As a digital freelancer, whether you’re into graphic design, web design, digital marketing or app development, it can be hard to split up your day into business growing tasks and delivering great client work.
It is a fine balance that must be achieved so you can earn that 7, 8, 10, 15K per month that you really want from your business, while maintaining a life (because no one wants to spend all their time working unless you’re Gary Vee or some other psychopath).
But how do you find the time to get more clients, while dealing with everything else in your freelance career? As a freelancer, you need to create a steady flow of ready-to-buy leads that already trust you.
But how do you get these steady leads coming through?
Well, referrals from current clients are one way, but the problem is that referrals can be a little erratic and not steady, and the downside to referrals is that people just refer you anyone who has ‘expressed interest.’ Most of the time it falls outside of the work you want to be doing, or they don’t come through at all. Referrals are quite hit and miss.
The best leads I have ever received in my life have come from big digital, creative, and advertising agencies that do the exact same work that I do. I don’t do corporate level websites, marketing or branding, like the agencies — I do it for smaller businesses, as it fulfills me to help them grow their business.
Small businesses typically don’t know who to go to for these things. A majority of them will Google “web designers” or “SEO experts” or “graphic designers”. They always land on a big agencies website because guess what?! Your home city’s Google rankings are dominated by the big agencies, as they have been around for a long time, and have some of the biggest marketing budgets in your fields.
But due to their positions, small businesses have no other option to turn to rather than asking them what their packages and prices are.
Most agencies start their projects at 10K + as a MINIMUM pricing point, and let’s face it, for most small businesses, that is astronomical and absolutely unaffordable.
This leaves a stalemate and a very awkward situation for an agency, because they can’t service the client, the client can’t afford the service, and the client doesn’t know where to turn. Now, the agency must protect its reputation and not just reject this client based on price point, as they would look like a bunch of stuffy assholes if they did that, so the agency is really stuck.
This is where you come in!
Imagine, if you gave the agency an opportunity to say to a client who can’t quite afford their price something along the lines of: “Hi, unfortunately this job is not the right fit for us, but someone who we work closely with, who is amazing and is the perfect fit for this project that we trust, can help you with this!”
The agency would LOVE you. You just made them look like the good guy, who wants the best for the client, you just gave them the opportunity to help a whole business, without spending a second of work, just by referring them to you! Do you see how much value a reliable freelancer like you are to a big, multi million dollar agency?
In my short career, I have enjoyed the perks of this relationship to the maximum.
By offering big agencies the ability to refer me the work that they cannot handle, I have received tens of thousands of dollars worth of work, crazy perks like business lunches, VIP events, corporate boxes at sports games and more.
And the BEST part about this is that ready-to-pay leads come to you directly, already trusting you, with money in hand.
And trust me, these agencies get lots of leads and requests for work. They usually have strong brand names in their areas, and rank well on Google, meaning they probably get a few leads a day, some of which they simply cannot do themselves!
Land a few referral partnerships and you will be swimming in a pool of warm leads being spoon fed to you like your mom used to do when you were a baby. And babies who eat a lot of food grow strong and get rich!
So, now you want a slice of the referral pie, and are super keen to get hot leads flowing to your inbox, but how do you do it?
Here is the step by step process to partner up with the sexy agencies:
*Disclaimer: before you are ready to go to agencies, you obviously need to have experience and have already done great work for clients.
1. Have a good brand and a solid, presentable website
When you approach agencies, your image matters. Do you look well dressed online? Do you look proud of what you do? Do you look like you care? This step is extremely important. Your website, logo, email signature and business cards should be looking good, and have some examples of your previous work on it with some bragging about the results you have gotten from clients. You should also have written testimonials from clients and an online page that has some positive reviews. Look at my website to see an acceptable standard: tradesignaus.com.au
2. Make a list of all the premium agencies in your city
I’m not talking agencies that are in the same market as you, because why the hell would they share! I am talking about the big sexy agencies a few levels above you. Look at their client lists, Google rankings, and websites to see if they qualify.
