Step-by-step plan from acquisition to assignment

This step-by-step plan will help you with acquisition, finding clients and securing assignments or commissions. Skills like networking, negotiating and giving presentations are an important part of this.

1. Find potential clients

Identify your target audience and where you can find them. Are they companies or private individuals? Which characteristics and interests do they have? Will you primarily find them online, via your network or, for example, within a cultural institution? Use your network for this, both online and offline. Think about your previous (commissioning) clients, internship supervisors, fellow students and teachers. You should also definitely not forget your family, (old) friends, neighbours or other acquaintances and contacts. You can come into contact with potential (commissioning) clients online via social media, professional organisations or job vacancy sites (assingments are sometimes listed as vacancies). You may also know intermediaries and go-betweens who bring clients and people accepting assignments together.

In addition, it is smart to ensure that potential clients can find you online, because ‘social selling’ is customary via social networks. You use social media for this to present yourself and to communicate your value (for example: what you like doing and what you are good at).

2. Make the initial contact

Once you have a potential (commissioning) client in your sights, you will make the initial contact. By studying this client in more depth, you can think about what you can do for that person. What are your unique characteristics? Which advantages can you offer? Adapt your pitch to the person in front of you and their request.

In the case of cold acquisition, you don’t know your potential client yet. They do not have any idea yet what you can do for each other. So, focus your discussion on that. You should also realise that you have less chance of success than you do with warm acquisition, but don’t let that deter you. In the case of warm acquisition, you know the client. This often makes it that little bit easier to get the conversation going, because you can make a better assessment of what someone needs. In addition, you probably already have a relationship of trust, which makes it easier to secure an assignment or commission.

In summary: explain why you are getting in touch and, if possible, include a CV or portfolio. A potential client will often want to get to know you better first before giving you an assignment or commission. Show who you are, what you make and why, how you go about things and what inspires you. You can only reach agreement on an assignment if you both have something to gain from each other.

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Specifying values

3. Present your proposal

If your initial contact was successful, this will often be followed by a second meeting about the concrete details of your potential collaboration. How you present your proposal depends entirely on your ideas and the requirements of the (commissioning) client. You can express mutual expectations about this second meeting in advance and propose agenda items.

During your presentation or meeting, you will specify what you are going to do and how, why you came up with it and what your considerations were. Show what the result(s) could be, how you will meet the assignment requirements or which problem you will solve, where applicable in a specific time frame. It’s always useful to practice your presentation in front of the mirror or critical friends. This will help you to formulate your vision briefly and concisely.

A presentation is also about personal contact: you need to click with each other and speak the same language. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If expectations differ too much, one (or both) of you may not want to enter into the collaboration. When things go wrong so soon, that often doesn’t bode well for the future. It is totally OK in that case to let go of the idea.

Directly to:

Presenting yourself

4. Lay down agreements

If the assignment or commission goes trough, you can do the work as a self-employed professional or in paid employment. Each form has its own advantages. You should also determine your own price; decide for yourself what are the minimum and maximum amounts you want to receive and ask colleagues about their contracts. Prepare yourself well for this negotiation. In addition to money, an assignment can also bear fruit in the form of a good network or artistic/content-related development.

You should also ask about the budget available to carry out the assignment, what the time frame is and which deadlines exist. If importance is attached to particular qualitative or artistic results, lay them down in writing too.

5. Keep in touch

Keep in close contact with your client while carrying out the assignment or commission. If you are not given the assignment, try to find out the reason why. Ensure the contact remains positive in any case, so that you may benefit from it in the future.

Actually you should always have attention for client acquisition, even if you are working on other assignments. In this way, you will reduce the chance of finding yourself out of work. Examples of this include posting regular updates on your social media or sending a newsletter to your network to show what you’ve been working on. One-to-one appointments or dropping in on your former workplace are also good ways to keep contacts ‘warm’.