Last updated on February 8th, 2023
Clients are the ones who need a lot of convincing about work being fruitful for their business. They do not approve of work such as a logo or packaging design, etc. if they have doubts about its ability to engage a target audience. And, for designers, it’s really tough to convince them. Designhill conducted an online session where art director and brand mentor Thad Cox showed the correct way to pitch and present your work to the clients is crucial to get work regularly.
Business owners or clients use visuals such as logos, business cards, packaging designs, brochures, etc. They use well-designed visuals with an intended message to engage their audience or target customers. Only then they can win customers’ loyalty for further growth. So, it all starts with having an attractive but effective work of design that conveys a brand personality.
A problem faced by most designers is that they have no clue about how to pitch and present their work before a client. Many of them randomly showcase their abilities and design process and end up losing a work opportunity.
Designhill thought of educating our design community about the professional way to show that you are capable of meeting the job requirements. So, the leading creative marketplace conducted an online session on 17th February 2021 with renowned brand mentor Thad Cox.
During the workshop session, Thad showed from his experience how to use pitches and actionable step-by-step plans to win clients. He shared his insight on how to make proposals to the clients and showcase the entire process of doing the work.
Thad Cox is an Art Director at Ad Agencies. He is a well-known brand mentor and consultant for startups and has worked with global brands. Thad has led Brand Strategy for The World Bank for SEADRIFT Project. He has conducted 13 Campaigns in Times Square in 12 Weeks across 30 screens and created UN-recognized ColorFull Campaign for NYDG Foundation.
In this post, we’ve shared the session’s video and transcript in the form of Q&A where Thad has shared how to pitch and present your valuable work to find new clients.
Transcript: This Is How You Should Keep In Mind While Pitching and Presenting Your Work To The Clients To Find Work
Thad Cox: Sometimes, you are unsure about where work is coming from. Or, you are unable to predict where you will get new clients. This is dangerous because we often say yes to the clients that come along. They might always be the clients we want to work with. Therefore, for me, it started to kind of have a loss of control of my business. Sometimes you have to take on board the clients that you are given or the clients you choose. In that case, it makes it very difficult to dictate the direction you want your business to go in. This lack of control over the future, not only of my business, took my income, and everything was stressful.
I thought what if I didn’t get on top of this, never going to kind of achieve the success I want to achieve. More importantly, it will produce what we would all consider a scarcity mindset. This mindset is where we feel like we have to say yes because we do not know when the next job is coming. This is a vicious cycle itself. It will end up killing your love for what you do, which is design, branding, photography, etc. Once you start to be in this vicious cycle, it is going to kill what you do. You are going to lose faith in what you do. The whole reason you wanted to get into this was a creative career that paid you well.
What do I need to fix that? The answer for me was some sort of system that I could fall back on. What can I be doing to put the building blocks in place to try and turn this around? I needed to build a system that was easy to sort of build. It would give me control over the direction of my career. I could pick and choose the clouds I wanted to work with. It could be easily replicated. Once I was able to kind of build a process for building pitch decks for clients, I could then replicate that quickly. I can even outsource it to give it to other people to do.
We have this kind of outreach element of our business working in an easy way to do it. That is exactly what I am going to be sharing with you today. How I put that together what that looks like. You can do the same in your business.
To pitch or not to pitch
The question I always answer starts with is to pitch or not to pitch. Why do we bother going through the trouble of pitching for clients when there is a lot of failures and it is not always that rewarding? There is also a lot of hard work that you have got to do upfront. Despite that, there is not always a guarantee of lending the work. For me, the answer was that it is much better to choose your direction. You should have control over the type of clients you want to work with.
Great clients to raise your profile
That kind of deliberate choice over what I want to do with my career is massively important to me. This is because I believe I can do that successfully, which I have done now. The key thing here is if you work with your better clients, it is going to get you where you want to get to faster. It is going to raise your profile, and increase your value perception. All of these are fantastic things that we want to be doing.
There Are 10 Modules To Keep In Mind While Pitching To Find Clients. This Is What I Do In My Business.
01. Begin With A Strategy
Thad Cox: First, start with a strategy. If we lack a plan, we will waste our time, energy, and money on things that are not going to work. Therefore, first of all, work out where you want to end up. This is because it is like a boat crossing the ocean, it will eventually reach the other side. But if you do not have a plan of action, it will take you a long time. Do we always want to work out where we want to end up? Who are the designers or the agencies that we want to emulate in the future?
Pick the right type of clients
So, start by planning to know the building blocks and this is where I want to go. Once we work out where we want to end up, think about the type of clients we want to work with. Because this is the stage where we are in control of the whole thing. If we pick our choice of client, that will make mapping out that journey more interesting and fulfilling. Just think about where you want to be in the future. Then reverse engineer those steps today, to work out who are the clients I need to start working with. We have to reverse engineer back to the Future.
So, if you want to specialize in a particular industry, this is the time to do it. For instance, I love fashion. I would love to work with some high-end fashion clients. It starts now because you are going to build your reputation within that industry. I learned this personally and I ended up working with Pete Korea, Lee, a stand-up comedian in America. He has got two specials on Amazon. He writes a lot of high-profile shows.
I was a fan of his podcast, and I got to work with him. I will share how I did that. But I realized that having done a good job of enhancing his branding, it was easy for me to pitch to other comedians in that industry. Because I have already got a case study with Pete. But if I do not want to work with comedians, and I want to work with sports brands, having worked with P, it doesn’t help me. Because the case study or the outcome of working with PII is not something that is going to resonate with sports brands. You should choose a client so that you can plan the building blocks of starting with smaller clients.
02. Make Preparations
Thad Cox: Module two is all about preparation. Now, I would always say that the tempting thing is to pitch to who you want to. But if you do not plan out what you want to be saying, you can’t find an opportunity to deliver value to those people. Many people pitch to clients they want to work with without considering the value exchange.
Develop a process
So, we need to develop a process of pitching. Once we have done it, we can write down that map out and possibly hand it over. Generally, if you want your pitch to be heard or received positively, you find the sweet spot between what they need. It is always about their needs first and what you offer. Because if it doesn’t align, if they do not need it. Or, what you offer is not relevant, and you can’t get the timing right. Then, your pitch is not going to be wanted. you are going to do all this work trying to pitch to someone, and it is not going to work.
