Call reluctance in freelancing and consulting: Damaging self-talk and how to conquer it

What does your brain whisper to you (or even scream!) when you try to start phoning freelance and consulting prospects? Is it:

I must always be perfectly prepared before I have the right to initiate contact with any prospective buyer.

George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson name this the career-damaging theme of over-preparation in their book, Earning What You’re Worth: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance (1992).

This self-talk message can totally talk us out of reaching out to possible clients, according to the authors. We convince ourselves that we aren’t sufficiently prepared and that the person we reach on the phone will ask us a tough question that will reveal us to be incompetent and even stupid.

So the solution appears to be more study. Read more books and take additional courses on what to say on the phone. Study article after article and scan the websites of multitudes of experts to learn the secret phrase that assures success.

Or we decide that we can’t make calls until we have established our expertise by completing more assignments. But how can we complete more assignments until we obtain more customers?

Alas, this thinking leads us right to the very lowest paying assignments that reside on Elance, Guru and similar sites. When we don’t have the confidence to go after the clients we want and to say our price without choking, it’s easiest to prospect online and take what we can get without risking interaction with others.

If we don’t say anything, we can’t say anything wrong. Right?

The antidote to the over-preparation syndrome

The answer is to understand that we can never be perfectly prepared because we can never know everything a prospect may say to us. Therefore, we must push on and get started all the same. Because the sooner we start, the sooner we experience new challenges and devise ways to handle them.

One solution is not to start with the most likely prospects. Start with those who are a little removed from our specialty. This reduces our stress and if we come off a little unpolished, c’est la vie.

Another solution is to determine what we absolutely must know or do in order to be minimally qualified to make a phone call. Be honest here. We don’t have to know everything. We only need to know the answer—or an initial, temporary answer—to whichever question we most fear will be asked of us.

Understand that over-preparation self-talk is a confidence destroying practice that we must face.

We must allow ourselves simply to be adequately prepared. And if we are building on past self-employment or job experience to develop a freelance and consulting practice, we are adequately prepared.

So let’s get to the phones.

I’ve learned a lot about how to land great freelance and consulting clients and I continue to explore new ideas, which I share on this page and in my newsletter. Please sign up for the free newsletter—you will also receive Three Secrets to Freelance and Consulting Success: Start Making Great Money as a Freelancer or Consultant for High-Paying Corporate Clients. (Cancellations fully honored. Email addresses managed with complete integrity.)

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6 comments on “Call reluctance in freelancing and consulting: Damaging self-talk and how to conquer it
  1. Janet Tilden says:

    Diana, as usual your advice is practical and helpful. As I was reading your blog, it occurred to me that calling a prospect is a lot like playing a chess game. You don’t know exactly what the other person is going to do, so you have to respond “on the fly.” You can’t plot out the whole game in advance!

  2. Janet, I love your comparison of phoning to a chess game. I totally agree.

    Actually, the concept of it’s-only-a-game can be applied to the entire practice of freelancing and consulting. Successes and especially setbacks have to be kept in perspective. It’s all an experiment and we’ll start another game tomorrow. It’s a more fun, less stressful way of looking at the challenges.

    It’s a game and we keep examining the chessboard to discover new moves.


  3. Don Wallace says:

    Hmmm… that book sounds vaguely familiar… :)

    I believe that conquering self defeating self talk is a journey that is unique for each person. I personally recommend this book to anyone who has this class of problems. In my opinion, almost everyone manifests at least one of the 12 defined problem areas. For me the great value of “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance” is simply to name my own quirks so that I know that I am more average than an outlier. Once these specific issues are named, for me they are defused.

    For someone else, the brute force method may be more efficient and productive.

  4. Yes, Don, that’s a great list and I love the way they separate out general dread into specific types of call reluctance. The problem is that I can be a bit of a hypochondriac so that sometimes I suffer a bit from “all of the above.”


  5. Amin says:

    Great article… As Brian Tracy would say, “inch by inch is a sinch, by the yard its hard” … So i guess starting with that first call is the first “inch” then you just move on from there.

  6. It’s hard to find educated people on this subject,
    however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!


    my webpage … What Is The Law Of Attraction

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