“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”― Terry Pratchett, the master of pointing out the hard truth of everything.
Undoubtedly one of the most difficult things about being an aspiring freelancer is acquiring clients. After all, if you are a freelancer with zero clients, can you even call yourself a freelancer? Or are you just a person with a couple of neat skills and an Upwork account? (ah, removing the unnecessary layer of sugar-coated white lies, always feels nice).
But we’re not planning to simply provide you with this hard-to-swallow pill and then leave you high and dry.
What also makes us feel nice is providing you with some surefire, actionable digital marketing tricks and tips that can help you land perfect clients and then g(r)o(w) from there.
Whether you are looking to score your very first big kahuna client, or you already have a decent client-base and now you want to expand – here’s a fairly useful playbook on how to achieve this faster than you can say: a rock-solid beginner’s guide to data-driven and actionable digital marketing growth hacks that will enable better productivity and faster client acquisition through highly-effective decision-making tactics that will yield valuable insights on how to become a successful freelancer and build your own company.
Still here? Great.
If you are an aspiring freelancer who specializes in Social Media, PPC, SEO, web design or any other prosperous digital marketing niche, read on to find out:
- How to find out who your ICP (Ideal Customer Persona) is
- How to track them down
- How to set proper goals
- How to organize your time (and time is money)
- How to generate potent leads
- And, ultimately, how to land big clients
But first, let’s delve a bit deeper into some of the main pain points most freelancers face in the beginning.
Catch-22 of the Freelancing World
Quite often, the life of a freelancer can turn into the vicious “feast or famine” dynamic in which you may easily end up spending more time targeting and hunting clients than actually working. Customers are almost always looking for someone who is experienced enough and has a good reputation, but you cannot become an experienced freelancer with great reviews without initial clients, right?
Our Reportz team works with numerous freelancers, and since we like to treat all of our clients like family, we often reach out to some of them with various questionnaires so we can learn what their main Gordian knots are, analyze them, and make a list of the most prominent pain points the turbulent world of freelancing throws at them.
What we found didn’t surprise us much.
Dry spells can last for months, and since the bills aren’t going to pay themselves, some often resort to alternative ways of reaching their target audiences. But not everyone can afford proper advertising campaigns, which is not that bad actually, as these campaigns usually turn into semi-desperate sales-y ads that can even damage your reputation.
So, newbie freelancers often end up with:
- No leads
- No time to do their job and excel at it
- Low productivity
- No quality clients
- No money
- No hope (optional)
This leads us to the main pitfall most freelancers face – their marketing strategy, or lack thereof.
This is usually the scenario:
- A freelancer gets great at what he/she does.
- A freelancer creates a website for their service.
- A freelancer creates profiles on various social media platforms.
- A freelancer waits for customers to come to him/her.
You see the main problem here?
You can’t simply develop a good product and/or quality service, and then just sit in your office (read: your living room) and wait for a miracle to happen. Miracles don’t exist, unfortunately. And merely believing in your service and yourself will get you nowhere fast. (A shout-out to our brother Pratchett and his quote from the beginning of the article.)
But, what CAN you do to attract your target audience and land big clients? First, you must know which trees to bark at.
Define/Identify your ICP (Ideal Customer Persona)
Much like beauty is nothing without the beholder, your product/service/skill is nothing without the consumer. But you mustn’t resort to working with just anyone who contacts you, as not all customers have the potential to become long-term deals.
Choosing clients carefully is the key, but in order to do that, you must first identify who your ideal client is.
You should target those who might have a perpetual need for your expertise, but also the budget to match. Ideally, you’re looking for business/customers who will stick with you for the long haul.
(Here you can access and DOWNLOAD OUR SUREFIRE ICP TEMPLATE via which you can easily and accurately define your ICPs!)
When you think you’ve successfully recognized your ICP, you should:
- Do a thorough background research on them
- Find out what social platforms they most commonly use
- Learn where they are from
- Learn what type of content works for them
- Learn what their most common problems are
- Find out what makes them return for more similar content/service
Once you’ve determined the general profile of your ideal customer persona, it is time to ensure your business works like a charm should you manage to land your big kahuna.
Make Sure your Business is a Well-Oiled Machine
You mustn’t greet a big client unprepared.
Imagine the following scenario: you have been chasing this potentially long-term client for months, and now they finally decided to go with you for their next big project, but it turns out that this task is simply too complex for you and that you cannot finish it on time.
This would make you seem unprofessional and would most likely be a deal-breaker. In order to avoid this, you must take care of several crucial things beforehand:
Prepare Your A-Game In Advance
This usually goes without saying, but anyone looking to turn a one-time freelancing deal into a long-term client must raise their skills, productivity, and dedication to the highest possible level. This includes:
- Showing professionalism right from the get-go
- Doing your best to meet (or exceed) your client’s expectations (even if it means working around the clock)
- Delivering on time (or better yet – early)
- Offering top-notch customer service
- Establishing a professional, yet friendly relationship
Here’s an example of how one of our main-men, Ogi, makes sure our customers are treated like family by providing them with useful, informative and engaging updates:
Organize your Time and Workflow the Best You Can
Anticipate how much work you might end up with and what actions you will need to take (and in what order) to get the job done. Leave no room for mistakes that could lead to you breaking the deadline.
Which brings us to:
Setting the Right Goals
Define and organize your goals so that the timeline of your tasks is both granular and homogenous at the same time. What we mean by this is that you should make sure you have considered all the micro-tasks that are essential for your project’s success, but also looking at the big picture and having a clear, bird’s-eye view of your end product.