Looking for opportunity
We have to balance this thing of looking for an opportunity to help rather than being opportunistic and trying to force our agenda on other people. The big question you always have to ask is, how can you help them. Where can I deliver value and help them first so that they are at least receptive to hearing what I want to say?
Here Are The Ways You Can Help Your Client:
These are big ways that you can help them. When it comes to the kind of thinking about what you do, these are the things to start thinking about.
- You can raise their value perception. They can increase their prices. You might be able to give them new photography or a rebrand or a better functioning website. Or, you can give them the customers they are aiming for, it is going to appeal to them. that, in turn, will allow them to increase their prices.
- Help them attract new customers and get increased awareness. If you work in marketing or social media, or PR, this is where you could stand out. Tell that you got a good way of reaching a new audience. we have done it with this client that we think this would be advantageous, whatever that might be. Then on the flip side, if you do not think you can kind of add any kind of financial benefit to their business. What you can do is try and improve their business through efficient See. This might be implementing systems and processes, or building apps or sharing software,
- Help them save costs. You can help them save costs by finding different suppliers and different ways of doing these things.
- Retain the best staff they have got. This could be culture building, staff incentives, days out, all of these kinds of things are all areas that any business is going to be receptive to listening to because they are never going to be getting it right 100% of the time. This is always the thing of, if we’re looking for areas to add value, this is where I would always start. Who do I want to approach?
Think of the business
The next stage regarding making the preparations is to think about the business. You should be looking for what industry you are passionate about? What size of business is it and how many people are there. This is because you might want to approach businesses that are under 10 people. You may have a meaningful impact on such small businesses. If they have got over 50 people, they probably got a professional agency. Being aware of the size of the business that you can add value to is important, as it is going to save your time.
The next thing to consider while preparing is turnover. You can calculate to have an estimate of how many staff your potential client possibly has. Guess what their turnover might be. You can go to the UK and go to Companies House to find all about that. There are other ways of estimating this.
But the point being is they have enough money. When they are working with you, they can afford what you are offering. That is because there is no point if they are not making much money. What we also have to consider is are they making enough money as a business?
Know the Location
Where is their location? Do you go globally and internationally? Or, do you go locally because you want to help the local community?
The main thing is you have to be passionate about them. You have to care about wanting to help them improve their business. How can they help you now we have talked about ways we can help them and things we can consider.
Clients also help you
But on the flip side, they have got to be helping you as well, as this is a two-way street. We all know the value of working for sort of celebrity or high profile clients. That does rub off on us and does help as well. You need to be thinking about how their reputation can enhance your reputation. How they might know people that you want to get to know. So, they can introduce you and that might be why you do it.
It could just be that you think that they are not the most exciting, but it is a very lucrative area. I can make a lot of money. Or, it might be just simply a sense of pride. They are a sports team that you supported all your life. Or, it could be a brand you have always been fond of. Whatever it might be, you just might enjoy working with them. To work with such clients, you have got to get something out of it as well.
After all, you never know that you pitch and there is a trial period of say 12 weeks or a month. They are testing you out to see what you can do. Or, say, we will do a project for free to test this out. If you are not getting anything out of that free project in any way, then it is probably not worth starting.
Know what clients need
What do they need? This is, again, with the strategy, it is simple, we need to work out how we can help? Who are we going after? Why can they help us? What do they need? This comes down to a sort of opportunity to sell our services in effect to them more directly. We know that they might want to get more customers or retain their talent. They are looking now for a service that we can provide that they need.
That is because if they have just had loads of photography done, They will not pay for someone else to do the reshoot. Even if they love what we do. So, we need to probably look at it, if they consider having a rebrand. Maybe, there are problems with their site. It may not be converting very well. Or, maybe it looks bad on a mobile phone, maybe their copy could be improved. Their photography could be elevated for their market perception.
Maybe they need help with their social media marketing because it is not very good. Or, they want to break into a new market. These are real business things that they could do that you can help with. If they have just done one of these things. Do not go in pitching that. you are wasting everyone’s time. Have a concern about your time, first and foremost, not necessarily the clients in this presentation.
Reach out to the right person
Who do we need to reach out to with anything, if we’re going to be sending our pitch in? Do we need to send it to the person that is going to be the decision-maker? Does the company’s founder that you see on the LinkedIn page or website, find out if still involved? Do I need to pitch to the founder? Or, is it a certain person who sits below them who has all the power?
Now with all these things, I will tell you a brief story. I was trying to get a job in Saatchi and Saatchi. My friend was a copywriter. We were trying to get a job there but it would be very difficult to get a meeting with the boss. He was so busy. But what we realized was that his receptionist was lovely, she was called Linda. We would turn up and patiently wait, and he wouldn’t see us. In the end, Linda saw us the fourth time and said he has not seen you guys yet. We said, no, we keep waiting. But he has to keep canceling. She went into his office and said, you need to see these guys. They’ve been waiting patiently. Because it came from Linda, the gatekeeper, she got us in.
When we got the placement there, we were able to give her flowers and chocolates and say thank you. That is the thing of knowing the person who is the decision-maker is crucial. But also, knowing how the business operates is equally vital. Because you find that the founder is so high up, but there are three people on the level below. Then, you can send three presentations to them, and then to the founder.
If different people are talking about the same presentation, within a company, it is a lot easier to convince them. I just wanted to make that point.
03. Do Your Research
Now we move on to Module three, which is doing research. We have already looked at ways that we can deliver value. Then, we are going to research to get the right fit. Now, all of this for a lot of people will feel like a lot of work and consideration already. There will be people in the group who would be pitching immediately. be like, Why do I have to go through all this stuff when I believe it is a numbers game and my work is good enough?
After you have set up this system once and then run it a couple of times, you won’t need to do it again. Then, you will spot opportunities when you are not even looking.
In the research phase, we need to go and look at the person. We have managed to work out, this is what they kind of need. Or, I know who in the company should be approached. They are big enough. And, they are in the right industry, they got money, and this is what I want to go after. Research for the clues or chinks in the armor. Then pitch your work.
