Think like a salesperson for freelance success

Sam By Sam - Updated: September 21st, 2017
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Think like a salesperson for freelance success

Think like a salesperson for freelance success

The independent labor market is growing, with side hustlers, shared economy offerings, and full time freelancers. There aren’t any shortcuts, or gimmicks, you have to put in the time to thrive as a freelancer, and step one is finding work. So how does one succeed? You gotta think like a sales professional.

In this article we’ll take a look at a mix of basic and advanced tactics to help you find leads, grow your clientele and position yourself for long term success. First let’s look at structuring the pipeline.

A pipeline or CRM (customer retention management - system) is a tool used to track all prospect/client activity over time. Today, the CRM is something that doesn’t live on your local device, but lives in the cloud as a SaaS offering. Often regarded as a tool for large companies, it’s something that individuals should use to structure contact and follow up activity.

Get yourself a simple CRM: 

With a CRM you can simply record when you have a new contact, where they are in the process (the staging), and move the record along the pipeline as you form a relationship.

Here’s how a typical pipeline is staged:
Lead -> qualification -> sponsored -> negotiations -> contract -> advocate

In this example you would move your new contact from lead to qualified, when you have had a chance to learn about their needs. Then when they agree to move forward, you can graduate the record along the route. It’s up to you how many stages you want, in this case we have 6.

I recommend always investing in post sale follow up. So where do you get a CRM? Go to the cloud. Many CRM’s are free to use and offer integrations with email, calendars, etc…

- Pipedrive is one of my favorites because of it’s simplicity to set up and utilize, takes less than a minute to get going. There are tons of great CRM’s to choose from and I’d say you probably don’t need salesforce at this point (save that for when you grow).

- Some other CRM’s to check out,, insightly, onepagecrm.

- A top 25 list:

- Check out, they’re great for keeping track of just about anything from projects to pipelines.

- Keep it simple.

Your immediate goal is to generate leads and get people interested in your pitch. When you’re reaching out to 1000’s of people, give your brain a break and stay sure footed with a solid CRM system which empowers your business.

Keeping track of leads is step one. As you graduate across your pipeline, your long term goal should focus on advocacy creation. Advocates are the people who will support your business, become repeat clients and spread the word. A CRM helps you to initiate this process so that no lead or client goes cold. Your follow up should be executed at a high level which improves your client retention and lead conversion rate.

Take yourself seriously and CRM UP! Next step is to put your best foot forward ensuring that you are converting interested parties from the first impression onward.

Build a pro profile:!-How-to-Build-an-Impressive-Profile-to-Gain-More-Clients.htm

- Your picture has to be professional so get a headshot, it makes a huge difference. Use the headshot across all communication channels (email, skype, etc..) keep it consistent.

- Your bio should be focused and concise - get someone else to write it. You can hire someone from to pimp out your linkedin, and other profiles. It’s a small expense that improves conversation, plus you’re supporting other freelancers.

- If you have evidence of success like (top ten author while….) or (named best new marketer at …. ) put that at the top! Your wins are important and communicate confidence to your client (they close the deal!).

With a pic, bio and quick breakdown of your focused skill set you can copy and paste that into all the freelancing marketplaces. Start, and keep experimenting with new channels, but to kick off, get listed on the top marketplaces listed above.

- Next level is to use a service like to create a one page landing site. Build your own if you’re in the web development world but if you’re looking for a simple 5 minute turnkey solution, there are many… I’d recommending paying the small yearly subscription fee to have any service branding removed (so the landing page is yours and doesn’t host a logo for, etc…) Having a landing page gives you inbound traffic capture, backlinks, and a digital business presence, it’s important.

- Many people use,, etc.. which host your portfolio, act as a network and profile showcase.

Now that you have yourself branded like a pro, we need to get serious about feeding the beast, aka the pipeline. We’ll take a look at how outbound and inbound strategy work together over time. In the beginning you need work, so all time and focus needs to focus on that… let’s go!

Feed the pipeline - Outbound Strategy:

- In the beginning you’ll find yourself focusing much more on the grunt work. Think about how much energy it takes to launch a rocket and then think about how easily it stays in orbit. You can do this too. So start out hustling and manually grind it out.

- Reach out to your friends and family to see if they need help with anything. Hopefully they’ll be loyal customers!

- Reach out to 10 people a day (a hundred if you’re feeling like a beast), and stick to it for at least 10 days straight, no breaks. Make time for it, it’s like applying for a job. - Use linkedin


- Craigslist

Cold reach outs are a must, you have to feed the top end of your pipeline with fresh leads. When you’re starting out as a freelancers, you need to think like a salesperson and grind it out. It will teach you how to optimize your messaging. You’ll build a sixth sense

Keep track of scripts that work. Personalize each attempt with a value statement. Look to simply network and stay in touch with a group of people so that when the time is right, you’ll be their go to person for services.

Cold emails/calls are a segment of a successful pipeline and part of your outbound strategy. Here is a table of some of the most popular sources and general freelance marketplaces.


Get listed on as many as you can and keep track of which is most fruitful for your business. Over time take notice of how you’re spending your time across these different marketplaces, which ones are producing fruit? What types of clients you are sourcing and what platform you want to pour more time into.

