Kickstarter is the place to go when you’re ready to kick away your freelance career and build your own business. With 44 percent of the nearly 63,000 projects posted on the site fully funded, including seven that received more than a million dollars (and one that picked up more than $10 million), if your idea fits one of the platform’s categories you’ve got a good chance of raising the cash you need to create your own computer game, put on a dance performance or build your own hi-tech, Bluetooth-supported gadget. But what if you’re happy freelancing? What can the lessons of Kickstarter’s large number of successful funding pitches do for someone looking to increase the success rate of their freelance job pitches?
At first glance, the two goals have little in common. Kickstarter entrepreneurs are usually looking for funds that will enable them to sell a product. Whether they’re making a computer game, a new iPad stylus or an album, they’re aiming to work for themselves not pitch talent and ability that will persuade someone to hire them.
The tools are different too. A lot has been written about what it takes to succeed on Kickstarter (including on Geekpreneur, as well as on Kickstarter itself) but the key ingredients are an eye-catching video, clear rewards and plenty of marketing to build awareness of the project off the site.
None of those things apply directly to bidding for work on a freelance job site. Not even Elance, with all its bells and whistles, allows users to upload a video for each pitch (although you can put a video in the Overview section of the profile). And marketing your pitch offline is going to be little use when you only need one decision from one lead.
But the principles that make videos effective on Kickstarter, that make marketing important and force entrepreneurs to think hard about rewards apply to job bidding too.
Video Pitching for Freelance Jobs
You can’t create a tailored video to support a job bid, but you don’t have to. Videos don’t succeed on Kickstarter because of the moving images. They succeed because they show potential funders exactly what they’re buying. They act as top-rate portfolios.
For freelancers to enjoy the same kinds of benefits that videos bring to Kickstarters, they’ve got a few options.
The most obvious is to go ahead and make your own videos. Elance does allow members to place a video on their profiles and to link to a YouTube video but how many potential clients will actually look at them? They’re less interested in who the freelancer is than in whether the freelancer can do the specific job that they need completed.
The real freelancer equivalent to a Kickstarter video is a set of three relevant samples. That’s what a Kickstarter video does. It doesn’t show off the pitcher’s skills; it shows the customer exactly what he’s going to receive.
The lesson that freelancer need to learn from the importance of Kickstarter videos is that people will buy when you show them that you can deliver what they need. You don’t need a video for that. You just need proof that you’ve created similar work.
State Your Rewards… and Your Benefits
As important as the pitch on a Kickstarter page is the list of rewards. Funders can contribute at different levels, taking their pick of the benefits on offer. Kickstarters have to think hard about offering rewards at levels that can meet different budgets in return for different versions of the product.
Again, that appears to be very different to the way that freelance job pitches work. The client will be clear about what he or she wants to receive. You get to adjust the price but you don’t get to change the task.
But you do get to state the benefits and the rewards. The client might know that he wants a logo or a set of SEO articles. But once you’ve offered relevant samples that show what the client can expect, you can also adjust the receivables and add a description of what they’ll do.
When the client looks at bids from other freelancers, he’ll see logos. When he sees your bid, he’ll see “logos that are memorable, that come with three revisions and which will be preformatted for watermarks and Facebook pages as well as for websites.” And he’ll receive all of that for the same price as other offers.
You can’t draw up a long list of rewards like a Kickstarter can, but you can make a long list of different benefits and let the client choose you.
Gather the Referrals
Perhaps the most important aspect of a successful Kickstarter campaign isn’t the video or the rewards. The concept certainly plays a role but it’s the marketing that really brings people in. Amanda Palmer’s million-dollar album success might have been down to a snappy video. But the involvement of her writer husband Neil Gaiman and his nearly two million Twitter followers couldn’t have done her any harm.
When you’re pitching for a freelance job, you can’t ask your Twitter followers to weigh in and support your bid. But you can enjoy the same benefits of word-of-mouth marketing by making sure that previous clients leave good feedback and positive reviews. You can include quotes from satisfied clients or — even better — from the customers of the products you created for them. While you might not want to offer to collect references for every job, you can state that they’re available when the client looks like a long-term prospect that can significantly boost your freelance career.
Kickstarter may be a site for entrepreneurs but for those looking for funding, it’s also a place where they have to market to a skeptical public, generate interest, prove a need, build trust and make sales. The techniques necessary to do that are as true for freelancers as they are for hopeful owners of small businesses. Freelance job sites might not look like Kickstarter but they rely on the exact same principles — and they can land you a 44 percent success rate too.