How to Add Modesty to Your Intros as a Freelancer

In the previous article, we saw some beliefs (mental models) that make us hesitate to introduce ourselves to potential clients as freelancers.

We rewrote one of the mental models to this:

It’s true, your introduction might come at just the right time, but it might not be to hire you outright for a full-fledged consulting gig just yet. It might be to hire you for something way more modest.

You’re up Against Some Strong Forces

Each time someone hires a freelancer, just like each time someone hires a product (the core idea behind Jobs-to-be-done), there are forces at play in the mind of the buyer, pulling towards a “yes, now”, or pushing back toward a “not this, not now”.

Forces Diagram

To get good at sales, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and map out those forces. Crucially, it’ll make a huge difference to know how the fourth force, the one about the buyer’s alliegance to their current way of doing things, by far has the strongest pull back towards “non-consumption”.

We’ve already covered the forces at play about hiring you as a freelancer on a gig. You have a lot of anxieties to address, and your fees aren’t even the top anxiety on the list!

  • ←⚬ I’m not sure if I’ll be able to translate what I’m going through in terms they’ll really understand;
  • ←⚬ I’m hesitating about the fact that I might not understand the technical bits they’ll be talking about when describing their solution;
  • ←⚬ I’m not prepared for them to upsell me with things I don’t need;
  • ←⚬ I’m not sure we’ll be able to communicate effectively, when working together;
  • ←⚬ I don’t know if it’ll take a lot of time, what I’m asking for;
  • ←⚬ I don’t know if it’ll cost a lot of money, what I’m asking for;
  • ←⚬ I’m not sure they can do exactly what I need to get done.

So it pays to address those anxieties as much as you can.

It also pays to realize that hiring you as a consultant on an actual gig, that’s a “big” hire.

Before The Big Hire,
Before the Small Hire,
Is the Modest Hire.

Let’s work our way backwards from the “big” hire.

  1. Eventually, your potential client will hire you for that big gig. You’ll be trusted to deliver on some big impact for them.
  2. Before that, that potential client will hire you for a small gig, a try-out of some sort. Maybe it’s a one-off report, or a single deliverable, just to see how it is to work with you. There are a bunch of ways to package what you do into those first try-out gigs, and you can publish those right on your site.
  3. But before that, potential clients can hire you for something modest: “bookmark” you on their short list for later.

The Job-to-be-done of “Bookmarking” You for Later

You might get hired for the big hire in your introduction to a potential client. You might even get hired for something smaller to start. But in every intro, you know you at least have to help them make progress on one thing: an empty short list is a bad thing to have.

So here are the forces of progress for the struggle of not having enough people on the short list:

Struggle of the Moment:

  • ⚬→ I’m on the hook for a certain responsibility, and it’s not going well. I’ve got a budget, but I’ve got a deadline. To make matters worse, I don’t even have people I’ve vetted for that task.
  • ⚬→ There’s a market opportunity, I see a way to take advantage of it, but boy I don’t want to miss it. We better get on this very soon, but I don’t know anyone I’d trust.
  • ⚬→ I’ve been trying to doing it myself for a while, but now it’s getting too much, and we don’t have a need to hire someone full-time. I want to find an expert so we set it up properly, and I first need to find somebody who can tell me if I’m even doing it right.
  • ⚬→ We’re starting something a little ambitious that’s going to adjust our course, maybe gain back some reputation, and we don’t have the chops within our team to do it. We don’t want to kill the momentum, so let’s start the process of finding people who can help out.

If you happen to introduce yourself while they’re in that struggle, and your intro is there to modestly equip them with a contact that has some authority, then you’ll be the “solution” to their struggle.

Attraction of the Solution:

  • →⚬ I’ll be able to get at least one person who might be a good fit;
  • →⚬ They seem to have the required expertise and knowledge, judging by the site’s design and what they present;
  • →⚬ There’s proof that they’ve done good work in the past for the kinds of problems I’m experiencing;
  • →⚬ I can just “bookmark” them for later;
  • →⚬ That person has a newsletter, a Twitter feed I can subscribe to, so I can keep an eye out for new things they publish;
  • →⚬ That person seems calm, non-pushy and confident. I might see myself working with that person in the future.

Anxieties About the Solution:

And yet, despite those attractive traits about your modesty and utility, you know they’ll be some internal pushback, like…

  • ←⚬ When I’ll be ready to go ahead with a gig, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to translate what I’m going through in terms they’ll really understand;
  • ←⚬ If I subscribe to that person’s newsletter, will I be bombarded with sales attempts?
  • ←⚬ I’m not sure they can do exactly what I need to get done.

Fewer anxieties: that’s good. But there still are a few to make sure you address.

Habits of the Present:

And of course, your real competition, is what they’ll revert back to when in their minds they default back to these “I’ll just” statements.

  • ⚬← We’ll just try to do it in-house;
  • ⚬← I’ll just learn to do some of it myself, it shouldn’t be too complicated;
  • ⚬← We’ll just go with someone we’ve worked with in the past and know we can work well with, even if they don’t do this service exactly. We’ll learn about how to do this new thing together.

So there you have it: getting “bookmarked” as a consultant is a modest hire, but it’s a solid first hire.

Going into your introduction knowing that there’s at least this one job you can help them get progress on – getting freelancers on their short list – that’s the secret to adding modesty to those intros.

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