Peter Bowerman Guest Post – part II – Anxiety-Free Cold-Calling

Peter Bowerman has been a successful freelancer for two decades. He’s made a lucrative career out of writing, and we’re thrilled to have his advice for our freelance friends.

If you missed his first guest post on Brandscaping, click here to read it.

Anxiety-Free Cold-Calling

How to Make Phone Prospecting Productive— Minus the Stress!

by Peter Bowerman

cold calling(An adapted excerpt from The Well-Fed Writer (2010; Fanove) by Peter Bowerman)  

Action or Results?  In my seminars, I’ll ask, “When starting a cold-calling campaign (to drum up business for your freelance practice), should you focus on action or results?” Many immediately yell out, “Results!” Why? “Well, we’re judged on results,” or “Results are all that matter.” One way to look at it…

I say “Action” is the right answer. Think about it. What’s true of action that isn’t true of results? If you answered,You can control action, but you can’t control results, go to the head of the class.

You have no control over the results of any given phone call or email. Nor how that person on the other end of the line will react to your contact. Or whether that individual will think your portfolio is good enough to consider hiring you. Or even whether they’re having a bad day.

Sure, you can improve your results by, say, getting more comfortable with your phone skills, choosing better prospects and beefing up your “book” (portfolio). But still, fundamentally, the one thing you have control over is the actions you take.

An example…

Two freelancers both start cold-calling at 9:00 a.m. Freelancer #1’s goal? To land two new writing projects or three hot prospects by 5:00 p.m. Freelancer #2’s goal? To make 50 calls. Now, tell me: Who’s going to have a more stressful day?

Around 2:00 p.m., if #1 has landed neither gigs nor interest, you think the desperation is going to start seeping into his voice? How do you think that’ll work out for him?

Meanwhile, #2, cool as a cucumber, makes his 50 calls—unconcerned about the outcome (that would be focusing on results again!)—and he’s done.

Here’s the key: Make those 30, 40 or 50 calls a day (to the kinds of prospects you’ve determined are your ideal targets—that’s key), and the results—hot prospects and writing jobs—will come. Minus the anxiety. The Law of Averages is ironclad.

And I don’t care how those calls turn out (i.e., live contact, voice mail, message left with a secretary, appointment, dinner date, etc.). Keep calling and the results are assured. And in my experience (both personally and in feedback from countless freelancers), taking an “action-over-results” approach will significantly ratchet down the “fear factor.”

Just a “Telemarketer”? Really?

Another thing. In a seminar I was doing a few years back, a woman raised her hand and said, very earnestly, “I just hate the idea of cold calling, because I hate telemarketers, and I think most people feel the same.” Whoa.

I looked at her and asked, “Is that who you think you are? Just an obnoxious telemarketer—no different from the people who rudely interrupt your dinner to peddle aluminum siding, long-distance service, carpet cleaning, and a zillion other things you have no interest in?”

Understand this: Assuming you’re a competent, reliable freelance practitioner, when you reach out to prospects, you’ll be a professional marketing a valuable and needed professional service to other professionals. Period.

While the people you call may not need your services (80 percent won’t) or even have the time to talk to you, I promise they won’t be viewing you as an irritating telemarketer. So, don’t dare view yourself this way.

Action, Not Results…Again

I sold books door-to-door in college. Our goal was 30 demos a day (the equivalent of phone calls made to prospects). A “demo” was roughly defined as pulling the books out and beginning our pitch—either in the house or at the door—whether or not we got to finish it.

Making “sales” the goal (i.e., results) would’ve introduced unnecessary anxiety into the process. They knew if we made 30 honest demos a day or close to it, the sales would come. And they did. Same here.

There were days as bookmen, where we’d put in our honest 13½ hours (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; insanity, yes, but character-building insanity) and come up with…bupkus. Growth and Development Days, we called them. Very, very rare.

Our sales managers would congratulate us on having a G&D day, adding, By the way, you do know that you’ll sell the first three houses you visit tomorrow, don’t you?

And I’m telling you straight here, we always did, because, I’m convinced we were, well…convinced. On my first call one morning following a G&D day, I remember approaching someone getting in their car in the driveway, briefcase in hand, about to head to work, and absolutely knowing that, despite the unpromising-looking circumstances, this person was going to buy a set of books (a $40 purchase).

