Finding Clients as a Freelancer

Referrals & Growing Your Email List

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Finding Clients as a Freelancer

Check out a free preview of the full Finding Clients as a Freelancer course

The "Referrals & Growing Your Email List" Lesson is part of the full, Finding Clients as a Freelancer course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul outlines a few ways to grow an email list through marketing and referrals. Connecting with users, showing appreciation, and encouraging referrals creates more engagement with an audience. As an email list grows, adding segmentations or asking about content preferences helps tailor the information and increase the quality.


Transcript from the "Referrals & Growing Your Email List" Lesson

>> Let's talk about growing that list, cuz we don't want it to be tiny forever, I mean, in actual fact, your subscribers are the best way to grow your reach, right? You wanna encourage your subscribers to recommend your list to others and to feel able to recommend your services despite them not having personally worked with you, right?

This is a really weird one, normal word of mouth comes from, yeah, I've worked with this guy he's really good. Most of my word of mouth recommendations come from, here's a guy I've followed for ages he's really good, right? Most of them haven't even worked with me but they still recommend me to other people, so anything you can do to encourage your users to start spreading the word about you, you should absolutely do.

So how do you do that? How do you turn your users Into advocates, your readers into advocates, well, connect with them, right? Take opportunities to actually talk with them, so you can do this in lots of different ways, you can ask them questions and get them to reply to you, right?

You can run surveys in your emails from time to time, you could start debates, I pick controversial subjects and let people argue it out with one another in a in a safe environment. I've got Slack channel where we do that, and I'm the arbiter that says, [INAUDIBLE] no, you've gone too far there.

[LAUGH] Ask for help, that's one of the best ways of getting your audience to engage with you is by going, I'm stuck on something, can anyone help me? It's amazing, cuz people love the idea that after they've been getting advice from you for ages, suddenly they can help you.

So that's a really good way of connecting with people, do meetups, right? I know it sounds stupid but after a while you'll have a few followers, right? And okay, they might be spread out over the world and so you can't do a in person meet up, but just start up a Zoom call every two weeks over COVID.

In fact was every week when COVID was particularly bad, we just, on a Friday afternoon, I'd open a Zoom call up and invite people for my mailing list and Slack channel and Twitter. Come and hang out together, we've got to know each other and it was great, just spent a bit time together, and get them connecting with each other as well.

So that's why I like having a Slack channel where they can talk to one another, cuz there's this great thing it's stupid story, right? Let's say, I give a really silly example of this cuz it's more entertaining, doing it this way. Imagine we went out after this, we all went out, we went to the pub, right?

We're sitting in the pub together, and we're chatting and getting to know one another, and I turn around and I say, I collect paper clips, right? Now, by this stage, you've had a couple of pints you're quite relaxed with me, I know, maybe not cuz you're nicer than British people, but I know you will mercilessly tease me for that.

I mean, who collects paperclips, right? And so I'm then gonna get a bit shy and a bit embarrassed that I clicked paper clips and I'm not gonna talk about it anymore. Now imagine the same scenario, but when I say I collect paper clips, Mark goes, you don't so do I, and then we start infusing together about how cool it is to collect paper clips.

Now that's changed the dynamic all of a sudden, we're reinforcing one another, and you too was sitting there going, well perhaps paper clips are cool? I don't know, am I missing something in here? And that's what happens when you connect your followers to one another, they start reinforcing each other going, I like Paul's work too, yeah, I find him inspiring.

Fact that everybody finds me inspiring just makes me giggle but I do get emails like that, so yeah, they reinforce one another and it's great. So connecting users to one another, you building their relationship is really important, the other thing I do a lot is I try and show my appreciation to those people that follow me.

I'm thanking people all the time, I do giveaways, so, if ever I get offered free stuff, I get a lot of people write to me and go, we want you to try out this cool new app or whatever. And so, which will happen as you get a bit of an audience, and these days, I say, no, but I'll give it away to somebody else, right?

