How To Become A Successful Freelance (self-employed) Sales Agent

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how to become a freelance sales agent

You’d have to be crazy to give up a salary and become a freelance sales agent… right?

So, why do so many top producing salespeople become self-employed and what’s the motivation to leave the safety net of a salaried position as a company employee?

First of all becoming self-employed is absolutely not right for everyone. Some people would prefer to rise the corporate ladder or are happy with the relative security that comes with a regular paycheck.

Eddie L - An independent Sales Agent with 30 years experience and currently working within the Leasing Asset, Capital Equipment, Finance Sales industry says:

leasing asset finance freelance sales agent rep

Ultimately the reason I chose to break away from the constraints of employment and set up on my own as a self-employed sales agent was to enable me to enjoy the flexibility of being able to work with different organisations simultaneously.

Eddie’s goal is to build a sales portfolio of products and services that compliment each other. He can then cross sell multiple products or services to his customers simultaneously and earn multiple commission payments on each sale.

For an interesting insight into Eddie’s career and goals you can read his full interview here: Independent sales agent Interview

We’ll now address some of the more common questions we’re asked by sales reps who are considering work for themselves.

This should give you a much greater insight about how to become a freelance sales agent and whether employment or self-employment is the better option for you.

Why on earth would a successful salesperson earning a good salary decide to give it all up?

It’s the one question we come across most often and one which we feel is incredibly important to understand in order to determine whether working for yourself is right for you or not.

Before making the decision to become a freelance sales agent, that person has usually enjoyed a long and successful career as a company employee and would have typically been a consistent top performer during that time.

Some salespeople are completely suited to working under their own terms (just like any business owner) and others simply can’t understand why someone would give up a regular salary and the security of a sales job to work on a commission-only basis.

I always had the belief and drive to succeed and it turned out to be the most rewarding thing I have done in my working career!John N, 42 years sales experience in the Interiors industry

You can read John’s independent rep interview here

Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to determine whether or not self-employment is for you:

Am I Entrepreneurial?

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you have the desire to set up in business for yourself?

Are you willing to step into the unknown by yourself and give it everything you have in order to succeed?

And it’s ok if you don’t. Some people are very happy to stay working as salaried employees, while others are highly entrepreneurial and have a burning desire to work for themselves.

If you absolutely love what you do and can compliment that with a lifelong ambition to be your own boss then perhaps self-employment is for you. It will take hard work and dedication but the rewards are great! You’ll earn more, have a better work/life balance and ultimately be in charge of your own destiny.

Do I understand how freelance sales representatives operate?

Aside from the freedom of working for yourself, the fundamental difference between an employee and a freelance rep is how much money (commission) that person can earn.

You see, a company pays a salary to essentially purchase a person’s time and discretion. Not only are they paying for your time, but employees are subject to a number of rules and restrictions relating to what you are able to do in your free time also.

You won’t be able to work with other companies or utilise your contacts to do business outside of the company you work for.

And that goes for any industry outside of the sales profession also.

For example:

A software developer will usually have it written into their contract that any software they produce outside of the workplace - in their free time - will be owned by their employer.

The reasoning behind this is that the company have probably invested time and money into that person’s personal development and the company should be recognised and compensated for their skillset.

Not only that, but there’s a fear that you might use contacts you’ve accrued during your time as their employee to do business on the side… a BIG no no!

Ultimately, when you sign a contract of employment with a company and accept the salary they pay, you abide to adhere to all of the terms and conditions set out within that contract.

So how are freelance sales agents able to earn more money than employees?**

It’s quite simple.

Experienced sales reps will usually have a large existing network of contacts that have been built over the years.

In fact, over 60% of sales agents who join CommissionCrowd have very large and focused networks of contacts they already do business with within a particular industry.

The goal is to build a sales portfolio of multiple product lines and services that complement the needs of your existing contacts and clients. This then presents the opportunity for the freelance sales agent to upsell or cross-sell multiple products lines or services and earn a commission on each sale.