Scrutinize their website
The first thing is to look at their website. What you should pay attention to is the quality of the copy, photos, layout, and logo. Know where are the calls to action placed? Is the content interesting? How does it work on a mobile? Are there any broken links? Then, you can say oh, by the way, I noticed that this link doesn’t work. Or, I would love to have a look at maybe take some more photos for you. These are things that they might not have noticed that you can come in and fix.
This is how I won Pete Coriell. I approached him about his website because it didn’t work very well on a mobile phone. I was able to find a relevant end. That is what got me the job. The first thing is to have a look at their website, break it down to see where there are opportunities.
Look at their social media
Next is their social media. Again, what we’re looking for is how often are they posting? What is the quality of that post? What are the metrics? Maybe they are not getting any engagement or they do not seem to have a strategy. That is because they post a bit, then stop. Maybe they do not have a presence on LinkedIn, or their Twitter profile might be boring.
The other thing is, maybe they do not have anything on YouTube and you create video content. Or, you are seeing the same content across all the platforms put out by some sort of scheduling app.
The point being is if you can find an opportunity because they are neglecting their social media presence, that might be a good interview. With all these things, we just need an excuse to prove how good enough we are. Then, earn that trust and start working together. After that, we can always come back and find more ways to add value and kind of make this into a long-term thing.
Analyze their industry
Next could be their industry. You can do a simple analysis of their industry by just doing an XY grid. You can kind of plot on one axis, it will always be money. The cost of the sales and then on the other axis it might usually be speed or efficiency. By plotting out where they sit in their market, what you can then do is work out where their target market is interested. What about their reputation within the industry? Where do rivals sit? Are there any emerging brands that could be a threat to them that they did not think about? Where are the opportunities? Where’s the overcrowding? Where’s the whitespace? What new markets do they bring it to break into?
If at the moment of saying something like Clubhouse, which is emerging, thinking not many brands are probably on the Clubhouse. Or, they are that good at the Clubhouse. If I was audio, like a Podcast Producer or I was into the Clubhouse. Then, my pitch would be, I can reserve you a name at Clubhouse. I can help to get you started on all of that. Based on my experience, it can lead to some good conversations and brand awareness, and potentially sales.
That might be your angle of how you go in there. But it is the thing of seeing what their rivals are doing and seeing if you can help them be first to market is always a great way in.
Ways to find a target
How do we find the target? How do we find who we’re going after? Again, as I said before, we are going to look at the positions of the company. We will go on LinkedIn, we are going to go on their website. Also, we are going to find ways of reaching them. And, understand who is the person that is the decision-maker that we need to be talking to? Who do they respect? Who are the gatekeepers? Then, we just need to pay a little bit of attention to their social media page. That will help us understand what they are passionate about.
Now, the second bit, which is like the demographics, psychographics, and passions. By that, I mean, you can bundle in with the presentation in the form of a gift. One can call it a bribe. Let us say I send a presentation with a classic Chelsea shirt that I know the boss loves. I put on a Dropbox link, like a classic football match. I had found that on Twitter the boss’s favorite ever Chelsea match from 1997. And I say, would you mind looking at my proposal. I thought the shirt might be a nice thing to wear while you are reading the proposal, whatever that might be.
There are loads of examples of how playing to someone’s passions can make a difference in finding commonality. They know the deal. They know it is a bribe. But I tell you what, there is a company, which does printing, like print hardback books. Every time you print an order, they send a little bag of Haribo. Now, I ordered that plays a role in whether I choose to order from them or not. It is a small bribe, but I do not mind being bribed, I like to hear about works for me. Anything that has an emotional value to them, and is certainly going to help.
04. Delivering Value
The next step toward making a pitch and present your work before a client is delivering value. You need to understand how to deliver value to clients coldly and simply. They should understand it easily. It should be about how we can help them increase revenue.
Come up with solutions
I would say this is where we get more concrete. We come up with solutions rather than saying that you can rebrand. Or, saying that you can make your website look nicer. The solution should be more concrete. So, say that you can help develop products. You can help build an e-commerce site, run promotions, or create content around the products the client sells.
Now we are going to find how we can help them make money. The real incentive for doing this is simply because they are going to want to pay for us. They know there is going to be an immediate return, and they are much more likely to do it. Because if you can help them design merchandise that they can sell an event to attract a new audience. It is a no-brainer.
You can also increase awareness. If you can’t like us and make the money, you can say, you can help with marketing. You can run Facebook ads for them, say that you know influences. I can take over your social media, get ideas for events, you can run, I have contacts, and PR, whatever that might be. Now we can get kind of a little bit more specific about how we can help them.
Then find ways of increasing efficiency. What solutions can you provide? Can you provide some sort of education to the workforce? Can you help them outsource so they can scale up what they do? Could you introduce them to someone like Designhill? I can help you get more design work done because this is a fantastic resource. They will take care of our design to meet needs, and I will help manage it. That might be what you lead with. But what we’re trying to do is find apps, systems, software, places that they might not know about that are going to help streamline their operation.
Now we are putting everything together. We understand how we are going to help them. And we have come up with concrete solutions. We have seen chinks in the armor where there are opportunities to help.
05. Making The First Move
We are going to make the first move now before we start to build our presentation. This is crucial because we need to go into the relationship open-mindedly. And be aware that we might be producing a presentation that might not be wanted. But if you always go in with the mindset to deliver value more than I want the business, people appreciate that. I would always say, you have got to get in touch to see if there is an opportunity.
This is because you can do all of this research, and it is not that much. But if you phone up or email them and say, you would love to talk to someone about this. You got a great idea for how you could help. Would you be open? If I was to put a promo proposal together? Would you be?
Would you have the time to look at it simply because if they say no, they have to say we have just spent a lot of money on a rebrand. Or they may say they are launching next month and not quite finished yet. They wouldn’t be interested but thank you, then you are gonna save yourself all this time of building the presentation. You have done the research. You can take the same learnings and experience and written knowledge and research and just apply it to them.
I would always say call them, dm, email them, or calling them is the best way. This is because you want to get an answer, no matter what. The real value is here. I need to know that there is an opportunity for pitching my business to them. That is before I bother to make the effort in proposing. With all those bits of communication, it is easy to send an email and hope it gets answered.
