If you’re a freelancer who’s not great at talking yourself up, you’re not alone. Plenty of us struggle with in-person self-promotion—which is bad news, given that so much business promotion relies on networking.
But if talking about yourself makes you nervous or uneasy, you’re probably missing opportunities to tell clients and prospects about the ways in which you can help them. That’s a pretty big limitation for your business.
There’s one simple way to get around those nerves: switch the focus of those conversations from you, to what you do.
Talk about your favorite project
When you’re with friends or family, and you’re talking about your work, I bet you tell them about cool projects you’ve been working on. Perhaps, if you’re really into the job, you keep talking long after your friends’ eyes have glazed over (I know I do).
Great-aunt Gladys might be bored to tears by it, but that’s exactly the kind of conversation your prospects want to have—and the kind of passion and enthusiasm they want to see.
If you find it difficult to talk about yourself, talking about your favorite project can be a natural way to highlight relevant details of your service offering, allude to your work processes and practices, and show how much you love your work.
Talk about your favorite client
Talking to would-be clients about your current clients can seem like a minefield, but it’s not. Avoid divulging names, or any confidential information, and you can talk all you like about why you enjoy working with this client, and how you’ve been able to help them over the months or years of your association.
This conversation illuminates your passion for great service in a perfectly natural, effortless way. It can help clients get an almost intuitive sense of the way you like to work, and what you enjoy about the people you work with. And ideally, they’ll get the idea that you’re genuine, caring and fun to work with in the process.
Talk about what’s coming up
What do you have to look forward to? Perhaps it’s an engrossing project in an area you haven’t had a chance to work in before. Maybe you’re preparing to go to a conference or industry event. Perhaps you’re attending—or giving!—some professional training.
Talking about what’s coming up for you professionally can give prospects a real insight into what makes an expert like you tick. It can highlight broader professional interests, talents, and passions that may be relevant to them in ways you hadn’t anticipated. But at the very least, it helps your prospects get a picture of you as a professional who loves what they do. Who doesn’t want to work with someone like that?
Talk about what excited you most about your work last year—or last month
Where the previous three topics of conversation have focused on practicalities, you can treat this one as more of a strategic conversation piece. Here, you’re really talking about where your work, business, or field is heading.
Perhaps you spent last year developing a strong offering in a new service area, or establishing yourself in a new market. Maybe you can talk about how you successfully streamlined some aspect of your offering so you could achieve the same results for clients consistently and affordably, providing greater value to them.
This kind of conversation may be less common and more philosophical than the ones above, but it can reveal a lot about how you operate your business, and what you value as a business person. If those values align with the values of the prospect’s business, you may find it easier to establish a lasting rapport with them.
Talk about what you’ve been researching and playing with
Most successful freelancers are keen experimenters. Okay, so a rambling exposition of the finer points of technical minutiae of your work is not what you’re aiming for here. But talking broadly about the research and experimentation you’ve been doing can help prospects get an idea of what interests you, and where you see the future of your business or discipline lying.
Talking about your own experimentation indicates a real, deep-seated motivation—something every client wants to see in a freelancer. For clients working in traditional roles who see work as a 9-to-5 proposition, and have no interest in it outside of hours, hearing about how you spent your Saturday playing around with a new technology or technique can be refreshing and inspiring, if not downright astonishing. And that’s exactly the kind of impact you’re after.
These are the main ways I learned to “promote” my freelance work when I was talking with clients. The more I practiced talking about these things, the more natural it became. Now I can effortlessly talk about these topics with clients—and I can see the benefits to my business.
How do you go about talking yourself up to clients or prospects? We’d love to hear your advice and tips in the comments.