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How to Sell Without Selling


Learn how to Promote With out Promoting

My girlfriend, Marisa, is a number of months into her new profession as a contract copywriter and editor.

She has a literature diploma and lots of of hundreds of phrases underneath her belt. She’s written for giant publications. She’s created an info product and the advertising to go together with it.

I’m telling you this to determine a reality: Marisa is extraordinarily well-qualified to work as a copywriter. Anybody who hires her can be very proud of the outcome.

However regardless of all her qualifications, her freelance profession was sluggish out of the gate. The talent was there, however the shoppers weren’t piling up.


100% of Turning into a Freelancer Is Gross sales

Should you spend various minutes skimming the freelance Subreddit, you’ll possible see at the least a half-dozen posts from freelancers who’re struggling and sad as a result of they don’t have regular work.

These are all certified individuals who might simply deal with freelance contracts. And but they’re caught with out work, or pressured to race to the underside on websites like Upwork.

However these individuals aren’t freelancers — they’re staff with out bosses.

Freelancers are — initially — salespeople.

You Can Solely Get Employed If Somebody Is aware of You Exist

The reality about freelancing is that getting employed as a freelancer has exactlynothing to do together with your talents as a freelancer.


Does anybody know you’re right here? CREDIT: BENT

Right here’s an analogy to attempt to put this in perspective:

Say I want a deck constructed. I haven’t carried out something resembling development or woodworking since I made a lopsided toothpick field in seventh grade store class, so I’m strolling in fairly blind right here.

I begin by asking individuals I belief: my dad, who’s had issues constructed earlier than; my buddies who personal homes; a buddy who used to work development. Do they know anybody I might ask about constructing the deck?

After individuals I belief, I’d put the phrase out via no matter channels can be found to me. A name for assistance on Fb or Twitter. Perhaps somebody is aware of somebody.

Then I seek the advice of the web at giant. Are there any evaluations? Who’s the perfect deck-builder in my metropolis?

In the long run, I’ll have an inventory. Or, greater than possible, one among my trusted sources could have a suggestion, and I’ll simply go together with that unquestioningly — why doubt the endorsement of somebody I belief?

So right here I’m, a deck contract awarded, and I do know nothing about my contractor besides that my good friend Troy likes him.


A freelancer’s expertise imply jack shit within the decision-making course of for many shoppers.

You understand that tacky cliché, “It’s not what you recognize; it’s who you realize”?

It’s a cliché for a cause.

100% of Constructing Shopper Relationships Is Talent

“However wait,” you say, “there’s a lot extra to freelancing than gross sales!”

In fact. However none of that issues when you’re not promoting.

The place gross sales cease mattering is after the sale is made.

When you’ve gained a shopper, gotten a deposit, and began a venture, your gross sales capability can’t aid you anymore — you’re on the hook to be good at your job.

Your expertise as a freelancer will make shoppers pleased, and it’ll maintain them coming again. Plus, it creates referrals — which we’ll come again to in a couple of minutes.

Promoting Feels Gross

Look: I hate promoting. Hate it.

Accosting a good friend or stranger and asking for cash feels presumptuous, invasive, and greasy.

used car salesman

Promoting shouldn’t make you are feeling like this man. CREDIT: FORBES

I’ve by no means made a chilly name in my life. I’ve despatched fewer than a dozen unsolicited emails asking for enterprise. I get nervousness interested by approaching somebody who has no concept who I’m and making an attempt to persuade them I’m value cash.

The facility dynamics are bizarre; the strategy places me at a social drawback, and forces me to work additional onerous to show I do know one thing. I might by no means purchase one thing from a stranger I’ve by no means heard of earlier than; why would I anticipate anybody to purchase from me once I’m a stranger?

You Nonetheless Need to Personal Your Place

I don’t like approaching somebody chilly, however I’ve no challenge in any respect telling somebody what I do — what I’m.

It’s essential to completely personal your capability to do the job you’re telling individuals you are able to do.

When you don’t belief your self to be excellent at your job, why ought to anybody else?

Earlier than I began freelancing full time, I waffled on what I used to be. Was I a man who labored at Kinko’s and made the odd web site on the aspect? Or was I an internet designer working to bootstrap a brand new freelance enterprise?

I felt like an impostor telling individuals I used to be an internet designer. They’d assume I used to be a liar in the event that they walked into Kinko’s and noticed me there, proper?

However that’s not a wholesome approach to take a look at issues. Once I was youthful, this wasn’t a problem for me: positive, I labored at Pizza Hut part-time, however I used to be a musician firstly. My band didn’t make a lot cash, however we practiced a number of occasions every week and performed a present each month or so.

For some purpose, it was a lot simpler to inform individuals I used to be a musician than to inform them I used to be an internet designer.

