Any big business consists of a lot of different departments. Sales, IT & website, economy, HR, (social media) marketing and besides that they need people to do what the company is actually marketing themselves to do!
That is quite a handful, right?
Well, what about running a small business then? By yourself? Gaaaaah! *head exploding smiley*
The big problem for freelancers and consultants
If you’ve been working as a freelancer for a while, you are quite familiar with the many hats that you are required to wear.
And if you are just starting out as a freelancer or consultant – well, let’s just put it this way; you won’t have to worry too much about fixing your hair in the morning ‘cus it’ll be covered in a sh*tload of hats!
The main problem for freelancers today is how to have the time to do everything. Let’s just focus on the part of acquiring new customers.
There’s a well-known problem for freelancers and small business owners.
When you have a lot of work, there’s no time to market yourself. But when the work starts getting slow, you need to start marketing yourself. But it takes quite a while before that marketing gives any result!
There is a lag between when you start doing outreach until the potential customers start to get in touch (if they ever do).
That time is usually when you start to think “Will I ever get another client again?! Oh no, they’ve found out that I’m a hoax! How much do you get for a kidney these days?!?”
It is a weird thing, right? Even after working as a freelancing photographer for twelve years (and always getting by pretty well) it felt like the end was near, every time business was low.
Can you relate? 🙂
Here’s the thing. Whether you are a freelancing photographer, copywriter, business consultant, personal trainer, life coach or arborist (that’s like a tree surgeon) – that is what you do best!
Unfortunately, in today’s world, we all need to be marketers as well!
Having a website or online portfolio just isn’t enough. Sure, it might be useful, but way too many freelancers believe that as soon as that website is up, the work is gonna start pouring in.
*confused smiley scratching its head*
The truth is a bit more complicated.
How do you find more clients or customers as a freelancer today?
Imagine choosing between two different restaurants for your date night. Both have similar food, similar prices and are located in the same area.
The only thing separating them is that your friend Tim ate at Restaurant A last week and told you it was really nice.
Which restaurant will you choose? Most certainly Restaurant A. You have more confidence that it will be worth the investment.
And in the same way, before anyone making any purchase or investment, they consciously or unconsciously think “is this worth this much of my money?”
So, before buying from you, the potential client needs to trust you enough to invest their money in you – and they definately won’t do that just because you wrote “I’m the BEST at what I am doing, yeahhh!” on your web site.
Here’s another issue. Before you even have a chance to build that trust, that someone needs to find you among a million other people in the world doing similar things as you are doing.
The internet is filled with one shiny thing after another – and if there’s one thing that we humans are good at, it is sucking at staying focused!
If someone were to stumble upon your website, there’s a very small chance that he or she is in need of your services right that very moment.
They might think “oh, this fella is really good at doing that thing and could probably help me out. I’ll send him an email tomorrow and oh look! I’ve got a new email! Hahaha, there’s a link to a funny video inside!“
People online are like drunk 8-year olds with ADHD. It’s like really hard to keep their attention.
Let me give you a quick recap of what needs to happen before someone becomes your customer. They need to:
- Find out that you exist
- Understand that they have a problem
- Wanting to solve the problem enough to pay for it
- Remember that you can solve their problem
- Trust you enough to buy your services
- Get in touch with you to see if you are a good fit
That was the short version.
A lot of things are happening online, and it is extremely easy to forget about things you actually like and to be distracted by things you don’t need.
As a freelancer or consultant, you know that what you offer can improve the lives of your potential customers. But how do you get their attention and keep it long enough to both build trust and a need for your service?
AND how do you do that at the same time as you need to actually DO whatever you do businesswise?
Well, let me present you to ms. Sales Funnel!
What is a sales funnel?
Basically, a freelancer’s sales funnel is a combination of tools that will maximize the chance that anyone that is put at the beginning of the funnel, will become a customer.
The best funnel will do this on autopilot – i.e. it will work potential customers and leads for you. When you’ve put this system in place, most of it will happen automatically and the only thing you need to worry about is to analyze the result and make improvements.
Example of a simple sales funnel:
A visitor on your website types her email address in a box, to download a PDF with a valuable template that she can use to sell more products in her own business.
During the next 5 days, she will receive an email from you every day. In the first 4 emails, you present yourself and give her more of the same valuable content as in the PDF.
On the 5th day, she’ll receive a pitch for your $49 video course where you teach paying students how to create a bullet-proof marketing plan that will get them, 100 new customers, a week.
That is a very simple sales funnel, and something that every freelancer should have!
