Do You Get Freelancing Leads From Your Network?

Between interviewing other freelancers and consultants for my new online show, and interacting with the freelancers I coach, a pattern has been emerging:

By far, the #1 way that freelancers – even some very successful ones – get new client work is via their network, not via stranger-leads that come in due to any kind of automated marketing.

contract signing freelance leads

Do you close freelancing leads from your network?

I find this interesting, because marketing automation and lead-generation is all the rage right now. You may find that you’re hard-sold on the practice as though it’s a guaranteed cure to all of your freelancing feast-or-famine ills. If you’re not getting sufficient freelancing leads, why, it’s because you’re just not producing compelling-enough content, or not participating in online communities enough, or are falling short of attracting anyone’s interest on social media. In short, you’re told that even if you’ve cultivated a healthy network and a steady stream of referral work, you’re still failing if you haven’t built a fully-automated marketing machine!

And what’s the solution to that? Expensive marketing services aimed at making your content go viral, or getting likes, or adding 1,000 subscribers to your mailing list in a weekend (hint: this has never happened to anyone in a way that anyone else can hope to duplicate). Of course. Now, you know me – I’m a big believer in buying books and engaging in continuous education, and I do some automated marketing myself, but…come on.

Suggesting that you do the non-scalable thing doesn’t sound sexy, and yet that’s how most of us get freelancing leads – network exploitation. Very few will suggest that you put work into having conversations with real, live human beings, doing the non-scalable work that puts you face-to-face in meatspace with the very people that you hope to sell to. Very few will suggest that maybe – juuust maybe – human connections drive more consulting deal-flow than any form of automated marketing ever could. And fewer still will suggest that perhaps the handful of people hard-selling us all on the panacea of automated marketing are merely the exceptions – the few who had juuust the right circumstances at juuust the right time to make that kind of a machine work.

So, where does that leave the rest of us? Those of us with imperfect circumstances and imperfect timing? The Average Joes and Janes? The smallfolk?

I think it leaves us in a decent spot. Here’s why:

business networking for freelancing leads

Freelancing leads can come from your network.

Like I’ve said before, all else being equal, people want to work with their friends. People want to work with people they know and like, people who are a known quantity, not some faceless marketer who sends out cleverly-worded automated sales pitches every week. For sure, automated sales pitches have their place, as do all the other tools of automation, and SEO fundamentals, etc but…isn’t it time that those of us who get work primarily via human connections and real-life communities step back, take a look at our marketing with fresh eyes, and try to shake off the sense of FOMO that so many of us have when it comes to how we get freelancing leads?

I think it is.

Let me open up a bit and share my own client acquisition breakdown with you:

20% – showing up in Google when & where people expect me to (SEO fundamentals)
80% – my own network of contacts in the business community (referrals, repeat business, face-to-face encounters, etc).

In 15 years, I can’t point to a single consulting dollar that has ever hit my pocket as a result of any kind of inbound marketing automation. Not one dollar. Maybe you can’t either. I know, I know, the first thing some people will say is, “maybe that just means you suck at it! Har! Har!”, and…OK. Even if that’s true, my point stands: shouldn’t we stop regarding having a steady stream of freelancing leads via referral as a failure of some sort, merely because we’re not CRUSHING IT BRO with automated marketing?

$100K Freelancing - let's talk about freelancing leads

$100K Freelancing – Better Clients. More Money. Fewer Headaches.

So, what about you?

– Is your network the #1 way you get YOUR new clients?
– Do stranger-leads make up 20% or more of your closed deals?
– Do you ever feel “guilty” or sense that you’re missing out by not automating your lead-gen?

This topic – and more like it – will be discussed on my new show, $100K Freelancing. The show launches March 21; join the early-interest list to gain access to insider information and notifications about the show.

9 Ways To Prepare Your Freelance Business For The New Year

As the year draws to a close, it’s only natural to reflect a bit on what has transpired, and what is yet to come; this is true both in our personal lives and in our businesses. Problem is, far too few freelancers start a new calendar year prepared to do anything different or better than the year before. Let’s see if we can reverse that trend.

Every year over here at Cogeian Systems, I try to take some time to look ahead and make sure to be prepared for what’s coming. Sometimes all it takes is a quiet moment at my laptop with a cup of coffee, and other times it takes a bit more research, but finishing the year strong and having a plan for the new year is always worth the effort.

I’ve distilled my own yearly process into a series of 9 simple steps and questions, broken down into 3 broad categories: Keep Reading…

Do You Need to Be a Really Good Programmer to Make a Living Freelancing?

It’s a valid question – how good do your programming skills need to be (and how much does that matter) in the world of freelancing?

The Question:

Do you need to be a really good programmer to make a living freelancing?
How advanced does a programmer need to be in order to make a living as a freelancer taking jobs from freelancing sites like Odesk or Elance? What kind of technical skills need to accomplish beforehand?

The Answer:

When it comes to raw coding ability, everyone will argue as to what “really good” means, so I’ll say this: you should be at least at the “Consciously Incompetence” stage on the Four Stages Of Programming Competence scale. It is here that you have some fundamentals down, but your eyes and your mind are open to what you don’t know. In this stage, you are actively working toward improvement and understand the necessary elements of doing so. This, I think, is the absolute minimum price of entry into programming for money. Keep Reading…

A Client Did Not Pay Me For Software Work. What Should I Do?

It’s a hazard of the profession – sometimes a client will try to weasel out of payment.

The Question

A client did not pay me for software work. What should I do?
I created a tax website for a client of mine recently. He used my server for all his customers work but after tax season he refused to pay me my commission. I still have his customers data on my server. Shall I email them and let them know that their accountant is a scum bag? Can I be sued for that?

My Answer

Sorry to hear you’re in a bind with this client. I’ve been there and I know it feels awful.

I’m curious about this:

after tax season he refused to pay me my commission

Your question began with “a client did not pay me”, but…did the client ever explicitly agree to pay your commission in the first place? If not by an actual contract, then even by text or e-mail? If so, you *might* have a contract that is enforceable, depending on the law where you live. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but it’s worth looking into. Keep Reading…

How To Turn Down Freelance Work Gracefully

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: freelancing and consulting work are like sunlight; there’s enough for all of us to get a tan.

That said, in the coin flip of life, some days don’t feel like you’re operating in a world of abundance. This freelancing game can be brutal.  Sometimes things look bleak, and you wonder if you’re going to make it.

The minute you start radiating struggle or desperation, a predatory (at worst) or clueless (at best) potential client will appear, sensing your weakness and enticing you with a fat – or so they say – check, if only you can accommodate their abusiveness, idiocy, or micro-managing.

You begin to wonder how critical is it that you close this job? Ask yourself if you’re willing to be married to a client who is throwing up red flags before you’ve even done any business together?  Can you tolerate their behavior once there are stakes?  Sometimes you’ll decide that things just aren’t bad enough to willingly subject yourself to frustration.

The other side of the coin flip of life is that sometimes things are going like gangbusters.  Sometimes the freelancing game opens up and gives you the goodies you’ve been working so hard to acquire. Keep Reading…