Nov 4, 2011
James Patterson

The One Question Freelance Writers Should Ask When Cold Calling

You pick up the phone and you’re nervous. You sit in front of your computer and don’t know what to say. In a world where you’re paid by the word, you’re all of a sudden out of them.

Don’t worry, it’s common. Freelance writers often have problems getting out and marketing themselves. We’re born writers, not born salespeople. Sure, it would be great for clients to just fall into your lap out of the sky, but until you’re a little more established, those occasions will be few and far-between.

For now, you have to rely on several different methods, like cold calling to try and score a gig.

But are you asking the key question that can help you reel in that faceless person on the other end of the line like a tractor beam?

In the hundreds and hundreds of cold calls I’ve made, there is one question I’ve found that has been the most effective in helping my potential client hone in on how I can help them out. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It works.

It is:

Have you ever considered using a freelancer to help out with your writing projects?

Why does this line work so well? Sales people will tell you never to ask your prospect a yes or no question. Why? Because you never want to get a no. “Want to buy my product?” No. “Can I send you some more information?” No. “Can I interest you in a warranty?” No.

But that’s the genius of this question. Either answer is a win for you.

“So, John, have you ever considered using a freelancer to help out with your writing projects?”

Answer #1: No, I’ve never considered it.

Benefit: You have a captive listener all ready for you to tell them how a freelancer is going to help them get more things on their to-do list accomplished. You get to open their eyes up to the magic of freelance writing.

“Great, let me tell you about some of the benefits my clients enjoy because I write for them: lower overhead costs compared to hiring someone full-time, no heavy markup as with marketing firms, a fresh set of eyes on that project you’re working on, the ability to farm out less pressing projects so you can get back to doing what needs done now, etc. etc.”

Selling yourself is all about educating. What’s the benefit you bring? Asking the question opens the door up for you to educate the listener.

Answer #2: Yes, I have used freelancers before: “Well, great, then you know about all the benefits you can get by working with a freelancer. That’s what you’re going to get with me. Let me tell you about what some of my clients have said about my work.”

Benefit: The first answer is good and opens up some avenues for you to sell yourself. But this answer, in my opinion, is even better. Why? Because you’ve just discovered someone who “gets” working with freelancers. Someone you don’t have to convince that it’s a smart idea. Someone who already sees the need for someone like you.

“So you’ve worked with freelancers. Great! Then you know how much of a benefit someone like me can be to your business. Let me tell you about the work I do that might be of help to you.”

I ask this question to everyone I cold call. Almost without fail, I leave the conversation at the very least with them agreeing to allow me to pass along my information via email. I get a foot in the door. And when you get your foot in the door, anything can happen. The more doors you get in, the better your chances are of landing a paying gig.

Try it out the next time you pick up the phone to make some cold calls. And leave a comment below telling me how it went.

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Photo courtesy Flickr user TJ Scenes

1 Comment

  • Great tip! I must say that I even though I knew not to ask a question that would yield a yes or no answer, I never thought to ask this. I will certainly have to give it a try.

    Cold calling certainly was a fear of mine in the past. Oddly enough, I’ve found that most people I call are fairly receptive and at least willing to hear what I have to say. Either I’ve gotten lucky with patient people or I’m doing something right when making those cold calls!

    Anyway, thanks again for the tip!

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This little corner of the Internet is for anyone who's looking to start a freelance business while holding down a real job, wondering how to jump from part-time freelancing to full-time or looking for freelance writing information in general.

My name is James Patterson. You can learn more about me here.