#007: The Weird Mindset Shift That Will Help You Close More (and Better!) Deals

Summary: In this episode of Smarter freelancing podcast Ed will discuss an interesting mindset shift that will help you close more (and better!) deals faster and with less stress.

It's not the economy. It's not global competition.

And it's not Elance, Fiverr or content mills.

It's YOU!

Only you can make the changes needed to boost your freelance income and start working with better clients.

But it all starts by making this weird mindset shift.

This shift is critical, because it actually stacks the deck in your favor! It attracts better prospects to you. And it helps you close more of the projects you quote.

That's what I'm discussing in this week's podcast episode.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Let's start with some sobering statistics...

Closing the Deal Is a Huge Challenge for Most

Nearly 2/3rd of freelancers are only closing half or more of what they quote
33% are closing fewer than a quarter of the projects they quote.
Only 17.1% are closing 80% or more of what they quote.

Why this matters:

It's time consuming to quote work and create proposals
It's demoralizing to close half or less of what you quote
It destroys creativity and creates fear

It doesn't have to be this way. And yet, when trying to solve this problem, too many freelancers are asking the wrong questions. Rather than asking yourself, "What can I do about the commoditization of creative services?" Ask yourself, "Is there a way to close more of what I quote/propose?"

In other words, "Is there a way that I can more powerfully attract a handful of quality prospects rather than tinkering with a larger group of lukewarm prospects?"

This is not the way we're taught to think in traditional business, especially corporate settings. In those environments, it's all about closing MORE deals, regardless of quality.

Begin by shifting your MINDSET

It's about shifting your focus to quality and away from quantity

You don't have the time to field every inquiry and engage every prospect.

You're not a public company that HAS to make quarterly numbers (and will therefore take on ANY business that comes their way).

Most of you also don't have a payroll of 20 employees

Think of your business as a boutique tour bus company. Who would you want on your bus for that long?

You can't close what's NOT closeable! It's not our "duty" to try and take every inquiry to the goal line.

So here's the mindset shift: When you get an inquiry, rather than asking yourself, "How can I turn this inquiry into a client?" ... shift that to the following:

"I'm glad I have this inquiry. I don't know if we're a good fit. So let's first find out. If they are a good fit, great. But if they're not, I want to at least realize this early so we can go our separate ways without wasting each other's time..."

The Prospect Bell Curve


Out of every 10 decent prospects...

2 or 3 (left side) will probably hire you with minimal skill or effort
2 or 3 (right side) will never hire you
4 – 6 (the middle) could go either way

The right strategy for long-term freelance prosperity:

Close the 2 or 3 easy wins
Immediately screen out the 2 or 3 that will never hire you
Maximize the middle group

It's about winning at the margin—about winning the right prospects who are on the fence. Forget about the rest!

You WANT Funnel Leakage!

This is more of a theoretical view of what you want, but it's still useful:

Prospects who scan your website –-> 30% – 50% feel strongly enough to proceed
After initial prospect conversation –-> 50% - 75% are qualified & get quote/proposal
Once they review your quote/proposal --> 80%+ become a client


What you want is for your funnel to have most of its leaks EARLY in the process.

Funnel leakage IS a good thing! That way, what you DO end up quoting is solid. Hence the 80%+ closing ratio.

Look at it as a great way to stack the deck in your favor!

Where do you start? You start by positioning yourself better!

Look at companies like Apple, Starbucks and restaurants like Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa, FL. These brands don't make excuses for not trying to be all things to all people!

It's no different when you're a solo professional.

A Positioning Exercise

Spend some time defining and clarifying the following:

This is what I do.
This is whom I can best serve.
This is why I'm different.
This is why that difference matters to my target market.

And if you feel compelled to do so, spend some time defining what you stand for (your purpose).

The longer you've been in business for yourself, the easier this should be to define.

Take the time to think this through. Don't rush through it. And once you feel you have real clarity into the answers, use these findings to craft a better message (on your site, in your conversations with prospects) that accurately reflects what you're all about.

Yes, this journey continues. There's more to positioning than what I've shared here. But if you can get to this place, you're 80% through this battle!

What are your thoughts on making this mindset shift? Please let me know in the comments area below?


  • FrankyFreedom

    Another thing to consider is the method of dealing with the potential clients who "leak through the funnel". That is, a potential client (or organization) does not exist at a fixed point on the bell curve through time. Sometimes the cards are just not lined up properly. This means that it is likely most effective in the long term to provide ALL prospective clients with as much helpful information/guidance as you are COMFORTABLE providing for AS LONG as the relationship last before you decide it is not worth pursuing seriously at the current time. In the case where you decide the prospect is NOT a good fit this time you can STILL offer them some courteous advice on how THEY can proceed to meet their goals (ex. suggesting another source, recommending them to a more suitable freelancer in your network, etc.). In the end, you will part ways with this person on amiable terms AND in the future if/when they may be a more suitable prospect (ex. they advance in their career/skills, move to a different company, etc.) you and they will have set up a good rapport. This is also why it is important to continue cultivating your the contacts in your network so that these past prospects remain connected to you and what you are doing.

    • edgandia

      I couldn't agree more. Always treat prospects with courtesy and respect, even if they're not a good fit for you. People always remember how you treated them, and you never know whom they'll talk to ... or where they might be next.

  • Great episode Ed. I've been working on shifting my mindset this year, and in particular in the last few months. I've been enjoying more funnel leakage this year than ever before, and I'm happy about that. =) I'm getting more serious prospects, and while I haven't closed all of them, my discussions are more meaningful, and my warm email list is growing with each conversation.

    Cheers, and keep'em coming!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Julia! Great to hear this. 😉

  • Jon P

    Ed, this is a great bookend to your first episode. I just left a comment there that applies just as much to this one.

    I'd like to challenge your assumption that because there's so much noise out there, the podcast replaces your other content. When somebody loves what you're creating, they want more of it, IMHO.

    The self awareness you're advocating in this episode can change everything for solo professionals if they take it to heart. Thanks again, keep up the great work!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Jon! And I agree -- this can be a game-changing mindshift for those who apply it. Appreciate your comments and support!

  • yes, income, freedom is by creating ourselves, to change ourselves toward something better. The work plans and good for myself.

    • edgandia

      Thanks for your comment, Hopy.