You reached out to a client or they found you and now you have the freelance client on the phone. What do you do?
News flash: I’m a total introvert. Honestly, there have been days at work where I feel like I’ve barely spoken at all. I’d rather hide away at a cabin in the woods for a week than go to a party any time. You get the picture…
So, when my first freelance client asked to chat with me on the phone, I was taken aback. What’s there to talk about? What can’t be said in email? Do I really have to talk to them on the phone?
Seriously, I’m that girl. Trying to figure out what they’re going to ask so I have a rehearsed answer. I even found myself googling “freelance client phone scripts” because I seriously wondered what I would say. I’ve always been really great at writing and terrible at speaking. So the phone has always made me hesitant. Ok, terrified.
But then I got on the phone with my first client and it…wasn’t bad at all.
There were some things about the product that the owner wanted to explain to me, that couldn’t be easily communicated in email, and I also sensed that he was just trying to get a feel for me and my vibe. And I was also able to pick up on his vibe too.
Same with my second phone call. And my third…
Now, I do have several clients that I’ve never talked to on the phone. Email happened to be sufficient for both parties and that’s all it took. Other freelance clients have things they want to talk out with you, conversations that are so much more efficient over the phone.
So, once you have a client on the phone…
My three best tips for handling a freelance client calls:
#1: Be confident about what you do.
You already know way more than you think you know about your writing craft and why you do it. If you’re like me, you might not have confidence in many things, but you can have confidence in that!
Think about how you might explain your craft and the type of results you get. For example, you might summarize your skill like this: “My social media content marketing boosted my clients’ page views by 10,000.” Or “The blog posts I wrote for XYZ boosted their SEO to rank on the first page in Google.”
You probably do more than just write: you persuade, you evoke emotion, you boost SEO, you convert readers into paying clients, you enhance pageviews, you communicate brand images, etc. Write out a list of all the things that you do and don’t be afraid to talk about them. Just having the list in front of you though galvanizes your confidence in your skill.
Also, keep a sheet with your rates printed in front of you during every call. If your client throws you a curveball with a project you’ve never priced before, you can always say “I want to get a better idea about how much work this will take, so let me get back to you on that.”
The last thing you want to do though, is to say you don’t know how much your services cost. That throws up a huge red flag for your client. It says to them that you don’t know what you’re doing, that you must not have much of a business, and that your prices are probably just arbitrary. Not professional.
Know how much you’re worth and have the numbers in front of you. Don’t waver.
Another way to show your confidence is to be excited about what you do. It shows in your voice. Your freelance clients want to work with someone who loves what they do, not someone who’s forcing themselves to put together their content.
The final aspect of confidence I’d like to touch on is your inferiority complex. Get rid of it! Put yourself on the same level as your client, because you are. You are speaking business owner to business owner, not employee to employer.
#2: Know a thing or two about the person/company you’re talking to.
Make sure you are familiar with the company or person you’re talking to. That may seem obvious, but I don’t think many people put much time in researching companies they’re working with.
All you need to do is have a look around their website. Look at the types of people they work with and brands they’ve done work for. Look at examples of their work. Skim their blog topics and read their About Us page.
For example, if you’re talking to a web designer, make sure you’ve peeked at their portfolio and some of the sites they’ve actually designed. You don’t have to do an in-depth study, but you need to have some familiarity with them and their products and style.
Your client will be able to tell if you took the time to actually look at their website. I was on a call with an app developer and was able to discuss parts of the app with him because I had actually tried it. Imagine if I hadn’t! I feel like it’s only common decency.
In fact, at my corporate job, when I’m hiring new employees for my department, I’m always putting my feelers out to see if they’ve at least browsed our company’s website. And let me tell you, as a hiring manager myself, it’s easy to tell who has and who hasn’t researched the company beforehand. You can’t hide it. If a prospect hasn’t, it basically tells me that they’re not all that interested. And that’s definitely not the impression you want to make.
#3: Just do you.
Ok, I know this sounds awfully trite. But it’s probably the most important tip I could give you!
When your freelance clients request a phone call, they often just want to get a feel for you or explain something better. Knowing that, it takes off a lot of pressure. They just want to know that you’re a warm, competent human on the other end of the line, not a drone with rehearsed lines or a phony. People can smell a rat from a thousand miles away.
And really, it’s so much easier for you to just be you.
Someone who’s incompetent and flaky or someone who is a hard-nosed salesy person will send off all kinds of alerts to their prospect (warning, scam!). If you just act like yourself and be honest, then you’ll be OK. In fact, I would suggest never using a “script” or rehearsed lines for this very reason and that’s why you won’t find any in this post!
#4 BONUS: Ask Questions
Questions are great! Ask questions, but don’t ask nit-picky questions. Ask questions that make you sound interested, not like you require hand-holding. I’ve run into several people in the freelance world that have been passed over for freelance jobs because they ask way too many questions.
You see, clients want someone to take a writing project off their backs and not have to worry about it anymore. They don’t want to do it, so they’re hiring you to do it. Don’t make them feel like they have to do a bunch more work to get it off their backs. Don’t be shy about taking the project and running with it.
I guess I have the personality type that’s OK with doing this. Some others are not and they get caught up in the details. If you can let some of the details go and ask only pertinent questions, you’re going to make it much easier on both of you.
But getting back around to the point of this bonus tip, it’s advisable to ask some good questions over the phone. (For an introvert, this means you can let your client do the talking). Get clear on what they’re looking for and what their goals are. Not only will this help you with your assignment, but people love talking about themselves and they love when you show interest.
A few more pointers about taking a freelance client call I might add:
- Make sure you take dated notes while you’re on the phone, especially about project details and any numbers you’ve quoted. You won’t remember later, believe me. Write them down.
- Feel free to make a little small talk. If your client cancels their first call because of a sick kid, ask how old their children are when you finally get in touch. It allows you to connect on a human level.
- Don’t get anxious about the call beforehand. Just treat it like you would a regular call with a friend. (I don’t mean be unprofessional and goofy, I just mean laid-back and assured). I will often busy myself with something simple while I’m waiting for a call to come in so I’m not ruminating or allowing the butterflies to build. Another trick I’ve been taught by a therapist is to practice the Superworman pose before the call. Standing really tall with your shoulders back and your chest puffed out in an exaggerated superhero will give you an immediate confidence boost.
- Make sure you can have complete quiet for your call. Shoo the cat and dog out of the room and make sure the kids are being tended. Because you know the second you get on that call, all hell will break loose. That’s just Murphy’s Law;)
- If the client feels unsure about hiring you, offer to let them test you out. Then, you take the pressure off of both of you. They should still pay you for your work, but they’re not locked in to any sort of contract until you can impress them with your work.
I hope these pointers make you feel a little less intimidated about taking freelance client calls.
These calls get much easier after the first few. So, it’s OK, just do it, get your first call over with, and even if the first few suck (they won’t), you’ll know that it only gets better from there.
So, tell me…
Do you get nervous for biz phone calls too? Any fun client phone call stories?