Employees tend to only sell one product or service at a time which limits the ability to cross-sell and up-sell complementary products and services to their clients. Independent sales reps on the other hand are able to sell a range of products or services that compliment each other, giving them the ability to sell multiple times to each of their clients.

Let’s say that you were in selling a range of tools to your client one day and they also happened to mention that they require a new piece of custom software built to run part of their business, an independent sales agent can then login to their CommissionCrowd account and find a software company that provides what their existing client needs. Once you’ve made the connection and agree on a commission percentage, you have what you need to go back and do repeat business with the existing client.

Am I fit and healthy enough to sustain being self-employed?

This may sound like a strange question to ask yourself but running your own business will be physically and mentally demanding especially when just getting started.

Not only will you have to deal with the daily business related tasks that are new to you and unrelated to sales, but effectively managing your time can be mentally tough and draining. This, in conjunction with being on the road requires a level of physical fitness that not all sales agents will be able to keep up with.

Exercise is a wonderful tool to boost your energy levels, de-stress and clear your mind of negativity. Don’t fall into the trap of leading an unhealthy lifestyle in pursuit of money or you may find that you don’t have all that long to enjoy the rewards that come with being your own boss.

Eating healthily and taking care of your body while leading a busy lifestyle can be hard but you should always make time to stay on top form.

Plan meals in advance to save you from eating junk food every day and schedule an hour a day to hit the gym, go for a walk or run.

As we’ve mentioned before, becoming self-employed comes with it’s own unique set of challenges. You’ll find that on top of the sales function, you’ll have to be prepared to undertake non-sales related tasks associated with running your own business.

You’ll need to seek advice on paying tax in your local jurisdiction as well as finding out about insurance. You’ll also need to keep records of expenses and either learn how to do your own accounting or hire an accountant. You’ll need a business bank account also. It’s not as hard as it sounds but for some it can be just a little too daunting and off-putting.

The good news is that CommissionCrowd makes managing your working relationships with new companies you choose to add to your sales portfolio super easy.

Everything from training in new products, to accessing shared files, instant communication, sales pipeline management, collaborative CRM and even the ability to receive hot leads directly from your company Principals is taken care of for you.

Oh and did we mention that you’ll also be able to receive your commission payments directly through CommissionCrowd when you close new business?

But don’t worry, CommissionCrowd is 100% free for freelance sales agents and we will never take anything from your earnings.

Am I comfortable working on my own?

It’s important to determine whether or not you’ll be able to stay positive and highly motivated when you’re working on your own.

It’s more than likely that you’ve spent a long time working as part of a team in a busy office environment and many sales people thrive off of competition in close quarters.

Do you think you’ll be able to get out of bed in the morning? Will you be able to keep to a strict and professional working schedule when you no longer have to clock-in or punch your time sheet.

Choosing where you work from can be the difference between success and failure. If you find that you miss the office environment and simply can’t work from a home filled with distractions then it is a very good idea to consider renting shared office space.

Choosing The Right Company To Work With

There are many factors to consider when first venturing out on your own and working for yourself. One of the most important things to consider is the sales cycle of the company’s products and services.

Newer sales agents tend to start working with companies whose products or services are proven in the market and have a relatively short sales cycle so that you can start bringing in money fairly soon now that you aren’t earning a steady wage anymore.

The temptation can be to start with companies whose products or services offer much higher rewards but have longer sales cycles. These are partnerships that should be embarked upon once you are financially stable and can afford to add lines that may need nurtured for longer.

What level of sales experience do I have and have I got existing industry contacts or networks I can utilise?

In order to hit the ground running, most agents will have extensive experience in the sales industry and have built a strong network of industry contacts that can be utilised fairly quickly.

It’s these networks of contacts - in addition to being highly experienced in sales - that typically leads to a rep to make the decision to become self-employed in the first place.

Bearing in-mind that without pre-existing contacts to sell into and the fact that the sales cycle of many products or services can span weeks or even months, it can be financially draining and difficult to support yourself if starting from scratch.

