Hello, FreeUp Fam! I hope all is well and you are ready for a special addition to the blog. This week, we are introducing our very first Spotlight Blog article. The Spotlight Blog is a logged interview with one of our freelancers where we discuss freelancing, super cool tips, and all things FreeUp.
This can be an awesome opportunity for you guys to share your most useful tips and tricks with the platform. The spotlight this week is on Sylvan Kills.
Sylvan’s a digital marketing expert who joined FreeUp about a year ago. He’s making 6 figures a year and says FreeUp’s now where he finds most of his new clients (you’ll find out why below). He’s demonstrated himself as not only extremely talented at his work, but how he manages his relationships with clients and his business.
He has a ton of valuable advice to share with us. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
Tell us a little about your business... how was it when you started, versus your business now?
In the beginning, I was mostly just providing SEO blogs, website content, and copywriting.
The jobs for more technical skills were few and far between for freelancers, so the competition was incredibly high. There were very few platforms for finding clients in the beginning, and the customer support almost always sided with the clients (in an effort to get free work).
It was very common to have clients try to rip you off to get free work. Much more common than it is today...probably like 75% of clients were really sketchy.
As such, I was ripped off a lot in the beginning until I figured out how to avoid all their scams.
This basically revolves around setting incredibly explicit expectations in the beginning, putting all project parameters in writing, along with the approval of the necessary hours for every step of the project. It’s tedious, but it’s worth it to prevent someone from scamming you out of your hard work.
Luckily, finding a great platform like FreeUp, where they vet clients as well as freelancers has fixed this issue. Today, I am able to freelance full-time and run into scammers much less often. When I do, it’s a brief encounter and I typically escape unscathed.
What are the major processes you've updated? How were these changes inspired?
One of the most useful things I’ve done is to incorporate a mandatory paid discovery period before I work with any client.
In my early years, I ran into many issues where a client asked me to work on a marketing project for them without realizing that the foundational elements of their business were not in place.
If the basic business structure and platforms are not set up properly, the marketing is much less likely to work. As such, I require a period at the beginning where I learn all about their business structure, the platforms they use, establish their target audience, and research their competition.
I assess all of their current assets and let them know what needs to be fixed before I can create/implement their marketing strategy.
The other thing that has been very helpful is that I have about a 40-page document of sales scripts that I use when communicating with clients about new projects. This allows me to quickly create communication emails to interact with clients by simply modifying these scripts to fit each specific client’s needs.
It only saves a few minutes here and there, but those time savings really add up over the years.
I highly recommend everyone reading the 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch if you haven’t.
Are there major differences between how you work with clients from FreeUp versus other places you find clients?
I prefer FreeUp because they don’t have a screen capture like some of the other platforms.
The screen capture feature makes it very difficult to work without potentially exposing confidential client information. It’s really not necessary when you have a professional freelancer like myself, and it makes the job exponentially more difficult when you’re constantly having to cut off the time clock when you’re moving through platforms with multiple client accounts and sensitive business information.
The lack of that ridiculous time clock has allowed me to provide exponentially better service for my clients on FreeUp, and as such FreeUp is my primary platform for finding clients now.
What's your favorite thing about FreeUp?
FreeUp allows me to have realistic competition for projects so that it’s worth my time to apply.
I’m not competing against a thousand other freelancers for every single job. I love that they review both the clients and the freelancers, and match the ones who seem like a good fit.
Also, their customer support is fantastic! I love the FreeUp team, and they are always able to resolve any issues that arise.
If you could give freelancers new to the platform any advice about working on FreeUp, what would it be?
Be patient and open with your communication both with clients and the staff at FreeUp. This type of work is very heavily dependent on being able to communicate and transfer tons of information between people online.
Things can be lost in translation, and messages can be misunderstood. Always assume that any message you receive was intended to be kind, and always respond with kindness and respect.
This approach, combined with an attitude of patience and compassion will allow you to easily resolve almost every problem you will encounter.
Can you tell us a little about how you write your "Pitch" or "Introduction" email?
Basically, I review each clients’ project parameters, along with their website and any other related assets/analytics that they share with me. From this, I create a custom email for each one of my clients.
My “pitch” or “introduction” email basically follows this general format:
- Hi, there client name!
- Introduce myself as a freelancer.
- Explain my skills and experience that relate to their project.
- Explain how I think I can use these skills to help them with that specific project.
- Tell them I’d love to schedule a time to chat.
