Marketing Your Business

Most freelancers are reactive — they wait for new leads to come to them.

The problem is that getting leads reactively depends on luck. Will you get a new client when you need them? Or will you instead need to start looking for a job?

Our in-depth articles and guides on sales and marketing will help you generate high-quality project leads on your own terms, and allow you to eliminate uncertainty and doubt.

Our Views On Sales & Marketing:

  • You should be proactive in how you generate new leads. Find out how.
  • Automate as much as you can so you can spend most of your time billing clients. Find out how.
  • Building an audience is the best way to generate high-quality clients. Find out how.
  • Asking the right questions is what separates premium consultants from everyone else. Find out how.

Whether through 4+ years of in-depth articles, premium courses, the conferences and events I host, or my podcast, my #1 goal is to help you become a more successful freelancer.

Brennan Dunn

Latest Articles On This Topic

Should You Subcontract Through Agencies And Consultancies?

I’ve had a few people over the last few months ask me about my thoughts around subcontracting for agencies or consultancies (what I’ll call “firms” throughout the rest of this post.) A lot of us freelancers, especially those who haven’t systemized getting new clients, often see working through firms as a lifeline. These firms have the clients and the projects, but they occasionally need outside help. And that’s where we come in. So you white-label yourself as an agent of the firm, get paid, and totally avoid needing to secure your own clients. And hey, sometimes you don’t even need to TALK to the actual client! But there is a downside.

It’s mostly impossible to avoid being a “resource” for the team you subcontract for (keep reading to find out what the exception to the rule is.) You won’t really be able to price yourself on the value you produce, and your client — that is, the firm — is going to want to make as much profit as possible off you.

A Primer To Marketing Through Education

You’ve built a product, and you’re ready to make some money and get it into the eagerly awaiting hands of some customers.

…Except, you really don’t know how to do that. And you don’t have any customers yet.

If you’re like me, you were waiting for your break. That “Show HN” post that finally takes off, resulting in dozens of high-profile bloggers reaching out to you. Your product being so amazing, so immediately appealing, that it can’t help but go viral.

Use “Carrots” To Get More Qualified Leads From Your Freelancing Website

Selling your freelancing services is an example of high-touch sales. Unlike low-touch sales (like, a $29 ebook), there’s a lot of gray area between “not a customer” and “customer.” Realizing your company exists, investigating your portfolio and work history, first contact, asking for a quote, loads of meetings, contract negotiation – these are steps that usually take place before someone converts to being customer.

Rarely is selling your services a binary operation. It’s not visitor today, customer tomorrow.

A Carrot is a tool that helps bridge that gap for you. Done right, a Carrot will 1) get you more business and 2) make closing a deal significantly easier.

What a Carrot is not:

  • A sales pitch
  • All about you
  • A waste of time

A great Carrot is no-pressure, free nugget of information that establishes yourself as an authority in a certain subject matter. At the end of reading, listening, or watching your Carrot, no one should ever think, “Wow, I got nothing out of that.”

Carrots come in all shapes and sizes. You might want to put together a 7-day email course on SEO (example). Or if you’re a Rails developer, maybe a whitepaper that can help educate a potential client about your framework of choice (example).

It could be a monthly or weekly newsletter.

Or a podcast, a series of videos on YouTube, or an MP3 download.

Carrots help you sell without making clients feel like they’re being sold to.

Anyone can promote their programming abilities on their website, but if you give something away for free to a potential client that explains how you can help increase their bottom line, you’ll:

  • Reassure them that you know what they want (more profitability)
  • Reassure them that you have what it takes (solving their problems through programming)
  • Establish a foundation in the mind of your clients about how hiring for the type of services you provide works – with you as the benchmark.

…And this is done outside of a sales meeting, which is an unnatural environment where people can’t help but put up their guard and distrust most things you say.

Finally, your Carrot needs to move someone closer toward being a customer. This could be an explicit call-to-action (“Call us today and let’s see how we can help you get more customers through a personalized SEO strategy” on the last page of your free report), or your Carrot could just be a piece of a much larger strategy.

What kind of Carrot could you create?

Creating a successful Carrot means coming to terms with who you are and what you’re selling, or what I like to call defining your Persona. A Persona is the sum of three things: a value offering, a theme, and a target. “We hand craft community-centered online stores [value offering] for green companies [target] from our off-the-grid office nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains [theme].”

Once you have defined your Persona you can reverse engineer a Carrot and begin to educate and pre-sell your target audience based on what you know will educate them.

You know your audience – the kind of client you typically work with, the kind of client your website targets. You know what they need.

I’d start small… what questions does your typical prospective client have for you? Is there something common that almost every client needs to learn about or asks about? And what do you say or do that helps educate your clients and empower them?

Get started today.

Can you package this information into something downloadable? Can you create a low pressure, completely automated way of getting this package into the hands of someone you’ve possibly never met?

I bet you can. We’re all authorities on something to somebody.

7 Ways To Get More Clients Through Your Website

1. Not all traffic is equal

I think most of us know this, or at least think we know this. An organic visitor who Googles you is not the same as someone who types in your URL directly from your business card.

So why are we showing them the same thing? Why do so many of us trump the perks of landing pages and targeting traffic, but flop when it comes to our own sites?

