Where can you find leads in the short term if you’re in need of work now? What are strategies you can use to find better quality leads? We answer those questions and share resources to help you on your journey to building leadflow and a sustainable business.
- The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza
- Get Clients Now by C. J. Hayden
- Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
- The Positioning Manual by Philip Morgan
- Get More Leads by Kai Davis
- Fix This Next by Mike Michaelowicz
- The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- Range by David Epstein
- Kai Davis
- Marg Reffell
- Meg Cumby
Each episode, the panel (and guest) share their picks: a book, app, service, resource, or something else that they’re enjoying and recommend you check out:
- The Brain Audit: Why Clients Buy (and Why They Don’t) by Sean D’Souza (Kai)
- The One Thing (Marg)
- Freelance Camp (Meg)
Never miss an episode
Meg: Welcome to another episode of the Business of Freelancing podcast. Today we’ll be discussing freelancing leads one oh one. Where to get freelancing leads, what strategies to use to get good quality leads, and resources to help you on your journey to building a sustainable business. On our panel, this week, we have Marg Reffell.
Meg: Kai Davis.
Meg: And I’m Meg Cumby. Talking about leads, maybe it makes sense to start with, what are the potential issues maybe that we see that behind not getting enough lead flow, if somebody is wondering, I need more leads, what are some of those potential issues that might lead somebody to that point?
Kai: It comes down to a lack of self-confidence, in a couple of different areas. If you’re not confident in, say, your positioning or your target market, you’re going to fall into the generalist trap of like, “Hey, I work with small to medium to large enterprise businesses and help them do things.”
But then because you’re not confident in who you could best help or how you can help them. You’re not advertising yourself as like, “Hey, I work best with growing seven-figure Shopify stores who want to get more traffic through SEO.” It’s harder for folks to know how you can help them, and it’s harder to folks to say, “Oh, you’re the perfect person for me to work with.”
On the flip side, you could be have a lack of self-confidence around the actions you’re taking, when it comes to market yourself. So I often think of those as like using a CRM or going out to where your ideal clients or leads are and just engaging with them. Maybe it’s Twitter, maybe it’s Facebook groups, maybe it’s private communities, maybe it’s something else. But I often think it comes down to like, you don’t feel confident in who you’re trying to reach or how you’re going to reach them, and then you end up in just this generalist trap. What do you guys think? What potential issues do you see?
Marg: I definitely see confidence 100%. I also see, people just don’t know where to look, like you don’t know what you don’t know, right? Until you know it. There’s a lot of that, like you said, the confidence can come with time, it’s one of those things that just gets built with time. The other aspect gets built with time too, you don’t know, the best avenues to go until you have the courage to put yourself out there.
Like you said, join Slack groups and Facebook groups that you’re unfamiliar with and really see more than anything like how best you can help people. So also not going in with like a “just sales mentality.” Because I feel like that’s pretty transparent too. Like, you see somebody go into a Facebook group, and it’s immediately like, “Oh, here’s what I do.” Then people are like, “Wait a second, how do we know that you’re good at doing it? First of all.”
So, one of the things people miss is really putting out, putting into practice the stuff that they excel at, and that has a lot to do with, like you said, positioning for sure.
Meg: Yeah. Back to when I first started going out on my own for freelancing. I just assumed, hey, just business will come. Apparently, that’s not how it works. I’d left an agency job that I wasn’t really working for me and I had worked for the government before. I just figured, oh, people will just contact me, especially if I just mentioned it a couple of times when I’m talking with people. Yeah, you have to let people know for one thing that you’re available. So, I did not get enough work that first time round and so much, so I went back into getting another job.
So, the big issue for me was just not even knowing where to start. Then even just thinking, I don’t know, traditional networking, this is way back and way back in 2011.
Marg: Does sounds like a maze.
Kai: Forty years ago, back in 2011.
Meg: It feels that way these days. But yeah, not knowing where to go and then getting discouraged, just like the first like, “Hey, I should go to a networking event.” Then immediately Oh, what the three conversations I had did not result in a lead, and getting discouraged with that was definitely something that contributed and it compounded the effect for me.
Kai: Yeah, you’re absolutely right on the compounding, like it could be almost a vicious cycle of, “Hey, I’m not quite sure. I’m going to try a couple of things. Oh, these didn’t work. Nothing will work. I’m not going to market myself at all.” Well, now your engines out of gas, and that’s a hard spot to restart from.
Marg: Yeah. Like you said Meg also… You touched on networking events and stuff like that, but, it’s useful for people out there to know that a lot of times it feels like, “Oh, I went talk to 10 people and none of them got back to me.” But also keeping in mind that everything you do is like planting seeds.