It's great, free stuff for people there on my mail list, why not? The other thing I do sometimes is random acts of kindness, so if I got a bit of spare time, which doesn't happen that often, but I'll drop out one of my mails also emails. I'll say, I've got bits free time, anybody need any help with anything free a charge, all right?

And you'd think you'd getting inundated with people going, yeah, yeah, but you don't, people very sheepishly write to you and go, if you can spare me just a few minutes to do this, and it's like, why not? Why not help them out? It's a nice thing to do, and then just asking people how you can do better?

What do they want help with? What are they struggling with? How can you be there for them? So you can do that, and then finally, once you've done those things, then you can start encouraging referrals cuz you kind of built a bit of social credit with them. So you make your newsletter easy for sharing for start, so, that's why all of my newsletter emails, also make available as blog posts so that people can easily share them with other people.

You can do things or offer commission and stuff, I'm not a massive fan of the idea of commissions and if they refer people. But you can offer them something in return, maybe, I've tried that before, but anything really, but then oftentimes I just asked politely, can you help me out, I'm really trying to grow the list.

One of my favorites of all time that I did [LAUGH] I can't believe I did this on my list but they were brilliant over it, I wrote this is about honesty and personality. I wrote an email that said, I'm coming up to the end of the month and I really wanna buy myself a new camera, right?

But my wife has told me I'm not allowed it, unless I get over our agreed target by the value of the camera, and I'm sure 800 pounds or whatever it was. Anybody willing to hire me for 800 [LAUGH] pounds so I could meet the target and people did, right?

They contacted me and said, I'll take a couple of hours or an hour's worth of consultancy or whatever, different things I did. Just from being honest and asking nicely and with humanity rather than being some sales bot. And then also you can occasionally, and you got to word this in the right way, but you can ask people well, why don't you recommend me?

Am I doing something wrong? Is there something I could be doing better? But you have to ask that in a non accusatory way [LAUGH] you sound like a bit of an ass. Right, but obviously, there are loads of other ways that you can build your list beyond just passively waiting for your followers to refer you.

You can do those search engine optimized blog posts I talked about, you do the webinars we've discussed, you can do speaking podcast guests that's a really good one. There's loads of podcasts, they're constantly looking for guests, you've got something good to talk about, why not? You could do more cold emailing, you could reach out to people individually, don't do bulk emails, don't buy a list or anything stupid like that.

But if there are a few people you encounter that you really would like to connect with, that's okay. There's obviously your social media, there's community engagement as well, getting involved in things like that higher education mailing list I mentioned, LinkedIn or Google Ads. Now they're a little bit more worthwhile considering because you've got a call to action that isn't just by me, it's signed up for my mailing list so you can nurture that relationship, promote the report, etc.

Guest posts, obviously I've talked about, you could decide, okay, I'm done with that sector, I'm not getting any further, let's try a different sector and repeat the whole process. And then finally you can do the going generic approach, so I'm kinda now at the stage where I've built my profile enough that is that I've got the sectors I particularly target.

But I do allow people to sign up to my newsletter just Willy Nally not through a specific landing page or from a specific sector. So a lot of my growth now actually just comes from people stumbling across me through various means and not through a specific campaign. But I would leave you with this when it comes to growing your list, don't abandon a sector too soon.

I see a lot of people kinda giving up before just before they're about to make it, and it's frustrating to watch, and really it comes down to monitoring what works and what doesn't. So, for example, I'll be honest with you guys that like I said at the end, you will go to a landing page to get the slides from today and you can see an example of the landing page.

Landing pages I build on screen now through Convert Kit, and I'll pay attention, right? So I'll look, how many did the finding clients course lead people to sign up for my mailing list? And that wasn't as successful as the design processes course, i'll probably focus on that one a little bit more.

Or hey front end masters is a really good way of reaching people with a that leads to a lot of people signing up for my mailing list. [INAUDIBLE] Grovel to Mark and see if I can persuade him to let me do another course, things like that so really pay attention to what works and what doesn't.

