How do you describe your service? Words matter – with Robert Williams [Q&A]

One of the key points I underscore in the book is the importance of words for freelancers. The way you describe your service to prospective clients on your site, proposals and emails is an often overlooked catalyst for winning more clients.

So I wanted to bring in another chieftain on the topic, to help me hammer the point home. Robert Williams is a designer by trade who now focuses his time on the bloomin’ excellent freelancer platform, Workshop. Rob and his team deliver 10 web design & development leads daily to members.

> You can find out more about Rob and the service at

What are you saying in person, that you don’t say online?

We often find it easy in-person to explain the value of what we’re offering without wandering into the realm of buzzwords, meaningless headline statements and overly technical jargon. We speak to the skill level and worldview of our client, tone down our language so that it can be easily understood and ensure that a prospect is clear on the next stage. Rob sums it up well:

“A common thread I hear from freelancers is that once they get a prospect on a Skype call or face to face, it becomes easy to get them to be a client. But they find it really difficult to get them from their website or email, to talking in person. To which I say, ‘so what are you not saying in your copy, that you’re saying in person?”

Rob likens this to building in-person relationships and having a crush, would you go straight in with (and I quote) a “dick pic” or would you put in the time to understand them, build the relationship, level up trust and provide value before reaching that end point?

Think about what you’re saying in person that makes it so easy, and try to apply that to your website copy and email dialogue.

What are the ‘jobs to be done’?

Continuing with optimizing client touchpoints, Rob underscores importance of understanding the ‘jobs to be done’. After all, most action is motivated by pain, so which pains are your prospective clients experiencing and what how else are they trying to solve it?

When landing at your door for help, what are they trying to achieve?

Understanding that, and framing a message which speaks to this pain and worldview will make it infinitely easier to engage visitors to your web presence and ultimately convert them into something of value to your business.

In my book ‘Stop thinking like a freelancer’ this is the second phase of freelancer evolution. The book is free for 5 days on Amazon, reserve your copy here

Words matter, choose them carefully

Really, the only way to explain your freelance service to a prospective customer is with words. As browsing habits have evolved your dream client has developed fairly strident defences against spam, BS and snake oil salesmen.

This makes it more important than ever to humanise your prospective client, to make a connection and show that you understand their problem. Maybe you tell stories of how you’ve experienced it yourself (as Robert suggests) and how you’ve solved it for others.

“Just talk to me like a human being, show me how you’re the best, don’t just tell me”

You’ve seen it a million times before online, it’s the difference between big, bold, yet vague headlines such as “We have the best project management app” vs “I built this app because most project management systems are unwieldy, this one isn’t and helps you deliver projects quicker”

Which one inspires more trust, empathy and action? The same applies to you as a freelancer, map out which pains are driving that dream client to your door and shape a message that speaks to those pains.

Art school is good, business school is better, on-the-ground experience is best

As freelancers we build up our business worldview the wrong way round. Whether you’re self-taught, hustling your way to competency on Photoshop or you have a more traditional training via education you learned how to apply your craft first, with business nouse coming later.

For me, this is at the heart of most freelancer struggles. We’re pretty good designers, writers or marketers but we find it difficult to get enough customers on a monthly basis to make it pay.

Robert cited this pain as a driver for building Workshop – a lead delivery service for designers & coders. It’s definitely a mantra I put forward on Freelancelift, that you’re not exempt from that word ‘business’ just because you’re a freelancer.

Leverage cold email, but don’t make these 3 mistakes

We often feel limited in our marketing options as freelancers, we’re not quite right for traditional advertising (so we think) and we struggle with time to develop other ‘softer’ channels which will bring a dream client to your message.

So a more aggressive, potentially more efficient option is to take your message to your dream client. In my book – out November 17th it’s a topic I dive deep into as it’s a channel that really helped me get to that $1m cumulative revenue point but here are three great takeaways straight from Rob (paraphrased!).

Mistake 1 – Leaving a thread open-ended
Using words like “let me know if” leaves the client with some work to do, which often inspires a lack of action. Try to spell out the next step, make a clear leap and frame it as a simple action “if that works for you then [insert request]”

Mistake 2 – Sending a user to a portfolio site
This is a great tip, why would you send someone to a portfolio or community channel (Dribbble in this example) which has an abundance of other potential options? There will always be someone better than you, so don’t give a client the opportunity to find that other option.

Mistake 3 – Expecting portfolio to sell itself
This is as true for writers as it is for designers, if you’re expecting your client to make the leap between your work and their problem you’re making this mistake. Going back to the point on solving pains, you need to spell out why – in a language they can understand – this portfolio is what they are looking for.

You can find more about Rob at and you can use the link for a few bucks off this awesome service, 10 handpicked web design & development leads every. single. day.

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