Ramping up my freelance

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by tobefirst, Jan 28, 2016.

  1. tobefirst macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #1
    I've been doing a bunch of freelance web work lately and have set a goal this year of increasing my revenues about 10 times. In order to do so, I will have to stop relying solely on referrals and start soliciting local businesses whom I feel could use my services. In other words, I want to turn what was a hobby into a business.

    My question is, what is the best way to do this? I'd like to speak with owners of local restaurants who either don't have or have terrible websites and show them what I can do for them. Should I drop in and ask to speak to the owner (during slow business hours)? Email them through their existing site? Should I call and ask if I can set up a meeting? What's the best way to approach this to not encroach on their time but still give me the best chance of landing some new clients?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. smirking macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #2
    I've been working heavily with mom and pop businesses for over twelve years and honestly, I don't know where to begin except to say that growing your business by 10x in one year is a really unrealistic plan if you have no sales experience, especially with local businesses. Of course, I don't know how much you made last year. If it's a tiny number, then yeah I could see someone multiplying that 10x.

    Local is a hard nut to crack. They're broke, have no time, have unrealistic expectations, and don't really understand how to give you what you need to do a good job. You're fishing in a pool of mostly high demand / low reward clients.

    With local businesses you really need to find some way of getting your foot in the door. You're more likely to land them if you know someone who knows them or you're involved in some association that they're also participating in, but there's no script because every community is different. A lot of people try joining Chambers of Commerce to get in front of small businesses, but that's hit or miss too... and in my opinion more of a miss most of the time, but it might be a good learning experience for you.

    Referral is the best way to go. If you're dissatisfied with your referral base, chances are you're also going to have trouble soliciting. It's a chicken and egg thing. If you get good referrals, you'll likely also do better soliciting, but until you have good referrals, you'll have a hard time soliciting. It's a lot of work, very humiliating, and often a waste of time. Too often, you're going to spend hours and hours talking to people who are going to ride you roughshod until you learn to recognize those personalities before you get in too deep.
     
  3. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #3
    Appreciate the advice, @smirking. Lots to think about there.

    It is a tiny number. I hadn't done much freelance at all before last year, so spending *any* time actually working on it should get to me to 10x, I figure.

    My referrals are good ones; they are very pleased with what I've done and refer me to people before I even mention them sharing my name if they are satisfied. However, they are all in a single niche market and I'd like to expand/diversify into other markets. Despite my introverted, shy self, I'm confident that I can help the businesses I'm targeting...if, like you said, I can get my foot in the door. Just trying to figure out the best way to do that.

    Any other advice is most welcome. This community is great.
     
  4. smirking, Jan 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2016

    smirking macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #4
    Make sure those guys who already like your work know that you're looking to expand your business and ask them to spend a little time thinking of their friends and associates who might need some Web help.

    Soliciting is hard as I said. It's way beyond the scope of anything I can write in one sitting to help you be better at it and I believe people can succeed in different ways doing it. It's not just hard for the obvious reasons of starting awkward conversations and facing a lot of rejection. It's hard because you can very easily adopt the wrong priorities in the pursuit of chasing a sale and get involved with the wrong people who aren't going to be very useful for you to advance your skills and business.

    Probably the two biggest things I can suggest is that you never let the same person take advantage of you twice or perhaps even the same type of person take advantage of you twice. Unless you're super lucky, you will get run over a few times before you figure out how to cut your losses.

    I don't necessarily think bad customers are always trying to screw you over, but when a person's skill is selling widgets in a brick and mortar business, they probably know next to nothing about online marketing and they'll either under value it or over value it. If they under value it, they'll expect you to be scrapping by on slave labor wages. If they over value it, you'll be in an uncomfortable spot if it doesn't work miracles for them with zero engagement from them to help you understand how to market them.

    People who understand the difficulty of what you do will always be a better client. A lot of designers and developers sink when they come face to face with DIY sites like Wix, Weebly, or SquareSpace. I keep hearing "I can't compete with free!"

    My take is different. I use free tools to my advantage. If I think someone is completely ignorant about what my job is like, I sometimes tell them to go try out a DIY tool first before they hire me. If they come back, they'll be a much better client to work with.

    So, learn who you're dealing with and develop strategies to taper your exposure to them as soon as you see a familiar bad pattern emerging. Don't let people waste your time.

    Also, don't assume that price is the most important thing to everyone. It is very important, but you can lose a good prospect by being priced too low as you can for being priced too high. Someone once responded to my price offer with "How do you make money?"

    I joked, "I ask myself that question all the time."

    Wrong response. I took his question in jest. He was serious. In translation, this was what he was saying:

    "That's an intriguing proposal, but I'm concerned that because you charge so little you're either not going to be around later when I need you or you really have other motives to get my business that you're not telling me."​

    When you're just starting off, you're going to have to price toward the low end, but as soon as you have something to go on, price up realistically.
     
  5. 960design macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #5
    Hire a college student to market your company for you. Your job is write code. For every hour you spend marketing you are losing tons of revenue. 1 or 2 college kids can bring in more work than you can handle. Work together and use their ideas on how to best 'sell' your services. Good luck!
     
  6. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #6
    Hmm....interesting idea. How much do you think a college student would be paid in a situation like this? What percent of my gross revenue? Can you further explain how this has worked for you, either here or by PM?
     
  7. smirking macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #7
    He needs to know what he's doing first before spending money to get people to promote his work. Dealing with mom and pop shops, you can get yourself in some impossible arrangements in no time.
     
  8. 960design macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #8
    Zero percent. Pay them hourly. Give them raving references for their real job interview. Having a company employment review and blurb added to any resume is a great thing; doubly so for college students with little to no experience.

    @smirking... too right you are, but we all take the 'lame duck' first job. Heck, I built a dozen websites for free before I started making money.
     
  9. WinstonRumfoord macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2014
    #9
    As a new business you probably don't have a solid cashflow or reserves, offer a percent of the sale as a commission. I fully agree, any time spent not developing you are throwing money out the window. Lots of people can market or sell, not that many can develop well - capitalize on this.
     

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