Sales Tips For Freelancers

As freelancers we have to sell ourselves and our services to potential clients. Possibly due to shady tactics and high pressure sales from other people and companies (looking at you, car dealers), it’s easy to feel bad about ‘selling’. There’s no need however as it’s possible to sell yourself without any need to mislead or pressure people.

When thinking about ‘selling’ yourself or your services, it can be more useful to think about how you can clearly let people know what you can offer. It’s not hard selling but rather giving them the information and letting them make up their own minds.

Selling Yourself As A Freelancer

When speaking to potential clients, ask yourself can you do the job, and do you want to do the job? You can (probably) choose your jobs now you’re freelance. If it’s a good fit, then let them know and explain how you can help. Stating that you’re a ‘consultant’ or using other vague terms can turn a lot of people off as it sound expensive and it’s not clear what you offer.

I make websites, so if I’m talking to someone and can help, I let them know that I can design and build them a fast, easy to use and mobile friendly website that will help them promote their business. I don’t need to tell them I use Sketch, code in PHP or jQuery and use SASS. They don’t care about that bit – they want the end product.

I believe that confidence and clarity will get you more jobs. If people trust you can do the job, you’re enthusiastic and are clear about the end result it’s an easy choice for them.

Selling your Products and Services

When selling your products and services you can ask yourself is it a good fit and is this what they need right now? Selling people things you know are not fit for purpose or that they don’t need is pretty shady – leave that to telesales drones and used car salespeople. Chances are you went freelance to avoid the shady end of business and do good work, so these questions will help you stick to that.

Ask for the sale

After discussing things with a potential client and providing a quote, ask if that is within their budget and if they’d like to go ahead. There’s no need for months of back and forth or work up front – they either want it or they don’t. It’s up to you whether you negotiate, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to pay your bills and continue to do good work for people.

There are people out there who will try and waste your time either by being confused, or more rarely, because they enjoy it. Don’t let them steal your time – move on to better prospects.

Summary

I’ve covered some selling tips for freelancers including asking if the job is a good fit and if you can deliver, as well as being clear about what you can offer and asking for the sale.

Managing Freelance Enquiries

If all goes well you will be generating enquiries asking for your freelance services. To make the best of your time you need to process these quickly and separate enquiries from genuine potential clients from ‘shotgun’ enquiries that are unlikely to lead to paid projects.

Picking up on the blog posts on choosing your target clients, spotting potentially difficult clients and the post about saying “no”, you need to disqualify the unsuitable projects as fast as possible. For example if you don’t offer SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), just thank the enquirer for their time and decline the work (extra points for introducing them to a trustworthy contact for a referral fee…).

People will be at various points in their research and buying process. Good proposals or pitches take time to write. If someone is just researching and has a vague enquiry, give them a ballpark figure and timescale and offer to write up a full proposal if those constraints are acceptable to them.

Limiting Time Spent On Enquiries

In answer to the eternal question ‘how much is a website?” I ask them if they have a list of requirements or a specification I can quote on. If not, I offer to write them a spec document after a discovery phase. If they are serious they will go for this, if not you will save yourself hours of educating these clients with no guarantee of a paid project at the end of it.

Again, you can spend longer with people when first starting your freelance business and you have lots of free time, but once you have a regular stream of enquiries you are better off focusing on the straightforward enquiries and projects.

Getting Back To People

If you’re really busy, it can be hard to manage your freelance workload as well as dealing with enquiries. Putting time aside for focused work and admin helps with this – turning off your email and phone while you’re focusing and then dealing with emails and calls once you’ve hit your daily target.

Most people are fine with waiting a few hours for non-critical enquiries, but don’t leave things too long. If you can’t respond fully, a quick call or email thanking them for their enquiry and letting them know when you will follow up is a good idea.

Alternatively, an “out of office” autoresponder can let people know their email has been received and that you’ll get back to them fully at a later time.

Having a set of email responses can save you a ton of time as well, as you can copy and paste and then edit to suit.

Increasing freelance work via referrals

It can be difficult to market your freelance services for a number of reasons. Making headway against established companies and freelancers can take time, and actually trying to market yourself can result in hitting emotional barriers.

Referrals

Referrals have been the number one way of gaining high quality business. Since I went freelance, offering a referral fee has resulted in most of my new clients coming from recommendations from existing clients. Referrals act as a vote of confidence and the potential new client will usually be aware of the freelance work you did for the person who referred you.

This has a secondary benefit, as contacts of existing clients tend to be of similar success and attitude. If someone is good to work with then the chances are their contacts will be too. On the flip side, low quality clients tend to refer other low quality clients!

Sources of referrals

Your friends and family might be able to put you forward for jobs, as well as your existing clients or professional contacts. You can also approach businesses that deal with your target clients (accountants and other business services are good) to work out a deal for freelance referrals.

Tips for successful referrals

I have found the cost of paying the referral fees is a great investment. Be clear about how much the referral fee will be and when it will be paid to keep things running smoothly. If you do staged payments for larger jobs, tying the referral fees to the payment stages can help everyone’s cashflow.

The amount and type of referral fee may depend on the nature of your services. For a large project you may offer a percentage of the project cost, or a flat fee. For ongoing work you might offer a cut of the ongoing fee or a flat “finder’s fee”. You may offer a combination of the two.

Tracking referrals is easy using a Google Sheet where you can list the projects referred, the status and details of the fees payable and whether they have been paid or not.

Summary

We’ve described how referrals are a great way of developing your freelance career, along with some ideas on who to approach to refer you and how to manage referrals when they happen.