Most people, for the first time you talk to them, they’re going to probably going to need to see a lot of different interactions with you and see that you like are in the sphere of what they’re looking for on more than one occasion before they reach out to you. So also not being discouraged when it doesn’t happen right away and knowing that you’re continuously planting seeds for the future as well.
Meg: Yeah, I see a lot of that, people don’t always take into account the building trust part, it does take a long time. That being said, let’s say some people might be coming at this question of where to get freelancing leads, they might be coming at it with different levels of urgency. So if someone is in a short term, I need work now situation, what do you feel might be the best place to look?
Marg: My suggestion would be to look for people who can subcontract to you, even if it’s for a short period of time. Also, just speaking as a developer as well, that goes for companies too. So freelancing can not only include individual clients, but there’s no harm in taking a three months contract for a company. A lot of times, if they have a push to get a product done, it’s a really great opportunity to secure three months of relatively consistent income, while you start to build on leads in other areas, too.
I know there’s definitely places like Upwork, and Fiverr. Depending on the position you’re in your career, I personally don’t like going that route. I have spoken to a couple of people that have used Upwork and are on that top, like 10 or 20%. They said statistically, they can send out like 50 to 100 proposals per week. I know a lot of those are pre-formatted, but it just seems like so much work, and I feel like there’s smarter ways. There’s definitely smarter ways to go about it. Kai, what do you think?
Kai: Yeah, I completely agree with your recommendations on subcontracting, then the benefits of working with companies who are maybe Upwork and Fiverr. I also like referrals, it definitely requires a little bit of trust. But man, if you have a shortlist of past clients and able to reach out to them and say, “Hey, I have an opening, I’d love to find another client like X or who needs help with Y, do you know somebody that you think I should work with?”
It’s a great crank to turn. Yeah, it might require the same amount of effort, outreach wise, thinking wise, approaching wise as Upwork. But it feels like a much more sustainable and powerful channel. I really like going back to sort of in the same beat past client list and just saying, “Hey, we worked on this project, X months ago, just wanted to check in, how are things going? Is there anything you need help with?”
Occasionally, folks might respond internally or externally with, “You must need some work.” But whatever, that’s their judgmental opinion, you are doing the right thing by reaching out to past clients, and just stimulating a conversation around if they need help, and if not, Okay, great, move on to the next person. But, it’s a good sustainable approach to try, you obviously, don’t want to be doing it every month. But once or twice a year, it’s perfectly fine, if not more frequently, to reach out to those past clients and just let them know, “Oh, I have an opening, can I help you with something like this.”
The third opportunity in short term that comes to mind is any communities or online groups, Facebook groups, in particular, can be a great option, especially like in the Shopify space. Going there reaching out to folks and saying, “Hey, by the way, I’m a Shopify developer, or designer or marketer, and I’ve got an open slot, I’d love to help a store, do X, Y, or Z, shoot me a DM or respond in here if you want to chat about it.”
But really all of these sum down to go to where your clients already are, if you have an idea of who your ideal client or who a good client is, and you have a general idea of where they’re hanging out online or offline, go to those spots, start engaging, start talking with people. Because A) if you aren’t talking to people like your ideal client or B) you aren’t going to where they are, you are not going to have a good time finding leads this, it seems like a really simple thing to say go where your ideal people are. But really, if you aren’t doing that, it’s going to make the entire process so much more challenging.
Meg: Absolutely. It sounds like basically some of the things you guys have mentioned, that’s also strategies for the long, medium, or long term as well. Like what are those things to…? Let’s assume, Okay, great, we’ve got our short terms needs fixed, we’re okay for the next two months or so, what are those longer-term things place to find leads, to find new leads, new customers that are the ideal fit. What do you think, Kai?
Kai: More and more I’ve been thinking about medium to learn long term lead generation as setting up evergreen ongoing systems. You’re in the software world or software marketing, well, these are often called like a flywheel, something that runs continually. Big picture why I like those is they’re often ways you could reach one to many people instead of a one to one like Upwork, or referrals or past client outreach. But if you’re doing things like a podcast or online content creation, or curating weekly, or every other week list of resources for your target market, or writing and sharing content online, these are things that do take a good amount of effort.
Oh, I dropped off my list Search Engine Optimization. But these are things that take a good amount of effort, take a while to get going. But if you have a couple of well-ranking articles, you’re going to be getting dozens if not hundreds of people every week or month looking at those articles, which will make it even easier to convert one or two of them into clients. Same with a podcast or same with online content creation via video or text or audio.
So, the shift in the short term to long term, short term is, “I’m going to go one to one and see if I could shake some leads loose from the lead tree out in the yard.” In the long term, it’s saying, “Okay, what can I do to reach multiple people at once really scale my efforts. So it’s not one to one outreach, it’s hey, I wrote this thing. I told 20 people about it with a copy-paste template, and now I got 100 people looking at it.”
