Cultivating a request for information into an actual paying assignment requires time and effort. Before you take the time to write up a full proposal—or even give a price for a specific assignment—make sure they are worth the work by qualifying the prospect.
I meet many people who can’t bring themselves to make a cold call (and have a lot of fear making warm calls as well). Coincidentally, many high school students, college students, and even graduates can’t make a phone call on their own to follow up on a job application, ask for freelance or consulting assignments, or do any other heavy lifting by phone, e.g., pursuing a health insurance claim, fixing a problem with their bank account, or tracking down a sweater they left somewhere. Colleges claim that they teach students to analyze problems, conduct research, draw and justify conclusions, make ethical and logical decisions, and such. I’m under impressed. What’s the point of all these high fallutin’ big ideas if you can’t pick up the phone and call who you need to call?
In years (actually decades) of developing a freelance / consulting writing and research practice, I’ve made thousands of phone calls. None of them has been truly “cold.”
One of the biggest names in copywriting has sent out a newsletter recommending that freelance writers not telephone businesses for assignments because it is an awful practice. In his newsletter he labels it “cold calling,” a term I avoid because it unfairly characterizes the practice as “cold,” when it’s actually no more “cold” than reaching out to as-yet strangers via any other medium, such as email, networking events, etc. I refute his arguments against cold calling.
When phoning prospects to land freelance and consulting assignments, we should qualify prospects effectively and conserve our time for better prospects. We want more NOs and we want them early in the conversation.
The experts suggest phoning prospective freelance and consulting clients before their admins show up to screen calls. Sounds good, but it feels ridiculous in practice.
Marketers’ emphasis is on relationships; it’s all about building relationships. I’m OK with the concept of relationship development. But to me, relationships require two-way communications. Therefore, for me, no way of developing of-service relationships makes more sense than phoning.
Yes, you should phone your old contacts for freelance and consulting assignments. It doesn’t matter if they are newer contacts or what other people would consider to be stale contacts. Some people feel funny about calling people they haven’t talked to in years but there’s no reason to feel uncomfortable. Subtly communicate that you’ve been busy over the years so you didn’t follow up, not that you’ve been too idle or too lazy or too drunk to make a call.
A sales expert recommends that when phoning to follow up on freelance or consulting proposals, you should block your phone number because they “have to” take the call if they don’t know who it is. I disagree. Here’s why.
If you’re going to build a freelance or consulting practice through targeted emailing to prospects, why not add targeted phoning to maximize your impact?