Freelancer’s Guide: Get New Clients

dollar-signSince publishing my last post, I’ve gotten lots of questions from people who want to start service businesses, who have marketable skills and talents, but who are either intimidated or even stopped cold by the idea of getting new clients.

Many of these otherwise bold, creative, talented individuals feel somehow inept or ill-equipped to convince people to pay them for their valuable services. Fear not, Faithful Freelancer, for the answer is easier than you may think.

The first thing we have to deal with is the internal attitude that most freelancers live with; that attitude, summed up, is one of very low self-worth. Why is this? It’s probably more of a cultural question, bound up in the American ideal of perfectionism and performance. Obviously, this is beyond the scope of a simple blog post. So let me deal at least with the surface symptom of this condition. To put it quite simply: if people are willing to pay you anything at all, then your work has value. How much people are willing to pay you is based in part on the quality of your work, and in part on the quality of your marketing.

Now just in case some may object, let me be clear: I am not suggesting that it is good, honest, or ethical to knowingly sell a product that is somehow defective. That is the furthest from my intention. I’m a champion of excellence, and a believer that every project you work on should be a project at the end of which you can say honestly, “That was the best work of which I was capable.”

However… it is possible to get so bound up in the ideal of perfection that you never actually attempt or finish a project because you are never able to reach a point where you say it is “good enough”.

The first step to overcoming the self-worth problem faced by most freelancers is to trust your instinct about what is good enough, and what is not good enough. Your instinct-or perhaps better said, that “still, small voice” that you hear in your heart-will tell you when your work is, in fact, “good enough”.

Now, back to the subject of marketing (the second half of our equation that determines how much people are willing to pay for your services). While you may or may not be comfortable with the idea that the quality of your marketing contributes massively to the value people place on your work, it is true. Colleague and copywriter Ben Settle, in a recent edition of his Crypto Marketing newsletter (I am a paying subscriber and highly recommend it), makes the point beautifully:

Who do you think will get more clients faster: (1) The straight “A” student lawyer fresh out of Harvard, who nobody knows and just set up his practice with a sign outside his door or… (2) The “C” level lawyer who barely graduated from a cheaper, little-known law school… but who is interviewed about legal questions on the radio for an hour on a big station that reaches the entire community? Like it or not… the mediocre radio lawyer will probably win every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Why? Because he’s on the radio… and the highfalutin’ guy with all the degrees isn’t!

With this in mind, I’m going to make two assumptions.

  1. The skill or talent you plan to sell as a freelancer (or service business provider) is one in which you are at least competent, and hopefully better-than-average.
  2. You are ready, willing, and able to put some effort into your marketing program. And here is a hint: most everyone is “able”-but very few seem to be “ready and willing”. If you can muster the moral fiber to be ready and willing to do some work, you’ve automatically outclassed 95% of your competition. That should plaster a big goofy grin all over your mug.

If you meet those two qualifications above, let’s get started on a simple but effective marketing program that should put clients in your stable and coins in your coffers. Here are three simple steps to putting profits in your pipeline:

  1. Start a blog. It’s easy to do, and there is plenty of material available online that will teach you how to do it. And let me give you a very important tip: you don’t need super secret blog software (in fact I recommend you use the ubiquitous WordPress), you don’t need to hire a high-priced designer, and if your content is good, you can use an off the rack theme (a templated “skin” or “look and feel” for your WordPress blog that can be installed at the touch of a button). The most important aspect of your blog is that you post content on a regular schedule, and what you post is not material that markets your services but rather helpful information that your potential prime prospects are looking for.
  2. Build an e-mail list. From the very beginning, give your readers a reason to subscribe to your regular e-mails. I highly recommend you consider e-mailing them every single day. This is a practice that I have tested and am convinced will yield better results than mailings on any other schedule. Just remember, if you make every single mailing a sales pitch you will do yourself more harm than good. So strive to send something of value to your readers every single day. There are plenty of people who will disagree with my advice, and many of them are “super brains”. But I stand by my test results, and the test results of my colleagues and clients; I have personally renewed my commitment to sending daily e-mails to my list. Emails that are chock-full of quality material. I recommend you do the same.
  3. Develop an information product. The moment you publish your own information product (audio or video courses preferred) about your area of expertise, you are instantly elevated above most of your competition. Anyone who publishes-even if only electronically-is automatically granted a psychological edge over those who do not publish. Example from my own career: several years ago, when I finally gave in to the advice and urgings of my good friends and mentors Armand Morin and Alex Mandossian and developed my own copywriting course (called Web Copywriting Explained), I was surprised by two unexpected outcomes: the first being the fact that I made more money than I anticipated through the sale of the course (very near $100,000 right out of the gate, even though at that time I was a relative unknown), and the second unexpected outcome being the acquisition of two major clients, who rose up from the ranks of those who bought the course. One of those clients admitted that she bought the course mainly to see if I knew what I was talking about. Both of those clients paid me over $25,000 to write copy for them. Publishing your own information products is one of the most effective ways to develop a “farm team” of potential clients who will pay for your services. In fact, it’s like getting paid to do your marketing.