So yeah, I guess that’s where I wind up long term is really sustainable evergreen ongoing flywheels that you could continue working on, but continually reach more and more people. How about you, Marg? Where does your mind go with this type of question?
Marg: Yeah, I would a hundred percent say creating long-term, evergreen content that builds on itself over time, so that’s huge. For me, specifically, there’s been almost three things that have helped me immensely in getting clients, especially in the long term. So the first one has been exactly like you’re saying, building more of a client…
Getting more eyes on your content and building more long term content, to not only reach more people but also, again, goes back to like you said, with positioning, position yourself as the expert in that area, so that you are the go-to person. Like if someone has a problem with… I’m blanking like medical professionals right now [laughs].
But if someone has a problem with their teeth, they’ll most likely go to a dentist, or more specifically an orthodontist if they’re looking for braces and stuff like that, as opposed to like a GP doctor or something.
So I know people think they’re limiting themselves by niching down and getting specific on their positioning. But it might seem counterintuitive, but it definitely makes you more desirable to be a specific expert to those people, for sure. So, that’s been one yeah, and I’m trying, I’m doing my best. I’m very new to the YouTube space, but I am really trying with the YouTube avenue to create some more evergreen educational content. So that’s been one of my prongs as of lately.
The other two that have been amazing and this is how I’ve got my best clients. This is how I’ve got my clients that are going on like six and seven years this point. So the first thing I did was, I saw people and these might be specific to web development, too. But I’m sure they can go other into different areas.
So as a web developer, I had to think to myself, like people can’t see, clients can’t see the quality of code I’m creating, right? A lot of the stuff we do is behind the scenes. So in order to best optimize and be able to show clients what I can really do, and I need to pair up with really amazing designers. Because if I can make incredible designs come to life, not only is the designer super grateful, because a lot of the attention to design detail a lot of the times for developers is not a strong suit.
So if you can make that a strong suit, and really hone in on making designs look beautiful and function well, that’s going to be huge. So in that case, the designers kept coming back to me because they wanted to work with me, I was able to show my clients, really beautiful portfolio pieces, thanks so in much to the designer, but it also makes me look good too.
Then the other thing was too, so that’s one thing almost like setting yourself up with people who have a complementary skill set. So designer/developer is definitely one of those like design and copyright would probably be another complementary skill set. I know like development and SEO or even design and SEO are good complementary skill sets. So pairing yourself up with someone who can provide complementary skills to yours, that’s been huge for me.
The last one too has also been following people who are… Like really being clear about where you want to go in your path, and following and making sure you stay in close contact with people who are just a few steps ahead of that. The great thing about that is that so me, as a developer, and all of us as entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for the next thing, like, how can we grow? How can we evolve and what’s the next evolution of our business?
Any great entrepreneur is also going to be doing that. So if you’re constantly following, and keeping in touch with these people that you look up to that are a little bit ahead of you, as soon as they start to make the evolution into the next phase of their business, they need someone to take over their previous clients. That’s been I’ve gotten clients who I’ve had probably between like four and seven years, just from that alone, and they’re so grateful because if you’re good at your job, these people are more than happy to be like, “Okay.”
Because they have such a great dedicated client base at that point in their careers. They want to hand it off to someone that they really trust. So, that’s been the biggest one for sure.
Kai: No, I absolutely love that one, I think you’re absolutely correct. You find those people who are going to be hitting that next level moving from, say, client services to courses. Hey, as soon as their course takes off, it’s going to be like, “Yeah, I don’t want to do this client service work anymore.” They are more than happy, it’s almost a good thing for them, “Oh, I could pass this off to you, and I don’t need to have guilt around it. Thank you so much.”
Jumping back a couple of threads. You mentioned, the value in positioning and being specific. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite thing in the entire world. Gerald Weinberg’s Law of Strawberry Jam, the wider you spread it, the thinner it is. This applies so effectively when we think about positioning or a target market. If we’re saying, “Oh, I won’t pick positioning, I’ll just work for anybody out there.” We’re spreading our marketing, jam, our marketing energy, our lead generation, so wide, we’re trying to be something for everybody. But instead of we’re hyper-specific on “Hey, I help this type of person succeed, or this type of business succeed.”
It’s so much easier to have your marketing focused in a specific area, and have your leads and prospects feel like, “Oh, you’re the go-to person, I see you everywhere you’re on every podcast, I google anything, and your articles come up.” It feels like, “Oh, my God, you must be doing everything.” When the truth is, you’re doing even less than usual, just saying, “I’m going to focus just on this target market, just on this problem.” Suddenly, you’re the go-to person for that problem in that market.
