How do I sell myself?
August 9, 2010 2:30 PM   Subscribe

How do I get better at being a people person and a sales person (self promotion)?

I want to get better at networking and connecting with people. Specifically, I want to be better about promoting myself and selling myself, as I'd like to eventually leave my job and work for myself, and the industry I'm in (web design) is going to require me to get better at meeting people and maintaining contacts with people I wouldn't normally. And I'm not sure how to do that.

I'm not much of a "people person", I'd rather site at home reading a book or working on one of my hobbies. I have a few close friends but we don't go out together very often, and while they're social butterflies, I generally bow out of any bigger group activities. I also have a weird hang up about phones, I have anxiety issues when I have to talk on a phone. And actually its not bad when I actually get myself on the phone, but calling or receiving a call can be difficult. This goes back to working in a call center a number of years ago. Its gotten better but I still have trouble with it. I dread phone calls. Even from friends - most of the time we text each other. But having weird hangups isn't going to help me start a business

I've been told I'm a good presenter by a number of people; I'm also very good at explaining things in laymen terms; one thing that several non-technical people have told me. So generally talking to people isn't a problem, once I get that far. It seems to be getting to the point of talking to people I struggle with.

I also have a tendency to feel guilty when someone says they can't afford my work. I know what I charge is fair, and I have a lot of skills that people who charge less than me don't and I offer a better result. And I'm not the most expensive person on the block either; I know of other local freelancers that charge more.. But I have issues with being modest and feeling like others should just be able to see what I do is better and I feel like I'm boasting if I try to sell myself. And I don't know how to counter sticker shock (because there does seem to be a lot of people that want a website for a few hundred bucks no matter the complexity).

I have done freelance before full time, but my downfall was my inability to network and promote myself. For a while I had a partnership with a print shop, so I didn't have to do anything to get clients (and it was great) but once that fell apart (the shop closed) I was on my own to hunt down leads, and not very good at it. So any advice, books or other resources on how to tackle this would be much appreciated.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Work & Money (7 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Fortunately for you, many of the things that used to require phones can now be done by email. Since you have done freelance work in the past, and were successful at it when you were working in partnership with the print shop, that means that you have former clients. You should have an emailing list of all your former clients, and send them perhaps a monthly newsletter telling then what is new with your business and what is new in the web design business in general (and anything else you want to add to make it more interesting), and asking them if they need any further help from you or if they can recommend you to other prospective clients. Another traditional technique is to have business cards printed that you can hand out to people you meet who may either be interested in your services, or who may know someone who may be interested now or in the future. Such cards are not expensive (unless you want holograms on them). Of course, you do have to meet people for this to be relevant. Keep in touch with people (even by email) and they will be more likely to invite you to social or business events.

You have to hold the line on your prices. Just remember that you are in business, and you have to be serious about what you do; it is not a philanthropic endeavor. (Of course, if you should become sufficiently successful, you might at some point become more philanthropic and perhaps donate your services to design a site for some worthy cause, but that is not your immediate concern.)
posted by grizzled at 2:45 PM on August 9, 2010

Read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.
I know the title of the book sounds ridiculous today - but it was written in 1937.
It is a ground-breaking book on business, negotiations, and human dealings.
Seriously - check it out.
posted by Flood at 2:49 PM on August 9, 2010

One day, I told everyone I was going to be famous. They asked me, "for doing what?" and I told them, "I don't know".

In the end, I became a minor celebrity in town, for only telling people I was going to be famous.

This was more of an exercise to get rid of ego, but the first thing you need is something to sell. Make it something good.

Then, you gotta tell people.

That's it.

It seems really simple, but you will make a lot of mistakes. That's what takes so damn long to get right. Work on your weaknesses. If your weakness is shyness, work on that. The way to become successful and not a tool is to not be too incredibly specialized in one thing. If that's your deal, you need a boss or a manager. You'll get screwed over, but you won't have to face things you fear.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:57 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I’ve been an independent freelancer for the last 1 ½ years, and have many of the same issues that you do, insert clever name (so I’ll also be following this thread).

