What I’ve learned from 20 discovery calls

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This is a guest post by Rebekah Mays, the owner of Thrive Copywriting. She helps sustainable and purpose-driven brands grow their leads and sales through SEO content strategy and writing. You can learn more about her and join our growing community of conscientious marketers at www.thrivecopywriting.com.

Does pitching your creative services in a real-time conversation make you nervous?

I know it does for a lot of freelance creative professionals.

But in most cases, getting comfortable with discovery calls (also known as introductory calls or sales calls) is one of the best ways to level up your freelance career.

Last week, I conducted my twentieth discovery call, and I realized how much I’ve learned from them over the past few years.

To help you get a little more comfortable with these calls yourself, I wanted to share with you the top five lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson #1: Nervousness and impostor syndrome are normal

Guess what? Even though I’ve done 20 of these calls, I still get a little nervous before them.

I’m worried the prospect will uncover that I’m a fraud, and that I don’t know I’m talking about — which of course is just the impostor syndrome talking.

But even when I give a rambling answer to a question, or my voice and hands are shaking like crazy … the prospect doesn’t seem to notice or mind.

Several of these calls have turned into great projects, so I have proof my nervousness is not as big of a deal as it is in my head.

The bottom line is: feeling nervous before a call is normal. So do the call anyway.

Over time, you’ll build up resilience and realize that you can, in fact, survive a call with a potential client – and may even win the project!

Lesson #2: A bit of info upfront goes a long way

Even though a few nerves are inevitable in my opinion, having a bit of information about the prospect beforehand helps a LOT with feeling more prepared for the conversation.

I use Calendly to schedule my calls, and the free version allows me to ask up to 10 questions to my prospect.

I ask questions about their company … what kind of project they have in mind … and what they’re hoping to achieve.

This, coupled with maybe 15 to 30 minutes of research on their website, allows me to prepare relevant questions for the call so it will be a good use of everyone’s time.

Lesson #3: They won’t all work out – and they shouldn’t!

When you’re just starting out … or desperate for work … it’s easy to put too much pressure on the discovery call and feel it MUST go well.

But that’s not the best way to look at it.

First of all, the prospect may just be in info-gathering mode, and may not even have a specific project in mind.

Or, the prospect may not be a good fit for you. Maybe you notice some red flags, or the project is outside your area of expertise.

Not all discovery calls will lead to a project. And that’s okay! If nothing else, it’s great practice – practice that will help you get better.

Lesson #4: Bring up the money

The money conversation is a big topic we don't have time to fully unpack here, but I’ve learned that talking about money early on is important when qualifying a prospect.

Ideally, by the end of that first conversation, you want to know if they can afford you – or if they have a bigger budget than you initially thought.

At the same time, you don’t want to blurt out a number without thinking.

I like to ask them questions like “do you have a budget in mind?” and “were you thinking in the hundreds or the thousands?” to get an idea of their budget.

I also try to be ready with a fee range for the project so I can see how they react.

The point isn't necessarily to lock down a specific number for the project, but to see if you’re on the same wavelength.

If you’re not ready to give a project range, don’t be afraid to tell them you need some time to think about it and that you'll get back to them.

Lesson #5: Follow-up is key

A positive discovery call is a great way to start a relationship with a prospect. But it doesn’t mean much if you don’t follow up.

I like to email my prospect ASAP after the call with a little summary of what we talked about and a reminder of our next steps.

If I don’t hear back within a week or so, I’ll make sure to follow up and check they got the message.

With some prospects, I’ve had to follow up MANY times before it turned into a paid project.

Whatever your situation, the important thing is to not drop the ball when it comes to communication.

In fact, it’s best to think of yourself as the one in charge of the communication. Most likely, your prospect is super busy and will appreciate you keeping things moving.

More discovery calls, more clients!

Discovery calls are an incredibly powerful tool for building your freelance creative business.

They allow you to connect with prospects in real time, and help you access the information you need to choose clients wisely and price your projects confidently.

If you still get nervous about them, don’t worry! Many of us still do.

My advice is to schedule as many calls as you can anyway so you can practice your skills.

With time, you’ll get more and more comfortable with them. You’ll earn higher rates. And you’ll build yourself a base of wonderful clients you love working with.

If you need to get good at the money conversation, check out Worth It: How Getting Good at the Money Conversation Pays Off by Ilise Benun

And listen to Rebekah share what she's learned about The Secret to a Winning Proposal on the podcast here or below: 

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