The last update to this article was: Feb 2014. It's pretty out of date! I'll update it soon x
There’s one thing that all freelancers need, and it’s not a fancy website, Dribbble profile, Twitter account, or addiction to coffee: it’s clients. Without clients, you’re without money and have to consider returning to full time employment. I’m guessing you left for that freedom, and no one wants to give up their freedom.
Getting clients can sometimes seem like a game of roulette. You think: “I’ll toss this on Dribbble, and hopefully someone will contact me about working for them.” It doesn’t have to be though.
Following my recent decision to increase my freelance output, I spent a lot of time researching and working on building an effective freelance sales funnel. I learned quite a few things whilst doing so, and I thought I’d share my findings in hope of helping other freelancers with their businesses.
First steps — The Email
Get your email template together. When the potential client or lead you’re emailing could be receiving hundreds of emails a day, having a great offering is extremely important. You need to stand out as somebody that will help make the client’s life easier. If you set that precedent early, the client is more likely to want to work with you.
For reference, I used the following great articles to help me with my email template:
The important take aways:
Make this more personal, use the person’s name and what they require. This sets you apart immediately from responses with typical subject lines such as “RE: UX Designer.”
“[Name], I’d like to help you [Do whatever is it you want to do]”
Research the client for your introduction to your email
Include specific information about the client and the problems they’re trying to solve. This allows you to relate with the client, and get the inside track on people that have neglected to do the proper research.
Talk about yourself in relation to the problem the client has. Explain what you’ll do to solve their problems, be relevant. Always connect the skills, and attributes, that you have to the solution that you’re pitching — this allows you to sell yourself while putting forward the thing the client is interested in, which is the solution. The client doesn’t care about small talk, not just yet anyway. They are busy, fielding other offers, and want to quickly know how working with you will benefit them.
“Foot in the Door”
Don’t try for the hard sell. Focus on validating the lead by discussing solutions and push towards the sale in future correspondence. No one wants to be sold to immediately, they want to know you understand their problem, and that you’re the right fit for them.
The CTA (Call To Action)
Don’t make the client think or work too much. Aim to receive a simple “yes” or “no” as your answer. For example: “Would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how I could help?” This allows the client to make a decision quickly. Offer specifics, be proactive, provide dates, and times instead of asking the client to come up with them, remember that they’re busy. Proactivity not only saves the client time, it allows you to maintain control over moving the discussion forward.
Now that you have your email, lets go find some leads.
Finding Leads — The Hard Work
Finding leads can be the most challenging part of freelancing.
There are two types of leads we’ll be covering:
These are leads that have expressed interest in a service you provide; Warm leads make it more clear what the client requires, so you can tailor your communications more easily.
These are leads that haven’t posted interest or a listing and usually have a much lower conversion rate than warm leads, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Cold leads receive fewer contacts, and the right offer can land you some great projects.
Both of the above can become a prospective client or “qualified lead” that would be interested in working with you now or in the future. Once you have made contact with a qualified lead, from there you just have to hash out the finer details and work towards converting them into a client. As outlined above in the email section.
Here are some great places to find leads, and also some great services to help you:
- Workshop (http://letsworkshop.com/) — Workshop delivers a relevant selection of work to your inbox every weekday, which can save you a ton of time scouring job boards.
- Members-only job boards — Ooomf (https://ooomf.com), Juiiicy (https://juiiicy.com) and Folyo (http://www.folyo.me) are examples of these. These boards provide exceptionally high quality leads, but the downside is they also attract great competition. Don’t let this scare you away though, there’s still a lot to gain from being a part of them.
Follow Ups — Spreadsheets!
Creating a spreadsheet allows you to keep track of your prospective leads and current clients in one easily manageable place. In the spreadsheet you should include: contact details, services that the client is looking for, responses, and how and when to follow up. Having all this information organised allows you to keep track of previous correspondence, which makes it easier to revisit them in the future with new offerings that would be of interest to them.
Having a great sales funnel is the key to a successful freelance business. Getting into the habit of consistently finding leads means that you don’t have to worry about “famine” periods, or worrying about where your next client is going to come from.
Do you have a sales funnel? How did you build it, and which of these points were helpful to you? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter about how you’re progressing your sales funnel.
*Bonus: Upsells — More for your Money
Upsells are something many freelancers forget to work on, but they’re great tools. Upsells are practically the basis of most large agencies’ business. Think about it, you already have the client’s trust. This makes it easier to approach them with a new offering or to see if they have more work. It’s an obvious upwards progression.
Don’t let communication end when you deliver a project and the client signs off. Take it one step further and reap greater rewards, like retainers, and more consistent relationships with your clients.