The One Mistake Freelancers Make When Trying To Find New Clients
When I was running my creative agency, I had this belief that if I had a strong portfolio and a great social media presence, all of the best work would just come to me. Although I had some great projects here and there, it was just too inconsistent, and I soon realised that if I wanted to be doing the work I loved, I had to get out there and pitch for it.
In this article, I’m going to share a strategy with you that will allow you to go out and win the work you love, on a consistent basis.
One of the key mistakes I used to make, when I was running my agency, was that I used to just go from not knowing anyone, to pitching. I call this ‘proposing on the first date’, which, of course, you wouldn’t do in real life. The reason this doesn’t work is because you haven’t built a relationship or rapport.
What I do now, and the way that I help my clients, is I actually look at how I can add value, and how I can build meaningful relationships, before I even talk about my longer-term services. There’s three things that I need to check in the first initial interaction, when I’m meeting people and when I’m trying to build new connections.
Number one – I’m looking for a reason to get in touch with them and that helps me in my mindset, as much as it helps them, in the sense that I now feel like what I’m doing is justified. This reason could be something really simple like, I’ve got a workshop coming up, or I want to introduce them to someone in my network; I’ve got a reason to actually initiate the conversation. Interestingly, research has actually shown that if you give somebody a reason for doing something, they’re much more likely to accept it, so the first thing I’m looking for is, what’s my reason for getting in touch with this person?
The second thing is, what do I genuinely like about this person? What do I genuinely respect about their business? I actually go ahead and tell them this because one of the best ways to build rapport is to actually just pay someone a genuine compliment, so we’re not just saying stuff for the sake of it. You really want to find something that you admire and respect, which also shows that you’ve done a little bit of research into them and their company, and you know who they are. You’re then not just reaching out and trying to sell them something.
The third, and probably most important, thing is, you want to think about how you’re going to add value for that person. For example, I don’t just come at it from the perspective that I want to sell them my services, or I need to pitch them to do something. Instead, I ask myself, what can I offer them that would be really valuable? Again, this could be simple, such as introducing them to someone in your network, or sending them a blog post or an article that you think they might like, or you can recommend a book; something that is actually valuable to them and not a high-risk offer. It’s something that doesn’t take up much of your time, but you’re demonstrating some value.
It’s important to get into the mindset of not proposing on the first date. I see this happening way too often; and the next thing you know, they’re offering their services and sending off a proposal, and then they wonder why they don’t hear anything back. The reason for this is simple, you’re trying to take too much of a leap in that relationship, without building the rapport first.
If you want to get to the point where you’re able to really get in with the right people and connect with the brands and projects that you really love working on, you need to think about how you are going to add value for that client. How are you going to go out there and start meaningful conversations that aren’t just meaningful to you, but meaningful to your client? One way to do this is to talk about the things that are really keeping them up at night.
With this article in mind, what are some of the biggest challenges, or what are some of the fears you have, around winning new business, sales, and prospecting?