Meg: Does this differ? It feels like what we’re talking about is pretty universal. Do either of you feel like where you get leads, good quality leads, differs by industry, like if you’re a developer, or if you’re a designer or if you’re a writer, or if you’re…? But does that even come into it? Much like are there better channels for getting leads than others for different industries? Or would a better distinction be more like for strategy services versus let’s say hands-on keyboard services, where you’re actually implementing things versus providing advice and strategy?
Kai: I’d say, kind of, maybe, sort of, it’s valuable to… I know, right, such as a squishy answer but it does differ by industry in that if I’m a developer, or I’m an SEO person, or I’m a marketer, I need to understand, “Okay, if I’m selling development services, who is the ideal buyer?” Well, might be a business who’s trying to launch an app or doing some integration, find a Search Engine Optimization consultant, well, who’s my ideal customer?
Probably isn’t the same as being a developer, but it might be a Shopify store or a content site, somebody who’s doing lead generation and says, “Oh, we need more traffic.” So it’s valuable to think on what industry or industries you’re in, and the skill set you’re bringing to the table because that does influence a lot of the down channel things, what communities do I want to hang out in?
If I’m selling SEO services, well, I might be on Reddit, on Big SEO and commenting and sharing information. But if I’m selling development services, that would not be an ideal spot for me to hang out. So it does influence where you go, but I don’t think like if I’m a developer versus a designer, oh, referrals just do not work for developers, don’t do referrals.
A lot of these lead generation marketing approaches do work, no matter what industry or skill set you’re in. But the specific tactical execution does shift depending on your industry and your skillset in your profession. So it’s valuable to think on it, but it doesn’t throw a lot of them out, it just changes the implementation or the execution.
Marg: Yeah, I would 100% agree. It comes down to your strategy in finding those clients would be different, but I don’t think there’s any shortage of clients in any particular industry for sure.
Meg: What about…? There’s some services out there that… Have you guys ever worked with services that where you pay to have leads come your way? I’m thinking there’s a couple I’m aware of like Lead Cookie for LinkedIn lead generation. Rob Williams’s Lets Workshop or Folyo? Yeah, do you guys have any experience with those types of services? What do you think, people should consider those types of services perhaps?
Marg: I have not. I’m curious if you have Kai, I haven’t. It’s just a route that I never thought of going down. Mostly because I also maybe didn’t fully understand how they worked too. So I’m not sure if they like take a commission or if they take a certain amount upfront. Then I don’t really know exactly what they guarantee, but yeah, I don’t know. Kai, have used it before?
Kai: I’ve used a couple. The one that comes to mind and I’ll mention here is sadly defunct, about Ned Dwyer’s lteo, L-T-E-O, that was acquired by GoDaddy six-ish years ago. It was actually great for me, they had a steady stream of digital PR, and Shopify leads coming my way. It was a great way to start growing my business as I switched from day job to as one main client to, “Hey, I have a number of clients.”
But touching on something you asked there Marg, how is it set up for the service to benefit without, “Oh, they took a cut of each deal. So it was like 20 or 30%.” With things like Lead Cookie, which is done for you, LinkedIn lead generation service by friend of the show, Jake Jorgovan. You’re paying an upfront cost. I think it’s like three to four figures a month, and they work with you on the strategy, handle the outreach on LinkedIn, and hand leads off to you to have conversations with. These are basically marketing qualified leads for you to have a sales conversation with.
With services like Robert Williams Folyo or Lets Workshop, they’re running basically a curated service where they’re identifying potential leads online through RFPs, posting sites, lead sites, or otherwise, you’re paying a monthly fee. With Folyo, it’s like three figures, maybe 99 a month, but don’t quote me on that. You get access to their list of like, “Hey, this week, or today, here are the projects we found, and you got to reach out to them.”
So, one of the major differences to highlight here is with some services like Lead Cookie, they’re grabbing the leads for you and passing it off to just you, so you’re not really in competition directly. With services like Folyo, it’s going out to a bunch of people. So yes, maybe 5, 10, 20 people might respond to that prospect. So in a sense, the higher price ones you’re paying for the exclusivity. They’re a good option for people that are saying, “Hey, I need more leads, I really don’t enjoy this marketing thing or it’s just like, not my native language, I want somebody else to handle it for me.”
But the real disadvantage is you don’t have that marketing connection, or really that overall connection with the person before you start that sales conversation. Maybe you get an email from any of these and you start that conversation, and you’re really building that relationship and building that trust from zero or near zero. So in the short term, or if you’re just like, “Yo, I don’t want to do this, I love lead showing up and me being able to do the work.”
That could be a great option. But if you want a richer and more trusting experience with your leads, as they come in, they’re okay, I’m not going to poopoo on any of them. But they’re not as great as having an email list and doing a podcast or two things that your friend Kai absolutely loves. Because anybody who encounters you through those channels is able to say, “Oh, wow, I understand this person’s approach, how they could help what they can do. Let me get in touch with them and say, hey, I loved hearing you on that podcast or reading that letter, or I found your six articles, and I love them, how can you help me.”