People without prior sales experience will also find it very difficult to persuade a company to allow them to represent their product or services lines for fear of being misrepresented.

A self-employed sales role is not best suited for people who are new to sales and are making a career change. Legalities aside, it would technically be the equivalent to becoming a self-employed accountant before having learned your trade as an employee first.

Ideally you should be able to present companies with a prior history of sales experience which is one of the reasons it’s very important that you take time and care to showcase yourself properly when filling out your profile on CommissionCrowd.

How should I register my sales business?

There are a number of legal options to consider when setting up as an individual sales agent or starting a sales agency.

While we can not give you specific legal advice here, an accountant or lawyer will be able to help you setup your business properly. Accountants and legal professionals will also be able to give advice on self-employed tax benefits and liability protection also.

It’s advisable to contact a firm in your local area to make sure you are compliant with local laws regarding self-employment.

It’s important to have a mutually agreeable legal contract in-place between you (the sales agent) and your company Principal before starting work together.

Contracts are designed to protect both the sales rep and company should a dispute ever take place.

You should seek legal advice or speak to a reputable rep law firm when setting the terms of your partnership. A good starting place is to watch this video we recorded with our legal partners ‘Von Briesen’ who specialise in international rep law

Why does the commission-only sales industry sometimes suffer from negative stereotypes?

While there is a thriving and highly professional global independent sales industry consisting of freelance sales agents, sales agencies, distributors and Manufacturer’s Reps, the commission-only sales industry has sometimes suffered from negative stereotypes in the past.

In can be difficult for companies and indeed sales agents who are new to the pay-on-performance sales industry to make the distinction between a genuine opportunity and those that mislead.

Unfortunately it’s usually the negative stories tending to be the ones that make it into the mainstream Media.

So where does the confusion lie?

There are some unscrupulous companies out there who have been able to mislead and take advantage of certain groups of people - usually targeting students or the unemployed and desperate - with clever adverts and promises of riches, power and typical statements like “You’ll be running your own office and sitting where I am in a few months”.

Usually without any prior sales experience, they are then misled into thinking that the positions made available are going to be potentially more lucrative than they are.

They are then thrown into the street with a clipboard or forced to go door-to-door selling poor quality products while the majority of their commissions go to the person/people who recruited them.

Unfortunately these people are also then given the title of ‘self-employed sales agent’ or similar which is what they and the public who come into contact with them are led to believe they are.

The clever ones quickly realise they have been duped and leave with a sour taste and misconstrued idea of what the pay-on-performance sales industry really is and their horrendous stories sometimes make it to press.

Unfortunately it’s the widespread reporting of these isolated incidences that have tarnished the industry to those who don’t know what it really is.

Ask questions

  • Who are they?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Who are their clients?
  • Are their products/services proven in the Marketplace?
  • Do they invest in advertising/Marketing?
  • What’s their legal status?
  • Do they have case studies and client testimonials?
  • Do they work with other sales agents?
  • How do they support their agents?
  • Can they offer exclusive territories?
  • Do they provide product samples?
  • Do they have a website?
  • Where are they registered?
  • Can you describe the sales cycle and process?
  • What level of customer service do you provide?
  • Is it their primary business?
  • Are they willing to put a contract in-place?

It pays to always research the companies you consider working with. Never pay to receive training, Marketing materials or product samples.

So What Now?

To get started on building your sales portfolio simply join CommissionCrowd as a self-employed sales agent, create a completely free account and fill out your profile to showcase yourself in the best possible light.

You can then search for new independent sales opportunities and start connecting with the companies you wish to work with.

CommissionCrowd also makes it easy to manage your new working relationships with company Principals and gives you all of the tools needed to work more efficiently, sell more and protect your status as an independent agent.

It’s 100% FREE for sales agents and we’ll never take anything from your commission earnings.

If you have any questions at all you can reach a member of our team using the chat icon on the website.

Ryan Mattock

Co-Founder of CommissionCrowd... Let's get disruptive!