Why I Quit My Web Business

John Tabita

I quit my web business after relocating out-of-state from Southern California. Getting re-established in a new market quickly enough during a down economy proved too difficult because I foolishly depended on a single source for new business—networking. That, combined with the fact that my partners and I had an amicable split the year before meant I was back to wearing all the hats.

At the time, I knew nothing about cold-calling. My only feeble attempt was a few years earlier when, with high hopes, I purchased a list of local businesses. It took me 45 minutes to work up the nerve to make my first dial. After fumbling through a dozen calls, I put the phone down and gave up—mostly out of embarrassment than from lack of success.

Three years later, I sold $60,000 worth of lawn care services over the phone within a six-month period. If I’d known how to cold-call when I was struggling to get my web business re-established, how much income might I have generated?

When I decided to call it quits, I still needed to pay the bills, so I took the first job I came across—at a call center. Not long afterwards, I took a sales position. Because of the cold-calling experience I’d gained, along with my background selling web services, I was eventually hired as an AT&T Yellow Page rep, selling print and online advertising. This taught me how to sell in the real world and gave me the experience I needed to become a sales trainer myself. So much for telemarketing being a dead-end job.

You may be at a similar crossroads yourself. Perhaps you’re not generating enough business to make ends meet. Or maybe you want to take the next step and go full-time, but you’re not sure if the business will be there to sustain you. The way I see it, you have four options:

  1. Quit and get a full-time job
  2. Get a full-time job and freelance on the side for extra income
  3.  Get a part-time night or weekend job to supplement your income and keep running your business
  4. Employ aggressive, hunter-style prospecting methods to generate a sustainable amount of new business revenue

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you have a way to generate enough business that doesn’t involve cold-calling, then by all means, do so. Cold-calling isn’t rocket science, but neither is it fun. It can be nerve-racking to the uninitiated and tedious even to the experienced. Believe me, if it weren’t an effective means to quickly obtain new clients, it wouldn’t be part of my marketing arsenal.

When I put the phone down after my first inept attempt at cold-calling, it would have been tempting to claim “it didn’t work” than to admit I didn’t know what I was doing. Had I not learned to do it effectively, I may very well have joined the chorus of those proclaiming otherwise.

You may never actually come to enjoy cold-calling, but ask yourself which you’ll enjoy less: cold-calling or working for someone else?

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  • http://tateshvili.com Gurami

    Interesting opinions, I`m in the same situation. Have small business which has more and more troubles. Thinking what to… But don’t like to work for someone else…

  • http://www.supremesystems.co.uk/ It support Birmingham companies

    It is really interesting. If you are earning some extra then what is the problem in managing some extra time for your work……

  • Stevie D

    I would rather work for someone else. Heck, I would rather sweep the streets than stoop to cold-calling.

    I have a soul. I don’t want it tarnished. I know what happens to the karma of the millions of people who cold-call me – whether it’s B2B at work or B2C at home – and it isn’t pretty. I guess it’s just lucky for them that voodoo pins don’t actually work.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      The inability to support my family because I was too afraid to pick up the phone and find customers has left more of a tarnish on my soul than any cold call. Just saying …

  • Tim

    If you really want a particular client, calling them on the phone is not the way to get them if you are a design/development firm. You call them after they are already a client to build your relationship.
    To get a client you need to do something special. Build a one page website specifically targeted to them explaining how you could do a better job than whoever they currently use. Do be afraid to criticize their current design, but do it in a way that is not rude.
    You’re not going to sell any kind of marketing services over the phone unless you are the cheapest person on the block – and is that how you want to come across?

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      We sell marketing services all the time by first “calling them on the phone” to schedule a face-to-face appointment. In fact, my team sets 60 – 80 appointments a week … and we’re not “cheapest person on the block.”

      Most professional designers don’t do spec work to obtain new business. While building them a one-page to show how you could do a better job may seem like a good idea on the surface, it’s also very time-consuming and untargeted. I once resorted to this because I was afraid to do the type prospecting that truly gets customers, like cold-calling and other face-to-face contact.

  • http://interpixdesign.com Mobile usability

    I’m confussed by the title – you quit your web business because you relocated. Then you mainly write about the difficulties of cold calling. While the article has a catchy lead in, it’s quite disjointed.

  • http://www.webmosis.net CMS Dude

    This is really interesting, because I actually went the opposite way. I started out selling yellow pages advertising. And I was quite a hot-shot and made quite a bit of money in my first few years. That was, of course, before the burnout set in and I realized I was in a field where I acquired no real-world skill sets, and I was totally at the behest of factors I have no control over.

    Sales is a horrible, horrible profession. You might make a meager commission on a sale or a renewal, but your employer will continue making money off the business you reeled in … long after you’re gone, and will continue to get referral and word of mouth business as well. Such a thankless thing. It’s like: “Thanks for reeling in a large and lucrative account that will help ensure my future stability and eventually fund my retirement. Here’s a finder’s fee for your troubles.”

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      Sales is only a “horrible, horrible profession” if you don’t enjoy it. It’s also one of the most lucrative, if you’re good at it. Some of the best YP reps in the metro areas make $80K and more.