So really another factor there is the amount of trust a lead or a prospect might have with you before they start that first conversation with you. So it’s really like a two by two quadrant on one side, you have the amount of trust on the other side you have the amount of access and you need to think to yourself, “Am I willing to invest this amount of time or this amount of money to have higher quality leads or leads that are more trusting of me when they get in touch?”
So there’s no easy answer, but, I think they are an option that’s worth exploring. I would say the best services to get you leads are ones that are hyper-specific. Folyo in particular by Robert Williams does a great job of this where it’s niche down, on UI designers or graphic designers rather than being come one come all I will get you leads it’s yo I will help you if you’re in this specific targeted niche, which means it’s higher quality leads for you dear listener and an easier job for the service owner to generate these leads. So, it does get kind of squishy.
Marg: Mm-hmm. That’s good to know. Cool.
Meg: Another vote for niching.
Meg: Meta niching [laughs]. That’s awesome. Along the same lines, what if people…? Other than this awesome episode of the Business of Freelancing. What other? What books or resources maybe would be good for people to read, learn more about how to get more leads, and where to find them? What would you guys recommend?
Marg: I can’t, I turn off the top of my head think of exactly lead generating books. I would say that, without reading said lead generating books, I would assume and I don’t think it’s a big leap to think that the general idea through a lot of them would probably be sort of along the lines of what we were saying, like, find out what you’re good at, position yourself, dedicate it for a niche. Make sure… And then those little things too, little things like…
These would apply even if you’re looking for a full-time job, but clean up your social media, maybe don’t have pictures of you at cake parties and stuff like that, especially if you have, if you’re looking for clients online. They’re going to look you up and they’re going to see you’re a designer, they’re going to look at your aesthetic, if you’re a developer, they’re going to see if you’re talking about the stuff they’re interested in or even like tangential to that.
I would guess that the books would say a lot of the stuff that we’re about, but if people have… I’m also super open to it if people have specific suggestions. The books that I can think of that talk about not specifically getting leads, but positioning and niching in general are… The authors are escaping me, but we can put them in the show notes.
There’s one called The ONE Thing, which is like really honing in on basically getting good and focusing on one thing. There’s also another one, I would say at the other end of the same spectrum to that called Range. It makes a case for being a generalist, but I would say that there is… Because there is a scale. It’s not like be super niche or be generalist, there’s a whole spectrum in between that. So even in something that you think is very specialized, like say if I say I’m a developer that specializes in eCommerce, that’s not even specialized enough. What is it BigCommerce, Shopify? Then Okay, if I narrow back down to Shopify, that’s too big.
Well, do you build apps? Or do you build storefronts? Or do like, there’s so… There’s even like ranges within these niches. So, it’s kind of finding, you’re like, I’m picturing this like equilibria with these two little range pieces on this spectrum of finding that sweet spot.
Meg: Yeah, Kai, what about…? I’m feeling Kai is going to have a long list of awesome resources.
Kai: I’m a machine, just a [inaudible] list of resources and books. But one thing I wanted to pick up on there Marg that you shared, I completely agree like, there’s a range of specialization. I have even started to come around to the thinking that being a generalist is actually a fine and good thing. I’m very much a generalist, I can do a lot of things. My cat is joining into this episode, so enjoy that dear listener.
But I think being a generalist is fine. What’s important though, is don’t be a generalist in your marketing, if your marketing is like, “I can do anything, I can make you a casserole or get you an eCommerce site.” That’s really squishy people won’t enjoy it. But you can have all of these skills but your marketing be very focused on “I help a Shopify store selling women’s apparel, doing more than seven figures a year who wants to grow through SEO, reach that next target.”
Hey, that’s perfect. That’s super laser targeted. So in a sense, specialize and niche down in your marketing, but enjoy your diverse skill set. If you’re somebody out there who’s like, “Hey, I like a bit of design, I like a bit of development. I’d like some SEO, I like this other stuff over here.” That’s fine, celebrate what you enjoy. But when it comes to getting leads and clients niche down that marketing as niche and targeted and tight as possible.
Meg: Yeah, I agree entirely when you do that. It’s funny whenever you talk about any of these topics that we chat about, it often all crosses over with other topics like positioning and marketing and all that. But yeah, just because you niche down, like I niche down on coaches and consultants, and I still get… I’ll work occasionally with a Shopify app. Sometimes you’re going to get still work that comes outside of that niche but it’s, it’s interesting, but without it, you don’t get the traction that you need.
What about resources, Kai? What do you recommend for people to dig into to get better at this finding leads game?
