Whether you call yourself a freelancer, a solo/independent consultant, a solopreneur or maybe even something else entirely, one of the biggest challenges that we face as one-person bands is the ability to balance our workloads effectively – in particular by keeping the sales pipeline filling up while we’re busy working on other projects.
And I can speak about this from recent personal experience…
I have a confession to make…
I dropped the ball on the sales front earlier this year. After a busy Q4 in 2014 (resulting in December being my most successful month income-wise to date at the time) and a very busy January running CR 25 single-handedly, followed by two large one-off projects in Feb-Mar (which both overran), I was simply too busy to fit sales into the mix.
Then in April: quiet. Well… I had enough to keep me going, but things were a lot quieter than I was used to. It was my quietest period since my first three months in business (way back in the summer of 2013) and therefore in over 18 months. Yikes.
Things have picked up rather nicely since then, but I wanted to take the time to blog about some of the ways that I went about drumming up new business during that quiet spell. And while working on this list of sales tactics for freelancers, I just kept adding more and more ideas to it and ended up with 20 different ways…! For the record though, you might not see some tactics that you’re expecting to see… For example, I don’t condone cold-calling, door-to-door sales or any other type of ‘interruptive’ marketing like that, so that won’t be in the list below. I’m also not keen on freelancer marketplace websites (e.g. PeoplePerHour) – I’m not saying that they don’t work, they’re just not for me, and I’m sure that there are other freelancers who feel the same way.
…So what else can you do?
A slight disclaimer: some of these are probably really obvious, but if fellow freelancers (SEO or otherwise) browse the list, see 2 or 3 points and think to themselves: “damn, why didn’t I think of that?” then that’ll do for me…!
First things first…
1) Remove any “I’m not available” type messages from your blog/website
If you’re in a position to network and drive leads and enquiries your way, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to put people off with a message on your site that says “I’m unavailable at the moment” or “I’m unavailable until [future date]”… It’s all well and good to have this on the site when you are full-up capacity-wise, but be sure to remove it when you aren’t and when you’re actively seeking work. While this might seem really obvious, it’s crucial that you make sure to remember to remove the message everywhere and anywhere it’s featured: is it on your Contact page / your Hire Me page / site-wide? For me, it was on this very blog’s Hire Me page and my freelance site‘s Contact page, but it could be disasterous if I only remembered to remove it off one of the pages and not the other – so be sure to remember to do it…!
As an aside… Some people swear off using these type of messages entirely, which is fair enough (after all, what if a dream enquirer sees it and it puts them off from enquiring?), but @ChrisLDyson of Triple SEO raised a good point that it usually still brings in the more serious enquiries while putting off the “can I just get a quote?” types. Besides, they might not read it anyway and just get in touch regardless.
Right, got that sorted? Good. Onto the next one…
Leveraging existing business relationships
2) Touch base with old clients
If you work with clients directly and you’ve already done work for somebody – maybe on a one-off basis – and you left things on good terms, then it makes sense to touch base and catch up on their current situation. Maybe they’re in need of more of your assistance?
I did some one-off consulting for two companies in the past year and decided to email them asking how things were going. Both of them said that my timing was perfect, that they’d be keen to reconvene things – and I’ve already been to see one of them (the other one is still keen but they’re going to leave it another month or two). Nice and easy.
Obviously this only really works in certain circumstances – for example, if you stopped working with a client because their budget ran out/got cut, or they’ve gone ahead with another supplier, or they’ve brought the service in-house instead, then you may want to give those ones a miss. But think back to all your old clients and get in touch with those who loved what you did for them and might need more of the same.
3) Touch base with your main referral partners (e.g. agencies)
Who usually passes you work? In my case, as an SEO, I get a fair bit of work from web design agencies and PR agencies. Similar to the point above, get in touch with those that you’ve worked with before and find out if any of their clients currently need help with anything.