Despite hearing over and over from so many sources that there is a WordPress gold rush out there, I regularly hear from freelancers who are struggling to find work.

They’re competent in that they can build a theme and do work that’s standards compliant. They are nice people with decent communication skills. Their projects accomplish client goals. They really want to work and pour time into the various marketing things that everyone tells them will get clients.

[Tweet “If you’re struggling to get work, maybe you have a marketing problem.”]

But they still struggle to find work, or when they do get work, they get argued down to a $20 an hour rate. On top of that, they offer endless revisions (included in the fee), so their $20 turns into $5 an hour. They’d really be better off slinging coffee.


So why do these competent people struggle to find work in a space where many people (myself included) talk about only sending estimates to 10% of the people that contact them?

They have a marketing problem.

Bob (not his real name)

Just a few weeks ago I reached out to a former student to see how work was going. Was he getting enough work? What was his biggest struggle? His response, in short, was no, he’s not getting enough work. So I asked:

If I had a single project that was perfect for you what would it look like?

The response was 500 words with eight PDF’s attached.

Jill (again not real name)

A second student of mine had the same question posed to her. Her response was better, with about 8 sentences but when I went to her site it was targeted at anyone with money.

Her direct reply to me indicated she was the right fit for my specific project, but her site indicated she was right for any project.

Marketing problem

I regularly send work I could do to someone else because while I’m capable of doing the work, it doesn’t fall perfectly into my ideal project and it does meet the requirements of their ideal project.

Other times I outsource work because I get a client with a budget that’s below what I like to work for, so I send it to someone starting out who can work with that budget.

But I can only do that if I know that exact project fits a freelancer’s ideal, and 500 rambling words with a bunch of attached files doesn’t give me a concise snapshot of their ideal project. At least it doesn’t do that in a way any client would ever bother with.

[Tweet “If you can’t say what you do in two sentences you can be sure your prospects can’t either.”]

Two sentences

People — it’s your elevator pitch, so use it. I asked Bob for two sentences.

  1. What is your ideal project? Be specific.
  2. Who is your ideal client? Be specific.

If you can’t distill your pitch down to that then there is no way your prospects can either. All of your web copy and marketing should be focused on those two things.

Once you’ve got that, you can start blogging for those projects and customers.

Once you’ve been doing that, you’re on the way to fixing your marketing problem.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

4 responses to “No Freelance Work? It’s a Marketing Problem”

  1. Ginger Coolidge (@gscoolidge) Avatar
    Ginger Coolidge (@gscoolidge)

    This might be my favorite post yet. Guilty as charged. My middle name is verbose. As I’m finding my niché that is not excuse not to be able to answer those two questions in an articulate manner. The first one is easier than the second, but it’s good homework and timely as I craft my own site. Thanks Curtis.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      It’s certainly harder when you’re still searching for your niche since there are ‘more’ things you can do.

      Refining your message is a journey. I’m likely refining mine even more over this year to focus mainly on conversion stuff and member retention.

  2. Mithun John Jacob Avatar
    Mithun John Jacob

    Yes, this was the same thing Michael Port told in Book Yourself Solid. But many skilled people still struggle with it.

  3. Sandra Avatar

    Not only marketing itself can be a problem, but picking a wrong market too. Lowering your rates so you can have more gigs seem to be a great struggle for many freelance beginners. This harmful habit often locates them in a low paying client market so they either end up struggling with low rates or giving up after some time.