I was flush with projects, head down, working hard, and then it happened. One fatal mistake, and my business started to fall apart. The mistake?
I stopped marketing.
The last thing I wanted to do was market. My schedule was jam-packed, and I was focusing on meeting this week’s deadlines, not even thinking about next month’s pipeline. One more project into my already busy schedule might have been my undoing.
And then it happened. The feast-or-famine cycle struck my little freelance business, and after I realized my bookings had dramatically slowed, fear set in.
The problem is that most advice will tell you to market. And that’s good advice! Take it, please. Market your business even when you’re slammed. But guess what? I’d already messed up. So now what?
I found my way out of that dry spell, and you can, too! Here are some strategies that will help transform your business from slow to fully booked. Plus, I’ve included the exact scripts that I used to land more work.
First Stop: Tap into the Low-Hanging Fruit
How do you feel about reaching out to your existing clients for more work? The thought made me cringe. And this response was rooted in fear.
I wondered if they would smell desperation on me and decide not to work together anymore. But my fear was totally unfounded. In fact, one email reaching out to an existing client landed me $6,000 in 15 minutes flat.
I reached out to the Facebook group Freelance B2B Writers, which is run by Andrea Emerson. She confirmed that reaching out to existing clients is first on the list, saying:
“I reach out to past/existing clients, my professional network, ask for referrals, identify ideal prospects on LinkedIn and email all identified targets.”
Okay, you’re ready to reach out, but what do you say? Here is an example of an email I use to reach out to existing clients when things get slow.
I hope you’re doing well! I really enjoyed working on that recent white paper, and I’m so glad the client was happy with the result. I also write case studies, blog posts and website content. If you have any projects coming up, I’d love to stay on your radar. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!
Take action. Make a list of your existing clients. If you use billing software, such as QuickBooks or Wave, note which companies you have invoiced this year and identify which make good targets. Then, create a strategy for reaching out to everyone on that list in the next five to seven days.
Ask This One Little Question to Grab More Assignments
What projects are you finishing up, or which assignments have you wrapped up in the past 30 to 60 days? Make a list of these clients because a profitable strategy is to follow up with each one and pitch that next project. This idea comes from Maddy over at the Freelance B2B Writers Facebook group, and I think she’s spot-on.
“Whenever I’m done with a series of topics for a client, I immediately pitch more — sometimes before I’m done, if I know my assignment pipeline is a little slow.”
Let’s look at a real-life example. I had an amazing client I wrote blog posts for each month, but the arrangement was informal. After writing a post, I would immediately come back with several new ideas, and they would usually approve about 90 percent of the topics.
Another idea is to upsell a project that you just finished. For example, let’s say you just finished a blog series. Would the client benefit from a white paper or content upgrade that could be integrated into those blog posts and generate new leads for their business?
What to say:
“I’m so glad you like the blog post! On a side note, you mentioned that lead generation is a priority for Q1, and I’ve had great success creating content upgrades for blog posts to generate more leads. Does it make sense to chat about this?”
Take action. Start a spreadsheet that includes the most recent projects you’re working on, and come up with several ideas to pitch each client. Pick the top one or two ideas and reach out.
Transform Clients into Lead Generators
Asking for referrals is hard for me. I don’t know why, but I think it goes back to fear. I’m afraid the client will say no or think that I’m less desirable as a writer. But getting referrals as a freelance writer is amazing. My great clients refer me more great clients, and this is helpful during dry spells. But first, you must ask.
What to say:
Thanks again for assigning me that recent white paper. I really enjoyed working together on it! A large part of my business comes from referrals from existing clients, and I’d love to be on your radar if you know anyone who might need a freelance writer. Do you know of anyone in the B2B space who might need a writer for content marketing-related projects? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!
Okay, a couple of things here. First, get specific about who you want to work with. Also, define the niche, if relevant. You want to make their job of coming up with prospects easy, and if the ask is too general, it will be harder for them to think of specific people to refer.
Take action. Make a list of your favorite clients. Maybe they are delightful to work with or pay well and fast. Ask one of those clients for a referral today. Then, reach out to the others on your list by the end of the week.
Turn Disappointing Situations Around
How do you feel when an important contact leaves their company? For me, first, I get a feeling of panic: Will this project go away? And then I feel excited.
Most of the time, my clients move on to similar companies, and sometimes, these new companies can provide greater volumes of work.
Let me give you an example. I had a client who I blogged for monthly, but she left the company. Within a couple of months, I noticed that she landed at a similar company in a position where she might use freelancers. I immediately reached out to her and found out that the new company does use freelancers, and she planned to reach out about a new project.
What to say:
I hope you’re doing well! I really enjoyed working with you at XYZ Company and noticed that you moved on to ABC Company. Do you happen to use freelancers? If so, I’d love to stay on your radar. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!
Take action. Brainstorm all the companies you’ve worked with in the past 12 to 24 months. Have any of those contacts moved on? If so, hit up LinkedIn, find out where they landed, and get in touch.
Reach Out to Other Freelancers
Do you know other freelancers in your niche? If not, head over to LinkedIn and start searching for established freelancers in your niche. When you connect, don’t ask for work. Just send a simple, “Hey, I noticed that we work in the same space.” Explain what you do and then say you’d love to connect. The purpose is to make a connection so if either of you is busy or out of the office for an extended period of time, you can cover the other’s projects.
For example, I had a freelance writer reach out to me because she was slammed and needed resources to handle overflow without letting down her existing clients. We worked in the same space and charged similar rates, and it seemed like a good fit. Several months later, she had a surgery scheduled and reached out for help handling her workload.
Take action. List all the other freelancers you know. In the past, my page would have been blank. If yours is too, that’s okay. Head over to LinkedIn, find some people who might be good connections, and start building relationships.
Handling Dry Spells When You’re a New Freelancer
Are you an established freelancer with decent contacts? Okay, good, skip this section and move to the next. BUT if you’re a new freelancer, you’re probably saying, “This is all great, but what if I don’t have a list of existing clients or contacts?”
Since there is no low-hanging fruit, the answer is marketing.
I’ve also found one piece of advice is key to getting booked quickly. My niche is technology companies, and these prospects usually take a while to nurture and onboard. In contrast, marketing agencies can get me fully booked fast. So my best advice for newer freelancers is to market to agencies, because they can assign you thousands of dollars of work quickly.
Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer, also suggests targeting freelance designers. Oftentimes, their clients need a writer, and building these relationships can be a gold mine. He describes his experience here:
“I’m a lucky guy. Just about the time I launched my commercial freelancing career in 1994, I crossed paths with a graphic designer. To say it was an auspicious meeting would be a huge understatement. She liked my writing and got me in the door of the graphic design firm where she worked. Over the next few years, we collaborated on a bunch of projects through the design firm, developing a solid professional bond in the process.”
One day, I sat down, did the math and realized this…
This one solo designer has put more money in my pocket since 1994 than any other client. ANY other client.
Stop, Breathe and Get into the Right Mindset
Before you reach out to a single client, spend a few minutes getting into the right mindset.
These dry spells make freelancers feel scared and put them into a scarcity mindset. And in this mindset, you might even take on crummy projects or quote rates that are far too low. Please know that this dry spell will end. Close your eyes and imagine that your schedule is fully booked. What does that feel like? Focus on that feeling before you reach out to a single client and ask for more work. I promise, it will make a difference.
Do you need help creating an ongoing marketing strategy? Download the free template that I used to generate $24,500 in new work.
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