In the example above, the only thing you need is a mailing list service. But as you soon will see, a sales funnel can be much more complex (and efficient) than this.
A sales funnel for freelancers is a bunch of automated tools and systems, that can attract and retain potential customers so that you can build trust and show them how you can solve their problems.
A sales funnel for freelancers is not a magical pill. You will need to put a lot of work into building it and gain the necessary knowledge about yourself and your potential customer.
Why does your freelancing business need sales funnel?
You started your freelancing business because you wanted to spend your days doing what you love – not to do marketing stuff! (Unless your freelancing business is about marketing. Then I guess you started it because you wanted to do marketing stuff… Anyway…)
Today is the best of times and the worst of times to be a freelancer.
The best, because you have enormous opportunities to work with people from all over the world, and most of the tools you need are widely available at a reasonable cost!
The worst, because there are just so many people trying to reach all those potential customers!
That means, you have to be “out there”, all the time.
There’s a common problem that I am sure you have experienced several times;
Whenever you have lots of work, there is no time to market yourself. But when you do have time on your hands, you wish that you would’ve marketed yourself much earlier!
It is like a rollercoaster, going up and down.
Every hour you spend on marketing is an hour where you cant do work that will actually drive money into your business.
The more time you can spend on doing what you actually do, the happier both you and your customers will be.
An automated sales funnel will work kinda like your own personal salesperson – working day and night to drive leads your way!
The anatomy of your sales funnel
There are a thousand ways to put together a sales funnel, using hundreds of different tools and services. But there are a few main parts that you need to have for every funnel.
The first thing you need to do to have any kind of communication with anyone about anything is to gain their attention.
The Billboard will attract the people in your target group, and point them towards the next part of the funnel.
It is basically a way to get the first contact with someone that has never heard of you before.
By writing great blog posts about a topic that your potential clients are interested in, they might find you with the help of google.
Another way is to pay for ads on social media platforms.
Just because someone found your blog posts (and even liked it) doesn’t mean she will stick around. Any second, a new shiny thing might snatch their attention away from you.
As soon as possible, you need to create a way to stay in touch with them, so that you can build trust and an urge to start working with you!
The Hook is a piece of content that will give the potential client great value – without having to pay anything for it.
It could be a PDF with a checklist or a template, an instructional video or something similar. Such piece of content is perfect to place at the end of a great blog post so that the person that just read it can get even more value by downloading it.
But the reason for this piece of content is not only to give the reader more value. It also opens up a way for you to keep in touch – even when she leaves your blog.
There is one tool that will outperform all others when it comes to keeping in touch; email.
Even though your potential client can download this piece of content without paying with money, she kinda pays with her email address.
As we talked about before, even though they would gain from buying your services, few people will the first time they hear about you.
That’s why you need to keep in touch – to build trust and enough motivation.
By writing and setting up a series of emails, that is being sent out during a certain amount of days (or even months) this is taken care of automatically as soon as someone downloads The Hook.
If 6 emails are being sent out during as many days, the first four won’t even mention your product. These emails are giving the back-story, they are showing what the problem is and why the reader really should solve it quickly.
Then, in the last emails, she is given a way to pay you to solve the problem for her!
Every step of the sales funnel is doing one thing; taking the potential client to the next step.
It is basically giving all the information and incentives she needs to buy.
In the very end (i.e. in the last two emails if that is what you are doing), you should send the reader to a clear and simple sales page. Here is where you present The Offer.
The Offer needs to just be as concrete and precise as the rest of the funnel. Don’t make the mistake simply saying “If you want me to help you with X, feel free to get in touch!”
Clients need help putting their problems in writing. Instead of just “putting it out there” and hoping they will get back to you asking to solve this or that, offer them a solution to a specific problem.
The Offer should not for you to “website design for $150 an hour”. That is too vague.
Instead, offer them to “find all hidden mistakes on their website, for $450”.
That way, you give them a simple way to start working with you – something that you can later turn into a long-term gig.
The sales funnel doesn’t stop after you made your first sale. After successfully delivering on The Offer, you have shown the client that you do good on your promises and that the money she spent is an investment, not a cost.
By now, you have probably been able to pinpoint some specific mistakes that you could help her with, and you can pitch her a more long-term collaboration!
A well-built sales funnel will give you a steady stream of new leads, and also help you turn them into paying customers – all while you are doing what you actually are supposed to do.
It is not a quick-fix, prepare to spend quite a bit of time to put it in place. The good thing though is that when the first version is created – it takes very small tweaks to constantly improve it!