From nothing to 5 decent leads a week as a freelancer

Fri, May 12, 2017 - 7 minute read

I recently started out as a freelancer again. Within two weeks and a little effort I now have 5 decent leads a week. Here's how I did it.

Recently I started out as a freelancer again. It’s been going very well. If you’re a software engineer and thinking about going freelance, now seems definitely a good time and I believe it’s only getting better

Within two weeks, I had about 8 decent leads for contracts and/or consultancy gigs, here’s how I went about it:

The way I did it was fairly simple, I just kept on objective at the top of my mind, how can I lead users to my website and convert them into leads.

1. Find a niche

This is something that I’ve often heard from more experienced peers but never really bought into. Why would I want to specialize in any particular area when I love doing so many different things. It took me a while to figure it out but ultimately being a specialist has a bunch of advantages:

  • As someone looking for a contractor, I will hire a specialist rather than a generalist, because I trust that I’ll get more value for the specific thing I need to get done.
  • The fewer competitors you have the better.
  • Being a specialist means that you’re highly likely to get work that caters to your skills. You’ll be more productive and the relationship with your client will improve.
  • Being a specialist doesn’t mean you can’t do anything outside of your area of expertise. You could trade under two different business names and offer two different kinds of services too, not impossible, just a bit more work.

So to test my assumptions, what I did was launch two landing pages advertising two kinds of services, one more specialised, the other less so.

  1. Refactoring legacy javascript to react.
  2. React & React native development - (this website)

These landing pages were both just html, with assisting technology, I just needed to get it done the fastest way possible.

Then I threw some traffic at it (paid traffic - to save time) and looked at what performed best - number 2 in this instance. For number one it was hard to find good keywords for and so driving traffic to it was hard - and here I had my niche, react development.

Once I had tested those simple landing pages I started fleshing out the winner.

The idea for react.js focused services came from talking to recruitment agents, there just seemed to be a huge demand for react and react-native work out there.

2. Building / Designing a website

It can just be a one-pager. However, a nicely designed website, that presents well the services you offer will give you a competetive advantage (especially as a freelance developer - since not many have a decent web-presence). A nice design doesn’t have to necessarily be aesthetically pleasing - just look at Noah Stokes’s website, it’s a ton of humour and also an internet sensation!

If you don’t want to deal with designing your website but have some money to spend, pay a decent designer $2000 for a kick-ass one pager. Reach out to me on twitter, I’m sure I can find someone, maybe I’ll even do it myself if I’m intruiged and have time on my hands!

The most important thing however is that the words on your website help conversion. Think of your website as your escalator pitch. Ideally you address the following concerns: - Pain - What problem are you solving for me the client? - Value proposition - How will my project/business improve by involving you? Give me tangible benefits, I’m a business owner! - Proof - How can I trust that what you claim is real? - Call to Action - How do I get in touch with you?

I encourage you to just google around and find a couple of ideas to steal, after all: “Good artists copy, great artists steal”!

3. Getting the word out

People need to find you online. Here’s a list of things you can do to enable customers to find you:

  1. Links - Put the word out on all the good places you can think of, hackernews is a good one, twitter, other social networks like linkedin or facebook, your github profile, your dribbble, your codepen profile, your stackoverflow profile, your email signatures. All the places that represent you should link back to your webhome!
  2. Networking - Let all your friends now, email them, message them. Your friends are your network, and the best networking is basically making friends - human connections that are based on trust. If you trust someone it’s easier to work with them!
  3. Write stuff - Developing a habbit for writing is good for a couple of reasons: It acts as proof that you’re not just a poser, that you actually know what you’re talking about and are passionate enough about what you do that you want to share your experience. Written communication is also key to any client-relationship you will have, because a lot of the time you will of course be spending writing Emails. Furthermore, having unique content on your website will help google naturally drive traffic to your site and that is the holy grail of lead generation of course.
  4. Paid traffic - When starting out, this is an incredibly convenient way of getting traffic to your site. Let’s elaborate on this a bit:

4. Paid traffic is underrated

Paid traffic, in combination with networking is really what got my freelance career to take off. From talking to peers about this who also freelance/consult I’m surprised that so few actually use paid traffic as a tool to get new customers. ou’re

Think about it - paid traffic is incredibly efficient for our kind of business because even if you spend $500 a month, and just get one or two good leads, it’s well worth the investment!

You’re not selling small-margin products, you’re selling a service, so a good lead could mean thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your rate and how long your client stays with you!

5. Converting your visitors into actual customers

Converting customers is all about getting them to talk to you, the more you break down this barrier, the more customers you will convert.

I use a few techniques to convert visitors on my website to actual customers. However - the most effective tool I use to convert visitors is this: Drift (It’s a support tool with a chat-widget like intercom - thanks JP for recommending it! Drift is free for one user, so if you’re starting out, try integrate it on your landing page - it takes 10 minute to set up and it is so worth it!

  • It’s less formal and more convenient than an Email!
  • It’s immediate and convenient, right from your website, it saves the customer time!
  • As the business owner, you can integrate drift with slack, or use the drift mobile app, giving you notifications on your phone when new customers start chatting with you on your site.

Other ways for visitors to get in touch with me on my website are:

  • They can book a slot on my google calendar (30 min) to discuss their project over google hangouts or phone - it’s just a link to my google calendar.
  • They can of course Email me, my email is right htere on the website.
  • They can ring me on my number - nobody ever calls me from my website except recruiters btw - maybe it’s just a bit too personal for a first encounter.

Billing

Don’t be afraid to put your rate up. Especially if you get a lot of requests it’s a sign that you’re not charging enough, that’s what happened to me - and it’s a great situation to be in!

For my business personally, although I’m not ready just yet, I’d like to move away from time-based billing and towards fixed price billing - because then I can charge for the value that I’m creating rather than the time I’m working on it. I highly recommend Jonathan Startks expensive problem, his newsletter (you can subscribe on the same page) and his book hourly billing is nuts - check it out!

Now let’s kick some ass! If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t be shy - it may just make my day!

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