Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

Freelancers: does cold calling give you the chills?

How do you search for work as a freelancer? Do you feel uncomfortable asking for it? Does cold-calling give you the chills?

Or do you believe: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”?

Unless you deliver a service or sell a product that is completely unique, it is unlikely you would find customers banging down your door. For 99% of freelancers, we have the hard task of sourcing our own work.

Our employed friends can turn up to their job with the satisfaction that if there isn’t any work to do, they’ll still be paid. Freelancers know only too well – if you don’t do any work you don’t get paid.

It’s a favoured position to be in, once your business is perhaps a little more established, that customers may stay faithful to you and return for more. If your client base carries enough returning customers then you may not need to look for more. (This can be playing a risky game though, should your customers suddenly move away or employ another freelancer.)

Should you advertise?

To get to that stage, you need to find your customers. Advertising is the old-fashioned way of getting in front of potential purchasers and raising your profile; however, as fewer and fewer of the world’s population read printed materials such as papers – relying instead on information from the internet – this may not be the best idea. Not only that, but advertising space is expensive – even more so as fewer businesses take up the available space and printing becomes costlier.

Another option could be cold-calling. This seems a horrible phrase reminiscent of door-to-door salesmen but it needn’t be so. I am not great on the phone at all – I even make my husband ring for a takeaway; I stutter and get too nervous therefore finding email and written communications far easier. (It does help in this instance being a writer too!)

However, cold calling, or unsolicited calls don’t have to be terrifying. The term simply means phoning someone who isn’t expecting your call. It doesn’t automatically mean they won’t want to speak to you – and if you haven’t spoken to them before, how would you know? For all you know, you may have the service or product they desperately need.

The manner in which you speak to them is vitally important. No one wants to be told they need what your company offers – the customer likes to feel in control of how they spend their money and rightly so. The trick is to give the customer enough information and subliminal sales signals without them even realising it – perhaps even lulling them into thinking buying from you was their own idea!

Easier said than done

That sounds easy, doesn’t it? Like anything in life, it takes practice. Your first few calls may be nervy but over time you will get more comfortable – and you never know where each call may lead. Follow these tips to make it as stress-free as you can:

  • Plan who you are phoning – don’t just stab your finger at the Yellow Pages; work out who is most likely to need your service and plan a strategy
  • When the phone is answered you may be speaking to the receptionist of the company. Ask when it would be convenient to speak to the decision maker
  • If you get through to the appropriate person, enquire as to whether they have a couple of minutes to speak to you – they will be unlikely to buy from you if they’re busy and there’s nothing worse than forcing yourself on someone
  • Don’t launch straight into a sales pitch. Explain clearly, in a friendly voice, that you are ringing to introduce your company and the services you offer
  • Try and ask open questions – those that can’t be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Although you don’t want to turn the call into the Spanish Inquisition, the more information you have of their needs, the more you can present your services as the solution they’re looking for
  • If they don’t sound interested, don’t force the issue. They may not have a need for your service now but remaining on good terms allows you to perhaps contact them in the future. Ask if you could call back in a month (or other suitable timeframe)
  • Ask if you can send a follow-up email with relevant information. Ensure you take their email address and name (I know this sounds obvious but it’s actually very easy to forget)
  • If it helps, have a general script to hand so that you don’t become tongue-tied. However, it may sound wooden and more like a call-centre cold call if you read from it directly – use it more as a prompt
  • Remain friendly and professional – manners are especially welcome. Thank them for their time as you ring off, but make plans with them to follow up the call with another chat once they’ve received your information via email. Don’t make this too soon after the initial call, you don’t know how heavy their workload is and pestering them could actually turn them off.

You may find, from 100 phone calls, that only 6 or 7 may be interested enough to take things further – but considering how low-cost this method is, that’s still a great outcome.

Of course, there are lots of different ways of promoting your business, finding customers and raising your profile – some of which I will be featuring in posts to come.

I’m the world’s worst cold-caller – but I have done it, and found work from this method too. If I can do it – anyone can!

Have freelancers got any other tips regarding cold-calling? Do you find it effective in your business?

Don’t want to cold call? No problem – come and meet entrepreneurs and fellow freelancers who are hiring at the Brookson Enterprise Freelance Fair – 19th November in Cheshire

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Written by Editor on November 13, 2010 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, Opinion , , ,

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