I would also like to add these possibilities if you haven’t considered them yet, and it took absolutely no presentation or phone time from me:
• Linkedin – have a reallly detailed description of the type of jobs that you do/have done. Connect to former coworkers, leave it open to be searched by all, have a link to a webpage, and provide contact info. Some clients will find you this way (really good clients)
--------------Write recommendations for colleagues (I was surprised because these colleagues wrote ones for me, which are now in my linkedin profile – so you don’t have to rave about your work, let someone else do it).
---------------I don’t do this next part, but some people answer questions in the forums -helpful answers, not **look at me I’m a special snowflake** answers (it doesn’t sound ilke you will do that at all). Apparently people who do this make more contacts and get more jobs
• Email companies directly – a friendly query if they use freelancers and basic info about yourself. I’ve found that agencies tend to work with me and present me as an employee to their clients. YMMV but I bet there is a niche for you, too.
• Can you advertise anywhere? It is passive and generates works if it is in the right place.

Sticking to your prices:

Mark my words, you will get over that. Just be polite. I actually say, “I’m sorry, but that is the price that I charge” and offer them a link to places where they can find other freelancers. Believe it or not if they found you, some of them will agree to your price.
posted by Wolfster at 3:28 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a freelancer too, and here are two things that have helped me: (1) when I feel shy about blowing my own horn, I remember: they don't care whether I am awesome, they care what my work might do for them. So I focus on my product: how exciting it was when the X project had such great results, how it was so great introducing a recent client to Y because it solved all her problems. In other words, show don't tell. You place a strong value on your work - show that and the reasons for it to prospective clients. Along the way you can slip in things like "and because I'd done that so many times before, I was able to customize it to their needs, which if you can do it is really the ideal." Tech geeks, when they get going in that way that shows how passionate they are about their technology, are often quite charming.

(2) When people seem put off by my price, I say something along the lines of "I can certainly understand that, but I'm pretty solidly in this price range because I feel it's critical to include A,B, and C in my work. That's what really makes this work valuable, and my clients have found that the investment paid off. Let me know if you reconsider."

Good luck!
posted by Betsy Vane at 7:25 PM on August 9, 2010

Good question.

I happen to be a graphic designer who used to do it as my primary source of income, and this is what I did:

I'm not sure how old you are, but I usually advise getting a part-time, whenever-you-feel-like-it job in retail in a populated area. Most of your co-workers will probably have things on the side as well, which leads to excellent networking and expanded interests. Casually letting customers know of your talents while at work is great, and will definitely get you leads. A few weeks ago I stopped by a hole in the wall restaurant in my area and ran into the mother of a customer I used to dress at an old boutique; she remembered me, and that connection ended up turning into a $5000 design job.

In terms of your self-described weaknesses...I also used to have them, as well. That is, until I just jumped into those awkward situations, took the criticisms from how I handled them, then shaped my experiences to overcome those fears. This brought a huge boost in my confidence, and a massive visual, mental, and emotional makeover (I bring this up because this also gave me the confidence to price my work the way I felt it was worth. If you're looking to strike out on your own, selling yourself is the name of the game. Never feel bad in doing have to show people why you are worth it over anyone else, at any price.)

I actually think that telecommunication is vital to growth. E-mail is not personal. E-mail cannot properly convey one's emotions. When I have updates, I want to hear my client. The inflection in their voices. What they like or dislike in an organic, on-the-spot way. E-mail, for me, is left to contracts and sending small edits near the end of the transaction, or for proof (if my client seems unscrupulous). Unless my client specifies e-mail as their primary mean of communicating, I'm on the phone.

I also recommend speaking to real estate agents in your area. Not only can they advise you on how to better sell yourself...but they could also become your clients ;-).
posted by Alex930 at 11:31 PM on August 9, 2010

Response by poster: All the answers here were really good, but Betsy Vane's answer seemed to hit closest to what I think I needed to hear.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:15 PM on August 10, 2010

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