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4 Sales hacks for getting new clients, winning negotiations, and closing the deal every time

Table of ContentsUpdated Mar 09, 2015

I get that it’s possible to make good money without ever dealing with clients. But still, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess: you work with clients on an almost-daily basis.

And, let’s be honest, clients can be intimidating. Especially at first.

Because, as a creative entrepreneur, you may not feel like a natural salesman, negotiator, or closer. You’re an artist. You make amazing, beautiful, functional things.

I think David said it best here:

“I’m an artist first. I care about creating beautiful, functional things more than anything else. If I could just sit in a room all day and create and pay the bills – well, that’d be just fine with me.”

If you haven’t learned this yet, let me save you the heartache down the line: there are people out there who will take advantage of you as a creative.

So today, for a brief moment, I want you to take off your “creative” hat and replace it with your “salesman” hat.

After all, that’s what going solo is all about: wearing different hats.

Below, you’ll find some top sales hacks that have helped me close deals, negotiate price and scope and get new (quality) clients over the last decade.

Have a look and please add your sales hacks to the list by leaving a comment.

1. Set yourself up to be the one who CAN live without this deal

The most important change I’ve ever made about negotiation and sales is to set myself up as the one who can live without the deal.

If you’ve built your business as one that’s 100% dependent on client work to stay afloat, you have a high risk of being taken advantage of.

Why? Because your clients will sense how desperate you are for their business.

And when you’re desperate, you’ll take anything. Low pay, high demands, zero creative freedom. When you’re the one that needs your client’s paycheck more than they need your services, you have absolutely NO negotiation power.

How can you set yourself up to be less desperate for the next client paycheck (no matter how low)?

Build a business that doesn’t depend 100% on clients. Here are a few more resources to help you do just that:

2. (Really) Know the person on the other side of the table

If you’re going to come out winning in any negotiation, you’ve got to know the person your negotiating with better than you think.

Why? Knowing them helps you cater to their needs more quickly and effectively.

I once had a client who opened up to me one day telling me how hard it was to find a designer he could trust and truly rely on.

Guess what: when that client calls me, I know he’s really hoping he doesn’t have to call anyone else. And he’ll probably pay a little more fair rate than someone who’s working with 500+ designers on some crowdsourcing platform.

So I always quote him fair but high. And I never have to settle. He pays for my work, but he’s also paying me to eliminate the need to search for another designer. It’s a win-win.

Here’s another story from Joseph Malleck in a post he wrote here at Millo:

The other day a really great client of mine sent me an email for a small job. It was a small advertisement design for a mailer. I knew that a lady in their office had expressed interest in blogging for the company, so I asked if now would be a good time to get the blog up and running?

He agreed that it would be a good idea to set that up. Now, that small job turned into a larger job just with a little suggestion. I wasn’t pushy or rude. I didn’t try and guilt them and make them feel that if they didn’t go with a custom blog that they would lose business. I simply suggested it, and mentioned some benefits. That’s all.

Read the rest of this story here: How to be a top-notch salesman, grow your design business, and still be likeable

You can also read more negotiation tips here: How to negotiate with clients (or anyone) like a pro

3. Master the art of the upsell

If you haven’t figured out how to totally master the art of the upsell, you’re missing out on tons of potential revenue for your business.

Joseph’s example (in #2 above) is centered around a great upsell. They called him for a small project (some sort of web banner) and he sold them on designing their entire company blog.


The post found here outlines 4 key steps to successfully upselling your clients on their next project:

  • Establish a relationship of trust with the client.
  • Begin by offering friendly suggestions instead of pushy sales pitches.
  • Only push services that the client really needs/wants.
  • Learn to accept ‘No’ for an answer.

Read the details and how-tos behind the points above here: How to upsell your next design project

4. Don’t be afraid to put on your sales hat

Last, but not least, it’s time to stop fearing the sales part of your business. Without income, your business is just a hobby.

So gather up some courage, throw on your sales hat, and go out and crush it! You can do it!

Here are a few more resources to help you master the art of non-sleazy selling:

Hobby vs. Business: The best business advice I ever received and what I did about it

Dealing with new-client anxiety: When a new client calls you, don’t freak out. Do this.

Selling with the sleaze: How to Sell the Heck Out of Your Design Services… In the Coolest, Non-Sleaziest Way Possible

What else would you add?

I’m sure there are things I’ve left out. What sales hacks or business tips can you add to this list? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

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Written by Preston Lee

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Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more.

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  1. Thomas Isaksson says:

    This is exactly right on the spot. I use to say “I can paint beautifully bad sales meetings”. This is the hard part of being an freelancer…but I guess it does not anly apply to designers. Even if many of us are a little out of the box lol. ANyway, thx for this post, useful tips and inspiring.

  2. I love how you talk about not being desperate. Let the client know you’re excited about the job but not that you desperately need it.

  3. Zuzanna Lumanisha says:

    Brilliant article! Exactly what I was looking for. Thx!

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      Glad it could be of help to you, Zuzanna! 🙂