      Like anything else, it depends on the company your work for and the product you’re selling.

  • Harold

    So what would you recommend for someone who wants to learn cold-calling the right way? Is getting a job at a call center the only way? Is there any material one can study, any tips, courses?

    It just seems like a useful and vital skill that someone with their own business starting out could really use, but it almost never seems to get talked about.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      Here’s a resource to get some training:

      http://www.settingsalesappointments.com/

      You can learn a lot just from subscribing to his free email newsletter. His training course is very affordable, also.

      I don’t recommend perusing the Internet looking for free advice. A lot of what you’ll find is simply bad.

  • http://onespirit.wetpaint.com/ AnilG

    Every time someone puts the point for cold calling you see this mob of people with pitch forks and torches shouting “hang the cold callers – they’re a breed from hell”.

    I can only think they’ve never actually given cold calling a proper try.

    Listen, the telephone is a modern invention for the purposes of communicating. It goes in the mix along with email, tv, radio and paper in the mail box. Listen to me: “it is NOT immoral”. And it’s NOT against the law. Ok?

    And for those people who get called and discover there’s someone offering a product or service they need at a quality and price point they like: they’re very happy. Ok?

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      I agree. I’m not sure why a 35 second phone call explaining how you could help their business become more profitable is so inherently immoral.

      Every new customer we gain is because someone cold-called them or walked in unannounced and managed to set an appointment. Every person who agreed to an appointment did so because they recognized that doing so would somehow benefit their business.

  • http://www.authenticleadgeneration.com Madala

    Cold calling is a highly effective marketing tool and cheaper then most marketing methods. I think the reason people dislike cold calling is because of fear of rejection..otherwise, it can be very lucrative. People are pleasant most of the time but if not it’s no sweat off your shoulders because you won’t see or hear from them again.

  • artracer

    Poor article, it never explains “Why I Quit My Web Business”

  • http://www-emaildatabase.com Gowtham

    Oh! My business even related to pure cold calling

  • http://bangwebworks.com Charlotte NC Web Design

    My experience has been that once I did some cold calling and get a small book of customers the referrals start to happen naturally – reducing the need for cold calling. It is important that you give enough amazing service and quality that they want to help you by spreading the word. Just doing what is expected isn’t enough, they have to feel the compassion and passion you have to improve their business or life and that you had the skills to actually do this. It is amazing how much your customers do for you in return.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      The ultimate goal of all your marketing should be to generate enough gravity so that you no longer need to employ hunter-style prospecting methods like cold-calling. Good job!

  • Christian

    Where does one learn how to cold call? and yes I totally agree about making an online presentation about a client and knocking their socks off first. And then following up with a cold call.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      I posted a link below to where you can get some training.

      Keep in mind that cold-calling may never be something you’ll get good at. Another option is to outsource it someone who is. There are expensive telemarketing firms you could hire, but there are also independent freelancers who do this type of work. A good one will take the time to get to know your business, then customize a campaign to fit your expectations and budget.

  • fashionspeaks

    Funny, I am seriously a web developer changing careers into being a Fashion Stylist. I am still doing code, but I am really quitting my web business. It seems like every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Mary can make a website out of WordPress and expect YOU to fix it. Plus, the pay keeps getting smaller by the gig. Then, you get some hot shot who sells for the competition, steals your clientele, the clientele gets pissed because the competition sucks and regrets leaving. Then, the sales guys doesn’t understand the business and everyone perceives him as an idiot.

    I am getting calls for contract gigs, but I really sick of hacks, browser capability issues, and sites going down. I am transitioning right now into fashion. I have business cards ordered, writing on fashion blogs, and yes, I am making cold calls, networking and SEO the hell out of my new fashion website. After watching a few episodes of “Second Act” on Yahoo.com, that gave me the encouragement to move out of web development.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      I’m glad to see you’re doing more than one thing to get clients. An effective mix consists of at least 3 different types of marketing.

  • http://sagie.es Cesar

    Fortunately, there are other ways. I tried cold calling and didn´t work for me; after about 300 calls, I only got a prospect, who did not turn up to our meeting. Not to mention how nasty people can be on the phone. I think it is not worth it.

    As I said, there are other ways for freelancers to get started money, like:
    - Writing great stuff to show your knowledge and gain SEO benefits naturally
    - Joining local business associations
    - Joining clubs of any kind to do some networking
    - Attending networking events or industry specific events, and giving away some cards
    - Asking some NGOs to do some work for them (and asking for referrals in return)
    - Looking for work on the Internet (this only for emergencies)
    - Asking some pals in your industry to see if you can collaborate.

    It´s up to you deciding what to do next. Just consider your options :)

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      All of those are great things to do. However, they take time. If you need clients right now, cold-calling can provide the means.

      How well it “works” depends on how good you are at it. My best lead generator can set 10-15 appointments in about 500 dials. 2 – 3 of those will become sales. If you want those type of results, you need to get some training, or outsource it.

  • http://webninjamobile.com Keithics

    I was just thinking about Cold Calling today and I came upon this article. Thanks for the information John!

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

      You’re welcome!