Stop Selling: Let’s Just Be Friends

Georgina Laidlaw

Boy, I really hate selling. It’s lucky you don’t need to “sell” to freelance, otherwise I’d be broke.

Wait. Did I just say you don’t need to sell to freelance?

I did, and you don’t.

What’s wrong with selling?

Selling is fine—if you’re into that kind of thing. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling uncomfortable with the idea of selling. More than a few freelancers are uneasy with it.

Many people who aren’t trained in sales see selling as a one-off, single-shot scenario where they either win or lose. They see making a sale as being about the up-front landing of the job, rather than the delivery of a fabulous product or service.

Whether they’re right or wrong, these kinds of perceptions can really jade a freelancer’s view of selling. Fortunately, there is an alternative.

What’s the alternative?

The solid, reliable way to freelance without selling is to make friends with your clients. Become genuine, give-and-take partners with clients, and you’ll find that:

  • you don’t need to find excuses to stay in touch with them (and remain top of mind)
  • you’ll find the path to pitching for work is smoothed—if indeed you have to pitch at all
  • your partners are more willing to help you out if and when you need work
  • you’re more likely to build self-sustaining, medium- to long-term work arrangements with them
  • they’re more likely to recommend you heartily to peers and contacts who need help from someone like you.

“Help” is really the key word here. The focus of this kind of relationship is assistance—helping clients get the kudos they deserve, helping them out of a tight spot, and helping them build customer relationships are examples of the help I’ve given my clients in recent weeks.

I didn’t “sell” this work—at least, not in the traditional, suit-and tie, hand-shaking, PowerPoint-and-handout sense. In most cases my clients simply emailed and asked me to do the work; in one or two I emailed through an idea that the client thought was worth doing.

And in a couple, I was sent the work by a peer.

Not just clients…

That’s the other great thing about this approach: you can use it across the board, with would-be clients, colleagues, ex-colleagues, people you know purely on a social basis … basically everyone.

We’re talking about forming friendships here, after all.

This allows you to be yourself at all times—you never have to switch into some kind of “sales mode” (if there is such a thing). And it means you don’t need to try to be “authentic”—who’s not authentic with their friends?!

And the best bit? The relationships you’ll form. This approach makes work fun. Making friends with your clients is a good way to automatically weed out the kinds of people you don’t get along with—people who don’t share your values, work ethic, or professional philosophy, for example. People who see you as a resource, rather than a human being. People who are no fun.

Do you see yourself as selling services, or as partnering with clients who are also friends? Give us your take on it in the comments.

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mikecco.