Rewriting Common Mental Models About Introducing Yourself as a Freelancer

It’s time for you to upgrade to better clients. You want to help bigger problems, make a bigger dent, and work with good people while earning your living. Word-of-mouth has brought you work that’s more of the same, but now you want better work. So you know you have to find new people to talk to.

But: you get internal pushback at the thought of interrupting people to tell them you’re in business. You dodge the idea of sending cold emails. Plus, you know the odds are stacked against you: you’ll have to make a lot of introductions for a tiny percentage of work to come through.

So what do you do?

No way around it: we have to rewrite our mental models.

Rewriting Some Mental Models

Beneath the options that we perceive lie some lenses through which we see the world, that tint our perception. Call them biases, prejudices, conclusions, beliefs or convictions. I’ll call them mental models.

You know when a mental model is at work when you feel at odds, torn, unnerved. When you feel reactive, you know a mental model is creating a short-circuit in your thought process.

One sure-fire way to detect a mental model at work? You spot an “unless” in your mind, or you find a “surely”.

So to start, here are three common “unlesses” and “surely’s” that come up when setting out to introduce yourself to new potential clients:

1. If I’m the one introducing myself, surely I’ll get sent to the spam box.


Let’s rewrite this one:

Here, we’re just catching and rewriting. But we know there are more mental models underneath, that we’re just starting.

2. Since I’m a stranger, surely people won’t open up in a reply.

It’s true that you will be a stranger to them. But maybe the people you’re contacting are looking for new people to add to their list of freelancers to contact. Maybe they’ve got new projects down the line and they have anxiety about finding good people to work with.

So we can rewrite that to these two new mental models:

  • I can focus on contacting just the people that match my values and tastes, so that we can start the conversation at a place of mutual trust.
  • There must be a way to introduce myself in a genuine way that will create a sense that we’ve got stuff in common.

3. Unless I have a lot of proof to show, I’ll be dismissed as being a fraud.

It’s important to show proof that you can do the work. But if you’re going for a different challenge than what you’ve done before, especially if you’re ready to absorb some of the risk of doing the work, there should be a way for you to demonstrate some proof of your capabilities to a future client.

Let’s rewrite this to:

  • There has to be something I can tell about my previous work that will build trust and demonstrate I can achieve the result.

Maybe it’s the form of some articles you’ve written, paired with an outline of the approach you’ll take, and some parallels from past projects.

So those were three common mental models. We’ll have more of these articles that touch on the topic of mental models – those lenses that colour how we perceive our choices.

But since we’re on the topic of introducing yourself as a freelancer, stay tuned for an upcoming article on the “job” you’d be “hired” for when you end up on a future client’s “short list”.

Stay Sharp!


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