I frequently hear 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 one of his newsletters, 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Question: what is the biggest obstacle that keeps you from getting new clients now?