our business elsewhere. So getting your potential client to trust you is crucial to landing any project. Keld Jensen, an Assistant Professor at Thunderbird University, goes into this in detail in his book The Trust Factor: “Trust is in fact the keystone of successful commercial transactions.”

Your provider profile on Elance is crucial to creating client trust. How does your profile measure up? Take time to review it. Look it over carefully from the viewpoint of a prospective client who knows nothing about you. Review it against these questions (again, from the client’s viewpoint):

·       What do past clients have to say about this provider? Was the work good? Was it great? How about the service? Communication? Were deadlines met? Were there any problems? Were they resolved?

·       Is there any evidence of this provider’s competence? Does the provider just talk about past products, or are there plenty of good examples of his or her work? Are there any examples of projects similar to mine?

·       Is there a picture of this provider? Including a photo in your profile reassures the client he or she will be dealing with a real person. People like doing business with people—not with machines or faceless, generalized companies.

When it comes to writing your proposal, be sure to keep the trust factor in mind. Be personable. Include quotes from past clients’ feedback (ideally, from projects similar to the one you’re bidding on). Attach relevant samples of your work. Some freelancers don’t include feedback or samples in their proposal; they figure the client will go check out their profile and portfolio, so why bother? Big mistake. Make it easy for the client to see that you’re a great choice, and to trust you.

By the way, it’s definitely okay to include relevant client feedback and work samples from jobs outside Elance.

P #2: The Client’s “P”roblem—Offer a Solution.

Any prospective client has some problem she’s trying to solve. She has come to Elance looking for someone who will solve it. Study the job posting carefully and make sure you’re certain of what the client is seeking to solve. Decide how you’re going to solve it. Then, in writing your proposal, make it very clear that you understand what the client needs, and explain how you propose to solve it.

If you have questions about any important aspect of the project, ask them! Elance allows you to do this—which is great, because it can be a super project-winning tool. By asking the client intelligent questions before you make your proposal, you’re instantly demonstrating that you’re thoughtful, smart, thorough, and proactive—and that you actually care about providing exactly what the client needs. For example, what’s the right degree of quality? “Fast and dirty,” when speed is super-important? “Diamonds and platinum” when it’s got to be perfect? Or something in between? Such things make a big difference in what you do, and what you charge.

P #3: “P”rice Low Doesn’t Mean Good.  

There’s no question that price is an important consideration for a client when choosing a provider. In a lot of cases, though, it is NOT the most important consideration. Most clients are more concerned with the VALUE you’ll provide and how well you’ll solve their problem. That’s definitely what I look for when awarding a project. If I can get what I need at a low rate, cheers. But I’d rather pay a fair price for:

·       Great work

·       Good communication

·       Useful updates on progress

·       Timely delivery

So, when you’re making your proposal:

·       Assure the client you’ll deliver a great product (give examples of past great work)

·       Assure the client you’ll deliver on time

·       If you’re aiming for a long-term relationship, say so—and that you’ve lowered your price quote with that in mind

·       Assure the client you understand both the quality and speed required

·       Ask a fair price for what you’ve promised.

Finally, and most important: Once you’ve won the contract, DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISED. And to be a total smashing success, always deliver a little better than what you promised.

Bonus pricing advice:

Set yourself up with good accounting software, and learn to use it well—particularly its analysis functions. By keeping good records and analyzing your numbers, you’ll be able to spot which types of projects are your best income generators: the ones that bring in the most revenue for the time and effort you put into them. You’ll also be able to fine-tune your pricing, based on your actual time and costs. I really can’t stress this enough. Why? Because landing a contract is a liability if it doesn’t end in a financial benefit. Know what your services are worth, and do not underprice them!

Conclusion …

Ask yourself those three important questions. Use those three Ps in crafting your proposals. Then deliver like mad. You’ll start winning more and more contracts, and see your bottom line grow and grow.

I wish you all the best.

Toke Kruse

Twitter: www.twitter.com/tokekruse

Toke Kruse is an entrepreneur with more than fourteen years of experience, and founder of Billy’s Billing -- accounting software in plain English and Slideshop – professional PowerPoint Templates. He has authored several books on entrepreneurship and small business management, including “Grandma’s Secret Recipe,” and the soon-to-be-published “A Players” (true value for freelancers and teams!).

Photo courtesy of Chris


And: Location, Location, Location. (Elance-oDesk, where else?)
Thank you for some great tips!

Not good :-( nothing NEW said here!

Maybe nothing new to you - but we haven't all been freelancing for ages! And even for those who have, it never hurts to be reminded of solid basics.

I have been freelancing for a while and learnt something new

great article. Thanks

Thank you for this article. As mentioned above, it is always a good thing to be reminded of the basics. However, I have one thing to point out regarding price. In my native language field (Greek), there is a disturbingly increasing trend of awarding jobs to the cheapest proposal without regarding the level of quality to be provided. Greek translators lower their prices too much and also people who have no official certified degree in Languages or Translation bid low and get all the jobs at ridiculous prices. Why should Elance provide the option of verified credentials and not make it a mandatory requirement for bidding on jobs? I am sorry if I am tiring you with these but I just wanted to take it out of my chest. Once again, kudos for the article!

Well actually we have more number of poor and middle class people in the world therefore they consider bids with low price however only perfectionist will consider quality bid.

It is the other way around too. People consider lower bids as they think paying a higher price to contractors from these poorer countries is not justified and that the money they are offering is too much for a person from that country.

Read what I was told when I said that $800 is not fair for a web based application with a native iOS and Android Application. Obviously considering the requirement the client had.

This is the answer.

And something last for conclusion: I am located in Greece. We have many indian guys here in Greece. Do you know what work they do? They clean car windows on the road! For 0,20$ or maybe 0,50$. They collect this money and send it to their families in India. And their families are happy with this money. One of this guys once told me that this money is good money for the Indian standard. So Ì believe that since some families are happy with 0,50$.... 800$ is not bad money at all for Indian standards. Just for your information.

Thanks and good luck!

Agreed! Below are 2 reasons I think best describe this trend:

1) People look for Freelancing sites when their budget is low.

2) Increased trend in more indirect work (from 3rd party agents, middlemen or brokers), that is, award project to cheapest Freelancer (yet controlling the quality) to maximize profit.

Correct me please if I am wrong.

2 reason is absolutely right?

It's always good to acquiant oneself of the basics.

It's always good to acquiant oneself of the basics.

Hi Toke,

Thank you for reminding the 3 P's when crafting proposal. It is definitely a great piece of advise to all.

There are 4 P's in marketing as they teach; Product, Place; Price and Promotion. Place is no longer important in freelancing but still I have seen some clients who prefer to hire from local contractors. The 4th P that you missed is Promotion; After successfully completing a project/job, it is worth offering other services you may provide, to get more business/work (repeat business) from the clients. As it is easy to get more work from the previous clients than to find new clients.

Please continue writing more and more valuable posts on Elance blog.

Kind Regards,
qammar (php_fun)

Thank you so much! :)

Hello - You nicely mentioned the entrepreneurial needs and requirements for freelancers, both novice and expert. The proper understanding and response to ORIGINAL/INNER demands of entrepreneur is critical success factor of freelancing. Thanks.

It is good to be reminded and the comments are timely
thanks a lot

Thank you so much for great tips.

Nice article and helpful.

Hi sir, I am Ukhengching Marma.

I just wanted to reach out and say that this blog is full of many tips which are really amazing and knowledgeable.

I enjoyed reading your articles. Maybe you are also interested to see this interesting startup (http://www.myhelpster.com) and helpful for the freelancers and whom who works from homel You will probably like it as well. If you like we could issue a brief guest post for your website. We would be also happy to link back to your site in a brief article.

Let me know what you think about it.

All the best,
Ukhengching Marma
MyHelpster Team

Thank you so Much...

Great Post,, Understanding and delivering what client is seeking while hiring is key to success on elance.