So you're not wasting your time on channels that don't really take you anywhere. And I think it's important that we've kind of just before we move on to turning all of this into an actual business, that we just look at remembering that ultimately that ongoing Emails. That you're sending out every two weeks needs to be appropriate to a broader audience than just your initial group that you targeted, so you're gonna need to segment your audience, right?

So what do I mean by that? Well, for example, have separate forms, so if you've got a landing page for charities, you'll have a separate landing page for higher education, a separate landing page for whatever else. Heritage, whatever sectors, and so each one is gonna have its own different landing page and you can tag people based on which landing pages you know which sector they're from.

So that allows you to kind of segment your audience, the other ways you can just ask people. As I said earlier, on my own signup form, I actually have a drop down list that says, do you work in house? Do you work as part of an agency or are you a freelancer?

Because I tend to customize my content a little bit around those different audiences. And the final thing I do is I actually watch people not in a creepy stalkiry way, but I will know what they've clicked on, for example in an email. So what I can do is based on what they click on, I will tag them with different subjects.

So if they're always looking at design content, then I tagged them as probably being designers and they might get some customized content more specific to them. In terms of how you actually then customize their experience, how is it different? Well, it's a couple of different ways, one is they get different on boarding.

So for example, that the email course that somebody from charities receives will be different from the email course, that somebody from higher education receives. But also I will vary my emails every once in a while as well, so basically that the emails might get tailored based on their different interests or segmentations.

You could do that really easily with an if statement [LAUGH] basically in Convert Kit, so this statement says if you know a designer then write this, if it's anyone else they get this. So it's a really kind of easy way of just being able to tailor those emails just a little bit, normally it's only one or two paragraphs is different and they're basically the same other than that.

So that's it really, that's how you grow your list, if you're feeling super enthusiastic, you could take your marketing to the next level. But this is for further down the line, but I'll just throw it in here anyway to give you something to aim towards in the future.

First thing I would say is get organized, dedicate regular time to marketing and get better at tracking what works and what doesn't. Start using a B testing, which I think you mentioned at one point, an experiment to monitor the results and things like that, in terms of dedicated time.

I'm now at the position, you can get yourself into a virtuous cycle if you get it right, so the more time you spend marketing the more people you attract the higher your rates you can charge. Because you only need to convert a small percentage of them, which means the higher your rates are, the less hours you have to do with chargeable clients.

Which allows more time for marketing and you go round and round in circles, so my for example, I'm in a situation now where my business is based on me charging out phony 50% of my time. So that means the other 50% time, I can either use for doing boring admin stuff, for marketing, or sitting around on the beach if I really want to, but I tend to just pump it more into marketing.

Be more ambitious work on bigger projects, eventually if you can churn out a few of these reports and you're feeling more confident in your writing, you might wanna look at books. You might wanna look at video courses or workshops, these are really good at raising your profile because they've got higher barrier to entry, right?

They're harder to do, fewer people do them, therefore they're considered more valuable, and then price higher, right? As you see more work don't necessarily just start hiring more people, which is what everybody instinctively wants to do. Instead raise your prices instead, that allows more time for marketing and leads to that virtuous cycle I was talking about.

So let's do a quick summary of that and then we'll take our last break before we are done. So growing your audience, your checklist for this, includes setting aside regular time to focus on marketing, so you're putting out your marketing material regularly, Friday afternoons. Let's go to one with me, keep a list of possible topics that you can write about, so that you're not starting from a blank sheet every time.

Don't be afraid to be yourself in your emails, you are an amazing precious snowflake that's got something unique to bring to the world. And I say that dripping with irony but at the same time I do totally mean it from a marketing point of view. Experiment to find the best way of adding more people to your list some things will work better than others and don't be afraid to dump something if it doesn't work.

I'd podcast for 16 years and then went, no, this isn't working anymore and stopped, right? Create a way for your audience to start talking to one another and sharing, and consider alternatives and be more ambitious in your marketing approach as you gain more confidence.

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