The Top 5 Powerhouse Marketing Secrets For Freelancers
Ask a room full of freelancers what they do and you’ll get a broad spectrum of answers. Not so apparent in those replies, though, is that every freelancer actually has two mission-critical titles.
The one on the business card is pretty obvious. Writer, designer, developer, stylist, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, what about that other title? The one that lurks in the wings, yet is the secret driving force behind your success or failure in your “business-card” field. The one that reads, “Undercover Chief Marketing Offer.”
As a rule, freelancers, me included, hate thinking about this second job-title for two reasons. One, there is this pervasive feeling that focusing on the business-side of what we do somehow degrades or de-emphasizes the “craft” of what we do. “After all,” comes the rally-cry, “we’re artists, creators, visionaries. Our work should speak for itself.” The fact that so many gifted freelancers live a wrung above hand-to-mouth, though, is testament to the blatant fallacy of this notion.
And, two, most freelancers deplore the various tasks that fall under the heading of sales and marketing… at least when what needs to be sold or marketed is us! We get this feeling that there’s just something a bit unseemly about throwing on the marketing hat and actively engaging in what, all to often, feels like “whoring” ourselves out.
Like it or not, though, if you want to succeed, you need to spend as much time working “on” your career as you do working “in” your career. Maybe more. Think about it. How many times have you lost out on a project and then, months down the road, seen what the person who got job delivered and said, “man, I could have kicked his ass, I am so much better than that!”
And, in fact, you may be better, a lot better. But, in the world of business, the job most often goes to the person not with the most talent, but the best marketing chops.
Which begs the question—what are those extra things that you need to do, beyond cultivating your “business-card” talents, that will drive you from begging for the job to tripling your rates and wait-listing clients?
Here are the five most-effective, put money in your pocket, freelancer Chief Marketing Officer tasks:
1. Call back first. This seems so basic, but it is the single most egregious breach of your marketing duties. Simple fact — the job most often goes not to the most talented, but the most-responsive freelancer. People just don’t call back. And, if they do, they take their sweet time. As soon as you become aware of a job, call immediately. Then, make your pitch, respond to all return calls like they are the most important interactions of your day… and watch the revenue roll in. Why is this so true?
Because, clients want to work with freelancers who make their lives easier! Failing to call back or provide information quickly sends the message to a prospective employer that working with you will make their lives harder, not easier. Most freelancers, in nearly every profession, are notoriously unprofessional, call-back on their own timeframe, if ever, and are unaware of the huge negative impact of being unresponsive.
So, when you are super-responsive, you immediately stand out as someone who not has the content-specific skills, but an unusual level of responsiveness and professionalism. And, that’s what gets the job… because it makes the client’s life easier.
2. Double your fees. Whaaa? You heard right. Why? Because price implies quality. Hundreds of millions have been spent trying to understand the psychology of pricing. And, one thing we’ve learned is that, without realizing it, people automatically assume that if something is expensive, there must be a reason for it.
If you price yourself at the bottom of the market in an effort get more clients faster, especially in the early days of your career, you may be doing yourself a huge disservice. Prospective clients look at someone who quotes rock-bottom prices and think, “there’s got to be something wrong with them. Nobody worthwhile is that cheap.”
Plus, even if you get clients with a low-cost strategy, you’ll very likely end up with that very “special” posse of clients whose main concern is price, not quality, and those are the clients who are 100% guaranteed to suck the life out you every chance they get. So, while you may not feel comfortable setting your fees at the top of the market, be careful about going too low as well.
3. Never work on spec, use risk-reversal instead. Working on spec is a way to prove your worth, but it is also a way to devalue your services and invest a whole lot of time, without a whole lot of return. So, instead, try this lesson from the world of direct-response copywriting. Use risk-reversal.
Tell your client your product/service is top-notch and your fees reflect that. But, because they have never worked with you before, as an inducement for this first project (or short-phase/deliverable, if it’s a bigger project), you will require your standard deposit and fee.