But you have to get a concrete yes or no from someone in a position of authority to agree to look at your proposal. This is massive because without that you are going to be wasting your time. You need an answer before you start, it is either going to be yes or no. If they say no, that is okay. You simply just go, it is not a problem. You can keep in touch because you never know, they might have just redesigned their website with a company. They might come back to you.
06. Building Your Proposal
We can now start to build the proposal. This is how we build it. We do all the research on the front end. Now we are going to start to put it together. This is the secret formula for a killer proposal. I developed it over quite a few years, with my business coach to appeal to them logically. It is also some sort of emotional and the sequence is in a way that sells your services.
This is quite a straightforward proposal. It is almost like a brochure proposal that is going to outline everything that you offer. It works every time and I have done it with my clients. They’ve landed a lot of business and a client. We finished it on Friday. She just pitched for two jobs, and she won them. They are for contracts, and they are around 70,000 pounds a year each. It took us probably about 30 minutes to update her proposals.
The first bit is the introduction. We need to just introduce ourselves, say thank you to the people, and let them know what to expect. It is very simple, but it is just a common courtesy you can put them at ease and just go thank you for your time. Then, say that you are going to outline what they can expect from you and how you can help them and their business. Just give an outline of what they are going to get in your proposal. They should understand what they are getting into.
Outline your thoughts
You then would outline your thoughts. you are going to explain here kind of why you love them as their business. Talk about that. Make it important. Talk about how you admire them and things you have in common. Tell me how you feel the same way about certain things and how you understand them. Say about it either from personal experience or that you just admire them. This is where you are building rapport in the beginning. You are making them understand that you are not just pitching them cold. Instead, you are genuinely a fan and you are enthusiastic about what they do.
Make empathy statements
You need to demonstrate understanding and empathy for the position they are in. Tell that you understand what it feels like to be this and you feel the same about that. The empathy statements of understanding will help build that rapport earlier. Draw them into the proposal. They are more likely to watch it explained that you care about the same things. Also, that you want to help them and talk about the brands that you admire. Tell also that you have helped those who are similar to them.
That is because we want to do the brand Association, which is the value Association. You can say, you care about this and you have just finished working with x brand. Then, clients think you have got the potential to do the same thing. Or, they love the way that you do this. This is your kind of buttering them up to stage.
You are outlining how you feel about them and their business. Such statements build trust and rapport. You are showing that you understand their position, rather than just going in with the cold, hard pitch.
State the problem
Now you need to state the problem and the desire. You have already explained that we understand how they feel. The next step is to articulate the problem as you see it in their business. Because if you are an expert in what we do, you are solving a problem, you have to say it.
If you take the Pete Correal example, I would have said, the problem is that you are going to be selling tickets, and you have got a special coming out on TV. But your website is not mobile optimized. Anyone who is on social media who wants to buy tickets from you, when they go to your website, they are going to have a nightmare, and they are not going to buy them. That is going to affect your sales. Why do all these promotions and then they drive people to a site that doesn’t work very well?
You want to be honest about where there is an opportunity. Then, you want to sow the seed of where they could get to. With the P example, you would say, ideally, you would have a mobile-first website that made it super easy. And it almost becomes like an e-commerce site. You can drive all your traffic to it. And you are going to have a good chance of converting that traffic into ticket sales. Then, you might also say that if the client can capture their information, it might be a useful tool in the future. The whole point of this is to say, this is the problem, and you think this could be the ultimate solution.
Help them cover the distance
Now we are going to show the distance. They need to cover the distance and the person that is going to help them cover that distance is you. It is like saying to the clients that they are here and they are looking for this and that. Otherwise, the consequence for the client will be dire. It is like saying to the client that if he or she does not address this problem it could have a negative impact.
But, do not scare your clients. All you need to do is, to be honest, and realistic. You should inject kind of what’s the word, not Jeopardy, though have this countdown timer. Make them aware that there is a problem in their business. Tell that if left unattended, it could have consequences, which are going to not work in their favor.
Explain how you will fix the problem
Just tell them what this does, this is here, you are going to help them bridge that gap, and take them from the current reality. Tell this is where we stay our solution and this is how you would fix it. You have to now come across and say, this is how you are going to do it. Explain the problem you solve. Now, here you can mock them up to try and visualize your ideas. You do not have to buy any means. People get anxious, getting their hands on a copy of these designs. If they were to copy them, they were always going to try and rip you off.
But, the reality is that they are more likely to come to you to do it. Because you have shown expertise and understanding, it is much easier to do this. It is the same as why a plumber would show videos on YouTube on how to fix your plumbing. The videos are there to build trust and show the depth of knowledge. Therefore, clients say they want that plumber because they like the plumber. So, do not worry about people stealing your ideas or running with your solution. You will just come up with more. This is where you commit to visualize your business.
Show your exact way to resolve the issue
Then you spell out how you would do it exactly. This is not just some random mock-ups. You should have a process for delivering this. And this is how we do it. You explain how you work as a company and what the stages are of your operation. So, they can understand that they feel reassured they know what to expect. Tell that there is this kind of formula that you rely on to ensure the quality of the outcome.
Talk about your process
Start with a strategy meeting to understand what the problem is. Tell that you then research to validate the idea, and then mock up the idea. Give you a range of options before you pick the one you are happy with. Then you will give the client a full suite of products, services, and collateral. Whatever your process is, this is where you would talk about it. You would take them through each step so that they understand the value of that process. They will know how it helps them.
Talk about your team
Then you would talk about your team. This is because they do not know you that well. So, you make sure there is a group of you involved. They can get to know you, and introduce all the key people that are going to be involved. But more importantly, include relevant expertise. This is your chance to start talking about who you have worked with. Or, how long you have been working in this area and what awards you have won.
That is because now you can show some credibility, and justify this. Show that your solution or a taster of our solution is backed up by people who are talented and experienced. They know what they are talking about. This is where you would include them. In a way, that is kind of humanizing the whole proposal. Then you put in your experience as a company, or as a freelancer doesn’t matter.
