Go Forth and Sell!
I got a call from a friend a few days ago and it seems his small business is getting smaller by the minute. Not only is he on the brink of collapse financially, his one major customer looks like they will be folding up shop soon and that will leave my friend broke, bankrupt, and unemployed.
After a minute of doing the “oh you poor thing” thing (I’m not much for having a pity party over a business because a business is either viable or it isn’t) I asked him what he was doing for the sales end of his business. Turns out, not much.
This is a very common problem among freelancers and small business people. We love to do what we love to do–for me it is writing, for others it is photography, designing websites, coding a new video game, designing purses…whatever it is that made you want to go into business in the first place.
BUT, and this is huge, if you don’t spend as much time selling your product as you do making your product, you won’t have a way to make money and that is what we are in business for. This seems like a simple concept but for many people, being a salesperson, especially when they are selling themselves and their own product, is really difficult. After all, if we wanted to be salespeople we would be working elsewhere.
SO, here’s a few tips to help you sell your service or product.
This may take a bit of market research, but you need a clear idea of who is going to buy your service. Where to find them, what they want, how you can either make them money or save them money, and how your service can best appeal to them. You need to network with them—both online and in person—and you need to study them (how better to tailor your services to them?).
Be the Face of Your Business
Be the face of your freelance products and services, and make sure that face is as beautiful as possible. I met a guy a few years ago who wanted to do some collaborative work with me. I Googled him (I Google everyone, come to think of it) and was shocked that the first things I found out about him and his company were that he had a felony conviction, a couple of lousy Yelp reviews, and a creepy online dating profile.
Granted, people do run into problems sometimes in their life, but if clients are going to put their trust, and their money, into hiring you, you want them to find out how wonderful you and your company are. This means moving the good stuff up and the bad stuff down on Google, having professionally designed marketing materials, dressing appropriately for meetings, being dependable and trustworthy, and creating the best services possible.
Use Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is free and super effective. It is hard to toot your own horn–it kind of flies in the face of the lessons about not bragging about yourself we all learned when we were kids–but it’s great if someone else raves about you.
Be sure to leverage all of the goodwill you develop with your clients by asking them to post reviews about your business online, tell their friends who may need your services about you, and remind them to keep you in mind for future projects.
Look into Other Markets
You may have a set ideas about how and where your products or services can be used. Now step outside of the box and make a list of other markets you may be able to move into, either by niche-ing your business into a smaller market or expanding your services to a wider market. Instead of having a bakery, make only cupcakes. Instead of using your persuasive words to create newspapers articles, give grant writing a shot.
Create Multiple Streams of Income
This cannot be overstated enough. If you are a freelancer or a small business owner, you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket (or piled on top of one client). If you have ten sources of income, even if nine of them are smallish and one is big, you are in a much better position financially than having only one big client that could suddenly shut down one day without warning.
You may also want to diversify the streams of income. Instead of writing articles for ten different publications, you may want to teach classes on how to be a freelancer, write a book on the topic, teach a writing class at the local university, and try your hand at corporate writing.
Work with Someone Else
If the thought of sales makes your blood run cold and your heart palpitate, consider ways to sell your services in the least terrifying manner possible. You may want to hire someone who excels in marketing and pay them either a flat rate or a commission. If you have a larger staff, you may want to consider profit sharing with everyone from the professional-level staff to the secretary.
You may also want to see if you could market yourself along with other services and products. A wedding dress designer and a wedding cake baker go together like peas in a pod. A photographer who loves babies may want to advertise collaboratively with maternity and baby specialty stores.
For us creative types, the thought of pounding the pavement in order to sell our products and services doesn’t have to be scary. Use your innate creativity to build your business profitably.