Hands down, my best source of great clients is referrals. These include referrals from other freelancers that don’t quite do what the client needs, or from clients that I’ve worked with directly, who were happy with the work and loved me.
Today we’re going to talk about how to stay top-of-mind with people who already think you’re awesome, so you can depend on referrals.
A few years back I spent 3 months working for a WordPress agency. It ended up being a bad fit on both ends and we stopped working together.
On 2 days notice, I needed more work so I could pay for my house, but had nothing lined up.
To say I was worried about feeding my family is an understatement. Fridge boxes are fun for 2-year-olds to play in, but way less fun for a family of 3, plus a dog, to live in.
I needed money, so I simply emailed previous clients to let them know I had work time opening up and asked if they had any projects they needed done.
Within about 2 hours I had work for the next month.
All I had to do was ask.
Now this wasn’t the first time in months that those clients had heard from me. I have a system to keep myself on the radar of the clients I love so that I remain top-of-mind for them.
I also put other freelancers I’ve worked with, or who have sent me work, in the same system so I stay near the top of their mind as well.
The person I’ve heard talk about this the most is Michael Port in his book Book Yourself Solid. The basics are to touch base with 5 people a day, all the time.
If you touch base with 5 people a day that means you keep 25 people as ‘warm leads’ each week.
Whoa — that sounds like a lot of work though, doesn’t it?
I’ve got to write 5 emails a day all the time to 5 different people? Who on earth has time for that?
How on earth am I supposed to even find something to say to 5 people a day?
I’d say that my time touching base with 5 people a day takes up about 20 minutes a day. It’s not really that much time and it helps me maintain my six-figure income a year. I’d say that about 50% of my billing is from leads that I keep warm.
That’s $50K from keeping leads warm.
Now do you think you could spare 20 minutes a day?
What on earth do I send?
So what do you say to those clients?
First, you can use canned responses or canned messages to automate part of the process.
For my ecommerce clients I’ll send them a link to an article that I’ve recently found about running a better store. I see an article every 2 weeks that’s great and I’m not emailing the same ecommerce client multiple times in 2 weeks to keep them warm.
So all I have to do is find a new article once every few weeks for them.
For other freelancers or agencies that I’ve worked with, or had referrals from previously, I touch base to see how business is going right now. I’ll tell them a bit about how things are going for me currently (thus turning the canned message into something personal).
That’s about it, usually. I’m not asking them for work every time but usually one of the agencies or freelancers just had something come across their desk that I’d be perfect for.
If I hadn’t been on the top of their mind I wouldn’t have heard about the work so I wouldn’t be getting it.
How do you remember?
But how on earth do I remember to send all of those emails, and who I should be following up on? I don’t try remember any of that — I put it all in a trusted system called Contactually.
Contactually allows me to put all my contacts in different buckets and set follow-up schedules for each bucket. It even prompts me with email content that would be decent for the contact.
If you want to maintain a steady stream of referrals, keep your contacts warm. Getting referrals from colleagues and past clients is going to help your business run well and weather the slow times.