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  • Diana Schneidman

Who to phone for freelance and consulting assignments?

You’ve wrapped your brain around the idea of telephoning the best prospects for freelance or consulting assignments, right?

Or maybe you get the chills at the mere idea of “cold calling.”

When you are ready to get started or simply ready to think about getting started, another issue presents itself: Whom to call?

Lists range from terrific to terrible

It’s easiest to phone large numbers of people if you have a ready-to-go set of names. You’ll work your way down the list, phoning and keeping records of contact info and what was said, call by call.

If you already have this list, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll accomplish your objective.

However, in real life you’ll almost never find this perfect list. It’s more likely that you’ll have a quality list that you’ll have to weed through for the most appropriate leads.

At the nearly worst, you’ll have to flesh out a list consisting solely of company names. Then there’s the most challenging task of all: pulling together company names from Google searches, trade journal articles and whatnot of all types.

This last type of list assembling is best done on an ongoing basis. Every time you read or hear of a company or someone to contact, you write it down and call the next morning. But when you’re filling a blank legal pad, it’s an intense effort.

The best list has a large percentage of people who represent your niche, both in terms of function or department and in terms of industry. These are the people most likely to offer you assignments. They are also the people most likely to value your services sufficiently to pay top dollar.

The best list also provides individuals’ names, job titles, direct phone numbers and email addresses. I would never spend money on a list that does not provide all this data.

And the best source for the best list? Professional and trade association membership directories. You obtain online access (or a print copy) by joining the association. You are not buying a list per se. Instead, you join the organization and obtain the list as a member benefit.

To determine if you should join an organization, look online at the list of officers and their work titles. That’s a sampling of the group’s membership. Or ask current clients and networking contacts which organizations they belong to and recommend.

As I start the phone conversation with a prospect, I say that I am a fellow member of XYZ organization. This warms up the call and positions me as serious about our profession and/or industry.

A possible pitfall

Some organizations specify that their membership list is not to be used for solicitation. As far as I’m concerned, if you belong to an organization and phone another member, you are “networking,” not soliciting. And of course, in the off chance the organization gets on your case, threaten not to renew your membership. That should solve the problem.

By the way, this is all theoretical. No one has ever challenged my calling fellow association members, and the vast majority of those who have picked up my call (rather than allowing it to roll over to voice mail) have been very gracious.

Originally posted 6-15-09

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