How to Upsell Without Being Obnoxious

Upselling is a great way to increase your profits as a freelancer–if it’s done right. Upselling means selling additional products and services to your existing clients or convincing them to upgrade their current purchase to a more expensive purchase.

If a fast food clerk has ever asked you if you “want fries with that,” then you’ve experienced an upsell. Upselling is common for both service-based and retail businesses and it can help freelancers too.

Smart freelancers use upselling to increase their income without annoying their clients. In fact, if it’s done right, upselling can actually strengthen your relationship with your client.

In this post, we’ll list eight bad upselling practices to avoid and then we’ll explain how to do it right.

8 Obnoxious Upselling Practices to Avoid

Nothing is more annoying to a client than a badly done upsell. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of badly done upsells yourself, so you know how annoying it can be.

Here are some bad upsell practices to avoid:

  1. Using a canned script. Reciting a canned script is the lazy way to sell and it rarely works. Instead, talk directly to the client in way that is relevant to him or her. Understand your upsell products and services well enough so that you can answer questions, but don’t give a memorized spiel.
  2. Not understanding the client’s needs. You wouldn’t try to push a web redesign on a client who just redid their website, would you? Clients hate it when you try to push products they don’t want or need.
  3. Being too pushy. Instead of trying to push the client into buying, use the informative approach. Explain how the product or service will benefit the client and then let them make the decision.
  4. Not showing respect for the client. Too many freelancers treat their clients like an ATM machine, but your client is not just a way for you to earn some cash–they are also a person. Treat them as such.
  5. Offering the same exact upsell to every client. Your client is unique. They have unique needs and wants. Yet, many freelancers try to upsell using the “one size fits all” philosophy.
  6. Upselling to dissatisfied client. This seems obvious, but it needs to be said. If your client is unhappy, this is not the time to attempt an upsell. Instead, work on improving their client satisfaction.
  7. Offering something with little value. Your main service may be a great value–but if you follow it up by pushing junk on the client, then the junk is what they’ll remember. Make sure that your upsell adds real value for the client.
  8. Using high-pressure sales techniques. Don’t make tight time-sensitive offers like “you must purchase today to get this discount price.” Instead, allow your client enough time to consider and really buy into the idea of the additional purchase.

You don’t have to be obnoxious to be successful at sales. Upselling should increase your client’s satisfaction and build loyalty, not tear it down.

So how can you upsell without annoying your clients?

Upselling Can Strengthen Your Relationships

If your upselling is done with sensitivity and with the client’s best interests in mind, upselling can actually strengthen the freelancer client/relationship. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Meet a real need. Examine the client’s business needs carefully and take note of any gaps. If you can offer a product or service that fits that gap, there’s your opportunity. But remember, you still need to explain how the product or service can help your client.
  2. Show respect. Be sensitive to your client’s feelings. Your client may not have realized the problem that you’re pointing out, or they may already know about it and be unable address it at this time. Either way, listen to their position and be courteous.
  3. Be honest. Don’t try to fill a gap with a product or service that won’t really help your client just because that product or service is easy for you to add.
  4. Put the client relationship first. The client relationship is the key to your getting continuing business. If the client isn’t ready for another product or service, be patient and understanding.

My Unpleasant Experience with Upselling

I wanted to scream “no” when the caller started out with “you’ve been using our service for three years now, how about adding one of our additional services?”

After all, this was the fourth call this week from this particular company and each time I’d explained to the caller that we didn’t want the additional services. Yet, sales reps from the company still keep calling.

At this point, we are so annoyed with the company that we will probably cancel the orginal service. Their pushy upselling may mean they lose a client.

My own experience is a prime example of how not to upsell. The callers refuse to respect our wishes and persist in pressuring us to buy even when we’ve told them we’re not interested.

Your Turn

Is upselling part of your freelancing business? What types of upsells do you offer?

Image by
Brett Jordan


  1. says

    I guess you never hear from your service providers because they all are trying to sell you additional services you don’t need. Or you don’t pay attention when they try to excite you to buy more services?

  2. says

    Obnoxious upselling is the quickest way to turn what could be a profitable transaction into a complete negative.

    I can’t count the amount of times I was considering increasing the size of my purchase before the sales person unleashed some pre-scripted nonsense on me which frustrated me to the point of occasionally just abandoning the sale altogether.

    Glad you’ve highlighted this issue, thanks for writing up the article.

  3. says

    For a lot of freelancers, upselling can seem a lot like self promotion. For the longest time, it seemed that way to me.

    Then I started thinking of them as services that complimented my core service.

    As a freelance blogger, I helped my clients create content plans, and acted as their blog’s editor. I made those services official. My clients already know how important those services are and have no qualms about using them.

    To me, upselling is more about looking out for my client than increasing my bottom line.

  4. says

    Samar @ The Writing Base,

    I think when you do it that way, and follow the guidelines above, then you are not being obnoxious. You are being helpful.

    It’s certainly okay to offer additional services to your clients. It’s not okay to keep pestering them about or to pressure them to buy services that they don’t want or need.

  5. says

    One of the best tips I’ve heard when it comes to selling something is to not try and sell. I personally think it works and it’s a lot easier to do.

  6. says

    We are using upsells. When someone buys a gift basket we offer a greeting card or stuffed bear, etc. This gives the customer a chance to add a detailed personalized message which they may not have thought about until that point. It is something that is always a consideration. Shopify has an upsell app which does the trick.

  7. says

    Upsels is good technique. It is helpful, but don’t over using in your web sites (if you are e commerce website). When you are selling gift baskets, with additional small sale (additional chocolade for mom with baby gift basket for example) you can make some serious money.
    It s old system, but this days on e commerce working like a charm

  8. says

    This is a great way to create connections for future experience opportunities.
    There are certainly a variety of web design mistakes that will
    derai a perfectly good site. See hiss 2009 autumn\/winter collection at
    SW7 at 4:45.


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