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2021 Lead Generation Guide for Freelancers

By Robert Williams | Last Updated: October 20, 2021

If you’re a freelancer, you’ve pondered it. How do other freelancers get leads? How will you get new clients reliably? These are important questions. And until you have solid answers, your business is destined to teeter on the edge of disaster. Lead generation for freelancers is an important topic because sadly, dry spells and the feast or famine cycle is all too common.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Lead generation doesn’t have to be an afterthought.In fact, you can implement a solid lead generation strategy in a few hours. This is called developing a lead generation marketing plan. And to do this you simply need to answer the following questions:

A few years ago, I emailed 3 companies on a whim. Those emails resulted in $29,000+ of contract work which was a huge kickstart to my business. I’ve used lead generation in my business ever since and this post is going to outline a few ways you can use lead generation in your freelance business.

Trust me. If a noob like me could make it work, you can too. (By the way, the story actually gets better. Not only did I land initial contract work, there was recurring work too. Follow-up projects, retainers, and even referrals to other clients. All from sending 3 quick emails.)

Now I’d be lying if I said these results were typical. They’re not. But most people assume this is because outbound lead generation is ineffective. Wrong. Most people never see a return on outbound lead generation because they do it wrong.

This post is going to make sure you don’t follow in their footsteps.

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Most people try a spray-and-pray approach to outbound. This is so common, in fact, that outbound lead generation has become synonymous with spam. This makes it even more important to stand out by doing things differently. If you take an authentic and meticulous approach to outbound I promise you that not only will clients hire you, they’ll thank you profusely for giving them the chance.

So in this post I’d like to share the exact cold email template I used that was so successful and a few ways you can make your outbound lead generation strategy way more effective than the average bear.

This stuff works. Whether you’re a freelancer or have a full team you can guarantee your company is bringing in new clients daily or weekly using outbound lead generation. I believe it’s one of the best ways to get rid of the feast or famine billing cycle forever. So let’s get started.

What is Lead Generation and does it work?

Outbound lead generation means your company finds and pitches leads instead of waiting for them to come to you (inbound).

This can be done by phone, email, or even direct mail.

But a big mistake people make is assuming outbound lead generation is a “spray and pray” strategy.

Spamming a bunch of people isn’t outbound lead generation. It’s spam. And it can truly hurt your brand.

A good approach to outbound means authenticity.

It’s way more time-consuming to do it this way (although still less time consuming than inbound) but the results are worth it.

So while outbound marketing gets a bad wrap, it’s superior to inbound lead generation in some specific ways.

My favorite reason to use outbound is it’s 100% in your control.

So there’s no reason why outbound lead generation has to be scammy or any less authentic than inbound marketing.

Because you decide who you’re going to target and how many people you’re going to reach out to with outbound lead generation, you can control way more about it than you might realize.

That’s why I recommend skipping contacting “cold” leads at first. Instead I recommend a “warm” outbound lead generation approach.

Keys to Lead Generation for Freelancers

And while outbound lead generation can be one of the most effective methods for getting high-value clients, you can’t skip finding the right potential customers, researching them, and sending a good pitch.

When done correctly, outbound lead generation can help you find new clients in just weeks. And since you’re hand-choosing companies to pitch, you don’t have to worry about competition.

So next here are 5 proven tips you can use to make outbound lead generation easy. Seriously, following just these will put you ahead of 99% of companies out there:

1. Define Your Target Market

As we mentioned, the great thing about outbound lead generation (and why it can be better than inbound lead generation in some cases) is that you have control.

You can even create a niche for yourself simply by focusing on certain demographics or industries. You can simply decide to pursue leads in specific categories like geographic area, industry type or company size and target only the work you want to do.

But this can also be where companies struggle. If you’re new to outbound lead generation, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is going too specific. I’ve seen countless agencies and freelancers set out targeting “Startups” or “Non-profits” in specific industries only to get frustrated by the lack of volume or the unwillingness of clients in these markets to pay.

This is why in my 6-week lead generation training program I spend an entire modules walking through step-by-step how you find the right market for your company.

You don’t want to get stuck in a poorly defined market. So next let’s talk about how to avoid this.

2. Create a List of Prospects Who Currently Need Your Help

The truth is you don’t know what client niche will be best for your business yet. So instead, my recommendation is to keep it broad and define a target problem you want to solve instead.

Remember, when you’re pitching companies for their business, you can choose who to contact based on their current needs.

So you only need to reach out to “warm” leads – those in the buying process already. By doing this you are going to make it easier to find which markets are in demand. Here are some examples markets that broad enough to find a high volume of great clients:

Again, creating a list of prospects for these markets will be much easier than getting too specific too soon because they are broad enough that you will be able to find several clients in need of help each week.

But actually finding them will take some experimentation. I recommend trying different platforms like LinkedIn, Slack Communities, Job Sites, and RFP sites.

Each one will have slightly different results.

(I cover each of these in my in-depth lead generation training program Endless Clients. You can get a free preview at the bottom of this post.)

Join 7,000+ freelancers discovering new clients

Each week I curate the 1% of jobs that matter to freelancers and share the latest insights on market demand with my private mailing list. Join below.

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How to Write a Compelling Email to Outbound Leads

I find email is one of the most effective ways to communicate with your prospects because you can build a system around it and it’s an opportunity to directly and immediately build relationships and gain trust.

But to do this you have to write great content. This means crafting an email pitch that will grab the attention of each prospect.

The first step is to gather information about your prospects. What do they value? How can you speak their language? Think about what is going to resonate with them and then send a helpful, valuable email to each person, written just for them.

Remember, building relationships with decision makers at these companies is done by providing value first, then asking them if they need any help, or would like to know more about your services.

Always find a way to deliver value for that specific company’s situation. That’s how you can dominate the email game.

If you want examples of what these emails look like, I wrote a short guide on exactly how to do this with email, that you can give to anyone on your team you want to be great at outbound lead generation. It’s called Emails That Win You Clients and it includes dozens of templates, tricks, and tips from thousands of data points all in one neat package.

Follow up With Prospects After Sending Your Initial Email to Make Sure They Received It

Lastly, one of the most important things you need to do after sending out an email is to get back into touch with your prospects.

When you’ve sent your prospect an email, follow up with them a couple of days later to remind them about it and also ask if they have any questions.

It doesn’t have to be complicated setup. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be via email. You can do this in a number of ways including picking up the phone, but one way that works well is using LinkedIn to message the person you emailed.

There is almost nothing that will improve your success rate like following up to every outbound lead you contact. It sounds boring, and it kind of is, but that’s how you dominate the outbound lead generation game.

I also give some timely tips on how to outsource the entire process once you have it dialed in, including finding 5-figure client opportunities, inside of my lead generation training video you can get for free here.

Follow the 5 steps above to start building an outbound lead generation pipeline. By targeting potential clients who are a great fit for your service, you can create an ongoing revenue stream that you didn’t previously have access to. Keep track of how many leads you need to contact to land one client. Then it becomes a numbers game.

Robert Williams is the owner of Folyo and has been in the Freelance industry since 2013. Each week he curates the 1% of jobs that matter to Freelancers and shares market insights with a private list of subscribers for free. His mission is to make finding great leads easy for everyone and he's helped thousands of freelancers add millions in client revenue to their bottom line. You can get his private newsletter with the latest market insights by signing up here.