I’ve been learning a lot of cool things from watching the replays from International Freelancers Day (replays are only available until October 31, 2010). One of the messages I took to heart is that it’s crucial to prospect in order to get business. While that’s obvious, it still bears repeating. In order to make money doing any kind of freelancing, you need to let potential clients know you exist.
One of the best ways (in my opinion) to prospect is to make cold calls. Whenever I do a cold-calling campaign, I get new qualified leads (which, when handled correctly, may turn into paying clients). Whenever I stop making cold calls, my business grinds to a halt. According to Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-fed Writer (and also a presenter on International Freelancers Day), this mostly has to do with the low volume of calls I’m making. He suggests doing a full-force cold-calling campaign with hundreds of calls (and follow-ups once you get leads). Then you’ll never have to do such a huge number of cold calls in the future after that initial push.
Knowing what I know, and having heard the message repeatedly, why is it still so tough to pick up the phone? I actually like cold calling. I’m very much a phone person, and I love to talk to people. I don’t get discouraged when I get a ‘no,’ and I don’t even mind the occasional abrupt secretary. I’m good at cold calling.
But for some reason, the hurdle of that initial call is huge for me. So I start avoiding it. I make long Excel spreadsheets with prospects to call, I color-code the columns, I research more prospects to add to my list (which is easily over 100 already), and I start to negotiate with myself the best day and time to start calling. I write out my script by hand, then I re-write it on the computer and print it out for a neat copy, and I practice saying it (over and over).
My next procrastination step is thinking about the ideal location to make the calls. I check the batteries on my phone, think about whether or not to use Skype so I can use a headset, I research how to cold call, and then I’m finally ready.
Now comes the hard part. I start deciding which company to call first. Surely I can’t call the first one, because they probably won’t need a freelance writer. So I look at their website. Yeah, I’m probably right. So on to the next one.
You get the idea. By the time I am really and truly ready to call, days or weeks have passed with absolutely no action being taken.
My advice to you (and me)? Skip most of the steps. The most important one, which I didn’t mention above, is to pick up the phone, dial the number, and ask for the name of the person in charge of hiring freelancers. Then ask for his/her email address so you can email your portfolio. Easy, right?
How you do handle your prospecting? Do you make cold calls easily, or do you procrastinate too? Any advice for the rest of us?