⏱️ ENDS TONIGHT: Get 30% off ALL freelance books + templates! →

How to Convert Your Leads Into High-Paying Freelance Clients

Freelancing 101: Download my FREE 52-page book! Get the free book!
What's in this article?

As freelancers, we put a lot of time and effort into getting new leads, but we often forget how to close the deal once they arrive.

A new lead isn’t much to brag about unless you can convert it into a high-paying client who understands the value of your services.

But doing so can be tricky because every potential client communicates differently and has a preconceived idea of what your services are worth.

Some leads will send you a single sentence and tell you almost nothing about the project or their business. Some leads will tell you everything about their business, timeline, and budget in the very first email.

What I’ve learned is that I almost always use the same process for every work inquiry I receive.

Qualifying Your Leads

The first step is to know what types of projects you want. Your time is extremely valuable, so it is important to quickly determine if a lead is worth pursuing or not.

I respond to (almost) every email I receive, but quickly shut down conversations with anyone who doesn’t meet certain criteria.

For example, I know I want to work on freelance design projects for startups. Therefore, I don’t waste time talking to recruiting agencies looking to place full-time employees.

I also don’t waste time qualifying a lead if I have a full schedule. Unless I plan on firing my existing clients (not recommended), it doesn’t make sense to spend time getting to know a potential client and their project.

However, I always try to politely decline and refer a few trusted freelancers I know that might have more availability.

Once you have determined that the inquiry that has serious potential and that you have a reasonable start date available, it’s time to start investing your time and energy into converting it into a paying client.

Converting Your Leads

As I said before, I generally treat every lead the same way and have a very high conversion rate. Here is the 3 part process I use to convert a lead into a high-paying client:

  1. Listen
  2. Ask Questions
  3. Explain the Value of Your Services
  4. Present a Proposal

1. Listening

Regardless of how much information the client has given me in their opening dialog, I always thank them for contacting me and ask them to share more details about their project.

I don’t want to make the client repeat themselves, but I want to ask more questions that will help fill in any gaps. Then, I listen and take notes for a total of about 60 minutes. This usually happens over the course of a few emails and phone calls.

Remember, your time is valuable so you don’t want to sacrifice a lot of it upfront, but you might risk losing even more of it later by not taking the time to fully understand the clients objectives.

I’ve found that investing about 60 minutes of my time into a good lead yields the best overall results.

2. Asking Questions

The questions you ask your client should uproot the underlying objectives and goals the client is trying to achieve and make you seem incredibly valuable as a side-effect. Here are a few of the questions I like to ask my potential clients:

  • Why are you looking to start this project? (purpose)
  • Is there currently a problem that is affecting your business? If so, what is it? (problem)
  • What business goals do you want to achieve? (solution)
  • Do you have a budget set aside for this project? (money)
  • When are you looking to get started? (timeline)

With good answers to those 5 questions, I can usually write a winning proposal that has every aspect of the project clearly defined.

3. Explain the Value of Your Services

As you may have noticed, I intentionally crossed out this part of my process. That’s because I believe your website can (and should) do the explaining for you. Ideally, a potential client should see you as a valuable investment and then send you a work inquiry.

You should not have to explain the value of your services via phone and email. Instead of telling them you’re worth hiring, show them you are worth hiring through your website and your line of questioning.

Asking the right questions can set you apart from other freelancers and increase your perceived value without having to explain anything at all!

If they still can’t see your worth, you might consider if it’s worth trying to convince them and if this is the type of client you really want to be working with.

4. Present a Proposal

By the time you have reached this step in the process, the proposal should be nothing more than a formality and include no surprises.

For example, you don’t want the client to see your rate, price, and timeline for the first time while reading the proposal.

When I spend time openly communicating with potential clients and understanding their needs upfront, the risk of working on a difficult project for a difficult client decreases significantly and the likelihood of a good client hiring me for their project increases dramatically.

Last updated on March 3rd, 2023

About Matt Olpinski
I've been freelancing since 2009 and have worked with over 100+ clients including some of the biggest brands in the world. I later started my own company Matthew’s Design Co. and now teaches 50,000+ freelancers each year how to succeed through my personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers.