Are you a writer who wants to increase your monthly income? Are you freelance-curious, yet not sure how to price your offers, proposals, or hourly rates? In this article, I’ll give you a rundown of my personal experience landing $250, $2,500, and $25,000 proposals, as well as how you can do the same.
The Difference Between $250, $2,500, And $25,000 Freelancer Proposals - Post Outline
It’s no surprise that the gig economy is absolutely surging right now. Skilled workers are navigating an unstable employment landscape, and many are turning to freelancer life to make ends meet or jumpstart a career change. As it turns out, that might not be such a bad move for your income; a report from Payoneer found that in the U.S. the average freelancer makes 19% more per hour than the average employee.
What’s the best way to get those numbers up? Instead of charging an hourly rate, leverage packages and proposals instead to truly charge what you’re worth.
Why Proposals Instead Of Hourly Rates?
Saying “I charge X dollars per hour” for a soft skill like writing can open the door for micromanagement from clients. Remember, you’re not selling your time; you’re selling a result or a solution to a problem.
Whenever possible, charge a package price or use a proposal instead. Packages and proposals allow you to highlight the value you deliver rather than be compared to others on price point alone.
I know that last number sounds very sexy and is why many of you are here. Keep the foundations of revenue and profitability top-of-mind; if you’re having to sell your soul to land a $25,000 proposal — perhaps to work on one project full-time for several months, such as ghostwriting a book front-to-back — it may not actually be that lucrative in the long run. Other big contracts sometimes require extensive subcontracting or costs to execute.
You want to bring in the cash because revenue proves there is demand for your services. But you also want to put food on the table at the end of the day. Here’s what to think about as you navigate various proposal price points
#1: The $250 Proposal
You can certainly hop on a job marketplace live Upwork or Fiverr and land some $250 gigs here and there. However, it can be a challenge to turn those one-time postings into recurring revenue. Instead, consider using a proposal in the $250 range as a stepping stone for bigger and better client contracts. Research shows it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than retain or re-sell to an existing one.
I operate a marketing company and have to rake in the revenue in order to hit payroll; we use $250 proposals (Strategy calls, usually) as a way to give people a slice of who we are and how we work. Rather than think of this offering as a standalone gig, think of a $250 proposal as a way for a prospective long-term client to really get to know you better and potentially work with you over and over again.
One strategy I learned about years ago and still use today is to offer a roadmap session. This idea comes from Brennan Dunn of Double Your Freelancing.
Since Mr. Dunn’s company does complex software buildouts, he sometimes needs to do a deep-dive consultation with a client for both parties to even really understand what the heck there is to build and how long it will take. Mr. Dunn advocates charging for this session and sending over a non-disclosure agreement to protect both parties when it comes to sharing proprietary information like financials or other technologies.
A session like this actually helps you help your client decide on what bigger package they want and need to purchase, whether that be with you or another provider. I don’t do software buildouts, but I do use roadmap sessions, and mine usually consists of three components:
- Research and necessary prep from reading a client’s intake form
- The actual strategy session, which takes place over Zoom
- A two-page “strategic roadmap” summary of the session, along with recordings and quotes for subsequent package options
Takeaway: By using a small proposal and knocking it out of the park, you’ve actually done something really valuable for your client: You’ve helped them. This greases the wheel for you to pitch larger packages and proposals.
#2: The $2,500 Proposal
Once you venture into four-figure territory, it‘s vital that your proposal clearly outlines what will happen and in what order. Parting with this kind of cash is painful for your client, so you want to make a compelling case for why hiring you is a smart and safe decision. Your proposal doesn’t need to be visually amazing — screenshots below, mine certainly aren’t — but it does need to be compelling and clear.
Screenshot from the author. Example opening pages of a four-figure proposal.
Speaking as a business owner, if someone comes to me with a $2,500 proposal about something that could potentially make me back my investment or save me a huge amount of time… I am always interested. I’m also discerning, so there are a few things I need to see in a proposal to take it seriously. I always look for and provide the items below when pitching proposals at this price point.
