Sales are hard in any line of work, but it can seem particularly tough as a creative individual. This is not necessarily always down to the practical challenge of securing projects, but more often than not down to your mentality. You hate sales. You hate the idea of having to sell yourself to get work. Unsurprisingly, sales aren’t going to go away in a hurry, so if you want to make a good go of things, you need to make sure you manage the sales process as effectively as possible.

As an owner of a creative studio, I’ve learnt a few things along the way that have helped me get over my dislike of ‘sales’.

Be organised

A nice and easy one to start. By simply being organised with how you manage prospective clients and projects, you can help secure an additional 25–50% of work (going from my experience). So what does being organised actually mean, you say? It means, recording each and every time a current or prospective client makes contact with you, taking details such as a rough outline of the project along with projected fee. By having a record of this information you can start mapping out a timeline to get in touch, keeping you at the forefront of the clients mind.

How you take a record of this information can be done in a multitude of ways, from scribbling down notes on paper, using good old spreadsheets, to paying and using a dedicated sales tool (CRM). It’s helped us increase turnover by a genuine 40% for an extra 15 minutes work a week!

How do I get a potential lead?

It’s all being well getting organised with your leads, but what if you’re starting from scratch and you have none? Can seem daunting I know. You should remember that you’re actually in the lucky position of having complete freedom of how you pitch your services, so embrace this. Make a list of the types of companies you would like to work with, then draw up a strategy to get your name in front of them. This is where I’ve found LinkedIn to be most effective.

I’ve also found when the sales pipeline is looking a little thin, nothing beats getting in touch with everyone you know in a business context, set up coffees and beers. Quite often you can strike lucky and help out with work just by being proactive. Acquiring a completely new client can cost many times more than with existing clients. Just think of all the additional meetings, relationship building and process to go through with a new client. So #1 approach is always to start with existing.

So you’ve exhausted your personal network, now what?

There is no substitute for face to face meetings with people. Do a little research into the local gathering and network events going on around your area, put your name forward and go press the flesh. From experience, there is nothing more awkward than an overly formal business networking event, so steer clear from these if you have any form of self awareness! Look out for meetings that are far more informal, quite often involving a drink or two — a bit of Dutch courage never goes amiss with these type of things.

Be very careful about free pitching

I make it a point of principle not to free pitch for work. After all, design is our currency, so why give it away for free? Of course, there are bigger agencies out there who speculate big money on free pitching, often securing them lucrative and renowned clients. This is almost impossible to make work as a small agency or freelancer, so think very hard whether you really want to put together that homepage design, before you’ve secured the project. An unsubstantiated and researched piece of design can be a dangerous thing as you’re often just catering to a clients visual preference, rather than what is best.

Don’t pay for online ads

I’ve almost never seen success in using pay per click ads for a service based company, particularly a small one with meagre budget. Spend your money on getting out there in person, and leave paid ads to product based businesses with big budgets!

Here’s hoping one of these sentences may resonate with you and help you secure that extra project you need.