In today’s world of freelancing, a lot of freelancers are finding challenges with the old way of freelance marketing as it doesn’t convert the way it used to. I have found that several freelancers who are doing things the old way will become increasingly frustrated because they are focused on this old style of marketing.
Back in the day when I got started as a freelancer, there weren’t as many freelancers as there are today. There was much less competition overall. There were clients who were ready and willing to hire relatively quickly and there weren’t as many freelancers on some of the most popular marketing channels (platforms such as Upwork, Problogger, job boards, Facebook groups). A client would post a job and wait until they got like 10 or 15 applications, review those applications, and then hire the person that they chose to work with.
For freelancers, it was fairly easy. We got hired quickly and there weren’t as many other freelancers to compete against therefore it was a lot easier to land clients. It used to just be a numbers game for freelancers – quantity over quality. You didn’t need a lot of personalization. You didn’t need a fully fleshed-out LinkedIn profile or a website of your freelancing services. However, the reality is that things have shifted in marketing overall and the freelance world.
Make it Personal
When you are competing against more freelancers and there is nothing personal about you that separates you from other freelancers, the client is going to default to hiring at the lowest common denominator – price. Even though you might be great at what you do, that is now the standard for every single freelancer in the market. Overall, the skillset and professionalism of the freelance marketplace have been raised significantly. You have to be willing to go above and beyond as a freelancer to showcase what you personally bring to the table and why that matters.
The old method of marketing that may have worked really well for you in the past, kind of like the spray and pray approach, which is “let me hop on Upwork, submit 20 different applications to various clients and I’ll probably get hired by at least one of those clients.” The truth is that now people’s inboxes are being flooded with these cold types of outreach messages. If your outreach message isn’t great, it’s going to get deleted. Good is no longer good enough. It has to be amazing to catch a client’s attention.
That same logic falls over to places like Problogger or Upwork meaning that clients receive dozens and dozens of applications. If everyone is saying, “I’m good at what I do, I have a good track record, I use leading tools” and there’s nothing to differentiate them, that leaves confused clients. Clarity attracts, confusion repels. When clients are confused, they do not buy or take the next step forward. It becomes harder to compare freelancers to one another so they’ll just go for who can get the job done the fastest and the cheapest.
Freelancers who are winning these proposals on Upwork, getting cold outreach clients to schedule phone calls with them, and talking through potential proposals are the ones who are going above and beyond by a step or more. They’re not just saying “here’s my application, here’s my resume. Here’s my portfolio. Go look at my Upwork profile to see the feedback that I’ve received.” They are really taking it to that next level.
I’ll give you two examples in the last week. I was managing the hiring for somebody else and reviewed over 60 applications that were submitted for one virtual assistant position. It was a great client, a long-term gig, and many hours per week. With 60 applications for one position, it just goes to show you how much more competitive this has gotten and how important it is as a freelancer that you focus on a couple of quality pitches per week rather than sending 50 and crossing your fingers that you land one of them. It actually takes the same amount of time, or less, to send three to five really high-quality targeted pitches and do the follow-up associated with that.
Those 60+ applications were received within a 10 day period, far more than I could ever hope to do pre-screening interviews with. I used a Google form and reviewed that initial intake to decide who was the right fit. Two of the candidates who ended up being in the final round of submission really went above and beyond. They checked my website, they checked the client’s website. One of them listened to a podcast where the client had been featured as a guest expert to do research.
Now, lots of people filled out the bare minimum basics in the Google Form, they sent in their projected rate, they sent a link to their website, they shared a paragraph about why they applied. However, several of these applicants that got moved to the next level went just one step above and beyond. The targeted approach is so much more effective than it just blows the generic “let me go and send a bunch of pitches and just see how many come back to me” tactic completely out of the water.
I was recruited by a potential client that was screening over 20 applicants last week for a position. I knew the company. I have seen this company’s billboards all over roads throughout the United States. They are a big player in the personal injury space. I’m well aware of their website and I’ve used it as inspiration for blog post ideas and carried that through to my own freelance clients. That really gave me an edge over other applicants so much so that within an hour, this client was ready to hire and move forward with a good-sized contract. Because of that little bit of personalization, I was able to land this great opportunity.
I’m not saying make things up – don’t make things up and say you’ve heard of the company if you haven’t but go ahead and do a little bit of research and add that level of personalization in there. Look for a connection with that potential client however you can. Maybe it’s the philanthropy that they support. Maybe the founder was profiled in an ink article or Forbes 40 under 40 and you really respect that; you can bring that up in your pitch or in your response.
This idea of personalization holds true whether you are cold pitching clients out of the blue or whether you’re responding on a job board. You could be up against dozens, if not hundreds, of other applicants. You need personalization to stand out. It’s no longer good enough to say “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. Here’s my portfolio and here are my rates.” Clients want to know what the experience is going to be like for them. They want to know why you’re excited about this particular job and why it feels like a fit for you.
I share this with freelancers out there because the importance of diving in with quality (rather than quantity) is more important than ever. Your clients want to feel that you’re not just looking for a job, but that you’re looking for their role. If you’ve been doing things the old way and you are frustrated that you’re not getting results, step back and ask yourself if you really need to send so many pitches per week. What if you sent five to seven really awesome pitches that were tailored to specific roles/clients that required 10 to 15 minutes of extra work?
It’s quality over quantity today and you have to be prepared to differentiate yourself from everyone else. There are lots of other freelancers out there like you who are good at what they do. You need to talk about – how is your client experience different? What does it mean that you’ve been in this industry for a long time? Are you still going to bring that fresh perspective to their project? What client results have you gotten that can really take it to the next level and showcase why you’re the right fit? I promise if you start building this into your pitches and your proposal process, your clients will begin to envision what it looks like to work with you and get really excited about the prospect of having you on their project, not just as a freelancer or contractor but as a true team member. That also opens the door to testimonials, referrals, long-term projects, and potentially much more.