Should Freelancers Upsell?

upselling“Would you like a large fries with that?” The drive-thru clerk stared at me eagerly.

I looked him right in the eye, “No,” I replied. “A diet coke is all I want today.”

If you’ve ever purchased fast food through a drive-thru window, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of upselling. Simply put, upselling is the sales practice of trying to encourage the client to purchase more than he or she originally intended to buy.

Some people believe upselling is manipulative–for obvious reasons. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a pushy upselling salesperson, then you probably know what I mean. However, some freelancers successfully use upselling to bring additional work to their freelancing business on a regular basis. In this post, we’ll discuss responsible upselling.


How Does a Freelancer Upsell His or Her Services?

A freelancer is engaging in upselling if he or she suggests an additional (usually more expensive) service to a client. Here are some examples:

  • A freelance copywriter who is hired to write a press release for a company encourages the client to also use their services to write the copy for their corporate web page.
  • A freelance designer who is hired to re-design a website encourages the company to let them redesign the company logo as well.
  • A freelance photographer who is hired to take pictures of a company’s new product for an ad encourages the senior management team members to get new corporate photos.

In my opinion, as long as it is done respectfully and honestly and with the client’s best interest in mind there is really nothing wrong with a freelancer offering additional services to a client.

On the other hand, if a freelancer tries to manipulate a client through upselling to buy something that he or she does not really need or even want, then that is not a good business practice at all.

Seven Freelance Guidelines for Responsible Upselling

Here are seven guidelines to follow if you use upselling as a marketing technique for your freelancing business:

  1. Take the time to understand the client’s business. If you can really show the client how an additional service that you are recommending would be useful to their specific situation, the client is more likely to make the purchase. (Even you don’t make the sale, the client will appreciate the fact that you took the time to learn about them.)
  2. Don’t offer something that isn’t in the client’s best interest. A mistake that many sales people make when upselling is trying to push a product or service that the client really doesn’t need and can’t use. If you do this to your freelancing clients, it could damage your reputation as a freelancer and decrease future sales.
  3. Do take “no” for an answer (at least initially). Respect your client’s right to refuse. One reason that so many people are turned off by upselling is that it is often done in a rather pushy fashion. If your client says, “no,” let it go. You can always bring it up again (casually) the next time that they use your services.
  4. Don’t argue with your client. Whatever you do, don’t argue with your client about whether or not they need the service that you are trying to sell to them. Most people don’t like conflict. Getting into an argument with your client will definitely give them a negative impression of you and your freelancing business.
  5. Use compassion and common sense. If your client has just explained to you that their sales have been drastically down this year, you can still offer your additional service without pushing it. You could say something like, “when things pick up for your business we may want to rewrite that company home page.”
  6. Don’t try to upsell if the client isn’t already happy with your work. It would seem to be common sense, but if your client is unhappy with your most recent work then this is not the best time to attempt an upsell. Make things right with your client before you try to sell them additional services.
  7. Care about your client. This last principle is probably the most important. If you really do care about a client, you’ll instinctively know when to speak up and when to be quiet. You won’t be overly pushy or try to get them to buy something that they really can’t use. Most of all, your client will probably sense the difference.

If you follow these guidelines, your “upselling” should be a positive experience for both you and your client.

An Example of What Not to Do

Upselling can often be unpleasant to the client (especially when it is done wrong).

I had a very bad experience with upselling at a beauty salon recently.

I had gone in for a simple trim. In the course of trimming my hair, the beautician commented that she could feel hairspray residue on my hair. She recommended that I use a very expensive clarifying shampoo that the salon sold to remove it.

I explained to the beautician that I don’t use hairspray. I also explained that I didn’t want the expensive shampoo today.

If the beautician had stopped here, the whole experience would have been okay. However, this particular beautician took it upon herself to argue with me.

“I definitely feel hairspray residue in your hair,” she insisted, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what hairspray feels like on hair.”

The fact is, I don’t even own a bottle of hairspray. I have never used it. My mother used it. My grandmother used it–but me, I don’t use it.

Yet, despite my protests, the beautician kept right on arguing with me about the hairspray she thought she felt in my hair. I finally just said to her, “I’m not going to buy that shampoo.”

Not only did she not upsell the expensive shampoo to me, the experience was so unpleasant for me that the salon probably lost a client that day.

What Do You Think?

Do you engage in upselling when you market your freelancing services? If so, what do you think of the practice?

Have you ever been persuaded by a sales person to purchase something you didn’t want or need? How did it make you feel?

Leave your answers in the comments.

Image by tombothetominator