Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs I was constantly told, "You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it you're still going to be broke." The point is, if you're going to succeed in this (or any) business, you need to be in the business of selling.

So, what are you selling?

As a professional who provides a service, I often realize that I'm not actually in the business of selling web design, I'm actually selling... myself. That's right, if you don't like me, you're likely not going to hire me because there are thousands of eager geeks lining up for the job.

As a teenager, I did a web site for a local tailor shop, got a free suit out of the deal and set out to make my millions selling door to door. I recall a hilarious encounter with one would-be client, the owner of a large hotel in a small city who actually said to me scornfully, "You're a web designer? So what. You throw a stone nowadays and you hit a web designer. You guys are in here every week. Why should I listen to you?"

And this is where the line is drawn between selling the easy way, and selling the hard way.

The Hard Way

Cold calls, leads, follow-ups, fake smiles and suits; we've all been the victim of the poor sap in a suit, slinging a product to make a living or the crafty salesman trying to swindle us into buying something we don't need. The hard way of selling is being just another stranger selling a product.

Don't sell products, sell yourself

No sales pitch required. The nice thing about selling yourself, is that you can be yourself. Here are a few methods I use that have a sure-fire success rate:

1) The Shop & Talk Method

This is my favorite way to sell. Simply go shopping... walk from store to store, check out products, and linger in the stores you enjoy the most. Eventually you'll encounter a salesperson or even the owner of the business, and that's where the magic begins.

  • (you) "Wow, I love the design on this T shirt, who makes it?"
  • (salesperson) "Oh, they're a company out of Canada I think. Pretty sweet eh?"
  • (you) "Yea, I've always thought it would be fun to design T shirts. I make web sites right now."

At this point the person you're talking to will either express interest or ignore you. If they express interest, tell them a little more about how much you love your job, and if they need a web site, they'll ask you for help. It's as simple as that. No sales pitch.

2) The No Bullshit Email Method

When I don't feel like leaving the house, I use this method, which is lazier, but still effective. Simply do a Google search for a topic, like "web design vancouver", or "chrome plating los angeles", and start cruising the web sites. When you encounter one that needs some work, email them with a no bullshit, no salespitch personal message.

If it's an agency:

  • "Hey, I'm a freelance designer in the area, check out my portfolio if you could use a bit of help. Cheers."

Believe me, if they're looking for help, they'll click the link to your site in your signature. If not, you don't want to be cold calling them anyway.

If it's a business directly:

  • "Hey, What would it cost to chrome plate the frame on my motorbike? I have a 98 Ninja. Also, I'm a web designer, I'd love to help out with your site if you're interested. Send a note back either way. Cheers."

Or, if you don't want to ask about a product:

  • "Hey, I just noticed ____ and ____ about your web site. I'm a web designer and I'd love to help work on it. Let me know if you're interested. Cheers."

Again, if they're interested, you haven't invaded their business in any way, you didn't subject them to reading (or immediately deleting) a long boring sales pitch, so they'll likely get back to you. If they're not interested, they simply won't return your email.

To Sum it Up

In order to sell your services, you need to first sell yourself. You sell yourself by being yourself, shopping where you enjoy, emailing businesses you'd shop at, and by not caring whether you close a sale or not. You're here to live your life, you love your job and you're damn good at it. Don't worry about making a sales pitch, just offer to help wherever you can.

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