How to Talk to Potential Freelance Writing Clients (So You Can Win New Contracts)

The Sales Call Strategy That’s Helped Me Close Clients Without Feeling Sales-y

I get it, nobody enjoys sales meetings. But if you want to grow your freelance writing business, you need to get better at them. That means learning how to have conversations with potential clients, face to face. Here are some tips that have helped me get more clients.

When I started freelancing in 2019, I took the scenic route. I choose to avoid content mills and freelance writing platforms like Upwork to find my own clients. So, I set up a website, created an Instagram account, perfected my bio, and posted daily educational carousels about writing fiction. It worked. Within four days of starting this content marketing campaign, I was getting regular DMs asking about my services and prices.

Those conversations went like this:

Prospect: Hi, I’m looking for a ghostwriter to write my e-book. How much do you charge?

Me: Do you have a word count in mind?

Prospect: 200 pages

Me: My rate starts at x amount. Would that work for you?

Prospect: Yes.

Me: Awesome. What’s your email address? I’ll send you an invoice and a writing agreement. Once you pay 50% deposit, I can start working.

They never sent their email addresses or if they did, they never signed the agreement. I didn’t understand. They had approached me. They were hot leads, weren’t they? So, why weren’t these leads converting?

The truth: I had a massive hole in my marketing funnel called trust.

The Hole in My Funnel

Ahrefs defines the marketing funnel as “a system designed to attract and convert customers (or clients) to your business.” There are five basic stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Conversion
  • Retention

I had the first three locked, but no one was converting because of one simple truth: people buy when they know, like, and trust you. The leads coming in knew I was a writer, they liked my content, but they had no reason to trust me. They had one interaction with me.

I needed a way to build trust with the prospects who were DMing me. I had to do the thing I was dreading most. Get out of the DMs and hop onto sales calls.

The next time I received a message asking about my services, I suggested a meeting.

It went something like this:

Prospect: Hi, I’m looking for a ghostwriter. How much do you charge?

Me: Hey, Prospect. Why don’t we hop on a call, and you can tell me what you have in mind?

Prospect: Sure, when are you available.

At that point, I shared a Calendly link or asked them for one. It made a massive difference. On the video meeting, I got to connect with prospects, see their body language, and ask about their business, and pitch my services in a way that’s specific to them instead of a generic solution.

The first two calls didn’t convert, but the third one did, and I got my very first client as a freelance writer – a PR agency. The project started out at $127 a month writing tweets, and later the client hired me on a monthly retainer for $735.24.

This process has worked for me ever since, and I currently close about 20% of all my discovery calls. That’s a significant improvement from the crickets I’d heard before.

Here are lessons I’ve learned that helped me reach that mark.

Not Every Prospect Is a Good Fit

The goal of a sales call is to figure out if the potential client has a problem that you can solve at a specific price in a set timeframe. Let’s break that down.

As a freelance writer, you solve a problem. When you meet with a potential client for the first time, ask them:

  1. What their goals are,
  2. Why they aren’t achieving them,
  3. Why they aren’t solving this problem themselves.

For example, Mr. A from the PR Agency for tech start-ups needed help with the work on his plate. His business was booming, but he was burnt out. In our call, he said, “I need another me. Can you be me, Robyn?” In short, he needed a good writer he could trust and train.

Another client, Mr. N, saw one of my ads on Instagram and was amazed by how well-targeted it was. He liked that it spoke to him directly, and he wanted content that would resonate with his audience in the same way.

Mr. I, on the other hand, just wanted 20 pieces of content but didn’t have the time to do it himself.

All three of them wanted my services for distinct reasons. They wanted support, skills, and time, respectively. If I can solve their problem, and we agree on a price, then it’s a good match.

Get Clear on the Metrics that Matter Most

Once you know what the problem is, ask them what success would look like. This is so important because you want to set realistic expectations and a goal post before you accept the project. A common answer to this question is “I want more sales”. Doesn’t everyone?

But that’s a lot of pressure to put on a single blog post or email, especially when you’re not in control of their entire sales process. So, ask for a measurable metric related to what you’re writing. A good KPI for blog posts, let’s say, would be a certain number of visitors or click-through rate on a specific link.

Try to get to a precise number, so that in a month or two when you can contact them asking how the post performed, you’ll know if the post was successful.

Talk about Budget Early

In the Win Without Pitching Manifesto, Blair Enns writes that “Those who cannot talk about it, don’t make it.” If a client can’t afford your rates, they’re not a good fit. If a client doesn’t want to pay your rate, they’re not a good fit.

It took a while for me to say my rates without feeling guilty that I’m charging too much or that people will say no. So, I underpriced my services a lot because I wanted clients.

There are a few simple rules you can stick to when talking about your rates:

  • Say your price and wait for a response. In the early days, I used to offer a myriad of discounts before the prospect even had a chance to respond. Now, I stay silent until they say something. It will either be a yes or a no.
  • Don’t give money power over you. When you’re struggling to get clients, and you need to keep the lights on, it’s tempting to want every job that comes through the door. That’s not helpful. Learn to say no to the small jobs and work on your samples, guest posts, and lead generation instead.
  • Ask if they have a budget in mind. If you’re uncomfortable saying your rates, ask if the client has a budget in mind for the project. This way you’ll get an idea of how much they are willing to spend, then you can give your rate.
  • Mention your highest rate first. Anchoring works like a charm. Instead of saying I charge between $50 and $100 per post, say “For projects like this I charge between $100 and $50.” Humans tend to focus on the thing you mention first. $100 might seem a lot, while $50 seems affordable.

It takes practice, but with every conversation, you’ll feel more comfortable until one day, you’ll talk about the budget as if it were as mundane as the weather.

Ask For Objections

Before ending the call, ask if there’s anything that will prevent them from moving forward that day. If there are no objections, then it’s time to set up a meeting. If they have an objection, write down what the client says and address it. They might want certainty that it’s a worthwhile investment. Sometimes they don’t have the money upfront, or they might need to consult with a business partner or get approval from a decision-maker in the company.

Then ask them how important that objection is for them. The likelihood of getting rid of or reducing their concerns will be much higher if you know which ones really matter and which ones don’t affect their decision. It’s like asking someone on a date, you want a yes or a no before the call ends.

Stop Selling, Start Helping

The last lesson I’ve learned is to stop selling and focus on helping. Humans are strange creatures. We enjoy buying things, but we despise being marketed to. As Brian Tracy said, “Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her to solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service.” People will happily pay what you’re worth if you’re helping them reach their goals. That’s the mindset you should have in every interaction with potential clients – How may I help you?

I hope you enjoyed my sales call strategy. What is your favorite sales call tip? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author

Robyn-Lee is a freelance content writer and editorial book reviewer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She specializes in writing marketing blogs and e-books for coaches, B2B businesses, and entrepreneurs. Writing has been her passion since she was a little girl, and now she gets to live the dream. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram for blog writing tips, or visit her website.





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