I guess he knew it too, because he did. As did the next two after him. Approach cold calling with that same bone-deep belief in the Law of Averages, focus on simply taking the actions, forget how they turn out, and you can’t help but win.

Have you tried cold calling in your business?

How did it work out? If it went well, share a bit!

If it didn’t go well, what happened?

If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopped you?


Love to write but hate to starve? Visit for a free report, ezine and blog on the lucrative field of “commercial” freelancing—writing for businesses and for $50-125+ an hour. All written by Peter Bowerman, veteran commercial freelancer, writing/publishing coach, and the author of the three award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles, the self-published how-to “standards” on lucrative commercial freelancing. He chronicled his self-publishing success (currently, 70,000 copies of his books in print and a full-time living since 2001) in the award-winning 2007 release (and its 2014 update), The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living.

TRAIN Yourself For Success – Target

I’m working on a new client acquisition system, and future posts will focus on one section at a time.

image via

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  • Research
  • Acquire
  • Innovate
  • Nurture

The Ideal Client.

I’ve been working with local freelancers to overcome some of the challenges we face as we’re trying to build our business, and one of the questions I ask is: Who is your ideal client?

In many cases, the freelancer isn’t sure. They often know who they’d like to work with, but they have a vague idea as to who that client is and why they’d really like to work with them. Defining your answer should connect you with clients you enjoy working with on projects you can be excited about.

I set hard parameters for my ideal client and target my marketing efforts to resonate with this client. By targeting my ideal client and showing my values and expectations, I’m speaking their language and I’m more likely to convert them from prospect to partner, faster and easier. If my marketing spills outside of my definition of an ideal client, that’s fine and it can help with the feast/famine cycles that are common in this line of work, but this strategy should net better results than the spray’n pray shotgun method of trying to please everyone.

Instead of using the shotgun approach, where your marketing is broad and vague and all you really want is to grab the attention of any client, the targeted approach allows you to work with people/companies that share your values and allow you to pursue your creative direction. Working in a mutually beneficial environment like this is good for you and your client.  Win/Win should always be your goal, and if you have your ideal client in mind at all times, you will find your satisfaction goes up while your stress level goes down, allowing you to focus on providing exceptional service to your clients.

How’s this different than a niche?

Your ideal clients share many traits, but they might not be in the same industry or sector and they probably aren’t offering the same type of project. If your skillset is writing, your ideal client might want you to write blog posts for the telecom space, while another ideal client might need you to write an annual report for their charity. You’re the one who defines your preferred characteristics, so you’re the only who decides who’s ideal. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on a niche, and depending on the type of freelancing you do, this might be essential to your success, but you might be able to broaden your client base and work in different sectors on different projects – providing that the client is the type of person/business you want to work with.

How do you define your ideal client?

This is a very subjective question, and the answer will change throughout your career. As your skills and experiences grow, you’ll be able to identify the type of client you want to work with and you’ll have the portfolio and skills they’re looking for.

To figure out who your ideal client is, ask yourself:

  • What kind of client do you enjoy working with the most?
  • What is it about them/their projects that you enjoy?
  • What traits of previous/current clients do you least enjoy? (late payments, poor communications, vague strategy, etc)
  • Where is your ideal client located?
  • How well do they represent your business?

It could be as simple as they pay well/quickly, or the project is for a cause you’re passionate about. They might be a local client you currently support, or they might be an international company that will provide notability for your portfolio. Whatever it is, be sure you want to work with them before you proceed.

My ideal client:

  • Clear communicator with quick response time
  • Reasonable expectations and clear strategy
  • Payment received within three weeks of date on invoice
  • Projects in the technical space, including telecom and new tech, or financial, including budgeting and communications.
  • Understands value versus cost
  • Results driven
  • Local (Westshore area of Victoria – but I’m flexible on this characteristic)

Some of these characteristics are going to be easily found, but the rest will only come up through conversation with the client and clear communication of our mutual expectations. I can usually tell what kind of communicator a prospective client is before we have our first meeting, but payment processes and expectations will require further conversation. Luckily, I love talking to clients, new and old.

By defining these characteristics I can identify opportunities during the next steps of the client acquisition process. Not every client is going to meet each of my expectations, but through clear communications on my part, I can help set these expectations and lay the foundation for a great relationship.

So now that you know who you want to work with, what’s the next step to turn them from a prospect into a client? Stay tuned for the next section – Research

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