But… if they are not completely satisfied, you will refund the fee in full (again, only for the limited early work done). Be sure, too, that your agreement states that, if a refund is requested it must be done in writing no later than the time of delivery and all materials, concepts, work-product and intellectual property rights are immediately returned/relinquished to you and the client agrees not to use any or all of it for any purposes in the future (there goes the lawyer in me, again).
How is this different than working on spec? First, you get paid your fee, up front. Second, it requires the client to pro-actively look you in the eye and demand a refund after they know you’ve put in a lot of time and energy. That’s a hard thing to do. Third, it makes the client feel good about the relationship, because they feel like you are willing to share in the risk during your “just-dating” phase. And, finally, it plays on the psychology of the client who thinks, “this person must be good, because she not only won’t work on spec, but her fees are “A-list” and she is so confident in her abilities, she is willing to put her money where her mouth is.”
4. Build rapport before pitching price. Newsflash—budgets are works of fiction. They are starting points that are ritually blown through. So, even clients who need to fit within a budget will find a work-around, if you give them a reason to want to work-around it.
Simple fact, price sensitivity is never about price, it’s about price in relation to value. But, here’s where most freelances miss the boat. Value is not all about talent or skills. A huge chunk of value is ease. Clients place a giant value on how comfortable they feel with you, how easy you are to work with, how deeply they feel you understand their needs and culture and how responsive you are to all of these.
How do you convey that you are “the (wo)man” when it comes to delivering these unspoken elements of value? Well, you can’t just come out and tell them you’ll do all of this for them. But, everyone does that and it’s seen as puffery or, worse, outright arrogance.
You can engage them in genuine conversation, though, ask a ton of questions about them, their company, their project and their mission. Ask how they work, what they look for in their relationship with freelancers. And, most importantly, ask what is important to them about both the way this project is done and the person they are looking to retain. Then, do something 99% of your competition won’t do.
Listen! Then, forget your canned pitch and respond to what they’ve shared.
There is so much more to do from a rapport-building standpoint and I’ll talk about these things in a later article. But, these simple techniques will allow you to add value on a subtextual and somewhat subliminal level that will make the price largely an afterthought. By the time you get to talking fees, the conversation will be more about when you can start than how much you charge.
Build killer rapport and the sale is over!
5. Ask for the sale, but assume you already have it. Let’s face it, we all pretty much hate that moment where all the information is conveyed and the only thing left is for you to either leave and wait for a call or be grotesquely brazen and ask for the sale. There’s an old line that goes, “80-percent of all sales go to 20-percent of salespeople.” They’re the ones who actually ask for the sale. But, feeling so uncomfortable in that critical-moment, nearly 100% of freelancers never ask for the job.
If you want the job, though, you need to ask for it. Does that mean you end your meetings by saying, “okay, so can I have the job?” Well, you could, but a far better way to go about it is to invest all of your energy in building rapport (see above) and then simply close the conversation with a line that implies you already have the sale. Something like, “Thanks so much for your time, Stan. It’s wonderful how in sync we are on all aspects of this project. I am actually finishing up a large job this week and I’ve got some other work on deck, but your project really resonates with me, so I’d love to work you into the mix as soon as possible. Shall we begin next week?”
Is this too aggressive? If you haven’t built enough rapport and just thrown it out early on, absolutely. You’ll be punted out on your bootie right fast. But, if you’ve really taken the time to listen, build rapport and cultivate value and trust, this line flows so naturally the price becomes an afterthought and the sale becomes a lock.
(P.S. – There were a whole bunch of language patterns and assumptions in there designed to create very specific persuasive impact, can you see what they were and what the intended-effect was? Share your thoughts in the comments)
If you take one thing out this article, this is it – every freelancer, every employee, every person looking to attract clients or customers is in the business of sales and marketing. You can either fight it or you can learn a few fundamental sales and marketing tools and get comfy with the notion that your success is not only about your business-card talent, but how effective you are as your own chief marketing officer.
Invest in your secret side-job and your career will make strides like never before. Ignore it and you’ll be waiting tables to fund your true calling.