If you consider sales a dirty word, this guide will help you sell your freelance services without coming across too “sales-y.”
Selling is essential for freelancers, yet many of us hate it.
I get it.
The idea of "selling" can seem like an obstacle to getting to work and I'm sure you'd rather be doing something else than persuading someone to hire you (like maybe whatever your freelance specialty is). But if you're going to be a successful freelancer, then you need to learn how to sell effectively. Let's take a look at some ways that selling can help your business grow, even if selling isn't your favorite thing in the world.
The first step is to understand your product or service, then figure out how it fits into your customers' lives, and then find ways to add value to their lives by solving their problems.
Once you have an understanding of what your customer needs, you can begin thinking about the best way to help them get from where they are now to where they want to be. This may mean providing information, offering advice or even recommending other products that can help them along the way.
For freelancers, selling is an essential part of getting work done. If you want to be successful as a freelancer, you need to be able to sell your services and convince clients that you're worth hiring for their projects.
"Nothing happens until someone sells something,” is an old saying in business. Or, as advertising legend David Ogilvy said, “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”
You need to sell yourself. You may have the skills and experience to deliver quality work, but if you can't convince others that this is true, then you won't be able to build up a repeat client base.
You need to sell your ideas and concepts to clients. When someone asks you for a quote or wants an estimate, how do you respond? Do you just say yes or no? Or do you paint a vivid picture of how their life will be better after working with you?
Your sales and negotiation skills will be determining factors in how much you earn during your freelance career so it’s wise to bone up on both. Especially since according to a 2020 study conducted by Upwork, nearly half of all skilled freelancers don’t set their own prices.
Why people hate selling
When you think of selling, do you think of making cold calls, giving people the hard sell à la Wolf of Wall Street, or going to a ‘business networking event’ and pressing your business cards into everyone’s hands?
If you do, you’re not alone.
Many people who hate doing sales usually hate it because they've had bad experiences with it, and because sales can be challenging and intimidating.
But there are other reasons too. Here are five reasons why people hate selling:
Negative associations — One of the most common reasons people hate selling is that they associate it with the typical "salesperson" who has a specific type of personality and who does things like try to be cocky or high-pressure at all times, or come across as fake and insincere. People have been told that salespeople are sleazy, conniving, and manipulative, and they believe it. So they think of a slick salesman who is trying to get them to do something they don't want to do.
Selling requires a lot of energy — You have to be willing to listen, ask questions, answer questions and explain things in detail. You have to be able to stay calm under pressure and work through problems that crop up along the way. You have to be able to be flexible enough to adjust your pitch based on your customers' needs and interests.
Few people are natural at selling — In a way, sales skills are like any other set of skills: you either have them or you don't. And if you don't, that's fine; you can learn them! Selling is a skill that can be learned, but it takes time, effort and practice. An effective sales process is important for anyone who wants to become a successful freelancer and go into business on their own.
People are afraid of rejection — Another reason some people hate selling is because they are afraid of rejection. When you get rejected, it feels awful, but when you get rejected over and over again, it becomes less painful and more tolerable, especially if you know there are many other prospects out there who will buy from you if only you can get through to them.
They don't want to come across as pushy or too sales-y — You don't want to seem like you are trying to force your way into someone's life or business. I get it. But you don’t have to be super aggressive in order to be successful at sales.
10 sales tips for people who think they hate selling
OK, so we know why people hate selling but, what can you do about it if you need to improve your sales skills?
How do you sell if you hate selling? Here are ten tips to help you improve your sales skills.
Be confident — Be confident in yourself and the value that you can provide to customers. If you're feeling insecure about your ability to sell well or feeling like your product isn't worth much, your customers will pick up on that—and it'll show in everything from your demeanor to your pitch. Remember, most people come to you because they don’t know how to do something that YOU know how to do.
Be personable —This isn’t only about being friendly or polite (although it does help), but also about being genuine and showing interest in others' lives. Empathize with your potential customer even though it's a business transaction — know what problems he or she is trying to solve and address those issues as best as possible.
Be helpful — Sales is easier when you’re genuinely interested in making sure potential clients get what they need, as opposed to just trying to get them to buy something. Help prospects in their decision-making process by answering any questions they might have.
Be passionate — If you don't believe in what you're selling, no one else will either. Instead of self-promoting by talking about your services, you self-promote by showcasing your knowledge and passion.
Be empathetic yet assertive — When you're trying to sell, it can be hard to find the right tone. You have to walk a fine line between being assertive enough to get the sale, but not being so pushy that you put people off.
Be persistent — Be persistent (and polite) with your follow-up. If you don’t get a reply, that doesn’t mean give up; it means follow-up again. The goal is to keep the conversation warm and demonstrate your interest, commitment, and follow-through. Don’t let your lack of follow-up build to your lead thinking, “Eh, they must not be that interested in this project...” Continue with your follow-up until you get a firm no OR they recommend that you get in touch in a future month.
Be the freelancer they find (or are referred to) — Instead of going out there hunting for sales, let the sales come to you. You do this by setting up inbound marketing campaigns to bring leads to you. Consider using customer case studies and participating in groups and forums sharing your expertise. Create assets (like articles, podcasts, etc.) and promote them so people can find them.
Be customer-focused — You want to focus on projects and clients you’re confident are a good fit for you. That means on a sales call, you don’t have to actually “sell” anything. Your only job is to help people make the right decision. Find out what problems your prospect or customer has and determine if you are a good fit to solve those problems.
Be systematic — At the end of the day sales comes down to two basics: getting consistent leads coming into your business and improving the messaging surrounding your brand, products and services. Make sure you have systems in place to generate leads. Know what buyers want so you can craft messaging that talks to those pains. Then, send out key messages to your target market in a way that will resonate with them.
Be vigilant — You can't manage what you don't measure. That's why you should track and analyze your numbers to understand where your sales efforts are falling off or could use improvement. Now, all you have to do is perform the sales activities required to hit those numbers.
Selling can be learned and improved on over time. You won't always get it right the first time, but with practice and experience you will see your ability to sell improve dramatically over time. You can learn how to become an expert in this area if you take the time just like any other skill or craft like accounting or programming!
If you want to learn more about how to build a successful freelancing career, visit the Hectic Academy and study the art of freelancing in multiple Hectic Guides.
Anthony Sills is the Founder & Content Strategist at Professional Pen. He helps SasS and tech companies create marketing content that measurably attracts more customers using proven strategies, tactics, and frameworks.