But you are going to show successful case studies of other people you have worked with, and testimonials, etc. You might have one case study. The whole point is that you just show that you are solid, reliable, trustworthy, and have a good track record.
Give relevant testimonials
While showing your track record, put in the client testimonials as well. The value thing with the client testimonials is picking the type of client. What they say about you is very important, because it is relevant to that industry. If you are targeting restaurants, you want to have testimonials from other restaurant owners.
This is because those testimonials will be from people they might know and they might look up to. You are probably going to be industry-specific. Give testimonials about the problems that most people who have not dug that deep and done any research can understand. So, make sure the client and the testimony are relevant to their situation. They can have more sort of reassurance that you are going to help them.
Then, you need to put in an estimated timeline. They can try to work out if they have got time for this. You might say, look, typically, our process is five stages. It lasts over 12 weeks, and you would just break down how that all works.
Break down the milestones
It is all about the project milestones and less about the actual days. You are going to say you do the research and the strategy. Then you present ideas, you sign everything off, and you present the collateral. Break down the overall milestones of the project.
Give your price quote
Then, include your price quote. If you want to churn this out in a way, that is fair, you would offer them a range of packages so they have a choice. You can either price on value, which you’d need a discovery session to kind of go through it. But generally, I found that it is easy to repeat the process. Giving them a range of packages allows them more choice and control of the situation.
You do not have to have a pricing conversation. They will just phone up and say they want to take package B, when can we get started. Then, as I said, put an expiry date on it. The price that you are quoting gives them say two weeks before they expire. You do not want them to come back to you in five years for that proposal.
The next step is where you would sign off the proposal. Ideally, you would want to outline what their options are. Say that they can contact you, they can book a meeting, or get on the phone. But the whole point is you want to draw a line under this and get an outcome either way. Make it easy for them to contact you. Clicking on a link to book a calendar appointment or here’s my mobile number, make it easy so they can follow up if they are excited.
07. Proposal Production
Now, after you know what the proposal structure is, here is how the proposal is produced. I would physically send hardback proposals. Here is an example of one I sent to Brendan Schaub, which wasn’t successful. I will be honest, he was kind of he didn’t need to feel he didn’t need personal branding, which is fine.
But you can see here I included local Cornish like fudge and like a selection box because he’s got a very sweet tooth. He loves coffee. I included local Cornish coffee, and in here with bespoke notebooks, which rule gold embossed because of their credit to him and his partner Bryan Callen, stand-up comedians. They are both creative people, both writers. I was like, here’s a cool, nice personalized notebook for you to jot your ideas down in. This would be everything I would send. These are the bribes I talked about. This was the hardback proposal he would receive with everything in it.
What you will find is because they are receiving this quite nice book, most people like high quality and surprising. Then they have got all these gifts as well. I was probably about two years too late with this proposal. But like I said, the sentiment was right, but I didn’t get an answer from Brendon in the first place. I wasted my time on this. But as always, it is not always time wasted, because learning the whole time.
Calculate the production cost
You can visit doxdirect.com to calculate the production cost. The great thing about the website is you can get an instant quote on how much it costs. There you can see, that is the hardback book I use. Generally, you can calculate the cost of producing a hardback book. It comes in about 12 quid. I do not think that is much because the feel of it when you are sent is so like, well, the knock-on effect is that it is going to give you more business. For me, the value of the cost of doing it is far outweighed by the value of actually receiving it.
Then there is also the other option of Redbubble or somewhere like that, or even to design your print shop where you can get custom merged, printed. This, again, is the bribe. If you have got a print or a T-shirt you want to include, you can get it made and designed up and then included in the package as a gift. This might be where fan art is good, or it is like an in-joke.
So, as I said, create this customer work that speaks to them. Get it made in advance, and then prepare it and then send it all offers like a goodie bag. As I said, Karma Loom was another place where I got badges and stickers done. I do not know if I got them here, but I had a load done. These are great because if you kind of get these done, you can give them away at presentations as well. I created badges and stickers around principles within the presentation.
08. Choose Gifts
When it comes to choosing the gifts or the bribes, you want to get the head, the heart, and the soul. It is got to be something logical, emotional, but resonates with them. When you are pitching, all of the things have to come together. It has to make sense in their head logically that they need it. Their heart got to be wowed and sort of seduced by the gift. Then the wallet side of the gifts is important as well. They should be able to afford it.
Make them feel great
If these things all come together, and you have timed it, right, you have got a good chance of getting the business. This is a fantastic quote from Maya Angelou, who learned that people will forget what you have said, people will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.
This is why we give the experience of the high-end book of the gift. All of this is the whole thing is about making them feel that they worked so much and so get a little impressive gift. You are leaving a nice positive memory, so when you keep in touch, they are going to remember you.
09. Make Delivery And Follow-Up
When you are going to make the delivery, you need to let them know it is coming. Because if they are not expecting it, it might end up in a Depo somewhere. The first thing is, going to be sending a presentation. Will someone be there to receive it and that always tracks it? When I sent Brendan’s presentation to California, the tracking wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t work out whether it arrived, that is so stressful and irritating because I had to keep messaging his brother on WhatsApp on Instagram to say has it arrived, it is not a great impression.
So, track it, make sure it is there. When they have received it. give them a ring, make sure that someone’s seen it, emphasize how important it is. That someone’s gonna look at it, you have got to finish up the job by following up professionally.
Ask for a meeting
Then, you should ask for a meeting. You have got to find a way. The whole point is, even if they are gonna say no, or they are not sure, take a push for a meeting, it is the least they can do considering all the work you have put in. Quite often, you have made such a good impression. When you can have that meeting, that is when you can close the deal. That is winning the project is the outcome where you have blown them away with a proposal and they go look, I would love to work with you. Let’s get going.
10. Some Examples
Here are some examples that I used in my presentation. The first one here is a client presentation that we put together. This is the client I just talked about. That was winning 70,000 pounds a year contracts for clients. And, this is the template that we use for them.
All we do is when we pick a different client, we update the cover with a photo from their website. It feels like a custom project. But, the actual structure is the same and is identical nearly every time and this means she can scale them. It takes me about 10 minutes to update a proposal for her. She just gives me the client. She gives me the kind of anything to mention. Then, I go to the website, get the photos, go to wherever I want to unsplash, get photos, customize it, and save it to Dropbox. Then she just sends it off.
