Do you dread talking to potential clients on the phone or on Skype? Most freelance writers have some anxiety about it — and that’s natural.
But you can definitely improve the odds of landing the freelance writing project by following the advice below. You’ll be better prepared and that will make you less nervous.
Here’s what you need to do before that all-important phone or Skype call with your potential client — when you’ve already had previous contact (likely through email) and need to talk about specific work.
Be Clear on Who’s Calling Who, and When
Either person can initiate the call. I usually let them call me, just in case their day is a little hectic and they need a couple of extra minutes.
Also, be sure to send an email reminder the day before if it’s a morning call, or that morning if it’s an afternoon call.
Phone vs Skype
I personally prefer the phone, but Skype can allow for a more personal connection, especially if you have a strong Internet connection. If you do use the phone, use a good headset or make sure that the speaker phone function works well.
Note: Skype can be a problem if you don’t have a fast and reliable Internet connection. I’ve heard horror stories from other freelance writers.
Get As Much Info As Possible About the Project
“The devil is in the details.” Yes, but in this case, details are your friend. The more you know about what type of freelance writing your potential client wants and exactly what her company does, the better off you will be.
Check out the client’s website and any other materials you can find online that will help you understand the specifics of their business.
Get As Much Info As Possible About the Potential Client
Before a call I spend substantial time investigating the client’s website, looking particularly for info that’s potentially pertinent to the call.
I also research the person, usually on LinkedIn. Not only do I look at education and work experience, but I also try to find something that we can both relate to personally. You can also frequently find a person on Facebook or other social networks where you can gather key information about their lives. (Just be careful, though, that you don’t seem like a stalker.)
For example, I recently landed a freelance writing project with an editor who went to UC Davis, my alma mater. The very first thing I said to her was “Congratulations on getting your degree from such a great university!” I quickly followed that up by telling her that I had gone to UC Davis for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She hired me.
I got another job with an editor who went to Cal State Chico; I taught at the local community college there, and I lived in Chico for several years, so I brought it up at the beginning of the conversation.
Or it could be that you both have a common interest or know someone in common. Whatever it is, just briefly mention it at the beginning of the call in a lighthearted way. Often it helps develop rapport from the start. Just be prepared to move on quickly if that’s what they want to do. Some people are all business.
Develop a Set of Questions and Selling Points
The questions relate to the details of the freelance writing project. They need to be pertinent — you don’t want to look ill-prepared or like you’ve done no research — but they also need to give you all the info you need to assess the project so you can develop an accurate bid, or walk away if need be.
The selling points address my strengths and why I’m a good person for the project. You want to work these in to the call, but only when it’s natural, and only without overselling yourself and making it sound forced. It’s quite likely that you won’t get to mention all your selling points.
What I Do Just Before the Call
Here are the three things I do:
- Take a slow, deep breath right before I dial, or as the phone first rings if they’re calling me.
- Smile right before the conversation begins.
- Detach from the outcome, meaning I don’t focus on or obsess about getting the writing project. I tell myself that I only want the project if it’s both good for me and good for the client, and if I don’t get it, I’ll get something better soon.
What I Do During the Call
Generally I let the client take the lead, at least initially. I do make sure I get all of my questions answered.
Just in case, you need to be prepared to take over some or all of the leadership of the call, just in case. Sometimes the client isn’t clear on what she wants, and you’ll need to guide the conversation.
I also have a Word document open with all my questions. It’s a good idea to print out the questions so you can jot a few notes during the call. However, I usually just type into the document during the call. If necessary, I tell the person that I’m typing up notes; usually that impresses them.
You’ll also likely come up with new questions during the call. You may want to type these into your document, or you can write them on a notepad.
Note: if you’re using the phone, make sure you have a good headset so both hands are free for typing.
The End of the Call
Make sure that there is clarity for the next step. Do you need to send in a bid? Does the client need to send you more information first? Who is doing what, and when?
After the Call
Send a follow-up email thanking the person for their time and restate who is responsible for the next step, what the next step is, and when it will be completed.
Also, right after you hang up, look through your Word document and any hand-written notes and make sure you have clearly captured all the pertinent information.
How do you handle phone calls and Skype calls with potential clients? Any advice or stories to share?