Guide to winning work

Home > IPSE Advice > Winning work


Do you work for yourself? Or planning to start out as a freelancer, contractor, consultant or self-employed professional?

In that case, you probably want to know how to get clients and generate revenue as quickly as possible. Or if you’ve already been doing this a while, maybe you want to know how to grow your revenue. Either way, we've created a guide to help you with that. 

As you work through it, remember this: When you’re self-employed, you’re a business owner. No matter how small your business, it’s still a business. Even if it’s just you. Even if you work with one client at a time on long-term contracts or freelance gigs. Unlike an employee, a business doesn’t get a guaranteed wage, sick pay, holiday pay and so forth. Your business relies on you to go out and find clients willing to buy its services – whether that means a single gig, a series of projects, or a long-term retainer contract.

Which is why you want to read this, right?


IPSE Guide to Winning Work

IPSE Guide to Winning Work focuses on tips and advice to help you grow your business no matter what industry or sector you work in.

How to find freelance clients

It’s vital for you to know how to find freelance clients, in the way that gives the best results for your business.

Elevator pitch

Elevator pitch

Five tips for crafting a great elevator pitch

Being ready to sell yourself and your business at a moment’s notice is a valuable skill. How do so many people do it so well? We’ll let you into a little secret: those people have secretly put a lot of time and effort into crafting their replies and practising their pitch when no one was looking. So, to help you on your way to ‘wowing’ people with what you do, we have the following advice.

1. Where do you start when writing something really concise? Start long!

Write down all the important information you’d want people to know about - put down as much as you can think of. A lot of it will be cut out but it will help guide you towards the important points. You may even want to work on two different elevator pitches depending on your business, so you can adapt the important information depending on the circumstances. 

2. Start with The Why!

Why you do what you do? Think about how you do it and then, finally, what your product/service is. People should be more interested in why you do what you do. Do you have a vision or a unique selling point (USP) for your business?

It’s ok if you don’t but it’s worth considering if it’s relevant to the pitch. Once you’ve got the attention of someone because you tell them why you do what you do, then you can explain how you do it and how it will benefit them.

3. It needs to be concise

Think about if someone made your elevator pitch to you: would you be interested? Many chances for an elevator pitch come from someone asking who you are and what you do. 

Ideally, your opening sentence will leave the person you’re speaking to engaged and wanting to have a conversation with you. Can you construct an opening line that encourages them to ask you a question, such as:

‘Oh that is interesting how do you do that?’

If you can, brilliant: the door is open, deliver the rest of your pitch! Try not leave them going ‘Erm ok….’ awkward silence, then they walk off.

If you’re pitching yourself in a meeting, get to know something about the person or company that you are trying to work with and fully understand the business so you can build a much stronger rapport to win that contract.

4. Be ready for it to work

Right, you’ve delivered your killer pitch, well done: now what?

Having some examples in your back pocket to keep the conversation going and even offer some great stories/examples about your business will help you sell what you do even more and hopefully give you an edge allowing the client/customer to remember you.

5. Handling rejection

If you find you’re getting pushback from your elevator pitch, it doesn’t hurt to go through an objection-handling exercise with yourself. To do that, you need to think about and prepare answers for the most common and predictable push-backs you experience.

A common technique used to politely challenge the person you’re speaking with is using the 3 Fs

  1. Feel
  2. Felt
  3. Found

You must be careful with how you use this technique. Used well, it could effectively neutralise the objection in the customer’s mind and move on from it. Used badly, it can come across as patronising and increase their resistance further.

  1. Tell them “I understand how you feel”. This is intended to tell the customer that you have heard them and can empathise.
  2. Tell them about someone else who felt the same way initially. You’re telling the customer that they are not alone, and that things can change.
  3. Then tell them how that person found that when they did what you wanted/bought the product, they got what they wanted. 

For example: “I understand you feel that there are other individuals that are charging less. One of my biggest customers felt that way initially, but when they brought me in they found that the solutions I implemented saved them 30% on their bottom line.”

Tip: Remember that if someone pushes back with the same objection or reason 3 times then generally this is a true objection and it really isn’t the right time for them or you’re not the right fit.


