When I went to seek advice from my mentor, he told me to pick one thing and JUST STICK TO IT.
I said yes, confidently ignored his advice, like an idiot, and went on to try a whole bunch of things.
Meanwhile, I asked other people for advice and got the same answer. Then I did it all over again.
This went on for YEARS… don’t be like me.
If you are reading this article, I’m sure you’ve read a whole bunch of other articles on the same topic already.
So, I’m sure you’ve realized that everyone has a different way of doing things. When starting out it can be difficult to pick between them and find a place to start.
One of the challenges with online training on the topic of building a traffic engine for getting you leads is that there is often a lot being left unsaid.
One of the most common challenges is that the effect of most tactics decay fast and so while people are able to show results early on, the results don’t last because everyone and their mom adopt the same tactics.
It is a fun little circle that goes on and on like a neverending version of Tom and Jerry.
While you won’t always know in advance if a tactic is long-lasting or not, I want to show you things that have already worked for a while and will continue to for years and years – ready for you to replicate, make your own and reap the rewards of.
When judging whether to follow the advice of something, here’s a rule of thumb that I like to follow.
When someone is showing you an approach or method that is contradicting to what you already know, to look at the person showing you the method and think “do I want to be like them or have what they have in this aspect?”
If yes, then go for it.
If they don’t have the actual experience, they haven’t earned the right to guide and advise you. That is exactly why we should refrain from talking about things that we don’t know well.
In this mini-guide, I’d like to share some ideas on how to get your first online freelancing client.
I’m avoiding talking about referrals as I don’t want you to be depending on that when first starting out.
When I first started, I didn’t have a good network of powerful connections that I could leverage for referrals. While it is nice, you don’t need it.
Also, everyone says to connect with your network and build partnerships. But what if you don’t have any of that or feel too shy to do it/don’t want to because you are just starting out?
With that out of the way, below is a list of ideas for you to experiment with. Some of the ideas are mine and some are from others. Where needed, I’ll link accordingly so you can find more information if you’d like.
Let’s dive in…
Cold email pitching that actually works
We all knew this was coming. Everyone has an opinion on cold emailing to get clients. This strategy has worked well for me in some industries while totally bombing in other industries.
There is so much different training on the topic out there. Ramit Sethi’s strategy is the best one I’ve found so far based on my own personal preference.
Basically, he recommends to first use an email to first qualify if potential businesses are even interested in talking.
And if they are, he likes to send ideas as to how he can help. Ramit shares exact email scripts to help you get going.
Businesses that are advertising on Google search
This tactic works particularly well if you want to sell Facebook ads services but it can be tweaked to fit many other services too.
You simply search for business names on Google and if they are advertising via Adwords (I know it is now called Google Ads but it’s just easier to say Adwords as it refers to search), check if they have the FB pixel and pitch them if they don’t.
You could share the typical example of running search ads and then retarget the audience on Facebook, and help them set it up.
If you focus on writing content as your service, you could do the same while showing them that they could passively capture the audience that reads their content (even if they don’t use ads).
So when they are ready to use ads, they can immediately get the effect even with a simple $5/day retargeting campaign because the data has been collected over time.
Using an Upwork hack
I recently landed a great writing project following this strategy.
It works for you if you have an Upwork profile. Some projects are limited by the geographical region – in my experience, most typically Americans wanting people in the same timezone (or native English speakers) for writing projects.
What I’ve learned is that often it is because they simply are not aware that someone who is not a native speaker yet highly trained/experienced can still do the job to their standards and accommodate the timezone difference, in the case, that is important.
That means you will not be able to see the projects within Upwork itself (unless you are in the same region or country) but there is another way…
You hop over to Google and search “site:upwork.com/jobs YOUR KEYWORD”, where you exchange YOUR KEYWORD for whatever type of jobs you are interested in.
Sometimes these projects are actually indexed by Google and you can then open them up in an incognito/private window or by logging OUT of your Upwork account before clicking the link.
If the project mentions any details on what the business name is or any other hints that allow you to find them, you go back to Google, find their information and contact them outside Upwork.
You can explain that you weren’t able to bid for the project because of the geographical difference but you have some examples to show that might make him interested.
Now, some people will argue that this is unethical because Upwork doesn’t get their cut even though they gave you the lead.
Since you didn’t have the option to actually bid on this project I don’t see this as a challenge yet if you prefer to run it through Upwork, you can just ask them to invite you to the project.
This requires more work than normally which is great because the client will instantly understand that you did a lot of extra work to find them and that you had to get creative.
To a client that shows them, you are a smart and independent thinker. Of course, some just want someone cheap to do mindless work, so for those type of clients, it probably will not be a good fit.
For the rest of them, you’ll instantly stand out from the crowd and I bet you that might even be willing to pay a little more for someone as bright-minded as you if it is within their budget.
Buying personalized ads (5 dollars was enough for me)
Another option is using Facebook or LinkedIn ads to get clients that you call back based on information they give you.
Really, you can buy the ads from any platform. In this article, I’m sharing three different examples.
The first one is a typical Facebook ads funnel. You buy ads, write a landing page, ask them to fill out a survey and give you their contact information and you call them back.
Another one is copying your dream client’s website (right click > save as), pick one subpage (e.g. their ‘about’ page) and edit it so the design is the same but change the copy to your pitch.
Then buy LinkedIn ads to target the person you need to speak with’s colleagues with an ad saying “Could you help me deliver this important message to X?” and targeted at employees at your target company.
If the size of your target company is too small for LinkedIn’s requirements, just add one of their competitors. At first, I was worried about spending a lot and not reaching the right people but in reality, I’ve spent just a few dollars and gotten feedback from them within a couple of hours where I could pause the ad after.
I’ve done it several times for all kinds of projects and it works really well because people don’t see that approach often.
The last hack is buying search ads for the full name of the target person you are trying to pitch. So, when they search for themselves they will see your ad. Since most people don’t search for themselves all the time, you are unlikely to pay a lot for these ads.
Facebook/LinkedIn groups or SubReddits
Using FB groups is a popular strategy and group moderators are very aware of this, making it much more challenging as everyone and their mom are sharing advise in groups.
What most people do is share advise and results in groups or their preferred place of choice, and then wait for people to message them privately so they can pitch them.
It can work well but I find that it is usually too crowded with this tactic as everyone seems to be using it – unless you can find some more niche or hidden groups.
The Gary Vee method
Gary Vee shared a great little method in one of his many videos (unfortunately I can’t find the exact video, so I’ll paraphrase – it is so simple I’m sure you’ll get the point).
If there is a certain business you’d like to work with, figure out which person is the one who can hire you for a project.
Follow them on Twitter or wherever they hang out and just casually comment on their things and mention what you do whenever it is natural to fit it into the conversation- then just be patient and wait for them to hit you up or give you an invite to talk about it with them.
It will take time.
James Clear’s Remora Method
James Clear has his own “Remora Method” which is basically contacting other freelancers and agencies, as many sub-contract for special projects or perhaps need specific expertise for just a few projects where it does not make sense to hire someone full time.
This is more of a long-term strategy as it focuses more on you being top of mind for partnerships when the opportunity comes rather than hunting down new projects right here right now.
Basically, each one of these tactics could be a good fit for your freelance business, and there are many more that could help as well.
After all, these are just tactics. The key here is test and experiment with a few different things until you find one that works for you and then experiment to make that single tactic work better and better for you.
Don’t be where everyone else is (e.g. if you are a writer, don’t go to the writer groups and ask for work). There will be so many people doing the same and you’ll be looking for scraps as a bottom feeder.
… Have you tried any of these tactics? What happened? If not, what’s holding you back?