Every single goal should have its purpose in the big picture, and the big picture is you finishing the project on time and blowing your client’s mind.
Triage: Filter Out the Unimportant
You can’t organize your work process in the most optimal way if you don’t filter out the unnecessary steps. Try looking at your project from another angle and figure out if some of the goals you’ve set aren’t exactly vital for your workflow after all. If there are any, remove them, or put them on hold.
Never Underestimate your Value
Setting your rate too low is a strategy that can backfire rather easily. Be confident during the process of negotiating, always be aware of your worth, and make sure your future customers see this in you.
Lead Generation and Outreach
Perhaps THE most vital part of the process is reaching out to your target audiences and obtaining leads.
Investing in online lead generation is a must for any digital marketing company. The web is an incredibly vast marketplace, so learning where to tap into it, whom to chase after and how to close the deal once you track down your ICPs should be your top priority.
Leads are like Pokemons – you gotta catch ‘em all.
Website optimization and SEO – your website and your landing pages are the fulcrum of your digital marketing campaign, while SEO is how you make your business more visible to your ICPs. Consider hiring a reliable SEO company to take care of this step, or go with a potent SEO tool that will help you target SEO prospects. Or both.
Create informative content – in the ever-changing world of online marketing, content is still king, but you should not merely create content for content’s sake. What you produce, post and share must be:
- Fluffless (fluffiness should be reserved for puppies)
PPC – Pay-Per-Click advertising isn’t going anywhere as it is still one of the most effective ways to attract tremendous amounts of smartly targeted traffic that can be extremely helpful with lead generation.
Social media scraping – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, WhatsApp… these platforms harbor millions of potential clients and it would be foolish not to scrape them for surefire leads. There are many social media scraping tools available online that can help you with this task.
Influencers engagement – find relevant people from your niche and reach out to them with an endorsement-like proposal. Ask them to promote your business, while offering something in return. This tactic sky-rocketed our Facebook community and brought us many new clients in just a couple of days.
Here’s how reaching out to the right influencers helped us rapidly grow our Facebook group:
Read more about this here: How to Build and Grow a Successful Facebook Group in Under a Month.
Email marketing – much like PPC, email marketing is still alive and kicking, and can do wonders for your ROI, especially in the long run. Consumers prefer buying products and going with brands they are able to get good information about.
Database scraping – popular databases (like data.com) are huge lead goldmines where you can find on-point contact information leading to people and companies that are likely to turn into customers.
Smart Use of Facebook Ads – Running Facebook ads can work, and a lot of guys do it. Running smart Facebook ads is something many freelancers and companies still need to learn.
There are several reasons why you should prioritize working SMART over working HARD regarding Facebook Ads:
Quality of leads > Number of leads
Micro-niched audience > Broad audience
Valuable content > Everything else
Our good friend, Josue Pena, an Instagram geek and a guy who worked with names such as Grant Cardone, Dan Henry, and was a keynote speaker on AdCon 2017, showed real class with his FB ad campaign and proved that working SMART is always better.
So, what did Josue do exactly and why are we mentioning him in FB Ads context when Instagram is his field of work?
He focused on ad content.
As we already mentioned above: content beats everything else. This is how Josue managed to get more than 20k followers organically for one of his clients in just 48h. He recorded a step-by-step case study where he explained what he did, how he did it and why he chose to deploy certain moves, and that was the core of his single Facebook ad. Brilliant.
Testimonials, Case Studies and Palpable Fiction
George Carlin once said: “Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.”
Customers will seek evidence of your skills and success and you need to provide them with something tangible. This is where case studies, testimonials and playbooks step in. Do your best to document your ongoing work and turn your experience into a fun and informative content that will actually be helpful.
Social proof and solid evidence of your work are always more persuasive than generic ads and sweet talk coming from a sales rep or a business owner, regardless of the niche or the sub-industry you belong to.
With the internet becoming an inevitable part of our lives (for many even the preferred reality), the importance of this type of social proof has been launched into the stratosphere over the past decade. Now, almost all consumers have this potent tool that can help them do a background check and perform a thorough research on the business/freelancer/startup they are thinking about hiring, so meet them halfway and provide them with one yourself.
Facts tell, but stories sell is a neat phrase, but why not merge the one with the other? Use the facts to create a story that will tell your future customers why you are the right person for the job.
So, before you go to devise your own strategy, let’s go over the basic steps required to land perfect, long-term clients:
- Have a quality product/service/content
- Determine who your ICPs are
- Generate good leads and reach out to them
- Create successfully, data-driven and informative case studies/testimonials that will:
– Show your ICPs you know exactly what the biggest problems of their niche are
– Provide your ICPs with tangible evidence that your business is able to help them with these problems
- Repeat – isolate your most successful gig, analyze every single detail that helped you close them, and repeat every step of the process
- Never stop prospecting
Remember, showing that you have dignity can make all the difference. Even if your coveted big kahuna client isn’t able to commit for a long-term deal at the moment, don’t sever all ties with them immediately. Stay in touch instead. Keeping your relationship alive will keep you in the game, so make sure you don’t remove this client from your newsletter list and send them your relevant content every once in a while. This way they can see your progress and, hopefully, give you a call for their next big project.
Our team at Reportz deployed this strategy which helped us grow and build our clientele rather quickly. We grew from hundreds to thousands in a matter of months, but only because we devoted enough time to all the aforementioned steps. We didn’t give up after several failed attempts to land relevant clients. In fact, that’s when we shifted up a gear (or two).
Staying in the loop at all times is what makes or breaks a successful freelancer. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Oh yeah, cookies, make sure your website uses those.