How much of your time do you spend sending outbound emails? How much time and effort do you put into every pitch, hoping that a client will select you over countless others?
Successful freelancers know that there is another path. Instead of going to the client, have them come to you. Getting clients to desire your services---to approach you rather than vice versa---is a function of two variables: producing excellent work and being able to market that message.
Getting incoming traffic and loyal users is called inbound marketing, and it refers to the process of bringing customers to you via several avenues, rather than approaching them. Some examples are: creating search engine optimized content, viral videos, and shared articles that brings incoming traffic.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is the process of building content that brings leads and clients to you. The alternative is outbound marketing. Think of the common strategies for marketing--cold calling, mass emailing, buying ads, etc. These are outbound strategies. The marketer is going out and trying to find customers. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is building high-quality shareable content that drives traffic to you.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is building high-quality shareable content that drives traffic to you.
Consider a blog with well written articles. A freelancer can write articles or record interviews that are worth reading and worth sharing. Some readers will share the post on Twitter or Facebook, and people will visit the site naturally. Over time, as the site increases in search engine rankings, people will stumble upon the site through relevant Google searches.
If you build a proper mechanism to capture these readers (via RSS or, even better, through an email list), these readers will continue to see your content over time. If you continue to produce good content, and mention your services in articles that you post, your subscribers and new readers will contact YOU for services when they need something done.
The real question you should be asking is, “How can I get subscribers to come to me?”
You've got to have something to show before clients will come clawing at your door. Get started with your portfolio and your blog.
1) Build your portfolio
Without an online home, potential clients won’t know what you’re capable of. As a budding freelancer, you must have your own website, complete with a portfolio of work you’ve already done and services you’d like to offer.
Many new freelancers are intimidated by the process of buying a domain, creating the design, and getting your site set up. Fortunately, there are a ton of resources to help ease this process.
When first starting, you can use a number of sites that handle your portfolio for you. Here is a summary of ten portfolio solutions.
Also, check out this article: Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps.
I highly recommend spending time to obtain testimonials from your previous clients. Testimonials offer a bit of social proof about your services, and tend to diminish the fears of potential customers. Here is a great article about the 5 Step Approach to Gathering and Using Client Testimonials.
2) Build a blog
Successful bloggers everywhere say it--building a blog is life-changing. It encourages incoming traffic. It allows you to share your portfolio. It gives you something to share with people when networking.
Once you’ve built a portfolio with your recent work, I encourage you to develop a blog with consistently updated content. Why?
- A blog demonstrates your knowledge of the industry. By writing and showcasing posts of current trends and actionable advice, people who see your site will trust you--and be much more willing to approach you for services.
- A blog allows you to capture an audience. Through the creation of a blog, you'll be moving a step closer to developing an audience. Build up your RSS subscribers and especially your email list. When people are captured, you can start to produce more and better content. When they enjoy your content, you'll be the first person they think of when they need services done.
So now what?
Great, so you’ve built a blog and a portfolio, plus great testimonials.You can show off the work you’ve done and the work you could be doing. So, how do you get people to actually come to your site---and more importantly, actually pay you for services?
It’s time for you to start networking. Here are some specific tips on how you can use your newly developed portfolio to actually build desire, and build sales.
1. Get your content shared
So you've got a biog and a great portfolio. How do you convince people to read your content?
The answer is via guest posting. Write articles on other blogs in your niche with a bigger audience. When you write excellent, high quality content on another blog, you are effectively receiving an endorsement of that blog-and readers will see your content and want to follow you.
Check out this article, which shows you how to write an effective guest post.
One thing is important, however--it’s imperative that you capture the readers who come to your site. Most people, when writing a guest post, will simply link to their homepage. Sadly, most readers will arrive, look around and just close the tab-just another uptick on your unique visitor count and bounce rate.
Instead, build a landing page on your site where readers will land. Offer them exclusive content--a giveaway, or a report--in exchange for their email address. Here is an example of a landing page that converts extremely well. Note that I give away something in exchange for an email address. (I recommend Aweber for gathering email addresses).
Go ahead and post your articles on Facebook and Twitter, but do remember, email will lead to a much higher conversion rate than other social media outlets.
2. Determine what other methods you will use to drive traffic--and make it a priority to capture incoming users
There are numerous methods of building incoming traffic. As I mentioned before, guest posting is an extremely efficient method to bring in high quality traffic. There are other ways to build a viral element, however.
Check out Hubspot’s article on Inbound marketing to see examples of methods you can use to build recurring traffic. Among them, SEO, blogging, and RSS feeds are the simplest and most efficient ways to bring about continuous traffic. Viral videos, ebooks, and webinars are other methods to drive traffic, but often require more upfront labor.
Again--you must make it a priority to capture users who arrive on your site via your email list.
Selling Services to Your Captured List
Once you’ve started generating an incoming list of subscribers, you can start mentioning your services in your posts and emails.
As you write more and more content, you can share this work with your growing reader base. At the end of each post (or in the middle, if you can tie it in seamlessly), mention that you offer relevant services.
Every time you post a particularly excellent post, send an email to your email list. You can mention, in a postscript after your email, that you are available for consulting and freelance services.
Over time, the articles that you post should be search engine optimized to attract in readers from Google. Keyword research and SEO. Learn more about search engine optimization here.
The goal here is to provide such good content that visitors and readers trust you---and want to buy your stuff. It's important to capture readers with RSS and email, in order to market your services to your readers. Incoming readers will see your posts, subscribe to your email list, and will desire your work when they need services done.
Leverage Your Inbound Marketing System
Through the use of inbound marketing techniques, a portfolio, and a system to capture readers’ email addresses, you can start building a brand around yourself, and pitch services to captured readers. Each time that new subscribers are exposed to your content, they will trust you a bit more---and be that much more likely to choose you when they need services handled.
So get out there, build a blog, and build a following. With inbound marketing, you’ll be able to get clients to come to you.