Back in January 2013, I had been freelancing for about five years, earning a decent income, but not a great one. I wanted to land better clients, but I knew it would take more effort in the marketing department. So, I went all in.
I sent 1,864 emails that year and learned many valuable lessons through that process. Here are five of those lessons and how implementing them can help drive more revenue to your business.
1. A small ask is key
Imagine that you’re on a date and the person starts talking about marriage right away. That would be weird, right? Marketing is the same way. Talking about working together right off the bat is like a marriage proposal — it can feel awkward. Instead, make a simple, low-risk request.
A subtle request is asking whether you can send writing samples. After a quick introduction, you might say, “May I send you some writing samples?”
This is a request that is easy to say yes to. The prospect isn’t promising a project; they’re just giving you permission to send more information. After starting that conversation, it’s much easier to nurture that prospect closer to becoming a client.
And if you aren’t sure where to start, you can download my exact email marketing process and a template that helped land me thousands in new projects.
2. Aligning with a niche is powerful
I’m a huge fan of niching. A few amazing clients have found me through LinkedIn because they’d been searching for a technology writer, and once they landed on my profile, website and other marketing information, they were sold before we even talked on the phone.
The advice I’d give to any writer is that if you want more clients, start first with your positioning. You can’t market successfully if you’re marketing to everybody. Choose one or two areas in which to specialize. Revise your website, LinkedIn profile, Twitter and anywhere else you have an online presence to make that messaging consistent.
Then, when you reach out via email marketing, it’s so much easier. For example, let’s say that you’re a medical writer. You can reach out to a client and say, “I’m a medical writer who has worked for X, Y and Z companies. I’d love to get on your radar. May I send you a few writing samples?” If they decide to Google you, then the online presence will match your email positioning.
3. Nurturing can help recapture lost opportunities
I was listening to a podcast a few years ago. The host was interviewing a freelancer who had built her business using the same content marketing strategies that her clients used. One such tactic was asking prospects who don’t have an immediate need for a writer for permission to reach out occasionally via email. Those who agreed were added to a list and received a monthly newsletter.
This sounded like the perfect way to nurture all the prospects who said, “We don’t have an immediate need, but feel free to keep in touch.” So, I set up a blog and added an opt-in form on my writer’s site and quickly received permission to add 10 prospects to the list. Within four weeks, one of those prospects converted into a client. Then I got pretty busy with client work and didn’t have the bandwidth to publish regularly, but I’m still convinced this is an amazing marketing strategy.
4. Most won’t respond … it’s a long game
I also learned that if you send out enough marketing emails, you will start to see an interesting pattern. Out of every 100 emails that I sent, 20 prospects would respond and say, “Sure, send writing samples.” Not everyone would have an immediate need and I’m sure that some of those people filed my information away … forever (which is why a nurturing strategy is key!).
But out of those 20, one or two would have an immediate need. I would then schedule a phone call and figure out whether there was a good fit.
So don’t get discouraged when you’re sending out emails and the majority of people don’t respond. It’s okay. Focus on the long game.
5. Get to pricing in 15 minutes or less
My least favorite part of freelancing is quoting work and collecting late payments from clients. These activities make me cringe. But as a freelancer, your time is important, and if a prospect doesn’t have the budget to hire you, it’s best to discover that quickly — so you can move on.
At the start of my business, I was super excited any time I got an inquiry from a prospect. I would get on the phone and ask all types of project-related questions. Who is your target audience? What is your goal for the piece? What do you want people to do after they read it? But everything I asked was irrelevant because not everyone I talked to would become a client.
First, I needed to explore project fit and budget. I may love a project, but if the budget is too low, I have to pass. Here is a general outline of my first phone call.
- General introductions. (A little about both of us.)
- General info about the project. (What do you need? A white paper, case study, blogging?) Avoid diving into specific details about a project until you have approval on a quote. Keep it general.
- What is your budget for this project? Just ask it and let the words hang there for a while. In my experience, most marketing managers say, “I’m not really sure, I was hoping I could get a quote.”
- Give a ballpark price range. I never give a specific quote on the phone, but I do ballpark to see if we’re in the same range. This has saved me so much time. I’ll say something like, “Usually, I would charge around $1,500 to $2,500, and once I get all the project details, I can work up an exact estimate.” Then I ask, “Are we in the same ballpark budget-wise?”
- Gauge the response and proceed accordingly. Some prospects will say, “That’s about what I was expecting, that should be fine.” But a few (especially if they’ve never hired a professional writer) will say, “That is a little more than we were expecting.” Find out how far apart you are on the budget. If they want to pay $300 and you charge $1,200, it’s best to cut the prospect loose.
After sending out a high volume of emails and talking with many prospects, I changed my mindset entering these calls. At first, I’d say, “I think I just landed a new client!” but now I say, “I’ve got a call with a prospect to figure out if there is a fit.”
Start your own experiment
What are you doing for marketing right now? Is it working? Could it be working better? Start an experiment today. Decide on a new strategy, whether it be email marketing, cold-calling or a direct mail campaign, and set a goal to get started. Create a time period, such as 90 days, and maintain unwavering persistence. The results may surprise you!
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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