Those are three of the most powerful strategies I know of to develop new clients for your service business. They are culled from my own experience, and from a course I taught last year about how to become a recognized authority in your chosen field in 90 days or less. That course, The Authority Accelerator, is currently off the market pending revision.

If you’re interested in this topic, or related topics, please add your comments or questions in the section below: the level of response will determine whether I continue to elaborate on this particular subject, or move on to other topics that I wish to talk about.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “Freelancer’s Guide: Get New Clients

  1. Ray, you are dead on the money, as usual…

    I still love the way you podcast, always get a kick out of
    hearing you do your magic, i'm trying to podcast more too…

    You are still the best broadcaster/copydude on the net!

    Your #1 fan

    Jeff Davis

    Kahlil Gibran ~ Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.

  2. Thanks Ray!

    For those that are aware it's a welcome reminder and for those that aren't, it's sage advice.

    Please, do continue…

    Best Wishes,

    Tom

  3. Thank you Ray, it's always great to get your expert guiding!
    Yes, please go on with this topic: many of us need them even when some things are known to us it's still good to put this all in the system proven by such a pro like yourself.

    Looking forward for more good stuff from YOU!

    Prof. Hrachya Harutyunian

    P.S. By the way, how was the copywriting course end of April?
    I would like to take the next one, so please put me on the list.

  4. Thanks for the insight. Our biggest problem is marketing ourselves on the internet effectively. This is good information. Establishing ourselves as the authority or worthy authority is an activity in which we are engaged and need assistance. Please continue this dialogue.

  5. RE: #s 1 & 3

    While I appreciate your advice and it surely makes sense in Utopia, it seems to me there are so many copywriting blogs and bozos online offering “information products” that chances for a relative unknown, as you were when you first published, to be found, much less sell products/services, are slim to none.

    I believe there is just too much “noise” on today's internet for anyone but celebrities and well-recognized publications (i.e., NY Times, WSJ, People, Newsweek, etc.) to garner attention or even a following.

    I felt compelled to write this because it seems I see more people hyping their “information products” about making money ion the internet, etc. than there are internet users….What especially gripes me are the number of copywriting info products that promise, “whether or not you have any writing talent, YOU, yes YOU, can make millions as an online copywriter!!!!!!!!”

    All that said, I think your posts are generally terrific, helpful and thought-provoking. Thanks for your good advice.

    • I appreciate where you're coming from. People said the same thing when I was starting…. in 2005! So it wasn't all that long ago. And I think it's easier now, not harder. The trick to overcoming “noise” is… be interesting,useful and part of a community. And the LAST thing I would worry about are big companies like WSJ, NYT, etc… those guys are dinosaurs and it remains to be seen in what form (if any) they will survive.

      I won't promise you that you can make millions as a copywriter, and obviously you have to be able to write. But I do believe virtually anyone who can write a business memo can write competent copy; and that just about anyone can make a decent living online.

      Thanks for your comments!

  6. Hi Ray

    Thanks for your (as always) helpful post.

    This is an important topic, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd go into more detail.

    All the best

  7. Great reminder that to be a big deal and get more money and connections we need to get out of the office and make connections. It is so easy to get surrounded by work, but the reality is that we need to be out and amongst the people.

  8. Great advice, Ray!

    Thanks for sharing about your test results re: emailing every day. I had been holding back from doing that, but I think I'll try it. I certainly love to write, and it will keep me on my toes to be looking to send great content.

  9. Elaborate Ray, elaborate! Apart from the example tactic given – a radio show- this is high grade motivational content.

    I'm in the middle of planning my service development and client acquisition program right now. Good timing – I'm all ears.

    Jonathan