My talk was in conjunction with my new book, Anti-Sell – essentially a condensed talk version of the book, giving sales and networking tips to freelancers and small business owners who struggle with (or simply downright hate) sales.
Shout out to @steviephil for a fantastic talk yesterday covering the perils of self-promotion. Some great advice for those with sales phobia – like myself… Eeek. Did I mention that he's written a book? 😉 pic.twitter.com/xHyNbIPjyv
Wanna learn more about how the book came to be? Read on…
The story of Anti-Sell
Truth be told, I never thought I’d ever become an author. I love blogging (the fact that SEOno’s been going since 2011 is proof of that!) but I thought books were silly – after all, books can become obsolete (especially SEO books). But then…
A few years ago, I wrote a post on here titled 20 Ways That Freelancers Can Drum Up Sales During Quieter Times. Following on from that, I had a few more ideas of posts around the topic of sales and networking, aimed at freelancers specifically. Given that this is (mostly) an SEO blog, I wasn’t sure how best to proceed… That’s when I realised that the advice is pretty much timeless, and that each separate post idea I had could be a separate chapter in a book instead. That’s when the idea of writing a book – instead of lots of blog posts – became a plan.
As bloggers, we often get very fixated and carried away with our blogs: making sure that the content that we produce, the blog’s design, etc. are all absolutely perfect. SEO often enters the mix as well (in a do-it-yourself capacity), but it’s not simply a case of adding the WordPress SEO plugin – which is, admittedly, great – to your blog and thinking that that’s all you need to do on the SEO front…
On the contrary… On the link building (a.k.a. off-site SEO) side of things, the possibilities are endless and the fun never ends. It’s not a quantity game, but the more high quality, relevant and natural links that you get pointing to your website (or your blog, as is the case here), the better that it’ll perform from an SEO standpoint, resulting in a likely increase in visibility from organic search – i.e. when people are Googling content relevant to your blog, they might stand more of a chance of finding it, resulting in more traffic to it. So while you can tinker and tweak your site’s internal workings to improve its on-site SEO, you can also improve its off-site SEO by acquiring inbound links.
But how do you go about getting links? Where do you start?
As an SEO who’s also a keen blogger, here are a few ways of getting links back to your blog that have worked for me:
1) Guest blogging
Although this tactic has lost some of its impact due to people spamming it too much (although it’s not all bad – you can read my views here), there might still be some good opportunities to guest blog on other bloggers’ websites in your niche, so it’s worth looking into. In addition to the link back to your blog, the hosting blogger is likely to promote it via their social media profiles, too.
It’s worked for me. Beyond recently becoming a regular contributor on State Of Digital, I have also written posts for Moz, SEMrush and other industry blogs. In addition to getting some good industry exposure, getting links from such high profile websites to my blog has helped with its SEO.
Going to local blogger meet-ups simply to get to know other local bloggers and to offer advice can be a good way to get links. I’ve seen people get links because someone’s published a write-up of the event and they’ve included links to all the bloggers that they met there. I’ve even been added to a few bloggers’ blogrolls simply due to taking the time to get to know them.
Cardiff Blogs used to be the big player a few years back, but they run less events now than they used to. Despite this, there are a few blogging-related events that seem to crop up every now and again in the South Wales area – so it’s worth keeping an eye out.
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.
43 episodes and nearly a year later, I was delighted to be asked to be the main speaker on a topic close to my heart: offline, face-to-face networking for SEOs. The Hangout took place this past Thursday (24th July).
During the Hangout we talked about:
My networking approach, which is not to sell – just getting to know people, listening to them and answering any questions that they have. “Anti-sales is the best kind of sales.”
Going to events on your own. What’s best to do? Try and go where you know someone is going, or bring a friend with you.
How networking doesn’t have to be seen as your traditional business networking events. Networking is what you make of it. You can network at social meetups (just so long as you don’t just sell, sell, sell – that’s sleazy). Just give people help and advice.
Researching events before you go – e.g. finding out who else is attending.
Networking at events where you’re also speaking, especially in terms of keeping calm or not acting too aloof or egotistical!
Networking at conferences, of both the SEO and non-SEO variety.
Not being one of those networkers who tries to leave a conversation the moment they realise that the person they’re talking to isn’t a potential customer/client – it’s not about selling to the person in front of you, it’s about getting to know them and vice versa. “You have no idea who knows who.”
Using social media (especially LinkedIn) for following up and keeping in touch with people after you’ve met them in person.
How to handle ‘hecklers’, i.e. people who have a negative impression of SEO when you meet them.