Easy proposal making process
This is the whole process thing as she knows she can be generating. She can be sending out five proposals a week to high-end clients she wants to work with. Hopefully, she gets meetings or sometimes lands the job directly. With this, here’s the outline cover.
All we do is change the cover image. Then, we have the introduction, like I said, this is where you explain what’s going to happen. You are going to sort of explain what they can expect. We then go into our thoughts, which is identical pretty much because again, she’s industry-specific.
The industry problems they are having are usually universal. She outlines kind of how she loves what they do, but she understands the sort of stress they are under. She then outlines her solution of how she can help them. She then goes and talks about her experience, and who else she’s worked within the industry.
Then, she offers up her packages. This is saying like we have the entry-level package, the enterprise package, and the premium package with all the features outlined. She puts it all together in a pricing table. The potential clients can see at a glance, everything costs.
She then follows with testimonials. These are often testimonials handpicked from people within the same industry or very closely related. She has got three testimonials to outline how brilliant she is all talking about different things.
That is the process. But there are things that you can take in and take out. She does not always include the process if it is not relevant. But the point being is with this because this is in the legal HR world. This allows the recipients to receive a fairly high-end product proposal, which is tailored around them. Such proposals look nice but these are relevant information-dense.
She’s able to target quite a high-end market and closing of deals with this presentation. I wanted to include that to show you this is the kind of thing that is put together for my clients that work for them. When we do it, it works for us in the same way.
In this proposal, there are no questions needed at the end of it because you have explained everything. Now, I wanted to include this because part of the presentation was talking about how you present your work to clients. I wanted to give you an example of a proposal that I did, where I did the mock-ups and I tried to explain my design thinking.
Typically, if you are doing work, and this is even like the classic one logo concept work, this is how to always present it. This is how I wanted to present a finished case study of just this is the one logo concept. This is how I do it.
Cornish coffee example
This is for Cornish coffee. I wanted to talk to them about how they produced an upmarket artisan version of what they do. They could attract a discerning market and make more money. I started with all the brands that I worked with in my career. I will then talk about my experience talking about working at IKEA, McDonald’s, Conor McGregor, all that kind of stuff.
Outlining my thoughts
Then, I outline my thoughts, which is what I love about what you are doing. But I told them that they could release an upmarket version of your coffee. I told them that if they did that, they could tap into a whole new market. They could charge a lot of money because the arts and coffee market was thriving.
Showed How I would rebrand them
Then, I would tell them about how I would rebrand them. I would show the logo. I would say, right, for me, it has to look good, but it has to be relevant to what you do. Then, I would talk about why I picked this logotype and the typeface to kind of render the logo in. I would break down all the different points. The whole point of breaking all this down is to relate my design choices to the proposition at hand. I showed the problem that the logo solves.
So, the client was Cornish Coffee and it is Celtic in origin. I felt like it should be sophisticated letterforms and stuff like Celtic in their construction. It should relate to the heritage and history of Komori. This is why I am making this relevant. I am sharing this with you because when showing any work to a client, the way to sell it every time is to do this. They see how much thought has gone into the design, decision-making. Also, they see that it is all rooted in actual research and information. Then, it is very hard for them to deny.
Talk about their heritage
I would then talk about their sort of heritage and their kind of steam engine background. This would be like a mood board of inspiration. Then I would tell you what you could do for your logo and then this is how it all works. There are two C’s of corn in coffee, and it is being constructed to look harmonious. I would want to render it with subtle textures to make it feel more rustic.
Then I do things like this the mock-up of the design and show this is how I see the final thing looking in your warehouse. If you were to do packaging materials or bags, or like there is a packaging box. I then bring it all together to show them how it would work as a logo. I talked about my choice of typefaces and why I would pick them and how they are relevant,
Talk about typography
Talk about how you put all the typographic elements together, online or in an article. Tell how they would all kind of work to give character and sort of feel. Then I would explain and break this down topographically. I will explain why I pick this kind of handwritten text. What does that do?
Then we will talk about the colors, I will talk about how I wanted to create some sort of rustic colors that will go well with Cornish. Then I have accented textures and foil. I would bring it all together in luxury mock-ups to say, this is how I sort of view your artisan range. Then I had an example with that hand-roasted range. Again, bringing all the elements together to sort of show this is when you do the packaging, how it would look.
Show them mock-ups
All of these kinds of mock-ups didn’t take massively long. But for them, it lets them see my vision for their brand. If they love it, they know they can come to me to get this. This is where they would see the final version of where I would take them. Then in the rest of the presentation, you would talk about how long it would take how you would do it exactly. This was how it all finished up as this sort of rustic artisan, rather minimalist packaging.
I wanted to include that because generally if presenting work to a client, this is how I do it. I pick relevant mock-ups, I make sure there are loads of notes to explain my thinking. Quite often, I will use a Zoom recording to take them through a presentation. They’ve got a video to watch of me explaining my thinking, as well as a PDF of the final presentation. That way, you have answered most of the clients’ questions.
Designhill: Do you recommend pitching to small businesses or big businesses and why?
Thad Cox: It comes back to who do you want to work with and why. Also being aware of what your competition is. If you pitch to a smaller business, they might not have as much revenue, but you might have more creative control and more inputs. If you pitch to a big business, you are up against probably bigger agencies. They might have a bigger budget, but they might be a bit more scared.
Start with small businesses
I would say depending on how big you are, there will be a limit to what you can offer. Also, where you will get to a stage where they might need the skills of more people. There will always be a kind of ceiling that you can hit on.
The attitude of the client matters
That sweet spot is not necessarily the size of the business, but more the attitude of the business founder. They may be entrepreneurial and want to grow their business. You can get in early enough and build that trust to do the photography, or the rebrand, or whatever it might be as they grow. You will also grow because they will book you for every job.
For me, it is always down to the founder’s and owner’s attitude. I like creative freedom to sort of do work passionate about. But I would always pick someone who is kind of ambitious and wants to open more than one business. Because once in, I can then usually work on lots of different projects. As they grow, with them, my reputation, and my status will grow. I would always suggest you start small so that you have that control and less responsibility.
