One of the questions we get asked the most is a simple one, but it has many answers – how do I get more clients as a freelancer?
Today, we want to help answer that, and show how you can build a reliable system for creating a sustainable business, where you always have enough work, and a stable long-term income.
The problem for many of us, is that we don’t really know how to get new clients. Maybe a friend recommends us, someone stumbles across our website or social media profile, or we finally get a response to the thousands of reach out emails we send.
The truth is, there are countless ways to find new clients, but the best way is to try and create a reliable, measurable system.
This is where we go into marketing territory – but don’t worry.
Professionally marketing your freelance business doesn’t need to be a huge challenge. The basics are simple, and easy for anyone to do.
If you actually take action on this, you will be well ahead of 95% of the other freelancers out there.
Successfully setting up a sales funnel can be one of the most rewarding things you do. It can lift a huge weight from your shoulders, and help you to focus more on what you do best – your work – without having to constantly worry about finding new clients.
So let’s dive in!
What is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is essentially the stages a potential customer needs to move through in order to become a client.
We use the funnel analogy because a large number of people will enter the funnel, and the number remaining gets progressively smaller as we go through each stage.
Funnels are often thought of in terms of selling a product, but as freelancers, we can use funnels to attract our clients, remain top-of-their minds, and then educate them towards doing business with us.
When using your services, clients are taking a risk with their hard earned money.
A sales funnel will help you to get more clients because there is a focus on building a relationship and trust before asking for their money.
A funnel is a way to repeatedly expose your business to potential clients, and create a real relationship with them. You can then grow that all-important trust to a place where it doesn’t feel like a risk to work with you.
This is why cold emails and pitches so rarely work – there is no trust established first. It’s also why referrals and recommendations are such an effective way to get new clients – because there is real trust already established. The risk is far less for the client.
So let’s talk about the four main stages of your sales funnel:
STAGE 1 – Awareness
This is the first stage of your funnel, it’s when somebody becomes aware of your freelance business and the services that you offer – when they find out that your business exists.
This can happen when they visit your website for the first time for example, for example they may come from Google, an ad, a Social Media post, or through word of mouth.
At this stage, you are now on their radar, but they are very unlikely to know how you can help them, or to make a purchase immediately.
The trust isn’t there yet.
STAGE 2 – Interest
In this stage they will learn more about your services, and how you can help them solve their specific problems.
In this stage, they start to become interested in how you can help them solve their problem – they are beginning to actively consider hiring someone.
They are showing interest in your services, but they will also likely be looking into other freelancers available on the market. They will be comparing and thinking about which option is the best fit for them.
This is where your portfolio, blog, testimonials, social media profiles and anything else that proves your expertise and credibility can help you stand out.
STAGE 3 – Decision
When they feel ready to buy, they move into the next stage and make a decision.
This could be whether to go ahead with the project, who to hire, or which package they want.
If they trust you, and you’ve consistently given them great value, you’re likely to be the natural choice.
You may also be able to offer them an incentive to help them make the decision faster or make it a no brainer for them.
STAGE 4 – Action
Finally, we’ve reaching the narrowest end of the process, where customers take action and hire you.
It might seem that, since this is the end of the funnel, your work is done here.
But this is just the beginning. Having put so much effort into converting a lead into a paying client, you should put equal effort into keeping them as a repeating client.
It’s much easier to retain existing clients than to find new ones.
This is where the quality of your services, your work ethics, and communication skills will shine. Do the best work for them, go the extra mile, be a person that’s easy to work with, and do what you say you will.
Do this and you’ll find your clients want to stick around with you for the long-term.
Why do you need a sales funnel as a freelancer?
Every business that is selling something has a sales funnel – some of them just don’t realise it.
Just think about any of your clients – before they hired you, they will have gone through a similar process:
- They will have learned about you and the services you offer – Awareness
- They will have been interested to see how could help them – Interest
- Next, they will have considered whether you are the best fit for them – Decision
- Then they will have discussed the project, fees, and other details and ultimately hired you – Action
Some clients might have moved through the stages more quickly and smoothly than others, but they all went through the same stages.
When you know this, you can start taking steps to help convert more people through each stage. You can also start measuring to see where leads are getting stuck, and at which stage clients are dropping out of the process.
Similarly, when you choose to ignore your funnels, or think you don’t need them, you are losing the ability to have any influence, understanding or control over the process.
8 Steps to Create a Funnel
Your goal is, as mentioned above, to increase the conversation rate in every stage of the funnel. Essentially to get a higher percentage of people moving through each stage and staying in the process.
This will ultimately mean that more people reach the final stage and make the decision to take the action and hire you.
So how do you create a funnel that converts? Having a funnel in place will help to move people through the sales stages and build valuable relationships with them.
We call this nurturing your leads. It’s essentially building on your relationship, by staying relevant and providing them with consistent value.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to doing this:
Step 1: Know Your Target Audience
First things first – you need to know who you want to get into your funnel. If you market to everyone, you will attract no one, so having a target audience is crucial.
Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean you have a laser-like focus on a specific niche.
But you do need to know what type of clients or projects you want to work on – so then you can set up a funnel that attracting the right people.
I have explained more about this in the article How to Attract your Dream Clients, so give it a read if you’re struggling with this step.
Step 2: Create a Lead Magnet that Solves a Problem
To get people into your funnel, first you need to give them a reason. What’s in it for them? Are you going to make their life easier in some way? Help them grow their business and earn more money?
Remember all the clients you are trying to attract should have a specific problem, that your services can solve.
Whatever the problem they are facing is, you need to show them that you have the solution for it and help them understand the importance of solving that problem – a great way to do that is by creating a lead magnet.
What is a Lead Magnet?
A lead magnet, is a free, valuable piece of content. It’s usually information that you are giving away for free in return for an email address.
You can create your freebie as a checklist, an ebook, a PDF guide, a template, a webinar, or anything you can think of that will deliver valuable information for you clients.
When creating a lead magnet, you have to make sure it’s something that your target audience wants and needs.
When they download it, you want them to think about how much they can gain if they hire you, if you’ve offered so much great value for free.
Good lead magnets can help clients move onto the next stage of your funnel – spammy ones, or low quality ones will make them immediately leave and ruin the relationship.
So try to create a lead magnet that will solve them a specific problem, or at least one aspect of that problem.
Step 3: Write Email Sequences
When somebody signs up for your lead magnet, they are entering your funnel. To keep them in your funnel, and move them through the stages of the sales funnel, you can use a nurturing email sequence.
These are emails that you will send over a period of time to people in your funnel, with the goal of building and solidifying your relationship, and leading them to the stage where they are ready to take action and hire you.
Email sequences can be completely automated, which is why you will need to choose some email software.
Here at Freelance Success, we use Flodesk which is nice and simple to use – you can get a free 30-day trial here and get 50% off the monthly subscription for a lifetime with our affiliate code FREELANCE.
The free services like Mailchimp can help you get started, but they tend to limit how automated your emails can be – so you might have to put in more manual work.
When you are creating email sequences, there are a few things to think about – from what will be in your emails, to when you will send them and how you will structure them. We’ll go into this more in a future article.
Step 4: Build a Landing Page
When you’ve ticked off the previous step, you need a landing page with the following elements:
- Information about what’s in your lead magnet and why it’s worth downloading
- A call to action
- A sign up form
Every emailing software has a landing page builder, so you can either create it there, or build a page on your website if you’re comfortable with that.
Landing pages are webpages with a specific, focussed goal. In our scenario, it’s to get the visitor to download your lead magnet, give you their email address and enter your funnel.
Step 5: Drive Traffic
Now that you are ready to welcome people into your funnel, it’s time to start promoting your lead magnet and drive traffic to your landing page.
You can do this through social media, advertising or content marketing. There are endless ways to do this and I talk about some of my favourites here.
Step 6: Keep Them Engaged
Some of your audience will move through your funnel quicker, others will take their time, and others will exit it. That’s all fine. Your funnel is also designed to filter out the people who are not a good fit for your services, so you don’t waste time with people who would never ultimately buy from you.
You do need to take efforts to keep those people who remain in the funnel engaged, however – or your previous efforts will be wasted.
If you want them to hire you, you need to introduce them to your services, and how you can help them. At the same time, you need to consistently keep offering them value through your free content – strike a balance between giving and taking, like in any relationship.
Step 7: Make it Easy for Them to Take Action
The desired outcome of any sales funnel is that your audience takes action and reaches out or agrees to work with you.
While you can’t force someone buy from you, you can influence them to take action with the help of the sales campaigns that we will talk more about in the next article.
But the key message is – don’t be afraid to ask them to work with you.
Otherwise leads can get stuck in your funnel for too long – not moving anywhere.
When you want someone to take action, you must be strategic about it.
You should be clear with your calls to action – don’t leave it to them to read between the lines – you probably won’t like their interpretation.
Then you have to make it easy for them to take action –
Add action buttons to your emails, landing pages, and any other touchpoint that you have. Make it easy and quick to take action – people are easily distracted and you don’t want to lose out because the process was too vague or confusing.
Step 8: Measure and Tweak as You Go
With a sales funnel, nothing is set in stone. Once it’s up and running, you should keep tracking the analytics and measure how it’s working so you can tweak it accordingly based on the data you have.
This will help you to experiment and constantly improve.
For example, maybe you are sending emails too often, and a longer delay between emails works better. Or maybe your subject lines are not click-worthy, and are being ignored.
Once you start sending out sequences, you can track them to find out what works and what doesn’t. Test out different variations, trust the analytics and tweak your funnel as you go.
I hope this guide has helped you start to understand the value of funnels, and how they can help you. Part Two is coming soon!