Allow us to on a little journey together…
[INT. COWORKING SPACE – DAYTIME]
A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR sits at a table, minding his own business. A NEW MEMBER, A FREELANCER enters the room and makes his way over to the same table.
Hey, this seat taken? Do you mind if I…?
Not at all, all yours.
FREELANCER sits down and sets up his laptop. A couple of beats pass in silence.
So… what do you do?
(peering up screen) Me? I, ah, run my own ecommerce business.
Oh, rad. Super cool…
Silence falls again.
…and what do you sell?
(peering up from screen again, this time confused by ensuing interaction) I sell custom designed room diffusers.
Oh, no way. My mum had a room diffuser once! Wonder if she bought it from you, ha… Small world, huh.
Yeah, sure is ca-razy.
More silence. Air starts to thicken.
…so how did you get into that?
ENTREPRENEUR looks up sharply and places hand atop laptop screen hinting towards prior engagement.
Selling things online? Or making peoples rooms smell like childhood memories?
Both. But you know, like, the making money part?
(exhales, blinks a few times) Well, I found a niche gap in the market then started sourcing products and promoting them through social media. Pretty standard stuff.
Oh so it’s, like, real easy then?
I wouldn’t say its ea–
‘Cos I want to do something similar, like, in the online space. You know? Sell stuff to people and make money from it.
(exasperated) You want to start an ecommerce brand?
Nah. Well, maybe. I dunno. Basically I want to figure how to make cash from my couch so then I can, like, travel and sleep in and still be rich. Sorry, you’re probably super busy right now. I’ll leave you alone.
Well, you just need a good idea that hasn’t–
Oh man, really? I’ve got heaps of those! Hey, can I pick your brain right now? So I was thinking…
ANNNND END SCENE. Moral of the story? There is a time and a place to do business and a time and a place to, well, not.
If that short skit aroused something within you then it’s probably because you resonated with one of those characters. Either you’re the guy trying to get work done or you’re the guy just trying to get some work. Being a freelancer and figuring out how to hold your own in either case can be half the stress of the gig.
When it comes to contract jobs, you’re getting booked not only for the skills you offer but because the client likes the way you operate. You’re getting booked because you ask the right amount of questions without being needy, because you are self-sufficient without being presumptuous, and because you are interested without being invasive. Learning these parameters and how to manipulate them is the key to success.
But when you’re a freelancer who moves around a lot (dare I say it, a digital nomad *shudders*) then you never know when you might bump into your next prospective client. It certainly won’t be around an office if you don’t have one. If you’re not used to the unconventional framework of being a vagabond, conducting yourself in social-turned-potential-business scenarios can be kind of weird.
I’ll save you the cringe of more awkward scripts and instead let’s run through the dos and don’ts of interacting with potential clients in atypical scenarios. Starting with the most obvious, in case it wasn’t already clear…
Scenario #1: a coworking space
There is nothing a coworking space inhabitant loathes more than paying a fee for a membership only to use it and get absolutely zero work done. Sure, these environments are appealing for their networking, community and social capacities but they are also sanctuaries away from distractions like the fridge and the bed to sit down in and get shit done. Disrespecting someone’s time and space by invading it will not get you invites to anyone’s Christmas party.
The rule is this: if you think a person can help you with your business, offer to buy them lunch. If you think you can help a person with their business, drop your website/socials/email address and leave the rest up to the universe.
Scenario #2: social media
It’s true: a lot of business these days gets done over social media. In fact, a lot of business these days is social media. So if you’re slippin’ and sliddin’ into DM’s and inboxes try to sound like you have a genuine heartbeat. Do your research and find out the actual name of your recipient rather than addressing them by their handle; speak in the same tone as the profile you’re DM’ing from (whether that be your brand or your private page); and try to make your message sound personal so it looks like it’s come from, well, an actual person.
Hey @cherrybummum awesome post * thumbs up emoji * check out our page for more info on our protein shakes for chicks on the go * black love heart emoji * #girlswholift
Hey Laura, we’ve loved following your fitness progress. Being a mum of three can be tough but you’ve really proven it’s no excuse not to keep looking after yourself. Maybe you could try one of our protein shakes and let your followers know if you like it? Its great for gains and we even have a cherry flavour in stock. Let us know if you’re keen?
Scenario #3: a networking event
Try not to make it too obvious that you’re broke and desperate. Call it ‘client acquisition mode’ and save the sob story about how you just moved back in with your parent’s for your autobiography. Networking events are great and should be attended whether your books are full or not but if they currently err on the side of ‘not’ then make it your business not to make that anyone else’s business. It won’t help sell your skills.
Try these helpful replacement phrases during your interactions:
I have no clients so yes of course I will take your work no matter what it is.
Let me double-check my schedule. * Opens and closes emails on phone *
Yep, looks like I can make myself available first thing Monday.
I desperately need your business because I can no long survive off white rice and beans
How wonderful, I have been eagerly awaiting a project less vanilla than my others. Let’s talk further. First thing Monday?
Of course when you are a free-time full-lance entrepreneur there are plenty more scenarios in which you may score potential new clients – the gym, the surf, the shops, the local beer pong tournament – but in the spirit of keeping my message consistent, I won’t waste anymore of your time. With these tips, I trust you can now gauge exactly how to conduct yourself in the more obscure professional environments being a roaming operative throws your way.
In the mean time, if anyone needs any creative copy written for their business, I’m available first thing Monday