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What to do if crappy freelance / consulting prospects get you down

It’s easy to get ticked off when we are contacted by obviously lousy prospects enquiring about our freelance and consulting services.

How should we handle them? How do we offer our services? How do we manage our time when they appear not to be qualified prospects with needs we can fill and money to spend? How much energy do we put into pursuing them?

What if they say no? What if they say yes?

It’s enough to drive someone crazy, and indeed, we can find people in various soloprofessional online groups who are tormented over these issues.

I know plenty about crappy prospects because I used to be a professional, certified resume writer. A few clients were delightful, but some were PITA. And the ones who did not come through with paying assignments were often the worst.

Let’s set the scene:

Most were unemployed. Even if they had some money, they weren’t about to give much of it up for a professionally written resume.

They may have known that quality isn’t cheap, but they were unemployed. So by golly, they wanted the highest quality just as cheaply as possible.

Resume clients need a perfect resume that has been developed though multiple questionnaires, conversations, and drafts. Frequently they need coaching on what to do with the resume and how to handle interviews. They need all this immediately. And any price you name is too high.

Furthermore, all of these interactions with unemployed or soon-to-be-unemployed people can be depressing to the resume writer.

Ultimately there are two solutions.

One is to target the upscale, executive market who can afford outstanding services with a dynamic, persistent marketing campaign.

The second is to get out of resume writing entirely. That’s what I did. I turned my freelance-writing attention back to writing for companies that have financial resources.

Here’s how to handle lousy prospects.

These general principles work for any freelance or consulting service.

When you get an inbound request from someone you sense is a bad prospect, answer quickly and move on to something else.

Examples:

They send a one-sentence email that asks, What do you charge?

Answer: I charge $70 per hour. (Or insert whatever number works for you.)

Since I was raised female, I add a perky ending such as, Please let me know how I can help. Let’s get started! Plus email signature.

Prospects who only ask about price are hopeless . . . unless you really are the lowest-priced resume writer out there. And because churches and other helper agencies frequently offer resume-writing help for free, if you are the lowest priced resume writer you are probably working for free.

Another example.

They write a very brief email saying, I need a resume. Contact me.

Answer: How can I help? Or something equally brief unless you have a set marketing email ready to go.

They probably are sending the same stupid email to multiple writers and are furthermore, highly price conscious.

If they ask about how you work—or even the prices of your packages—they are better prospects because they have some understanding of the diversity of services available and that more is involved in going ahead with the project than merely price.

What not to do

Whatever you do, don’t put a lot of effort into lousy contacts. Don’t waste time wondering about them after you respond. Don’t put energy into being angry at how lousy they are. Don’t ponder if there was a way you could have sold your services more effectively.

Probably there’s no way to transform them into delightful, high-paying customers. So put them out of your mind.

If they give off really bad vibes, you may not want to answer them at all.

What to do

  1. Appreciate that you are getting inquiries. If strangers are finding you, you are doing something right. (On the other hand, if too many poor quality strangers are contacting you, you should sound more selective and expensive so they assume they can’t afford you.)

  1. Get a marketing system and schedule in place and follow through. Go after better prospects. Take charge. Be proactive. Determine what has worked for you in the past and do it consistently. Or experiment with something new if nothing has worked out well in the past.

Don’t let crappy prospects drain your time and energy. Don’t let them sour you on freelancing or consulting.

Release them without drama into the universe so you can go after desirable clients.

Originally posted 6-30-15

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