How do you keep your freelance business busy? Maybe you’re planning to go freelancing and you’re wondering how it will work. Or maybe you’ve been doing work for a while but things keep slowing down. You’re not getting enough work. It’s one of the greatest fears of freelancers.
If you want to stay busy, you need to be marketing your business. There are a lot of things you can do to get more clients. We’ve been interviewing a lot of freelancers lately and there’s a wealth of wisdom there:
But for all that to work you need marketing leads going through your sales process. It’s called a marketing funnel. It’s a simple concept that can help you envision the reality of marketing and how to be effective.
How a Marketing Funnel Works
Sometimes marketing can feel a little nebulous. You post on Twitter, you write blog posts, you advertise in search results, you speak at conferences, you have coffee with an old coworker. Somehow through all that work a client contacts you for a project.
It’s magic, right? Feels that way sometimes.
All those different efforts are generating marketing leads. You’re getting people interested in your business and they’re checking you out. It’s like dumping leads into a funnel. It’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. All your marketing work—networking, email newsletters, website, social media, etc.—goes in the top, bringing potential clients with them. And paying projects come out the bottom.
Always Be Marketing
But you have to understand how the funnel works. You have to put a lot in at the top to get a little out at the bottom. And if you stop doing the work at the top of the funnel—if you let your website grow stale, go quiet on social media or stop attending networking events—then you’ll have fewer and fewer projects coming out at the bottom.
This means you have to keep on marketing, all the time. Otherwise the funnel dries up and you get nothing.
You need to realize that it’s not a balanced system. The work you put into marketing is not going to equal the projects you get from it. You might have to put 10 times the effort into your marketing to get one project.
The Leaky Funnel
Of course it’s not a perfect analogy. Whatever you put into a real funnel eventually comes out the bottom. That’s not true with a marketing funnel—apparently it’s a leaky funnel.
In fact, a 5% success rate is great in typical marketing.
Consider the reality of that as you’re toiling on websites, emails and more. 95% of people will see your marketing and move on.
That can be depressing.
But focus on getting enough people to see your marketing that only 5% of those will keep you busy.
Making Your Funnel Work Better
Once you understand the reality of the marketing funnel and how it requires you to keep doing work to fill that funnel, then you can work to plug the leaks and make your funnel more efficient. You can fine tune your pitch, emphasize benefits, reach the right audience, clearly define your niche and more. Your marketing efforts will never be 100% effective, but you can improve.
Some freelancers focus on word of mouth or referrals, others specialize and focus on a specific niche. Those are all methods to refine your marketing and improve the efficiency of your funnel.
You also need to realize that the marketing funnel is a process. At the top leads are introduced to your freelance business. It might be a casual introduction—they see you speak at a WordCamp, they come across a social media post, they see an ad.
From there, you want to take that casual interaction a step deeper. You want them to click through to your site. Or come up after the talk and introduce themselves. And it keeps going deeper: You give them a business card, they read a blog post, they sign up for your email list, they fill out your contact form and ask about a project.
The marketing funnel is a process from introduction to education to closing the deal to bringing them back.
For some freelancers that process is nebulous and undefined. You let it happen naturally. For others that process is more rigid. They push potential leads in a specific direction, maybe funneling all leads to their email list and then using the list to push content showing expertise and pitching their services.
Your marketing funnel gets better when you refine that process. You tweak a call to action or improve the quality of your blog posts.
Keep Your Marketing Funnel Full
But no matter what approach you take, you’re always going to need to be bringing in leads and putting effort into your marketing.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself short on work, and that’s a good path to bad decisions. WordPress freelancer Daniel Espinoza found himself in that spiral due to poor marketing:
“I didn’t raise my rates because I didn’t understand the value of the services I provided. I would allow the client to dictate a rate and I thought I needed to comply to get the project. Since I had very few leads I wasn’t in a place to decline projects that didn’t seem like a good fit. I had few leads because I didn’t market myself very well. I didn’t have a network, and people didn’t know who I was or what I did.”
So remember your marketing. Especially when you’re busy. As the feast or famine cycle kicks in, it’s a consistent approach to your marketing funnel that can even things out.