How to create your best freelance elevator pitch

You only get one chance to make a great first impression for your business. So, understanding how to create your best freelance elevator pitch will help you make the most of those opportunities.

Find the best online job boards for freelancers

An elevator pitch needs clients to see it. And the best online job boards provide a range of businesses looking for a freelancer to help them



Growing your business and getting into the habit of asking for referrals

Asking for referrals can be something that naturally goes against your instincts, but it’s a great habit to get into and if done well can really transform your business.

We regularly recommend restaurants and holiday destinations without any hesitation, so you want to get yourself into a position where people naturally recommend you without a second thought. Easier said than done…. I know.

Below are a few helpful tips on how you can start to build good referral habits.

Getting started

Before you go picking up the phone or emailing people for a referral, have a think about who should be on your list to ask. Who knows your skills/abilities well enough? Spend some time going through your contacts and LinkedIn connections to prioritise people – but don’t assume others won’t be willing to refer you.

You need to be very specific on what a good referral looks like: make it easy for people.

Do the people you’re asking for a referral accurately know what you do? If they don’t have a clear understanding, it’s less likely they’ll make valuable referrals for you.

If you solve a problem, what is that problem? How is it going to help the person you’re being referred to? Are you the best at what you do? How can someone articulate this clearly?

Asking for a referral

Be specific: ask for just one or two names that you can be introduced to. Think through the different ways you could ask for the referral that won’t result in people not giving you a name or actioning the introduction.

When someone makes that introduction for you, ideally they should speak to the other side first, so the prospect has the opportunity to say no at that point if it really isn’t relevant for them.

In most cases, you need an actual introduction from the person you’re asking, so they can formally e-introduce you both. These warm introductions tend to be more successful at getting an initial meeting booked.

Make sure you have a few lines you can forward to the person referring you, which eloquently describe how you can help. Remember in most cases you’re the best person to sell you.

Once you’ve been introduced, quicky follow up thanking that person for the introduction and saying hi to the prospective client. Keep this initial email short: you want to get that face to face/video meeting booked in so you can go into more detail in person.

Getting no reply

If someone has made an introduction and the referral has not got back to you, go back to your mutual contact and see if they can give them a prod to check if there is a reason why you’ve not had a reply. Often there is, if it’s a good referral.

Booking time in people’s diaries

Some people take the approach that once they have the person’s email, they just book some time in the prospect’s dairy. If you’ve not been invited to do so, this bold tactic comes with a 70/30 risk that you’ll never be spoken to. Some people love it as they are time-poor and if it’s in their diary, they’ll take the meeting. Other people hate it: if you just stick something in someone’s diary without speaking to them first the invite will often just be deleted, and you’ll be ignored. 

Getting the meeting

Well done, you’re in the door: now make sure you’re prepared for the meeting. It’s worth keeping in mind that not everyone is in a buying mindset when they meet with people; that’s ok because if they like you and felt a potential fit, they’ll remember you. Plus, if you build up a good enough rapport, they won’t mind you contacting them now and again to see if you can pick the conversation back up.


Many people, often salespeople, go on the principle of ‘Always be asking’. It’s not a bad mindset to be in, but also make sure you know the most effective time for a referral: generally it’s best to have developed a bit of a relationship first.

Give and get

Referrals should be reciprocal: if someone has made a good quality referral for you, check back in with them, thank them for the referral and see what challenges they are experiencing and ask to see if you know anyone that could help.


Quote 01.png
IPSE has some excellent resources on the website. It’s the first place I suggest people go when they ask me about wanting to set up their own business or as a freelancer. It’s the website you need to visit because of all the guides, information and resources.

Luan Wise
Marketing Consultant

View her story Find out about membership




6 tips for starting your brand

When starting up in self-employment, it’s important to stand out from the crowd and also retain your unique personality. Every experience you’ve had to date makes your journey, and thus the service you can offer is different to the next person’s. So, how can you design a brand that reflects all of this? If you have little experience in shaping a brand, this may feel a little daunting – but thankfully, it doesn’t need to be.