Kai: Absolutely. I’m going to rattle off a couple here. We will include these in show notes, and we’ll see if we can include links as well. But these are great books that have influenced my thinking.
The first is the Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. It’s a wonderful book about why customers and clients buy and they don’t. Sean has a wonderful metaphor of the seven red bags that, can help any service provider better understand both what they’re providing, and why people buy from them. If they notice a bag or an element is missing, it gives you specific focus on Oh, “I need to fix or better understand this in my marketing or my services, to sell more to more people.”
Another book that I haven’t read myself, but a number of folks have recommended strongly to me in my community Freelance Camp is Get Clients Now. It’s very much a plug and play system, essentially, like you’re going to take these actions over the coming 30 days. Get Clients Now is perfect at helping you get started moving forward, just doing things, and telling people about those things. So if you’re saying I want to get more leads, I’m just not sure, I want to step-by-step, day-by-day or week-by-week gameplan, Get Clients Now would be wonderful.
Another book The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. This is one of my personal favorites. I have my copy on my desk right now, and it has probably 100 sticky notes and 200 passages underlined. It’s a great book just to help you understand how to as it says on the cover Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies, which sounds like a mouthful of marketing speak. But the truth is, it’ll help you better understand the type of assets, materials, and outreach to be doing to connect with people and let them know about your services or how you could help them.
Definitely more written for the 1970s 80s enterprising audience in some sense, but I found countless lessons in this book apply perfectly to Indies or firms or agencies wondering, “Hey, how do we make more sales? How do we get more clients?”
I told you this list was going to be long so I’m going to keep ongoing. The next one I recommend The Positioning Manual by a friend of the show Philip Morgan. Phillip’s book is an epic excellent tome on positioning and how to niche down and be known for something one thing in the mind of your clients. I strongly recommend it. I was in a mastermind with Phillip, and he lives and breathes positioning, and his book The positioning Manual is just excellent at helping a reader understand both what positioning is and how to get started with it and grow with it in their business.
I’ll plug one of my own books, Get More Leads at kaidavis.com/leads. In Get More Leads, I give you seven systems you could plug and play into your business to get more leads. I know I’m saying Get More Leads a lot, but it’s a really good book and readers and customers have positive things to say about it.
One more I’ll recommend, Fix This Next by Mike Michalowicz. I’m sure I butchered his last name, but the book is excellent at helping you dig into the area of your business you need to focus on. It presents you with a business hierarchy of needs and a self-assessment. So you’re able to easily say, “Okay, well, I feel like I’m not making enough money.” It’s easy to point it at that and say, “Oh, I must need more leads or need to sell more.”
But truly Mike’s book helps identify issues like, “Well, do you actually not have lifestyle business congruence.” You don’t understand how much money your business needs to be making to help you grow as a person or as a business and that could throw everything out of whack? Or is it you don’t have a good enough profit margin. So, even if you sold twice as much too many more leads? Well, you’re still going to find yourself “Hey, our revenue doubled but I still don’t have money in the bank and rent’s due tomorrow.”
So Fix This Next is a great way to even go deeper into this, “Hey, how do I get more leads problem.” Understand what part of your business actually is suffering and what actions you can take to remedy that issue. So that was a big long list, we’ll make sure to include it in show notes but, I think even just reading one of these books or saying, “Hey over the next six months I’m going to try to read one of these per month.” Either approach will help you better understand these fundamental aspects and get more leads in your business.
Meg: No, strongly agree. I just read Fix This Next as well, and boy does that nicely. Again keep you from getting distracted from a certain part of the product. Like when you think one part is the problem and it’s like, “Wait no this more fundamental thing needs to be fixed first.” It provides a lovely… Some other books that will find providers as targeted or as prescriptive as advice of like ask these questions for your business. Then if you’re not answering okay, then great this is your next priority to be able to show you your next priority, I found that super, super helpful for somebody who has difficulty doing that [laughs].
Kai: It’s a great book and great framework in process, Mike hit a home run with Fix This Next.
Kai: I thought it would be A) going into it, but by chapter two I was like this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Everybody I know must read this book.
Marg: Oh, that’s awesome. I’m definitely going to check it out. Thanks for that.
Meg: Yeah, yeah. The Audible audiobook version is also very good. I don’t think I’ve had an author read their book with such personality.
Marg: Oh, good it makes a difference?
Meg: Such a personality.
Meg: It really does, he does a lot of side comments to you. I honestly can’t tell sometimes when it’s the side comment.
Meg: But he seems like a really… He injects a bit of fun into it, and humor, which is nice when you’re reading a business book that it’s not just all. Yeah, it’s good, and practical, too, that’s the other thing.
For people listening, what should they do next? Speaking Fix This Next, what do you guys think would be good next steps for people to take? Questions they should ask or things they should do. What do you think they should, right after this episode is done? Start doing?
