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Sunday, November 25, 2012

8 Ways to Master Cold Calls--or at Least Fear Them Less

As a freelancer, you give up the security of a regular paycheck for the freedom of working for anyone you want to. That’s a huge plus in my mind, but it also means that you no longer rely on a boss to give you work. You have to find it yourself, and that means being able to sell—and that includes making cold calls.  

I know, you hate cold calls. Most writers do. But your willingness to make them may make the difference between a full plate of work and struggling to pay your bills each month.

As you gain experience and work for more clients, you’ll find something wonderful happens. Clients start coming to you. You may not have to spend as much time marketing, though you should always devote some time to lining up new projects and client. Until you’re so busy with incoming work that you’re turning assignments down (and I wish that for all of you!), you must cold-call. That’s part of freelancing.

Here are eight ways to make a dreaded task easier:

·     Do it early. If you’re like me, you start Mondays full of energy and enthusiasm. By Wednesday or Thursday, though, I’m looking forward to time off. I believe in “eliminating the ugliest,” or doing the thing you most don’t want to do first thing every day. Get your week’s worth of cold calls accomplished done by Monday or Tuesday and you can take the rest of the week off!

·     Warm them up. Kristen Lambert, a Chicago-based freelancer who does corporate and PR writing, doesn’t make cold calls. She looks for some kind of connection with her potential client, through LinkedIn or other social media that she can mention when she contacts the person, transforming it into a “warm” call.

·     Set a reasonable goal. Fifty cold calls in a day would do me in, but I can make five, even ten without losing my enthusiasm. Aim for a number that you can reach without killing yourself.

·     Do them all at once. You’ll save time by making all of your calls one after the other instead of doing them here and there. The more calls you make, the less anxiety you’ll have about them, too.  

·     Write a script. Make some notes of what you’ll say, and practice ahead of time if these calls make you quake. Speak clearly, slowly, and stand up when you’re on the phone--you’ll sound more confident.

·     Change your mindset. Are you afraid that you’re being a pest when you cold-call? Stop thinking like that. You have something valuable to provide--writing services--that the person you’re calling may need, and may need right now! So get on the phone! Re-spinning your attitude can make you feel more confident, which comes across to the person you’re speaking with.

·     Start with email. You know what a query to a magazine you’ve never written for is? A cold call. So is a letter of introduction. The difference is that phoning someone is much more immediate, and stressful. If you prefer, start with an email to your target, and follow up with an actual call. Even if the person hasn’t read your email, you have a legitimate reason to call—you’re following up on your earlier email. This method takes some of the anxiety out of cold calls for me.

·     Reward yourself. If I have to choose between the carrot and the stick, I can tell you that the carrot is a lot more powerful (and fun) motivator. Give yourself a treat--a glass of wine, a late afternoon movie, a massage--for making your quota of cold calls, and you may even look forward to doing them.
Cold calls may not be favorite part of marketing, but if you don’t have enough work, you have no excuse for not making them. Research companies, associations, or other potential clients online. Check their websites for the name of the person who hires or would be in charge of hiring freelancers; if you can’t find it, call the company and ask. 

When you have the person’s name and number, pick up the phone. The worst the person can say is "no thanks," or that he's not hiring freelancers. On the other hand, that call may turn into your introduction to a new client. Doesn't that make it worth your while? 

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