3. Make some simple notes on each agency.
My favourite item to take note of is the main client featured on their website. This is usually their pride and joy, as agencies love their marquee clients, its basically their claim to fame. Make notes on what you love about their brand, their site, and the work for their marquee client.
4. LinkedIn Domination
Go to LinkedIn and find the names of every company director or CEO on that list of companies and do a bit of stalking to gauge their personality before calling.
5. Reach out!
This is actually the easiest part. Because EVERY agency craves having someone like you. Seriously, you’re like their side chick that they could never live without. You have to cultivate this sort of mindset: “I am doing them a massive favour, they need me” – which is absolutely true. No need to be nervous, this is not sales, this is giving them a gift.
6. Call the damn agency reception
Greet the person in a nice way and simply say “is “CEO’S NAME” available?”
The receptionist will ask you who you are and what you want. This part is crucial. You NEED to come across as a “threat” here, not a timid person asking for the CEO’s time. A CEO of an agency only has time for threats, not civilians.
You simply do this by saying, “My name is >Name<, I run web dev and digital marketing agency like yours in (city). I want to speak to him/her about a couple of things regarding (Agency Name), is he free?”
This is short, simple and to the point. She will either get you the CEO right then, or get him to call you back ASAP. Trust me, this has not failed me once.
7. Gift the CEO (with yourself)
Now you’re on the phone with the CEO of a million dollar agency…easy right? Here is where you unload your charm and your gift.“Hey (name) thanks for taking my call, it’s only a short one. Hey by the way, I love your work for (client) the (specific compliment) is really good! Also, I love your website and brand, so stunning.” Agency CEO’s LOVE hearing this, because that is why they became CEO’s.
Now you simply let him bask in your praise before dropping, “Look man, I know you probably have to turn away projects from smaller companies with smaller budgets all the time and it can be awkward. I specialize in helping small organization do (blah blah add your sales pitch for your company here). I would like to provide you with the ability to refer some those customers to someone as dedicated as you, who is reliable and will make you look good to those customers, someone who will really look after them”.
8. Take temperature and get that email!
At this point, the CEO will either show interest, or he won’t. If he does (more often than not), then this shit is in the bag. He is yours truly. If not, get his email anyway. This is how you can easily build the relationship. If he is interested, offer to buy him/her lunch and talk to him about it more. Really treat him/her well. ALWAYS GET THEIR EMAILS.
9. Follow up
Send the CEO a follow up email recapping the conversation, with your honest intentions and re-introducing yourself. With this email, send attached copies of as many written testimonials as possible to show how good you are. This is extremely important. Also, send your rough price range so that they know immediately that you’re not competing with them. Check this email out as an example:
10. Get in front of them!
Get in front of them on the lunch meeting, or coffee meeting, and simply be chill, show them your amazing work, and emphasize how much they can trust you and protect their brand. Seriously, every agency needs someone like you, because they want to look and feel like the good guy when rejecting smaller clients.
11. Crush it
By this point, they will send you a project to test you out to see if you’re the real deal. Nail that fucking project, and get the client to send you a written, official testimonial THANKING THE AGENCY for recommending you. This will send the agency in a frenzy…Have you ever fallen in love with your side chick? Well you’re about to find out what that’s like. Check out some of the testimonials I have got the clients to send to the agency:
Once this is done, welcome to referral city, where lead generation is so automatic that you can spend half your day at the barbershop getting sick fades, shopping, golfing, drinking beers, riding bikes, seeing your girl, calling your parents, doing with wrist dance to Future’s music or whatever the hell you want to do to make you feel like the world is a beautiful place.
Then get to work in the second half of the day delivering excellent projects, and be sure to get those customers to keep sending testimonials to the agencies.
Rinse, repeat and keep that train rolling.