7 tips for building an effective sales strategy as a freelancer
Source: Adeolu Eletu
When you’re at the office, freelancing seems like the ultimate way to live your life.
You can stay at home whenever you want. Work whenever you want. Need to take a couple of days off? Not a problem. Travel to Paris? Sure. You’re your own boss.
But that’s exactly the problem, right?
If you want to stay healthy, you need food on the table. And to get food on the table, you need a steady flow of new customers. The freedom is exhilarating, but it comes at a price.
For most freelancers, new customers don’t exactly line up to make an order.
So you need to have a strategy in place for persuading them that you’re their best choice. And that strategy? It’s the strategy of selling.
When you’re a freelancer, you’re not only your own boss. You’re also your own sales rep. So here’s a couple of tips on how to build an effective sales strategy for your business.
Tip #1: Define your customer profile
First things first. You won’t bring new customers on board if you don’t know who they are.
Sure, setting up a Fiverr page might be enough to get you some random orders once in a while. But if you’re serious about freelancing? You need to think about approaching potential customers on your own.
Here’s how to learn who your future customers are. Make something that people in sales call an ideal customer profile.
An ICP is basically a list of qualities you want to see in your customers. Things like:
- The industry your customers are working in;
- Size of their company;
- The position they occupy;
Once you have the criteria on your hands, it’s going to be easier to pursue the right customers. You can do that very easily by plugging an ICP into LinkedIn’s advanced search (here’s a guide on how to use Sales Navigator to achieve it). This will filter out hundreds of people who are suited to hear your message.
Feel that your services are great for owners of small local business? Don’t waste time pitching to bigger companies (and vice versa).
Tip #2: Pursue referrals
The right referral at the right time can change the fate of your bank account overnight.
An average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day. By the time they need to make an important decision (like whether to go for your services or not) fatigue creeps in. That’s why they can use all the help making a decision they can get.
And hearing from somebody they know that they won’t regret a purchase is really helpful.
The importance of referrals in sales is often talked about. Somewhat shockingly, it’s also often overlooked. Many sales reps don’t ask for referrals — even though people are ready to give them.
This is true for you as a freelancer as well. Make it a point to ask for a referral if the customer appreciates the work you did.
Tip #3: Learn the value of cold emails
As a freelancer, a lot of the deals you’re going to make will start with an email.
Specifically, a cold email. A message you send to somebody who doesn’t know you, nor waits for you to show up in their inbox.
With a well-written email, you’ll be able to attract, persuade and convert a lot of potential customers. The only caveat? Make sure that your cold emails sell your services the right way.
- Explain your value from the opening sentence (drop unnecessary introductions);
- Add social proof (customers or companies you worked with before);
- Keep short (initial email shouldn’t be longer than 120 words).
Great email copy gives your freelance sales strategy a much stronger foundation.
Tip #4: Continuously build up your brand
The world of sales defines three types of a potential customer (a prospect).
A cold prospect is somebody who has no idea that you exist. A warm prospect is somebody who has heard about your services. Finally, a qualified prospect already has some experience interacting with your brand.
The value of building up your brand lies in warming up prospects.
Participate in discussions on Twitter. Publish blog posts. Talk to people in your niche. Sure, it’s time-consuming. But it pays off in the end. If a potential customer sees your article, they will be more inclined to pay for your services.
Tip #5: Your sales funnel requires structure
Carve off some time to build a system for working with customers. You won’t regret it later.
Specifically, a system for tracking your progress. In sales, that system often comes in the form of a CRM (customer relations software, like Salesforce). You probably don’t need something as complicated as that. I
This doesn’t seem important when you have no customers. However, once they will come, having a system in place will save you a ton of time.
Tip #6: Follow up (and prepare for rejections)
Following up is hugely important in sales. On average, a potential customer needs 5-8 follow-ups before making a decision.
When you’re a freelancer and you pursue smaller businesses, that number is lower. But it’s still a number. By foregoing follow-ups, you might lose some great deals.
Have a system for your follow-ups, too. For example, send one follow-up after a couple of days and the next one after a week. Keep it up for 2-3 weeks, and you can be pretty sure that the client probably isn’t interested.
On a related note, prepare for rejections. That’s an important part of a sales strategy, too. When replying to a rejection, don’t burn your bridges. Instead, try to find out the reason why a prospect isn’t interested.
Maybe they don’t have the budget, which means you can contact them again later.
Maybe they didn’t understand the value you offer, which means you have another shot to persuade them.
You won’t know if you don’t follow up.
Tip #7: Motivate yourself
You know what’s the most fun and the most essential part of a sales strategy?
For sales reps, it usually comes in the form of commissions.
But as you’re your own sales rep and your own boss, the motivation part will be about rewards.
A cup of coffee at your favorite spot might be just the sales commission you need after closing a deal. Maintain and schedule and keep a work/life balance. Above all else, stay healthy. Overwhelming yourself is never a good idea.
To attract new clients you might need to be thinking like a sales rep — but you won’t attract anyone if you’re burned out!
Steven is the Head of Content at LeadGibbon, a one-click tool for sales teams to find email addresses and other data for their leads. When he’s not busy with research for his latest article, Steve is binge-watching 80s horror movies or playing pick-up basketball with friends.