The Heart of the Deal

Mahesh Raj Mohan

Mahesh Raj Mohan

I am a full-time Portland freelance copywriter, editor, and content marketing specialist. I help companies with white papers, case studies, technical writing, product copy, and more.

My freelance copywriter and editor networking group, The Copywriter Conclave of Portland, recently engaged in a lively and free-wheeling discussion about prospective clients and proposals. We were able to attract prospects and even get to the proposal stage, but sometimes, the almost-projects fell through shortly thereafter. We all determined that some unseen, emotional aspect comes into play during the proposal/interview stage.

Here are some things we think will help us in the future (and maybe other small business owners):

Proposal Preparation

Sending a proposal in the body of an e-mail (or a plain Microsoft Word document) is quick, but it might be too quick.  Spend some time creating an attractive proposal that contains your prospect’s logo, and your logo (or a nice font) and turn it into a PDF.  There are some cool services like FreshBooks or Pancake that can also help you.

Using the Force

Yes, it’s time for another “Mahesh Star Wars analogy.”  Star Wars (A New Hope) cemented its place in the world-culture when Luke turns off his targeting computer during the climactic battle inside the Death Star trench.  There will always be “that moment” when you’re discussing your prospect’s project where you’ll notice a synergy between the prospect and yourself. You may feel that sharing a personal detail could add depth to your conversation.  Maybe one of you tells a joke or you bond over being parents or non-parents.  Whatever it is, if it fits well, then trust your feelings.

Value Integrity

News sources inform us that the Great Recession is largely behind us, but the effects continue to linger, and they probably will for a while.  For example, I’ve noticed how gun shy people are around major buying decisions.  There may be moments when they convince themselves they don’t need a particular service. We all do it, even when we know we really need something.  And here’s the thing:  businesses need quality content.  Business owners need quality content made by people who can verify results and reach audiences.  We can’t pretend that keyword spinning, copy mills, and empty jargon lead to engaged audiences and higher revenue.  Not anymore.  So convince them that your skill set matches exactly what they seek.

You can know the minutiae of your product or service, research your prospects’ companies and the problems they face, and then put together a killer proposal.  There will always be a “wild card” element you cannot control.  If you’re freelance or a business owner, you walk a tightrope without a safety net.  Clients and orders are the lifeblood of your business.  If you don’t close a deal, you have to start all over again.  The stakes are always high.  But if one prospect doesn’t work out, then it allows you to hone your pitch for the next one.  I lost out on not one, but two, projects  in one month … and then I landed the biggest client of my career (so far) one week later.  So don’t lose heart.

How do you approach the proposal process with your prospective clients?

3 thoughts on “The Heart of the Deal”

  1. Pingback: Heart of the Deal - Copywriter Conclave of Portland

  2. Huge congrats on landing that big client, Mahesh! That’s always so exciting (and I love how you said “so far” because we each build on our accomplishments so they keep growing in time).

    One piece of advice I got early on in terms of proposals was to offer three “tiers” or options: a “basic” lower priced package, a more comprehensive mid-range one, and a premium, “let’s go all out” with this package. That way clients can really see the value they’re getting while still feeling like they have options. This only works on projects when the scope is pretty flexible, and I’ve found this approach also helps me create a set structure around an otherwise vague project.

    On projects that are more set, I usually provide only one flat fee but my proposals include an “Approach” section, outlining all the steps I take as I work on their project (this includes any client consultations/interviews, market research/analysis, creating a style guide for their copy…I make sure to emphasize all the work I do before I ever start writing a word, so they see it isn’t just as simple as stringing words together). And in the “Fee” section I make sure to outline what’s included in that price (ex. X number of copy concepts, number of revisions, etc.).

    I think especially with writing, it’s easy for people to assume the work is simple because we make it look easy, and they don’t see much of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it…so I try to see a proposal as a chance to really show a client all they’re getting if they work with me.

  3. Hi Natalia! Thanks so much for your comment, I appreciate you stopping by my “storefront,” 🙂 And thank you also for taking the time to outline your own proposal process. It’s always good to see how other experienced copywriters do this, and I particularly enjoyed your “Approach” section; I do a version of that, too, for some prospective clients.

    I also completely agree with your “making it look easy” comment, because it’s all so internal. Thanks again for your insights, you are awesome!

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