Marg: I definitely think that it totally depends where they are in their journey. But you can’t go wrong starting to plant those long-tail seeds, and really start at the bottom line. After everything, it does come down to building relationships. Whether that’s building relationships with people who have complementary services, in order to build relationships with clients, or building relationships with other people in your fields that you look up to so that they can trust you and be able to pass work on when they’ve taken the next evolution of their business.
Definitely build relationships. I know that sounds vague, but, the next step you can take in that is go and see, like, literally just sit down and make a list of what is it exactly that I do? What do I want to specialize in? If you haven’t noticed that already. As Kai said, there’s books on positioning and some really good stuff out there if you’re a bit lost, and looking to other people in fields that are complimentary. Then also people in the same fields who are a few steps ahead.
Literally just start going down, like in a spreadsheet, jotting their names down, following them on social media, seeing the work that they’ve done. You’ll know when people start to change the trajectory of their business. If that happens, reach out to them and ask if they need projects be taken over for them. I’ve done that two or three times and those clients I still have to this day. So that would probably be my next suggestion.
Meg: Finding somebody to refer work to is such a problem for people when you moved on, or when you’re totally booked up. You will be doing somebody a favor if you can offer them a space to pass on projects that they don’t… When they’ve got too much leads or leads that are no longer a fit, you will be so doing them a favor speaking as somebody who’s gotten leads for projects I don’t do anymore. I’m like, “Well, I need a list of people that I can just prefer, that I can trust, that I can say yes, you’ll be taken. I can’t help you right now. But you’ll be taken care of over here.” I would like yeah, that’s something I’ve wished I’ve had a lot of time
Marg: It’s such low-hanging fruit and people just don’t take advantage of it, for sure.
Kai: One, I’ll add that, is pretty synergistic with your suggestion Marg is start using a CRM, just have some trusted spot where you’re able to enter in your contacts, your colleagues, your connections, and set a little reminder or a tickler Oh, I should follow up with Megan a month just to see how business is going or follow up with Marg.
I love Pipedrive myself pipedrive.com. But honestly, like any tool you use, it could be a Google Sheet, it could be a Trello board, it could be HubSpot, it could be Pipedrive, it could be Salesforce for the enterprise listeners among us. But just start using a trusted tool where you don’t have to remember all your contacts and connections and follow-ups yourself. Instead, you could delegate it to a robot and the robot is like, “Hey, it’s March 3, follow up with this person, send them an email.” It’ll make it so much easier for you.
While it might feel a bit frustrating to get started, and like, “Oh, how do I use this tool? Is this even right?” I can tell you from personal experience and from experience with my clients. If you start using a CRM, it will make your marketing so much easier. Because it won’t be “Oh, I need to reach out to people for referrals. Who do I know in this industry.” Instead, it’s like, “Oh, I’ll look into CRM, oh, here’s a list of the 10 people I know I should reach out to.” It will take what might turn into a day task into an hour or a two-hour task. So again, start using a CRM, it will help you
Meg: Any other tips or questions that people should ask themselves or?
Kai: The one I’d add, always asking yourself, like revisiting that idea of who you could best help and how you can help them really the positioning question can always help if you’re saying, “Oh, I need more leads.” Well, do you want any leads? Do you want anybody who has money and want somebody in a chair with a keyboard? Or do you want a specific type of lead who matches with your best client or your positioning or your target market?
While it might feel like an inappropriate time to do it that moment when you’re like, “Oh, I really need to work right now.” Can be a great time to say, “Okay, I’m just going to hyper-focus, even if just for a couple of outreach emails to one specific type of client.” It’s at least then if two or three people are like, “Oh, yeah, if somebody I need to refer to somebody, or Oh, yeah, I need help with it.” At least they’re similar projects.
So it’s not like, “Oh, I got the SEO project, I’m building this app, I’m painting that fence.” Suddenly, you’re being spread every way possible. So, just asking yourself, do I have a specific idea of who my target client is? Then working on that to make it as niche and specific as possible? It would be a great question or activity to do for yourself, when you’re looking at this lead question and wondering, either in the short term, “How do I get leads for tomorrow or in the long term? Hey, how do I make sure I have a resilient, durable lead generation system for 2020, 2021, and beyond?”
Meg: Even within when you’re already niched, I would say like, is there a specific service that you maybe want to be shifting a little bit more? You’re not even answering the big question of like, “What do I want to do all the time?” But maybe you have three or four offerings? I’m saying this because I’ve recently thought of this myself, like, “Oh, do I want to be just pushing all of these offerings? Or do I want to be thinking about maybe promoting one of them, that might be more of a fit right now for the available capacity, I’ve got to or the space that might bring in this quarter?”