Perhaps it was simpler to name myself a musician as a result of I had a gaggle of pals to be a part of my band, and as a freelancer I used to be only a man working alone on my sofa.

Perhaps it was as a result of being a freelancer appeared extra necessary, and I used to be extra afraid of failure.

No matter it was, one thing made me uncomfortable about saying the phrase, “I’m a contract net designer.”

Confidence Is Important

Once I lastly give up my job at Kinko’s to turn into a full-time freelancer, my confidence immediately shot via the roof. I had set myself on hearth, and it was time to place up or shut up.

As quickly as I felt like a “actual” net designer, I instantly began touchdown extra enterprise. I don’t assume this was a coincidence.


It’s a little bit of a chicken-egg drawback: as a way to believe about our talents, we really feel like we’d like shoppers; however as a way to get shoppers, we have to trust in our talents.

I wasn’t making an attempt to promote individuals my providers, thoughts you. I merely felt extra assured saying, “I’m an internet designer, and I can construct superior web sites.”

Individuals sensed my confidence, and out of the blue I used to be being approached extra typically about jobs.

Freelancers who hate selling need to use their network.


Learn how to Promote With out Promoting

Confidence doesn’t clear up all issues, although. I used to be getting approached for jobs, however that was as a result of individuals knew who I used to be.

But when I didn’t like promoting and wasn’t cold-calling individuals, how did anybody know who I used to be?

The best way I see it, there are two methods to get new enterprise as a freelancer:

  1. Promote your providers
  2. Produce other individuals promote your providers for you

I wasn’t all that snug with choice 1, so I needed to discover a method to make choice 2 occur.

I wanted to create a killer referral community.

There’s Nonetheless Some Promoting Concerned

Don’t let me mislead you into considering you gained’t should do any promoting — that’s, sadly, simply not true.

You’ll need to promote. However you are able to do a unique, extra snug sort of promoting.

As an alternative of promoting to strangers, begin promoting to your community.

Take Benefit of Your Community

For most individuals, there’s a unfastened community of acquaintances and “buddies” unfold via the group, state, nation, and/or world. Not essentially individuals that you simply keep up a correspondence with every day, however the sort of individuals you converse to each month or two — simply to catch up.

Be Prepared to Ask for Assist

If you speak to those people, they’ll inevitably ask you, “So what’s new?”

Should you’re something like me, the default reply is perhaps to say, “Not a lot. I’m working as a freelancer now, which is fairly thrilling. How are you?”

That is factual, however it might be a lot better.

Now, look: we’re not making an attempt to rip-off our associates into something. However we do need to be sure that our buddies are conscious of what we’re doing, and that they might assist us do higher.

So when our good friend asks, “What’s new?” we don’t brush the query off. As an alternative, we current a pleasant, opt-in request:

Nicely, my largest information is that I’ve simply begin working as a contract net designer, which is fairly thrilling. The most important problem thus far is discovering shoppers, so if you understand anybody who wants an internet site, I’d recognize it for those who’d drop my identify or make an intro.


You haven’t requested for something that places your good friend out. All you’re doing is placing it in her head that she may help you out.

Keep in mind the deck analogy from earlier? Individuals like to have the solutions to different individuals’s issues. If my good friend can join me to somebody who wants my providers, she wins twice: she helped me develop my enterprise, and helped her different pal remedy their web site drawback.

You Don’t Should Await an Opening

You can even begin this dialog. E mail your acquaintances to catch them up on issues, together with a nudge to ship any potential leads your means.

That e mail is nearly the identical. It’d look one thing like this:

Hey, pal–

I hope you’re doing nicely! I needed to drop you a line to see how issues are going and catch up.

[Talk about things that are relevant: do they have kids? were they starting something new last time you spoke?]

Issues on my finish are fairly thrilling proper now. My largest information is that I’ve simply begin working as a contract net designer. The most important problem up to now is discovering shoppers, so if you already know anybody who wants an internet site, I’d respect it should you’d drop my identify or make an intro.

[Catch them up on anything else in your life that you want to share here.]

Anyhow, I hope you’re having an superior summer time. I’ll look ahead to listening to from you!


This message isn’t hiding an agenda. You’re not making an attempt to weasel one thing out of a good friend. You’re merely sharing massive life information and making it recognized that — in the event that they occur to listen to somebody wants an internet site — they will help you out by spreading the phrase.

Should you despatched this message with out the observe about referring leads, it will nonetheless be a significant message to you and your good friend.

Keep in mind: These Are Your Buddies

The large objective, in fact, is to not be a dick about this. You aren’t going to get good outcomes by pestering everybody you understand about shopping for an internet site to “show you how to out” or no matter. That’s multi-level advertising — are you a freelancer, or are you hawking Scentsy candles?

