How to sell without feeling icky

You don't have to be Jordan Belfort to make money

In my opinion, the hardest thing about being freelance is making sales.

I embarked on my own entrepreneurial journey because I am passionate about what I do. I wanted to lead, not follow. I, like most other freelancers, delivered services under several other companies before going out on my own.

In my previous roles, I was not involved in the selling of the service. Even if you worked at an agency and dealt with clients on a daily basis, you probably weren’t responsible for selling the company, chasing late payments or balancing the books.

So, how do you sell your services - and more importantly yourself - when you aren’t an experienced salesperson or lack passion for the hustle?

When I first went freelance in early 2019, I was nervous and lacking confidence in myself. I knew I had to “get out there” and “sell myself” but I had no idea where to start past creating a website and updating my LinkedIn profile.

I was aware of business networking but I had never attended an event, and without a bigger company to hide behind, I was truly terrified at the prospect of being laughed out of the room by a bunch of men in grey suits. The reality was far from my expectation, as I was welcomed with open arms to my first networking event by a range of lovely local businesses.

No matter how nice the fellow business owners are, that doesn’t take away from the fear of standing up for your 60-seconds or that awkward moment when you look around the room and everyone is paired up and deep in conversation except you.

Honestly, traditional networking has done a lot for my business and not only is it a great source of revenue for us, but we’ve also made some incredible connections with businesses that complement our offering.

I think the ‘secret’ of making consistent, high-value sales as a freelancer is having a healthy mix of marketing. While networking is profitable for us, it only forms a small part of our marketing strategy.

Community is king

This may not be relevant to everyone, but I must say we’ve seen huge success from “fraternising with the enemy”. Of course, I don’t see any other freelancers as enemies - some of the connections I’ve made on Twitter and developed on our Discord server have turned into my best friends.

As freelancers, we all have our specialisms and preferences. And, if you’re able to build strong relationships with people in your field that you trust, you are bound to start seeing an exchange of ideas and possibly even referrals. I think that’s why the referrals channel in our Discord works so well - there is an unspoken rule in there and we know that if we pass work to another freelancer, it’s going to be someone we trust.

LinkedIn but not shit

As all good copywriters know, the best sales pitch is the one that shows you know the problem a customer is facing and positions you as the person to solve that problem. From my point of view, the best place to do that is on LinkedIn.

In my experience delivering LinkedIn training, it seems that people are still hesitant about 'putting themselves out there on LinkedIn.’

It’s easy to hide behind your company name but, as far as the LinkedIn algorithm goes these days, the reach and return of personal profiles vs company profiles on LinkedIn is not even comparable. Without paid investment, you’re looking at 4-6% reach to your existing followers on a typical post from your company page… meanwhile, a well-written post on your personal profile could reach 10,000s in days if it snowballs.

Overcoming the fear of posting on your personal LinkedIn profile is easier said than done, but you really can’t overestimate the benefits of a consistent and authentic approach to posting schedule.

If you're still stuck with LinkedIn, you can always join my LinkedIn Toolkit - a £15 a month membership platform for freelancers and small businesses that want to create content that converts on LinkedIn.

Do what you love

Sales leads can come from anywhere, so making sure you are present is vital to success. What do you love to do? If writing is your thing then a newsletter is an ideal way to flex your creativity. If you prefer public speaking, then consider using Loom to talk through some quick fixes to common problems facing your target customer.

Whatever you do, selling your service is all about showing the results you can deliver - so price your service on outputs, not inputs. If you go to a potential customer with an hourly rate, they’ll only ask if you can do it quicker or cut out xyz to match their tiny budget. Whereas if you price-by-project, and put a figure on the value you’re providing them, they will understand that all aspects of the work are vital - even those without a direct ROI will, ultimately, provide value in the long-run.

So, in summary, here are my final words on making consistent, high-value sales as a freelancer:

  • Make friends with other people in your industry - both those who provide the same services to different industries or those who provide complementary skills (e.g. I work closely with IT professionals, photographers, videographers, CRO specialists etc.)

  • Commit to regularly posting on LinkedIn, and stop trying to be someone you think they want to see - just be yourself. Not everyone will like that, but others will love it. And it's the latter who will pay to work with you.

  • Find what makes you happy and do more of it - if you genuinely love something, then that enthusiasm will shine through. I’m passionate about this newsletter and the accompanying podcast and I hope that’s clear to those who enjoy them every week.

  • Don’t be shy - ask current clients for testimonials or, even better, ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from the services you provide. As they say up here in Newcastle, 'shy bairns get nowt'.

What are your biggest sales tips for freelancers? Let me know on Twitter @ContentByTheSea, or join our Discord server for freelancers.

📚 Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Dark fantasy fiction novel about corruption and conspiracy at Yale University. Ridiculously good.

📚 Just Kids by Patti Smith

Smith needs no introduction - rock, roll and rough times in her famous memoir.

📺 Line of Duty

I am catching up with the new series. I don’t watch a lot of crime shows but LoD is excellent.

🎧 Episode #9 of the podcast is here

In this week's episode, we are chatting about how we ended up running a business together. We throwback to when we first met fresh out of uni working in a local bar, how we entered similar industries and what pushed Craig to take the leap into self-employment with me.

You can listen to the podcast above, or alternatively, you can watch this episode on YouTube:

Also, if you enjoyed this week’s newsletter or podcast episode, you can now support Conversations By The Sea on Ko-Fi here:

Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:

7 April: Am I a bad feminist for wanting to lose weight?

31 March: The rescue dogs that rescued us

24 March: Feelings are meant to be felt

17 March: I sent a newsletter every week for a year

10 March: I’m triggered

3 March: Balancing creativity and getting paid

24 February: The day I lost a client

17 February: How to talk to someone who is struggling

10 February: Learning to say no and other lessons from two years of self-employment

3 February: Learning to find joy in the mundane

27 January: No you can’t

20 January: I’ll be happy when

13 January: Why you’re tired all the time

6 January: Just keep going