As you improve, be more ambitious, try bigger businesses, but just be aware of why you are doing it. Again, if it is money, then the bigger businesses might suit you. But if it is more about doing work that you are passionate about, then that is always a concern. This is because bigger businesses come with more red tape and bureaucracy, unfortunately.
Designhill: What do you suggest can we do to earn some side income?
Thad Cox: I would say that it is always wise to invest in digital assets that you can create yourself because they amplify your time. They increase in value over time. By that, I mean, recording videos that would help your client are always useful. Using Designhill, Print Shop to sell merchandise is always useful. Know what projects and processes and typefaces and things you have worked on, and create templates.
If you have done a pitch and created a template as part of a job, then that can be sold as a template. That is another digital asset. These are all the things worth generating income.
Have control of your direction
The whole point of this pitching thing is that you are working on work anyway. But you want to take control over your future. You are going to have to work a little bit harder, in my spare time to build this pitching process.
It is not that this will replace your income straight away. You should be having income anyway. This is about allowing you more control in the direction you are heading. If you are aware that this is going to be a timely process, I would take on some jobs to save some money. If you need to like a month’s worth of income saved, then earn it, save it. And then take a month off and do all this pitching work to build all of this. Hopefully, you have got a system going.
When it comes to clients getting back to you, your first stage might be to phone the client. Ask if they would be interested in receiving a proposal. Then, you can either decide whether you do the work or not. But like I said, you have to identify clients you want to work with. The clients you can help, then they can help you.
Spot opportunities early
You need to be hanging out in the industry or with people that you want to work with anyway and spot opportunities. Then just get in touch and say, I would love to help you with this. Say that if I was to put a proposal together, would you be prepared to take 20 minutes just to go through it. If they are not replying to you and not getting back to you, for me, that is down to being a red flag. And, I do not want to work with someone that can’t even reply to an email within a couple of days.
I know that it is frustrating and it is hard work but once you learn to do this, you will spot trends. You will see an opportunity then that is when you can say I do not need to do all the research. Because this new brand’s website is terrible. I know how I could help and I am going to jump on it immediately. There is no need for me to validate it, or find any other ways.
But the research is quite simply there to improve your chances of winning the pitch and converting. You would need to validate the need, which would be good to contact them. You should contact them early, get some validation, then dig down into the research, and then launch your proposal.
If you want to earn extra money, invest your time in creating digital products that do not go off and do not age. I know people who are successful at doing that consider their email list the most important thing. You could create something that would build your email list. That would be a good asset to invest your time in.
Designhill: What tools are you using when you research a company’s profile?
Identify what is lacking
Thad Cox: I want to be able to judge it from a potential client’s point of view. If it is their social media, how interesting is it? Can I see that on an app and is their website not working on my phone? They are quick things to do. You can identify something quite clearly, that is needed. It is fairly obvious to you that something is needed without digging too deep.
But if you are getting into analytics and data, they may not be showing up on the search. Then, you do not know what the reason is. They might be having complex issues, which may be even hard to fix.
See how it all makes you feel
For me, I just judged them on how it was made. How do they make me feel as if I was a customer of theirs? Am I getting irritated because their website is slow? Or, I may feel that their photography feels a bit cheap and a bit generic. Their logo may pixelate, or it looks like it is copied from something else. These are the things I would be looking for. That is a red flag to me because it is putting me off their brand.
So, you are going to find ways of identifying them, which is almost like a checklist. As I said before, you make it a process, you can outsource it. You might say to someone, okay, I want you to go to all their social media profiles and see and audit them. I want you to audit their website, and then we’re going to run it through and see. Then, see if there is anything that stands out to us. But generally, it should be apparent to you that something is missing, and you will spot it. If you are passionate about what you do, you will just be you will notice it straight away.
Designhill: Can those who are a beginner in the industry design a pitch by themselves, or do you suggest to take professional help to start with?
Freshers should avoid pitching directly
Thad Cox: It is not fair on the client to be pitching straight away if you do not have experience. There is an element of you have to gain enough experience to be able to justify how you can help them. I do not think it is fair to charge the client so that you can learn how to do your job effectively.
First, do some free projects
If you are fresh to this thing, then taking an offer to do a job for free to gain experience is the way to go. You have to see this as an investment in you because you learn industry experience, which helps you stand out. I believe that three well-done projects are all you need. You will gain so much industry experience. Plus, you get great testimonials and case studies. You will learn and get to meet who are the influential people within that industry.
What I found is that if you work free to gain experience, the clients will be much more patient and more open with you. Then, we want to produce work in a way that is kind of almost predictably great. When it is seen by more like-minded clients, they come straight to you. Taking on industry-specific experience for up to three free jobs is going to be amazing. Because when you go to the fourth person, then that is when you can charge good money. You have got the experience and you have proved you can be successful. All of your testimonials and case studies are relevant.
It is always about getting the experience so that you can deliver on the job. We ultimately have to deliver excellence every time. Then once you are starting to go into this system, you can put together a pitching process. You can send out a couple of proposals every week because it all adds up. You may send 10 proposals a week to potentially dream clients. That is a much better place to be than the kind of always swamped with work.
Then, just take what comes along, because you need to pay the bills. I would say always get the experience, learn to deliver excellence, and then set up a pitching system. you can go after more like-minded clients and get a system going.
Designhill: How important is it to have a portfolio?
Thad Cox: You need a portfolio because it is the way that someone sees what you do. For example, a restaurant needs to show its menu, it probably does. Potential clients want to know that you have got experience working on similar types of jobs. They and they want to know if you can successfully solve a problem. A portfolio will tell them about your ability.
Include a case study
A case study will do even better. Because you tell the story of the project, you explain how you solve the project. You tell what the problem is you solved, what the outcome is. Also, you show how successful you were, and how happy the clients are.
But again, the portfolio has to be something which is going to be very, very relevant and appealing to the type of client and customer you want to attract. That is where I would start with, yes, it is good to have a presence. But again, you have got to look, think about who the people are looking. I would say that on the Dribble, you are going to get more designers than clients. Putting your work on there is probably not going to get you many clients.