Earlier than you ship an e mail, ensure you wouldn’t be upset should you acquired the identical e mail out of your pal.

It’s one factor to be made conscious that somebody is in search of work; it’s one other factor completely to be pumped for leads and/or pressured into shopping for issues.

You’ll be high-quality when you simply comply with Wheaton’s Regulation: don’t be a dick.



Develop Your Community

Along with your present community, make an effort to satisfy individuals — particularly people who find themselves within the industries you’d wish to work with.

This has the additional advantage of constructing a group. You possibly can assist individuals in no matter method you’re in a position, they usually’ll have the ability to reciprocate as greatest as attainable.

Attend Native Meetups and Skilled Teams

Once I first began out, I began attending a small group referred to as MT Programmers in Missoula. I began to become involved, and thru the individuals I met there, I used to be launched to increasingly more individuals locally — various of my first gigs got here from these introductions.

Later, I spent cash to attend conferences, and I discovered myself surrounded by individuals who have been specializing in their companies and prepared to spend cash to get what they wanted — typically, this meant they wanted web site assist, so it naturally got here up in dialog that we might assist one another out.

In Missoula, running a small workshop in 2010.

In Missoula, operating a small workshop in 2010.

Convey Your Shoppers into Your Community

Each time I get a brand new challenge, I bust my ass to ensure the shopper is admittedly proud of me. I do know that glad shoppers are worthway extra than simply the worth of a given undertaking.

Lots of my shoppers turned life-long buddies. I’ve been invited to e-book launch events, weddings, holidays, and extra. This might by no means have occurred if I didn’t present that I’m a stand-up man by way of my work.

From a monetary perspective, a lot of my shoppers got here again later with further tasks. Much more of them referred pals and colleagues to me.

Ask Shoppers for Referrals

A part of my wrapping-up course of with shoppers is to ship an e mail letting them know that I don’t promote, and the one approach I get new shoppers is by word-of-mouth from my present shoppers. I ask them — in the event that they really feel like I did a superb job they usually’re proud of my work — to please hold me in thoughts in the event that they meet another person who wants an internet site.

I additionally supply a referral bonus as a token of my appreciation. It’s not a lot — $100 for any referral who indicators on with me — however I wish to ship it over as a token of my appreciation.

I make certain to ship a private notice thanking the individual for every referral as nicely, besides within the case of my highest-referring shoppers — they ship too many leads, so I’d be spamming them.

Ultimately You Can Cease Promoting

After a pair years, I had a big sufficient community that my referral stream was an excessive amount of for me to deal with. I acquired a number of inquiries every week from individuals who have been critical about net tasks.

I used to be swamped. I needed to rent subcontractors to assist. I had a ready listing.

And this meant I by no means needed to exit and “do gross sales” the best way that freelancers sometimes view gross sales. No chilly calls or emails, no promoting, no proposals. Only a regular stream of referrals — which is a special (far much less awkward) sort of promoting.

Freelancing Is for Conversationalists

Whether or not it’s direct gross sales or leveraging a community for introductions, your job as a freelancer is to generate conversations with individuals who may have your providers.

Which means your capacity to talk in a transparent and pleasant method is probably your most beneficial talent. In the event you sound assured, and also you don’t appear to be a dick, likelihood is you’ll get the job over somebody who appears not sure or comes off as abrasive.

As unfair as it might appear, a freelancer with higher conversational expertise will probably win a job over a extra competent freelancer who speaks poorly.

You Can Be Profitable With out Promoting

It’s a slower street than arduous promoting, however you’ll be able to efficiently construct a contract profession solely by networking.

  1. Let your folks know what you’re doing
  2. Ask them to refer anybody who may want your providers
  3. Exit and meet individuals — particularly in the event that they’re in your goal demographic
  4. Be useful and assured
  5. Kick ass on your shoppers
  6. Ask them for referrals

I had a referral community after my first undertaking, and it grew steadily with every new venture I took on. It appeared to me that the majority tasks would result in one referral, and each every now and then a challenge would result in an enormous variety of referrals.

So in case you hate gross sales, don’t fear — you possibly can nonetheless be a freelancer. You could want to carry onto your day job a bit longer, however you will get there.

Simply keep assured, ask for leads, and keep in mind that your expertise end the job and earn new referrals — so do good work.


Submit by Jason Lengstorf

Jason Lengstorf is a speaker, writer, and advisor. He makes his dwelling constructing net apps for shoppers together with PlayStation, Intel, and Precision Vitamin. In 2014, he bought every thing he owned and began touring the world. He is been on the street ever since.


Great things is on the best way.

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