What few full-time writers realized before they set out into the great unknown of entrepreneurism is how many hats they’d be asked to wear. In addition to churning out content for publications and brands, part of maintaining a steady income is bringing in new business.
And to convince a content lead to choose you as the best person for the gig, a professional pitch deck can help make your case. And what should be at the core of this presentation you send or perform in person? Most writers’ least-favorite thing: numbers.
As Carly Martinetti, partner and managing director at PressFriendly puts it, data is the foundation that provides the information, in concrete terms, of what you are offering potential clients. By leading with data, you fundamentally strengthen and support your proposals, she stresses.
If creating pitch decks are still a learning curve for you, that’s okay.
Take it from these experts who have built their careers creating effective pitch decks for their businesses:
1. Outline the ROI
Part of the job description of a wordsmith is to relate to various audiences and groups of people. This is the secret magic that a writer has: putting into words what so few can. You can exercise this skill set when you consider who is on the receiving end of your proposal. Since they are putting their hard-earned money toward your services, the first data point to convey is your ROI. What can they expect, in numbers, once they sign on the dotted line?
Martinetti suggests using any figure that can point to ‘better than before’ for past clients. While content is typically a hard nut to crack, consider how traffic has increased to websites once you wrote the copy.
Or, how clients have ranked for SEO terms after you wrote optimized pieces. Or, if you’re a ghostwriter, you talk about the exposure your client has experienced without revealing their identity. All of these start your pitch deck out with success.
2. Make it beautiful
Travel writer and author Kaila Yu is constantly pitching clients, sponsors and partners, and has found the key isn’t just data. But rather, imagery that’s captivating, clean and informative. Instead of merely writing out percentage-change, growth figures and other metrics, Yu turns to beautifully designed slides and graphs.
Whether these explain page views, impressions or reach, the eye-catching appeal does just that: capture the attention of clients-to-be.
“I love including a good infographic into my pitch deck whenever I get a chance. A visual image showcasing otherwise boring data is worth more than a thousand words,” she shares.
If you don’t know an artist, Yu suggests investing the time in hiring an affordable designer through Fiverr to create custom graphics.
3. Allow your work to do the talking, too
You know how the saying goes: your work should speak for itself. And though data is a central point of any strategic deck, showcasing the elbow grease you’ve already put in for previous clients is also essential. The only key, of course, is putting on your editing hat and only showcasing relevant examples.
As founder and CEO of BRANDed Management and author, Klint Briney explains, it can be overwhelming when you have a book of accolades and you’re wondering how best to highlight and package the wins without coming off as too arrogant or confident.
What’s the trick? Briney suggests thinking about three factors: timeliness, niche and impressiveness. Whenever you can, you should showcase a recent win, since it shows you have found continued success over time.
If you have an example of past work within a potential client’s industry, that also counts for something. And of course: the ‘wow’ factor. If you’ve worked with a big player — whether publication or brand — that’s also a selling point.
4. Present your plan for success
Once you’ve introduced yourself, your data and your services? It’s time to explain how you’re going to improve the client’s business for the better. Principle Joe Moller explains establishing goals that solve their pain points communicates your strategic skillset. It also gives them a starting point to bounce ideas internally and come back to you to lead the cause.
He suggests articulating concepts and suggestions early in the deck and making sure the content is organized in a professional, easy-to-understand manner. You want them to be able to glance, nod along and say ‘yes’ to your proposal — not scratch their heads trying to figure out what you’re proposing.
“Do not assume your potential client will invest the time to figure out any unclear or unorganized slides,” he continues. “Use dimensions, specs and objective descriptions for products and services instead of adjectives and long explanations.”
5. Change the metric with the client
The way you describe your services to an SEO client isn’t the same language you would use when meeting with a brand in the market for a corporate blog.
So why wouldn’t your decks change, too? Martinetti urges the importance of including data that matters the most to your pitch, and not including metrics for the sake of metrics:
If you are pitching a social media program with an emphasis on Facebook, you should include an example Facebook post that showed the reach and interactions. You wouldn’t want to put something in about Twitter or social media shares overall, if you are specifically looking to glean a client based on a Facebook social media program.
When you cater your pitch decks to the potential client of the hour, it demonstrates the research you’ve completed to fully understand what they need. Not only is this attention to detail values, but it’s a major selling point when deciding between two freelancers.
6. Don’t just talk about the good — include the bad, too
Before you panic, remember: failing isn’t always a bad thing. And more to the point: demonstrating how you’ve learned from past shortcomings with previous clients shows your ability to learn, be flexible and improve your tactics.
Say you had a company that started their own blog and their intended audience never arrived. This was a bummer, but by testing new article types, improving SEO keywords and coming up with a savvy social media plan, you managed to grow their numbers by 30 percent.
Briney says this can be a powerful story to share:
It certainly can be risky, but like anything, I think it’s important to be honest and know where your lane is. You’ll be respected more for it and be more successful in that lane, too.