Freelancing can seem really mysterious from the outside.
Between deciding on a skillset, choosing the “right” niche, and figuring out the murky world of payment and income, sometimes it seems a lot easier to just turn around and plop back into the frustrating but relatively simple world of employment.
Any honest freelancer though, will tell you that this whole thing? Is mostly a numbers game, at least at first.
Yep. Getting past those first bumpy years and into the higher-paying, (generally) confident and more stable years of established freelancing is largely about volume. That’s why today? I’m going to talk to you about your “minimums”.
You know how they say a lot of life is result of your habits? Freelancing is one of the places where that’s REALLY true. Setting up a minimum level of marketing habits for your freelance business will pay off in multiple ways…
- You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t so you can start getting more out of the time you invest in freelancing.
- You’ll be making major steps to get over nervousness (notice you don’t wait for the nervousness to pass…you work through it.)
- You’ll see results in your business in terms of client quality, enjoyment, and income.
I’m going to toss some basic minimums out there. If you have a skillset and a niche (you will if you’ve made it through phase 2 of the Freelance Workbook) you’re ready to do this.
Part of freelancing is introducing yourself to people. If you’re an introvert like me, it sounds tortuous, and that’s why I do mine online.
If you’re more outgoing or working locally, you might want to do these in person or at conferences. Personally, I’m location independent, so I mostly use LinkedIn in the form of contact requests with short, personalized messages (adapted from a script) that tell people who I am, what I do, and include a call to action to talk.
It’s worth noting that for writers especially (and for anyone short on business), these numbers can go much higher. (Check out the Letter of Introduction tag on MakeALivingWriting while you’re here.) I’ve seen people saying they send out 100 a week. That’s a lot IMO, so start with 10 and see where it takes you.
20 Prospect Touches
They say it takes 8-12 “touches” to close a sale, so this is something you should be ON. Once you’ve got a company or person in your list that could be a real possibility, you’ve got to stay in front of them. The key here though, is respect and variety.
Don’t just bombard someone’s email. If they have business presences on Twitter or LinkedIn, like a post…leave a comment…mention that you enjoyed something you saw them publish. Keep it focused on business and if they tell you they aren’t interested, respect that. (And don’t forget former clients here.)
It helps to keep a list, so if you don’t already, start a spreadsheet or use a free/cheap CRM solution like Insightly.
3 automated lists
I swear automation is the best thing that’s ever happened to freelancing, and lists that come straight to your email? Beautiful.
I have emails from Upwork, Indeed, Freelance Writing Jobs, and LinkedIn to deliver gigs to me and I check them all at least once a week.
OK…Before we move on, I have to stop here for a second and share a little sales truth with you. All these emails, and prospects, and touches? You gotta manage your expectations or you’ll get real frustrated, real fast, and give up before you give yourself a real chance.
You’ll see experienced sellers (that’s what you’re doing here…selling your freelance services) brag about hearing back from even 25% of the people they contact, so if as a new freelancer you’re not even hearing back from one in twenty? Don’t feel bad at ALL. You’re perfectly normal. Plenty of people are working with response rates under 2%. The answer to that isn’t just to send more email though. What it means is that you just got your first signal that you probably need to refine who you’re targeting or your communication (something we work on regularly in the Academy).
Read one news article
This might sound small, but it’s a necessary habit.
Freelancing means you take responsibility for staying on top of how business flows in your world (something employers likely used to do for you). If you aren’t reading, you aren’t informed, and if you aren’t informed, your business is sailing along in the dark.
Whether it’s an organizational newsletter or even an article on LinkedIn, read at least one a week (preferably one a day) so that you can stay ahead of any major shifts and changes ride those waves to more success for yourself.
Best part about these? Make this a practice and you’ll start to see mentions of the exact people and organizations you’ll want to use to flesh out your prospect lists.
That brings up the most important point I’m going to make here. If you’re wondering whether there are enough businesses and people out there to keep this up, trust…there are more than enough. I find most of my contacts and prospects through Google News Alerts, press releases, and LinkedIn searches, but a few trips to trade magazine sites and searches (like this) for “top # companies” and a niche dimension can pull lists that are hundreds of companies long. (Also check the drop-down at the top menu under your respective skill for a list of titles you should be keeping an eye out for.)
Remember, this is a starting point. Most freelancers are doing quite a bit more, at least before they have a reputation and learn where they provide the most value, but this will get you off to a solid start. Don’t get overwhelmed with that though. The whole point here is simplicity. Stick to these minimums, pay attention to your results, and you’ll be ahead of the majority of other freelance folk out here.