Marg: Yeah, I would also add probably something that I’ve learned now years in, if I could go back to the beginning, as far as lead generation. If you are a freelancer or in a small agency, or basically doing services, any kind of services that are like you to client services that are technically one on… It could be one to one to a company, I’ll use the terms or a one on one as an example of that. But if you’re creating one on one services, please, for the love of God starts a mailing list, I have been working one on one with clients.
So I never thought I needed a mailing list. Everyone came in through referrals, I’ve always been overbooked, I’ve always been able to produce great work. Now I’m moving more into content creation and more into product creation, which we can dive into a whole other episode, which would be great to explore in that transition. But now to start from scratch. So please, for the love of God, start a mailing list, even if you think it’s too early.
Kai: Yeah, strong plus one for me. Not to throw a shade at anybody in the audience who does not yet have a mailing list. But I can honestly say, building a mailing list has been one of the most powerful marketing activities I’ve done in my business. It’s not as simple as like, “Oh, I started a mailing list, and tomorrow, I will have so many leads, I won’t need the mailing list anymore.”
It’s like honestly, going to the gym or starting a diet or starting a habit. You’re going to start doing this now, you’re going to work at it slowly and simply over time, but six months, a year down the line, you’re going to say, “Oh, wow, I have 100, 200 people on this mailing list.” I send out an email saying, “Oh, by the way, I just sent an opening for next month. If anybody needs help with insert service here, I could help you.”
You’ll get one or two or three people raising their hands and saying, “Oh, yeah, I need help with that tomorrow. Can you help?” So it’s a really powerful marketing activity. Definitely isn’t plug and play in the sense that you’ll get leads immediately, but it will be such a valuable thing that future you will thank you for
Marg: Yes, 100%. I can vouch for that.
Meg: Yeah, y’all are talking to your fellow panelists, get a mailing list, Erik. I keep ignoring the good advice. Yes. Noted. Looking into my future, let’s do feature mega, a favor here.
Marg: Yeah, and it could also be something that’s utilized because I’m thinking of it in a sense of like, I should have started building it earlier. So I could make it more easier transition to info product, but you could do something really cool to help generate leads in that, hey, once a month, maybe you do this digest about like, what is new in the world of Shopify? Here’s a summary of the Shopify unite conference here is…
If you do like a once, and it doesn’t have to be a weekly but if you do like a once a month round up of wherever your job is in the Internet, what’s happened in that month? Hugely valuable. Even that alone could position you as an expert for sure.
Meg: For sure, that’s awesome. Should we move into picks? Yeah, let’s talk about what are picks for this episode? Kai, do you have a pick for us this week?
Kai: I’m staring at the list of books and resources, realizing that I forgot to pick a pick.
Marg: So many too.
Meg: I think you already gave us 18 picks.
Kai: I will just double down on one, I’ll say again, the Brain Audit. Excellent book, Sean D’Souza hit a home run, all of his material and products is great. I had the luck of chatting with him over the Internet a couple of years ago and he’s just a great guy. The Brain Audit, if I was on a desert island, I only got to bring one marketing book with me, it would honestly be the Brain Audit. It’s a really good book, I’ve read six or seven times. I actually once was reading it on my Kindle on a walk, and walked into a parked car and stood up and I was like, Oh, and then just immediately continued reading. It’s that good of a book. So grab a copy on Amazon, it’s only a couple of bucks, and it will change your business for the better.
Meg: Yeah, I created a whole business out of one of his chapters [laughs]. There’s this chapter on if nothing else, his chapter on testimonials, is super golden. You all can get some really, really great testimonials using his questions. Yeah. Marg, what’s your pick?
Marg: I would say I would pick the book, The ONE Thing and the reason I would pick it is because there’s so much information that’s super useful, that’s out there and that we’ve given you but can also be extremely overwhelming. So if nothing else, just pick ONE Thing to start.
Meg: That’s awesome. Yeah. My pick this week is going to be Freelance Camp, which was also… Kai has mentioned too on this episode. So Kai’s community for freelancers, and it is an awesome community of just really amazing people across different fields of freelancing at all different stages of their career.
It’s been one of my favorite spots to hang out online. It’s been really nice, even during these very uncertain times that we have this community already built up of online people. We even do weekly Zoom chats. It’s been really nice to have that community people especially now when we can’t really see each other in person. Locally that some people can’t see each other in person. So that’s been a really good thing.
Also just help thinking through some of these questions with fellow freelancers, again, at all different types of their journey, whether it’s starting, having a side hustle, or being a business with a couple employees, all different types there. Yeah, definitely recommend checking that out at, and we’ll have that in the show notes at freelance.camp.
That brings us to the end of this episode. Be sure to subscribe in your podcast app of choice, and if you like the show, please leave us a review. Thanks for joining us today. We’ll be back next week with the Business of Freelancing podcast.