Like every other freelancer, you probably rely too much on referrals for new business.
I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it. As you can see from the results of my freelancing survey, all of us freelancers are guilty of it.
But, let’s face it, relying on referrals is risky.
Sitting around waiting for something to show up in our inbox or a fellow freelancer to kick us a gig is unreliable at best and a business starvation plan at worst.
What you should do instead
Most freelancers don’t have a passion for marketing.
Far from it, actually, we mostly think it’s icky.
But again, word of mouth can only carry your business so far—especially when you have no active strategy in place to build a referral network and generate consistent referrals.
Right now, you don’t have predictable income because you don’t have a predictable stream of leads and prospects coming your way.
To change that, you’ve got to do some form of business development.
There are many different types of marketing and business development that will get you new clients.
For example, inbound marketing.
A blog—which is a type of inbound marketing—is a great way to bring you many leads. You blog, create a list of people interested in what you write about, and over time you earn their trust, and eventually, you win their business.
Sean D’Souza describes this as the Spider’s Secret.
A spider weaves a web that catches the many flies that come by and get caught in the web.
That’s inbound marketing.
Sean goes on to describe another form of marketing as the fox hunting and chasing after a mouse. (That’s akin to outbound marketing.)
Then he asks if you’d rather be the spider—who spends their time creating a web that can catch dozens of prey at a time, or the fox who chases after one meal at a time with no guarantee they’ll end up with that meal after exerting all that effort chasing.
Put that way, you’d obviously want to be the spider, right?
But here’s the problem; creating that web or system for catching all those leads takes time and an enormous amount of effort.
…sometimes, what you’ve got to do instead is be the fox and go hunting.
Who should you chase after?
But if you’re going to hunt, you’re gonna want to chase the right clients.
Because, if you’re putting in the effort, the payoff has to be worth it.
In Chet Helms’ book, The Ultimate Sales Machine he talks about focusing marketing efforts on a list of Dream 100 best buyers.
His theory was that the best buyers, “buy more, buy faster, and buy more often than other buyers.”
So he put together his list of dream clients he wanted to work with.
Over time that meant that he landed 60 of the Fortune 500 as clients by ONLY marketing to those businesses.
So where do you find the best buyers?
Okay, so we’ve established that if you are going to go out and chase after clients, they’ve got to be good ones. But where do you find these clients?
You could go directly to them like Chet did. Make a list of your dream clients—quality businesses, in other words. The ones that buy more, faster, and more often than other buyers.
The problem with that is how do you know if or when they’ll need a project? You don’t.
They might be interested in working with you if you reach out to them, but if there isn’t an immediate need, they aren’t going to hire you. Not right then, at least.
So outbound marketing of that sort can also take a while to work and comes with a lot of effort that might not pay off until later down the road.
If you want to do that sort of marketing in the most efficient way, it means you’ll need to know when there is a project up for grabs.
But it’s got to be a place filled with quality leads though, right? So no 99designs, or Upwork or other freelancing sites. Those rarely, if ever have opportunities from Dream 100 type of businesses.
If you want quality leads—Dream 100 type leads—you’re gonna have to focus your search on job boards.
You’ve got to sort through internet job boards and find project-based opportunities from the best companies.
Any drawbacks to that? Oh yes, there are plenty.
- Most job postings are for full-time gigs. (We are looking for project work, not a full-time job.)
- Most postings are for onsite jobs. (That’s an issue if you want to be location-independent.)
- You’ll be competing with other freelancers.
- It takes some serious time to sift through job listings and find the nuggets worth pursuing.
So much time in fact, that I’d say job boards shouldn’t be part of your marketing mix at all. They are mostly a waste of time.
I remember wasting hours of time looking for freelance opportunities for my design business on job boards and almost all of them were for onsite, full-time gigs.
After a while I just gave up on job boards as a marketing channel because maybe 1 opportunity out of 100 listings was something I’d think about pursuing.
My friend Preston at Millo.co has come up with a service that sends you a hundred hand-curated high-quality freelance gigs every month.
Score quality freelance leads
Preston and his team scour internet job boards for gigs from quality businesses. (Recent postings include listings from businesses like Shopify, Github, Shutterstock, Dribbble, Flywheel, Etsy, Trello, WordPress and dozens more.)
The cool thing about this service, called SolidGigs, is that 98% of the postings are for remote work.
They free up the time it would take you to crawl the internet looking for reasonable opportunities from good companies. They take that job off your hands so you can focus on client work.
The service is still in Beta and Preston just opened up a small amount of seats and the offer he has going right now is $8/month for hundreds of quality freelance gigs.
And if you sign up now—even if the price goes up later—you’ll lock in that $8/month price for the first full year you’re with SolidGigs.
That’s a hard deal to beat.
Instead of taking time away from your work to sort through all those garbage listings, for less than $100 a year you get quality leads sent to you.
If you land just 1 opportunity a year you can easily make 10X your money back. Likely much more than that.
If you are looking to go beyond referrals and create a more reliable way for your business to consistently get new opportunities, this is it. You’re not going to find an easier way, or quicker way to find good opportunities.
Go check out SolidGigs now to get in on the next round of seats Preston opens up.