Know where your clients look to hire
I want to present across places where potential clients are looking. Instagram is going to be one because it is very visually led. Your website is going to be another such place for the clients. You probably tick the box of having Dribble and Behance as well just to cover it off.
But generally, it is all about how you can get in front of people who might need what you do. It is about showing you as an expert. What might be more effective is writing a blog, an article, or a column on an industry newsletter. But give examples of your work in it. Then, drive them back to an article on your website or something like that.
Just consider how you would feel if you were looking for a certain type of person to do business with? So, it is like asking your clients where they hang out? Who do they follow? What do they read, and then you need to get in front of them that way.
Generally, a portfolio is crucial, but again, tailor it to what your client is looking for, not what you are looking for, or your design peers are looking for. Ask yourself, is it worth the trouble of putting my work out there on dribble? That is especially when you do not know if any of your clients even look there. So, you may be doing that because it is very tempting. It feels good for the ego to get it upvoted and all that kind of stuff. But you should think about what the client wants.
Don’t upload lots of work on Instagram
The biggest mistake I made was I used to put lots of work on Instagram. I would never get many clients from it. The question was why was I not getting clients, despite so much work going out there. I was talking about colors, typefaces, logo design, and all these kinds of artistic design details. But clients do not care about it.
Clients look for those who can help them fix a problem. The sweet spot is always how can you showcase your work and talent. But the intention here should be to make it clear to the client that you can solve their problem. As I said, if you do illustration, the first thing you should do is go to an industry newsletter and offer to illustrate. Ask them if you can do loads of illustrations in their newsletter.
Because your clients like your illustration style, and you know they are going to read it. There is an overlap, and it feels more natural. It is just thinking about where your client pays attention? What are their problems? Then can you communicate that too when they come across you?
Designhill: How about sharing an example from the Internet to show an approach you want to take instead of designing a logo and other identities at the initial stage when the client is not even sure about hiring you?
It can work both ways
Thad Cox: That is the question about why I would share a mood board? Or do the work? So, the question is could I show examples from a mood board, or I can do the work myself? It could work either way. I enjoyed doing the work. Because I had complete creative control. I found that it is super easy to do.
Ultimately, it is very easy to put together a mood board, which has no emotional connection to the client whatsoever. It doesn’t demonstrate what you are trying to say. The mood board is what comes before the final execution. If receiving a presentation, that person shows my business in a whole new way, that is what allows me not to look at a mood board of ideas.
So, for me, it is not that a mood board feels lazy, it is just that thing I quite like doing it. My goal is always to go all out to impress the client because I want to win their business. I have got no problem going to that sort of artboard studio. Also, I have no issues getting some mock-ups, and just making them look great. It doesn’t take long to do so. Ultimately, you would probably want to revisit the project anyway. Then, you do it properly with research and discovery and all of that sort of stuff.
Show what you can do for clients
But, try to paint a picture. For me, it always makes the client feel special if you have gone to the trouble to get their business. Show them what you want to do instead of just talking about it. That is what I did with a pitch for a company called Durang. They said, look, just tell us what you would do for our business and supply any reference if it is relevant. The other three companies just did a Word document with a few examples of a mood board. They didn’t get it.
I went into the presentation with a 42-page case study. I said it was easier for me to show you what I would do with your business. I told them that it would be better than actually talking about it on a boring bit of word paper. I did a design in the room. Then, they were like why would we go anywhere else when we want what that guy’s done. We love it because he has put all the time and read the brief. He understands what we are doing. Now, I have saved them a huge amount of time because it is already produced.
For me, it is just the attitude of I want to show not tell and I want to work harder to impress them. I want to stand out by blowing them away with the workload. I run the risk of them saying no, and wasting my time. But I have generally found that in the creative process. When you are researching, you are learning about new typefaces and new color styles. You are also drawing up palettes, having ideas for logos, and that transferable learning is retained within me.
Designhill: How do I justify or pitch my pricing to the clients?
Create meaningful solutions
Thad Cox: It is all to do with the value of what you can deliver to the client. If you have got a track record of doing that, backed up by Metricon it becomes much easier to justify. The way to get around this is to create a meaningful solution. That will engage the client emotionally and logically. It will make sense to their business. It will also help them achieve something which matters to them.
Probably, you ask the client what success looks like for this project. Or, you ask why that is important to you, then they will tell you more about it. If you help them fulfill that, then they will be more emotionally invested. They will pay a little bit more.
Give clients varied price options
The reason why I put the pricing table as an option is it gives you a range of options to pick from. The client has more control without you committing to a price. You would justify your price because you are a successful track record. If you have worked with fairly decent clients, helped them achieve things, then you are more justified in asking for a higher price. It is simply about putting those things in the presentation.
All you do is explain it to your client. You can say that you did that campaign for a gig in New York. Tell that because of you, a company’s sales were up 400% on the previous year. Statistically, I would say that I would justify why you’d want to hire me because I have proven it. But emotionally also, if it helps you achieve something important to you, then that is going to make you more invested as well.
Back high prices with testimonials
So, you can justify your higher prices. Just show your testimonials to the clients you have worked with. Show how you have successfully helped them. That is usually going to be linked to some sort of metric. That is how I would lay it out. It is very easy to do that nowadays in the forms of signups, followers, and retweets. But if you have not communicated the value, the client will not go to see the point of paying for it.
It is about two things, first, finding clients that have got the money to afford you. Then it is about your approach having quality and being of high quality as well. So that is the same thing as doing the mood board versus mocking it up. I mock up proper designs, present a hardback book, and give you a gift. Therefore, my prices go a little bit more and this would make sense.
On the other hand, if I always try to take the quick and cheap option, then people are not going to pay you that. You have to make them fall in love with what you are going to do for their business. Then they will be more inclined to pay more.
So, consider these useful tips from the brand mentor Thad Cox. Make sure that you do not follow a certain work process for every client. You should keep in mind the type of business a client runs and then tailor your presentation process accordingly.
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Clients are extra cautious when it comes to assigning a design work to a professional. Therefore, according to the brand mentor Thad Cox, the designers should explain their work process to clients to build trust in their work. The designer should introduce him or herself, show the work process, research a client’s business and give value to them. Then only you should pitch and present the work to clients.