- Include a link to a digital portfolio of past work related to their project.
- Include a link to a scheduling app so they can set up an introductory meeting.
- Include a resume or CV to illustrate your professional achievements/work history.
- Tell them thanks, and that you look forward to speaking with them soon!
It’s important that you convey emotion and your personality in the email. Nobody wants to hire someone who sounds like they just got out of bed, or like it’s a burden to take on their project.
They want someone who is as excited about their business as they are.
Also, a few additional tips:
- Don’t be afraid to brag about your skills. They don’t know how good you are if you don’t tell them. It’s not really “bragging,” it’s just sales.
- Don’t tell them you can do something that you can’t do perfectly.
- Undersell and Overdeliver. If you think a project is going to take 3 days, tell them 4 and finish it a day early. It’s always better to quote a longer time and finish early, rather than missing a deadline.
- Know your value. Don’t underbid, and don’t negotiate your price below what you’re worth. Your clients will assume that you’re worth the price you are asking. If you offer a budget price, they assume you’re providing budget low-quality work.
- Ask questions...a lot. Don’t start telling them what you can do for them until you understand 100% what they’re looking for.
- Edit...Edit...Edit. If you send an email with grammatical and spelling errors, you can assume they will pick someone who puts in more effort to ensure their proposal is in perfect English. It takes a few extra minutes, but it’s critical.
What's your follow-up process look like before you've been hired by a client?
I generally allow one full day to pass after my initial proposal. If I haven’t heard back from them at that point, I’ll reach out to confirm that they received my introductory email and ask if they have any questions.
I also reiterate that I’d LOVE to schedule a time to speak with them about their awesome project!
How do you prepare for a "discovery" or first call/interview with a client?
For every new client who sets up a discovery call with me, I first create a new file for them on my desktop. In this file, I put a word document with:
- All of the clients’ contact information
- The hourly rate that was proposed for the project
- Cut and Paste All of the project information I’ve gathered from their FreeUp proposal.
- Any information they have given me prior to our 15-minute introductory call.
- Their website URL
- A section for “Notes” where I jot down project/client details during the introductory call.
- Timeline - It’s vital to establish the turnaround time that the client needs for the project
- Total Budget - You need to know their budget for the project...not just if they can afford your hourly rate. Nobody likes making it halfway through a project, just to find out they can’t afford to finish it!
I keep all of these client files inside a file labeled FREEUP CLIENTS. Inside there I have a file for Current Clients, Potential Clients, Past Clients, and Inactive Clients.
What information do you get from a client when you initially start work?
This really varies with the type of project.
The key is to ask a lot of questions, and the clients will tell you everything they can about their needs. Ask questions like:
- Can you tell me about your goals for this project?
- Can you give me an idea of the sales revenue range for your business?
- What is your monthly/total budget for this project?
- What is your desired timeline for this project?
- What’s the best way for us to communicate?
- How much experience do you have with ________ (whatever the project deals with)
- Will I be working with a team, or would you like for me to handle all the implementation myself?
Can you share a client story that had a major impact on how you run your business?
About 10 years ago, I spoke to a client of mine who had hired me for some copywriting work and was providing similar freelance Digital Marketing Services to my own.
Once becoming friends with him, he informed me that he was charging $300 an hour for his services, while I was charging about $50 an hour at the time.
I realized that he was working much less than me while also making well into a 6-figure income, while I was still in the 5-figure income range.
I asked him about it, and he said the following to me:
“You need to realize what you’re worth. Most people can’t do what you do...and the clients know this too.
You have to know what you’re worth. You have to cover the expenses of time finding clients, preliminary communications, your software and tools, your workplace expenses, your insurance, and medical bills, and all the time it took you to learn how to be an Expert in your field.
They’re not paying for a couple of hours of your time. They’re paying for 20 years of education and experience, along with a complete suite of marketing tools and an expert who knows how to operate them.
Your time is worth so much more than that. At $300 an hour, I’m still cheaper than what they would pay to maintain a full-time employee...and any business professional knows that too.”
This was a major turning point for me in my career as a Digital Marketing Strategist, and ultimately is what cleared the path mentally for me to become a six-figure freelancer.
An Awesome Spotlight Blog
Well, there you have it FreeUp, Fam! Sylvan really knows his stuff and we had a very informative Q&A. Get in contact with us if you would like to view the full interview and stay tuned for next week’s blog article!
-The FreeUp Success Team