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What do you hate most about freelancing? I expect right up there will be either sales or not having enough work. Cold-calling, pitching, struggling to pay bills, worrying if you are doing the right sort of promotion, freelancers have enough stress without all this sales stuff.
You can tell when you are doing well with your freelance business, instead of chasing new work, clients come to you. The most successful have to reject work, it seems they are beating customers off with a stick.
How do you achieve that dream scenario?
- Potential clients need to know you
- You need a hook
- Leads are only half the equation; you need to close
When you start out you have the greatest challenge. Getting your name known and building a profile should be high on your agenda but this needs to be combined with creating a compelling hook.
You need a hook
Of course customers need to be able to find you easily, but more importantly you need a hook so they know why they should.
What do I mean by a hook? Something that makes you stand out from the rest of the herd. To use Seth Godin's phrase, something remarkable.
If a company is looking to take on freelancers they will likely have a pool to choose from. They might review a few and short-list, until whittling down to the final candidate(s).
The goal should be that you are the only choice, second-best would be to show you are the strongest candidate.
Freelancers with only the basic skills and ho-um experience are not going to break through to this zone. At best they need to compete on price or personality.
Achieving a Premium
What makes you premium? Commodity freelancers inevitably get paid commodity prices and have to join the queue for work
While most people do not like to restrict their potential pool of work, having a specialism can actually improve your chances of landing gigs over your competitors. It's the old story of brain surgeon versus general practitioner, who would you rather have rummaging around your noggin?
If you have a hook then you can work on fame and credibility. Anything goes, it could be a unique and specialist skill, niche-leading blog, name-dropping a huge client, or it might be a fantastic piece of work. Memorable plus credible is a powerful combination and actually serves to help market itself.
Specializing also helps you define your prospect, which in turn helps you land work. Rather than the whole world being your potential customer, you can better target allowing you to promote in a way your specific dream client would love rather than many people merely "like".
I am a blogger, and I am often in need of freelance help. What would appeal to me more, a person who describes themselves as "a web developer" and lists skills as "web design" or a "WordPress developer" who has a portfolio of kick-ass WordPress plugins or themes?
The WordPress specialist will have a far easier time reaching me too, you can simply work out where a blogger hangs out and what they might be interested in rather than "anyone interested in having a website built"! Find where your prospects are likely to go to network and find solutions. Get known and show you can be useful to know.
Memorable + Credible + Well Connected = Golden
Consider Aaron Wall. He started off by being helpful on the major webmaster forums, now he has a very popular and memorable blog, with an extremely popular ebook product, all of which adds to his credibility. His SEO services can be charged at a premium because he can pick and choose what he works on.
Once you have started building a profile amongst your target market you will need to tune your sales process. Learn as much about your prospect, their business, their goals and their requirements as you can. Treat it like you are going on safari, understanding your prospect makes it far easier to land one.
Actually making sales is vital. It could be you like to work on a project or hourly basis, and this is fine, but I find it often helps to have a small introductory offer or package. Something easy to agree to where you can show off what a brilliant freelancer you really are. For me this is some initial consultancy, or some writing. I particularly like freelance blogging because it's fun, can pay reasonably well but most importantly it serves to further market my services!
When you do land a new gig, or even if you don't try to understand why. This way you can continually improve and refine your process. When you do absolutely delight your client, ask for referrals and a testimonial. Researching how customers find you, what they like, what you could improve and your over all service could pay dividends down the line.
In the end there is one question you need to continually ask yourself; why would anyone choose you over anyone else. If you can come up with an attention grabbing answer then success is assured.
Got any tips to share for creating a compelling hook or building your profile? Have I missed a piece of the strategy? Please share in the comments ...
Editor's Note: This post is the first from one of our new regular writers Chris Garrett who writes about blogging as well as lots of other stuff.