It’s important to focus and narrow because freelance marketplaces weigh your profile based on successful history of completed projects and other participation metrics. Spreading yourself too thin over the long term will negate the momentum you need to thrive on an individual marketplace.

Some marketplaces are geared more towards quick jobs and high volume… which might not be a long term viable solution but may be a quick hit and ice breaker. Try to ask the client for bigger projects and educate them on your breadth of talent. Long term, aim for stability. Most freelancers like to bust out one big job and stay on with one or two clients… this secures your sanity.  

You’ll find a lot of competition globally, that is why following up is key because one major reason… clients who go cheap, will have to repeat. So if you’ve kept in touch, and are available when the cheap solution fails to deliver, you’re the hero to save the day. The client won’t want to reopen the bidding process in many cases, and they are out of patience, so you’ll be onboarded faster. Doesn’t always work and we don’t want any client to fail, but if you’re local and available, you’re going to capture the lead. When you reach out, reach out right… hit the prospect with the quick value and push for the next step.

Pitching your client:

Here’s what you need to know, the client doesn’t know you. They don’t have time to care. You need to wow them instantly with authenticity. One thing they want, timely, cost effective delivery with someone who is easy to work with.

If the job asks for python and css experience, list out your experience and maybe 1-2 examples of work you’ve completed (can be for yourself or another client if there isn’t an NDA conflict).

Sample message;


I have 5 years of CSS and Python experience. I’ve successfully

I have some ideas on how I can help you and want to learn more about your goals. When is a good time for a 5 min call, I’m free to chat on (list a messenger) so we can start there immediately.

Thanks! I know you’re busy so I’ll follow up later to make sure you get a chance to look this over,

Take care,

This is a quick example but it’s something that can be read in 15 seconds, has a next step clearly stated, and makes you easy to access.

I have chosen many freelancers simply by their ability to be available to talk right now. The thing is clients are hit with 100’s of bids, in order to stand out when the market is turning you into a commodity, you have to be available right now. So use text, skype, etc.. to break the ice and crack open a conversation. It works.

Whether an email or call, keep it to the point, follow all the job ad directions and close the next step. That is to say, ask them when is a good time to follow up and talk.

If you can get on the phone, do it! Don’t hide behind emails, get on that call, you can sell yourself and your personality much more effectively. If you’re scared, you won’t be after you make a 10k deal or do this for a month.

As time goes on, you’ll have work to showcase, advice to give and people needing your guidance. Leverage this content with a solid inbound strategy.

Feed the pipeline - Inbound Strategy:  

If you’re a freelancer you have expertise, get it out there and do some goodwill.

- Post one youtube video a week and build from there. Tell people about your unique perspective and share knowledge.

- At the end of the video, display your links and offer to consult with others for free.

Once you’ve broken the ice, then you can formalize and initiate a contract. These days many leads originate from an inbound strategy. That is one where where your content and market positioning attracts organic interest.

- You can join a mentoring site like to practice honing your skills while helping people for free as a community service. You can write for places like this and link back to your site.

Inbound organic marketing is a growing space and once you get good at it, it's a great source of interest. By creating a video you can share not only on youtube, but vimeo, place the audio on soundcloud and podcasting sites… and share on social. It may sounds like a lot of work but start small and build as you go. Youtube first, go where the watering hole is if you want to find buffalos.


Over time the mission is to perpetuate new business organically (referrals and content driven strategies). It’s always good to keep contacting people, but as you mature, you’ll focus and go for highly targeted prospects.

Follow up, and then follow up:

In the beginning, when you’re cold reaching out, it can take 10 attempts to get a yes or no. so keep going, but don’t annoy. Space out your attempts and tune your CRM’s next actions to the right cadence.

What do I mean?

Here’s a cadence example:

For a new prospect:

Day 1 (email), day 3 (email again), day 5 (call), day 10 (email), day 20 (email), day 30 (email), day 60 (try a different method -, etc…), day 90 (last email).

For a client who has completed a project

- Call them! After the project has completed, ask them for feedback on how you can do better.

- Ask them if they can keep you in the know if they need more help

- Ask them to refer new business and tell them that you are trying to grow your business.

- Email them 30 days later to ask them if the delivered project worked out. This will wow their socks off

- Hit them every 6 months and then after 2 years, every year.

- Stay in touch, it’s less expensive to keep a client then to acquire a fresh one.

- Many freelancers I know run their entire business by word of mouth.

CRM’s can automate by setting your next action in your pipeline. On each record you can set when and how to take your next action for a client or prospect.

If you want to use your inbox as a CRM, that can be an easy way to structure your efforts as well.

Your main inbox is your top funnel collector with nested folders like, immediate followup, mid urgency, long term, and post sale follow up. The idea being to graduate fresh leads up this inbox pipeline.

So there you have it, a look at generating leads, cultivating prospects and nurturing long term client relationships.

Keep creative and stay on top of new networks, there are many novel ways to attract interest so keep experimenting. Check out if you have some time. It’s a great small business referral network where effort is reciprocated.