Finding freelance leads can be a thankless task.
You send out 30+ pitches and land two clients and that’s considered a Very Good Outcome.
So, you sign a contract with those two clients, start the work, and everything is unicorns and rainbows; it’s all hunkydory.
Each project lasts for a heady two weeks, but then you hit the ground with a bone-crunching bump and a dawning realisation: you have to send out another 30+ pitches to get another two clients.
It’s relentless and can seem like a lot of work — particularly when you’re busy doing your actual job. Because of course you’re going to forget to pitch some weeks if you’re snowed under with your latest contract, right?
But pitching is the only way to get work… Isn’t it?
Or is it…?
In the early days of freelancing, spending 20+ hours a month identifying clients and sending out pitches can be incredibly rewarding. It can bolster your schedule for a good few months and get good work flowing in.
For long-term freelancers, 20+ hours a month is way too much time to spend landing new work. Those are potentially billable hours that could be spent honing your craft, building relationships with existing clients, or, you know, doing actual work that you get paid for.
Your Marketing Tactics Need to Change
Halfway through my freelance career, my marketing tactics took a sharp left turn.
At the start, pitching was the number one way I landed new work, whether that was via job boards or identifying and reaching out to leads myself.
Two years in, I didn’t have the time to send 10 pitches a day to potential clients, but I still needed a steady stream of work coming in for when my contracts ended or the leads dried up.
It was at this point I started creating content geared towards my target client (I should note here that this was also the point that my target client took a sharp left turn — I went from writing for travel and hospitality companies to working for marketing, SaaS, and ecommerce brands).
As a writer, creating content came naturally to me and it served two purposes:
- It showed off my skill set to potential clients (you’ve got to practice what you preach, right?)
- It created a presence that brought freelance leads directly to my door
This was content that I spent an hour or so creating, but that continued to work hard at bringing in clients long after I had pressed publish. It was a far cry from the 20+ hours I was spending pitching in the early days.
So which kind of content worked best?
Throughout the past 5 years, I’ve crafted a really simple lead generation process that doesn’t take up a lot of time but that is truly effective.
It works in two stages:
- Create a downloadable “lead magnet” that gives your prospects extra value in exchange for their email address
- Publish regular blog posts that touch on specific pain points your target audience have
The two stages work in tandem to, first of all, qualify potential leads by identifying pain points that prospects are willing to pay for and, secondly, grabbing their email address so you can nurture a potential relationship.
Let’s talk more about the two stages in isolation.
1. Create a Downloadable Lead Magnet
You see these everywhere.
“Grab your FREE checklist for writing blog posts”
“Download your FREE ebook and learn how to get 5,000 subscribers without spending a single penny at all. Nada. Nothing”
You get the gist.
While I’m always wary of “GET THIS AMAZING FREE THING” copy, there’s a reason so many brands are pushing out lead magnets to their readers.
It’s because they offer a win-win situation.
The reader gets access to even more value, while the site owner gets a new subscriber that they can nurture via email.
There’s a really simple formula I use for creating a Really Good Lead Magnet.
You take ONE pain point your target client has and you provide ONE solution that can be achieved in a day.
People want to know that you understand their needs and they want to be able to take quick action. Remember, your lead magnet should tie into the services you offer too, so if you’re a designer, it should be design related; if you’re a writer, it needs to have something to do with content.
Here are some lead magnet ideas that use this formula:
- A guide to creating a one-page client proposal in 20 minutes
- 7 healthy but tasty recipe ideas for the next week
- Tweaks you can make to your website UX today
- A checklist to make your website mobile-ready right now
Let’s take my target client for a moment: startup SaaS companies that create software for ecommerce brands to use.
Their biggest pain point is attracting new users. I help them create content to attract new users, so I might play around with these lead magnet ideas:
- 3 Ways to Optimise Your Blog Posts and Get More Users
- A Copy Checklist for Getting More App Users
- How This Ecommerce Brand Gained 50 New Users Through Content Creation
You’ll notice that the latter example is more of a case study, and this can work particularly well if you’ve got a really great story from one of your clients.
I once sold out a client’s program in 10 minutes with an email campaign. If I was focusing on selling email copy, I might weave this into my lead magnet (e.g. How X sold out their program in 10 minutes with engaging emails).
2. Publish Regular Blog Posts
In order to attract people to your lead magnet in the first place, you have to publish Good Regular Content.
Usually this takes the form of blog posts, but it might also be video content or something else depending on your skills and services.
For me, writing was the obvious choice.
It’s not enough to churn out weak 300-word posts and hope for the best. If you want to attract High Quality Clients, your posts have to be good enough to attract people in the first place and good enough for them to stick around and read it.
To do this:
- Write a list of pain points your target client has (think about the common questions your prospects will be searching for in order to land on your website)
- Determine how your services tie into those pain points (take the ecommerce SaaS example I highlighted above)
- Create content that combines the two together
For me, a list of potential blog posts might look something like this:
- How Ecommerce Brands Can Use This Writing Technique to Attract More Users
- 5 Headline Formulas for Forward-Thinking SaaS Brands
- The Biggest Copywriting Mistakes SaaS Brands Make on Their Websites
These are just off the top of my head, but you get the idea.
Your blog posts should be intriguing enough for your target clients to click into and then, somewhere within all of that good content, you want to offer them your lead magnet in exchange for their email address.
Try Out This Two-Step Funnel Yourself
Funnels often put the fear of god in people. They can be complex and overwhelming, but they really don’t have to be.
If you’re past the point where you can afford to spend 20+ hours a month pitching new prospects, funnels might be the answer for you. And, luckily, this one only involves two simple (but very effective) steps!
Mission: Get Better Clients
This post forms part of my mission for March: to help freelancers get better paying, higher quality clients.
Here’s what you can do next:
- 👉 Join in the conversation over on Creative Freelancers Unite, a 4,500+ member strong community of freelancers from all walks of life.
- 👉 Grab your free 80+ guide to becoming a successful freelancer