The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
So far in the Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer series, we’ve been talking about all of the things you’ll need to do to get ready for launching your e-Learning freelance career. Now that you’ve gone through all of the phases of preparation, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road: so let’s talk about April’s theme, finding clients and winning contracts. In this post, I’ll be sharing both the process I use for drumming up new business, as well as the venues and techniques I leverage to make sure I always have steady work.
Creating a Sales Pipeline
One of the key challenges of being a freelancer is that regardless of how busy you are at any given time, you’ll need to be continually searching for your next project. When you’re in the middle of working with a client on a project, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that once the project is complete, you’re going to need more work. As a freelancer, you’ll always need to be thinking about the present and the future—and the longer you put off searching for your next gig, the more likely you are to have your income come to a grinding halt once your current project finishes.
This is where the concept of a sales pipeline comes in. Sales pipelines are often used by (surprise, surprise) salespeople, but since you’re your own sales department, you’ll need to leverage the idea as well. A sales pipeline is a defined series of stages that organize the steps of turning potential business into actual business. Typically, the pipeline stages are like this:
- Make initial contact with the client. In this stage, you’re reaching out to prospects to determine if they have any projects or business needs that you can meet.
- Qualify the client. In the qualifying stage, it’s your job to determine if the client’s work is a good match with your abilities, values, and needs. (This stage is a good opportunity to compare their potential work with your core values, to make sure it’s work that you want to take on.)
- Meet and discuss. Once you’ve found a potential client that is qualified, the next step is to meet with them and discuss project specifics. This is your opportunity to examine all aspects of the job: Is their time frame reasonable? Do you see any potential for scope creep? Does the client have reasonable expectations? The more you learn in this stage, the better—and remember, this is your last chance to walk away from a project that isn’t a good fit for you!
- Write a project proposal. Writing strong project proposals is an art form, and something I’ll be discussing in detail in a future post. For now, make sure your sales pipeline includes adequate time for you to write a project proposal—remember that it’s a contract, and your only opportunity to set important guidelines such as when payment is due, or what work will be considered out of scope.
- Close the deal and get a signed contract. In this stage, you’ll be working with your client to negotiate and finalize your project proposal / contract. Make sure you’re budgeting time for this step, and verify that any timelines documented also work with your sales pipeline (I told you that would come in handy!).
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]