How to sell yourself and win business when you freelance

When you run a business, you are literally representing yourself at all times. It's you, and you alone. So it's crucial that you're not only good with people, but also great at selling yourself. That's whether you're networking, talking to friends or having a meeting with a prospective client.

But you'd be surprised how many people struggle to sell themselves successfully and win business. It's definitely a skill that you have to conquer, but it will take some time to get there. For now, the following tips will help win people over...

Dress the part

First impressions really do count, so always dress smart when meeting people. You don't have to wear a suit if you're in the creative industries but you can still look presentable. People are pretty laid-back these days, although they still associate 'smart' with 'professional', so dress the part.

Get your body language right

Body language speaks volumes, so learn how to present yourself the right way. On initial meeting, make sure you shake hands firmly and look people in the eye. Soft, weak handshakes from people who avoid direct eye contact is frankly creepy. Don't fold your arms or cross your legs either – it suggests you've got something to hide. Don't point, it's rude. Don't slouch because it'll look like you don't care.

Be confident in your skills

Confidence is infectious. If you're not confident in yourself or your abilities it will be obvious and people will be turned off. You've gone freelance and that's a big leap... Now it's time to start taking yourself seriously and realise you've got skills that people want to pay for – so be confident.

Play the soft sell

You'd be surprised how many people still go in with the aggressive 'hard sell' these days. You really don't have to. Remember that people don't like to be 'sold to', they tend to rebel against that approach. Instead, go in soft and just talk about what you can do. Listen to people's problems and make friendly suggestions on how they could resolve them. You don't need to sell, sell, sell – it's overkill, if anything.

Pretend you don't need the work

Avoid looking desperate for work. You want to come across as calm and self-assured. If you're desperate, people will smell it and they'll either try to take advantage of you by pushing down your prices, or they might go elsewhere.

Say you're really busy

People or potential clients will always ask 'how's business?'. Make sure you smile, look passionate and say that you're very busy and loving every minute of it. Busy freelancers are busy for a reason – because they're good. And they'll want a slice of the good stuff too, so always say you're doing great in business.

Slip in the odd testimonial

Whenever I'm having meetings with potential clients, I always talk about things I've done for other people that have been a success. There's always an opportunity to slip in the odd testimonial and successful case study. Always think about ways in which you can show off your skills.

Be likeable

People like to work with people they like, so if there's parts of your personality that need some work – address them. For example, if you're shy – it can come across as rude and aloof. Work on your confidence by attending classes or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Pick out someone you admire and adopt their positive traits. Watch people and see what makes them likeable. Be someone people like to be around.

Be a chameleon

Everyone is different, so start to try and adapt yourself to different personality types. Be a chameleon and make yourself suitable to those laid-back, fun clients but also be appealable to those more corporate, stuffy types. You'll get better and better at sussing people out from the very moment you meet them. My advice is to listen, watch and learn at all times. Take a step back and let the other person do most of the talking at first. You can learn a lot from someone in those initial chats.

Learn to listen more than you talk

When people come and visit you to potentially hire you, they'll want to talk about their 'baby', i.e. their own business. They'll probably talk about their company before you even begin to talk about what you can do to help. Let them. Sit back, listen and ask questions. Be genuinely interested and take relevant notes. Don't interrupt. You'll get your chance to talk, but listening is far more important to begin with.

Be passionate

There's nothing more appealing than someone who clearly loves what they do for a living, so be passionate about your work. Get excited, smile and talk about some of your success projects. People will really want to work with you when they see how much you love doing what you do.

Be positive

Negativity really does repel people, so stick to a happy, positive attitude at all times. Be upbeat, fun and happy. The odd joke here and there helps as everyone loves someone with a good sense of humour. Just stick to the appropriate stuff and you'll be fine.