Here’s one thing I learned that I think is really clever:

On your business card, instead of putting, try: – or maybe even a separate domain altogether. Imagine meeting someone at an event, giving them your card, and then they pull up your site later and see something that starts out with, “It was great meeting you! Here’s how I can help you…”

Additionally, if you get coverage, run paid ads, or put a link back to your site in the footer of your clients’ sites (emphasis mine!) why not get those visitors to think, “Holy crap – this guy is talking to me!” by setting up individual landing pages for each source of traffic?

2. What’s in it for me?

If you’ve taken my course, you know I cover this extensively. But if you haven’t, here’s the truth:

No one cares about you (it’s harsh, but pretty accurate.)

All they want to know is, “If I hire Brennan, will I make more money than I spent?” This means tailoring your messaging around the pains that your services fix. If you design logos for a living, you help companies look more professional – you don’t create vector artwork. At least according to your clients.

3. Less “I/we”, more “you”

This sort of goes along with #2, but people want to know that they’re being spoken to. We spend hours and hours on our copy and designs, and too often are guilty of promoting how awesome we are instead of what they want.

4. Give them a carrot

Want to really impress someone? Want to set the stage for how someone should engage with a consultant like yourself?

Offer a free whitepaper or report that educates somebody about something that relates to their business. If you offer SEO services, what about a guide that covers the basics of SEO and how it relates to small businesses in exchange for an email address?

This will do wonders in establishing authority (your authority) and eroding any trust barriers the client might erect. If they don’t reach out to you on their own after reading your material, gently nudge them with an “I saw you downloaded my report – I’d love to answer any questions you might have about SEO” email.

Do this and the number of qualified leads you get through your website will literally skyrocket.

5. Drop the jargon

Let’s turn the tables for a second.

If you were looking to hire a lawyer and you came across Website A and Website B (click to see both), who would you want to hire?

Website A is full of empty platitudes – baseball gloves, the Hoover Dam… it reminds me of those inspirational posters that end up in corporate breakrooms.

Website B says,
“Some lawyers claim to speak in plain everyday English, but it is amazing how often they slip back into legal jargon and confuse the heck out of clients. At Approachable Lawyer, we have a “no legalese” guarantee. That means that if you find anything on this website or in one of our products which you do not understand we will translate it for you without charge. Simply let me know what you don’t understand by emailing me and I will personally respond.”

Website B – shut up and take my money.

A lot of our sites are closer to A than B, unfortunately. Clients don’t usually care about open standards, clean code, WordPress, or whatever else. They do care about making more money, getting more customers, and other things that generally keep them in business.

6. Marketers have already blazed the trail

It’s hard to compare our websites with product websites that sell ebooks or whatnot, but there are a lot more similarities than differences.

People who have marketing budgets that need to create a positive ROI have figured out for you what gets people interested and motivated to buy, and it’s time to take decades of research and apply it to your site:

  • Pain: People need to know they have a problem before they buy a solution. What pains lead people to hire people like you? And remember: some pains are false proxies, and are really just pointers to deeper, hidden pains. Does someone need a new website, or do they need more customers?
  • Solution: OK, so what does this pain look like when you flip it upside down? If you’re sopping wet and stuck in the rain, the solution is to get out of the rain (the inverse), and not an umbrella / piece of cardboard / cozy building. Which leads me to…
  • Offer: What can you provide that leads people out of the dismal world of today’s pains to a pain-free tomorrow? This is your jargon-less offer – why hiring Brennan will solve the pain they’re facing (which you’ve already shown them you sympathize with.)
  • Objections: This is where you want to respond to questions you know a lot of your prospects are asking themselves. Can she really deliver? Is she affordable? Is she someone who won’t go missing in action?
  • Testimonials: Testimonials that say “Brennan was great to work with!” are pretty much worthless, but testimonials that talk about how you’ve positively benefited a business are gold. The viewer now knows you can relate to their pains, that you know what they want tomorrow to look like, that you’re the right person for them, and that you have a track record of helping other businesses.
  • The Call To Action: This is your moment, the convincing is done and now it’s time to get someone to act. This might mean a form field to swap an email address for a free report, or it could just be a phone number or contact form (these are obviously a must.)

Things To Try Right Now:

  • Do you include links back to your website on all of your client projects? If so, update these links to point to specialized landing pages for each of your clients. Imagine the headline: “You’ve seen what I’ve done for Company X, here’s how I can do the same for you…”
  • Tally up all the times you’ve written “we” or “I”. How can you rewrite your surrounding copy to focus on your prospective client and their needs instead of yourself?
  • Is your services page drowning in jargon? Scrap the features (Ruby, PHP, Photoshop) and tout the benefits.
  • Are your testimonials bland? Get your past clients to write a few sentences about how you’ve made their business more successful, and not just that they had a blast working with you (trust me: there are better places to spend money to be entertained than hiring consultants.)
  • Are you sympathizing with the pains your clients face? Are you painting a picture of what life could be like without those pains? If not, right this wrong.
  • Do you have a clear call to action that offers a carrot? Is it immediately obvious how someone can get in contact with you? Does it require squinting at a footer or a lot of excess clicks?

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