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started:

1. See what other people are doing

Finally! Developing a brand is one of the times when you’re wholeheartedly encouraged to be a nosy neighbour. It’s crucial that you scope the activity in your industry and see what your competitors are doing and how they present themselves. Spend some time exploring and note down some typical themes that arise: if everyone is blue, go red! Like the successful 1982 Levi’s ad said, “When the world zigs, zag”.

2. Create a simple logo

While you’ve probably seen thousands of logos in your life, you may not have noticed that these pretty much all fall into seven types. Really established brands (or daring start-ups) can often use abstract or pictorial marks (think the Nike swoosh and the Apple…well apple!). But If you’re just starting out in your field, it might be worth developing a simple logo that clearly communicates your identity. And it doesn’t need to be cryptic - let your name stand out.

If you’re looking for some logo inspiration, check out this link.

3. Have a think about colours

There are some really great psychology studies that link colours to moods, and when creating your branding, it’s definitely worth some consideration.

Every colour is symbolic and can bring different energies to your brand. For example, finance brands are often blue, which helps to communicate trust and security. More recently these sectors are being disrupted with a more diverse colour range. Check out this great colour chart from Ignyte Brands.

4. Understand your fonts

You may not know it, but fonts can often make you love a logo or hate it. They can convey heritage or that you are a start-up. Even if you find the perfect font, the kerning (the space between every letter) can make a huge difference. You don’t have to be a leading design expert to develop your own logo but it’s worth knowing the difference between a serif, a sans serif, a script and a decorative font. Try to understand what fonts works well with your business and note: not every piece of text needs to look the same.

Have a read about the difference between fonts here.

5. Sharing your masterpiece: do you know your PPI vs DPI?

Once you’ve created your perfect logo, you’ll probably want to use it – but how? Online or in print? To ensure your logo doesn't pixelate at any stage of its life, you’ll need to make yourself familiar with the export settings. Export for online in PPI (Pixels per inch), export for print in DPI (Dots per inch). In short, it’s all to do with the resolution of your logo or, more importantly, the resolution of your brand. If it’s seen as blurry does that mean your service is amateur? Always consider the optics!

Here’s a quick guide to PPR vs DPI.

TOP TIP: Make sure you get the right specification from people who need your logo to ensure it is the right size and resolution. Don’t be scared to send your own brand guidelines too. Make sure you set logo clearance zones to ensure that others don’t squish up against yours.

6. Test it

The best way to see if something works is by testing. Does it work when it's stripped back to its basics in black and white? What does it look like when it's very small or used on different platforms?

Click here to wrap your head around logo variations.

Don’t be put off by the process, you can’t finish anything if you don’t start it. You’re not going to create ‘ADIDAS’ overnight: and besides, the strength of a brand isn’t just in its logo. People need to see the personality, the tone of voice, the actions: together these build a brand, and time will help with that.

If you’re not the design type, that’s fine! You can always work with some other great freelancers who can help get your branding up and running or if you want to create something yourself a great place to start is Canva.

Further resources

Further resources


What is the best website builder?

Building your own website doesn’t have to be a pricey problem. With the evolution of website builders, you now have a selection of great sites to help you build your dream website at a faction of the cost.

Looking for more?


Where next?

We have dedicated advice pages to help your physical and mental wellbeing whilst working from home but also on areas such as winning work or navigating the tax system. And to help and support you through all the challenges that can come with becoming self-employed, from chasing late payments to being able to work through power cuts and other emergencies.

View all advice pages



Physical wellbeing advice

Running a business, or freelancing and contracting for clients, can be busy, stressful and all-consuming, but Ignoring your health and wellbeing can have serious implications for you, and your business.


Mental wellbeing advice

We've put together a set of resources and guides to support positive mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our business knowledge with tips and advice from mental health and wellbeing experts.


Winning Work advice

Tips and advice to help you grow your business no matter what industry or sector you work in.


IR35 advice

Off-payroll working rules, otherwise known as IR35 or the intermediaries legislation, is a damaging taxation law from HMRC that IPSE strongly opposes.