Remind your prospective client that there’s a big opportunity at their feet and that acting on it now, whether it be with you or someone else, would be wise. If you can’t answer this question… it’s going to be an uphill battle to close the sale. Keep in mind that in freelance life, for any prospective client to say yes, they have to be clear on the answers to these four questions:
- Why do anything at all?
- Why do this particular thing?
- Why do this thing with you rather than someone else?
- Why take action on it now?
Help you prospect get clear on the answers to those four questions and you’ll have their undivided attention in the pages that follow. This takes a little extra preparation, but is totally worth it.
Are you going to offer monthly phone calls? Email support? Hours of research? All of these items need to be separate bullets as you outline the different elements of your proposal.
This creates a phenomenon called value stacking. Rather than buying one service, prospects feel like they are getting an itemized list of deliverables, and the perceived value of your offer is higher. In the opening page of this proposal, I summarize that the proposed package will have eight different components (The bullets).
Screenshot from the author.
You’re literally asking for thousands of dollars. Make it crystal clear how the delivery of your package will go down. What will happen, and in what week? Taking the time to figure this out for your prospect is actually a test; it gives them clues about how rigorous you will be with your project package.
Show off that you’re thorough and your prospect will be more at ease. Remember: You may not ever spend this kind of money, but you are also not your client. $2,500 might be a drop in the bucket for someone to have a problem solved once and for all.
#3: The $25,000 Proposal
I bet a lot of you skimmed to this one. And I get it: Five-figure proposals are sexy and exciting. You’ll also probably need to crack this category if you want to reach and clear six figures as a freelancer without tearing your hair out.
Here’s my two cents: When it comes to freelancing in industries that are not super technical, the fastest way to land a five-figure proposal is to sell it to an existing client who has previously purchased a smaller commitment first.
Retaining and/or upselling your existing clients is not only easier — it’s also way more lucrative. One of my favorite citations is this report from Bain & Company; the research is on cutting costs, but found along the way that just a 5% increase in client retention can lead to a 25–95% increase in profits. That’s why, whenever possible, you want to pursue clients who would love to have you in the picture for the long game.
You’ll also need to do more than just add a zero to your $2,500 proposal when you move into this territory. Here are a few things that can help you make your case when you go after the big fish.
Showcase Your Credentials
When you’re playing for bigger contracts or pursuing corporate clients, you need ways to instantly prove you’re credible and the real deal. My favorite way to do this is with media placements.
Playing the “as seen in” card can short-circuit this skepticism. Endorsements, testimonials, and years of experience are also all helpful here. Instead of telling future clients they can trust you, show them that others have trusted you in the past and been thrilled with their results.
Be Logical, But Also Personal
Urgency and scarcity are well-worn persuasion tactics used by copywriters. But the usual rah-rah conversion copy that sells a $7 ebook or a $100 course works differently at this tier of consulting. Decisions made at these price points are logical, not emotional, and often go through several rounds of approvals.
An alternative way to elicit emotion is to add personal touches that show you’re in it to win it. For example, I have a client who had previously purchased a four-figure proposal from me. We delivered the proposal as designed, but I also went ahead and purchased their product along the way (A fairly pricey piece of fitness equipment) to indicate I was in this for the long haul. About 60 days later, the client cited this behavior as one of the reasons they accepted (and have continued to renew) my five-figure premium offering.
Outline Contingency Plans
What happens if things go off the rails? Build in every possibility so your clients feel completely equipped to make their decision. Businesses or professionals who are ready to drop five figures on a service are always mitigating risk. Think through every possible outcome so your client doesn’t have to.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Proposals are the fastest way to get to six figures as an entrepreneur. But even within this strategy, there are many different proposal shapes and sizes, and you can get to that number in many different ways. Dial in your value proposition, remain patient and focused, and you’ll soon find the groove that takes you to your most lucrative year yet.
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