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EXECUTION Conquered Freelancing, Let's See How I Do Scaling an Agency

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BlackSuperman

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Hey FLF friends!

It's been a minute since I've last posted, and I think it's time to get back to it. My last trial, going from zero to hero freelancer status went swimmingly (which you can find here . Now it's time to take what I learned from my journey as a freelancer and apply it to an agency I can scale.

So far I've been at this since mid-July. Booked my first client a mid-size eCommerce platform. Put together an awesome team who knows how to get sh*t done, shout out to these awesome dudes!

I'm going to keep this short:
Current Agency Clients: 2
MRR: $1,000/month

I'm going to use this as a knowledge source for those who also want to move away from freelancing and plan to scale an agency.

P.S. I'll be sharing all my systems and processes as I go. I promise the next update will have more actionable information.
 

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Madame Peccato

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I'm following this execution either way as I'm one of the mentioned team's members :rofl:

This is going to become an excellent venture, I can feel it.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Congrats, will follow!
 

Andy Black

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Good work. MRR is King.
 

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Good luck. I work for an agency and with time you can really charge your clients. We sell development packages of $2000/mo for 8 hours that if you don't use they are gone for the next month.

There's clients who have not bothered us for months, I'd say 50% of them actually make use of their full hours.

I'd totally do this if I was in the US, but for now I think this would be much much difficult to pull with a remote operation. Let me know if I can help ya.
 

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BlackSuperman

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Alright, here is a little background information.


What sparked me to go from freelancer to agency owner?
When I was a freelancer, I discussed with Speed and @Black_Dragon43 the next steps I should take. During that discussion, I realized that it's time to start moving away from the actual content writing and really focus on managing. This, in turn, led me to chat with a few other great content writers, and after much discussion @Madame Peccato and I decided to do a superhero team-up. And thus the birth of this big burden of a baby, haha.

Did I start with clients?
Yes, 100% had to. I was already working as an ongoing content writer for a few clients but with the bonus of also providing big picture consultation (free advice). So I decided to take @Black_Dragon43's advice again and "upgrade" them after a brief call.

But that's not where I got my first client...

What the hell do I mean?
Well, about a week after, I met my first client from Upwork. He was looking for a content writer, but after a VERY lengthy call (a 30 min call turned into 2 hours) he decided that our team would be far more beneficial (and may I say god d*mn we are good).

We're handling content strategy, planning, creation, and promotion. Then one of my smaller clients just recently reached out for us to also handle her content marketing.

And that's where I'm at. 2 clients. 1 big. 1 starting to grow.

I've established SOPs, correct communication channels, file-sharing, project management with Trello, and a slow but organic funnel to get more clients.
 

BlackSuperman

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This weekend I devoted myself to lead generation. Since @Madame Peccato & I have the agency's SOPs in order, I should focus on helping grow the agency by getting more clients.

I've used a cool new trick involving Google Search and search operators and found a list of 900+ SaaS startups hiring. I made a copy of the list and am now going through it and adding all the CEOs to LinkedIn.

My plan to reach out will involve LinkedIn connecting, email outreach, and a non-intrusive cold call (hopefully, it's non-intrusive). Now I haven't conducted a cold call in a very LONG time, so this will be a grind and a very valuable learning experience.

I'd also like to point out that although I've left Upwork as my primary client acquisition channel, I still utilize it from time to time. Hell, I have a call with a potential client I met through Upwork. So again, it can still be a viable lead gen option, but now I'm VERY picky with who I choose as my clients. I also devote a maximum time of 10 mins per proposal.

Current Clients: 2
Goal by the end of 2021: 10

MRR: $1,000

PS: I did make far more as a freelancer but I also never had time. With an agency, I can multiply my earning potential since my time requirements are minimal. Thus why I decided to go the agency route vs. sticking to freelancing.
 
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Edgar King

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This weekend I devoted myself to lead generation. Since @Madame Peccato & I have the agency's SOPs in order, I should focus on helping grow the agency by getting more clients.

I've used a cool new trick involving Google Search and search operators and found a list of 900+ SaaS startups hiring. I made a copy of the list and am now going through it and adding all the CEOs to LinkedIn.

My plan to reach out will involve LinkedIn connecting, email outreach, and a non-intrusive cold call (hopefully, it's non-intrusive). Now I haven't conducted a cold call in a very LONG time, so this will be a grind and a very valuable learning experience.

I'd also like to point out that although I've left Upwork as my primary client acquisition channel, I still utilize it from time to time. Hell, I have a call with a potential client I met through Upwork. So again, it can still be a viable lead gen option, but now I'm VERY picky with who I choose as my clients. I also devote a maximum time of 10 mins per proposal.

Current Clients: 2
Goal by the end of 2021: 10

MRR: $1,000

PS: I did make far more as a freelancer but I also never had time. With an agency, I can multiply my earning potential since my time requirements are minimal. Thus why I decided to go the agency route vs. sticking to freelancing.
There's a certain appraoch Black Dragon taught to get connects that worked amazing for me.

When I tried it, 18/20 digital marketers connected and we're all very happy that I did.

It goes like this, "Hey Johnny Bravo, saw your profile and thought it would be cool to connect with a successful {whatever they are} like yourself!” And I think it works because you're giving them a positive experience, and thereby they're a loooot more open to any requests they might say. So it might helps tons in your case.
 

BlackSuperman

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Happy Sunday, everyone!


Today's actions were all focused on getting lead gen started and optimized for the upcoming weeks.

1. Finally finished 3rd blog post (which looks like this on the homepage) Screen Shot 2021-09-05 at 6.21.34 PM.png

2. Submitted agency information to a handful of marketing agency directory websites.
3. Continued to add CEOs to connect on LinkedIn (to send out Loom videos to generate interest in content marketing).
4. Chatted with a few freelance designers and SEO specialists who reached out to work together. Let them know I'm more than happy too. Also provided an incentive to each lead generated that ends up signing on with us.


Outside of lead gen, I also took the time to proofread, edit, and re-proofread all of our articles due this week. Seriously both my writers are fantastic.

I feel it will be a great week, and I'll also be implementing @Edgar King & @Black_Dragon43's LinkedIn strategy for connecting.
 

Edgar King

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Let's GOOOOO

If you're building through Linkedin, it might help to boost your domain authority so others see you as an expert.

Andy put it like this...
To become known for xyz...
1. Post content on xyz
2. Help someone with xyz
3. Be seen helping someone with xyz

Doing this might help gain you a lot of exposure and interest as the go to in your field (Content marketing).
 

BlackSuperman

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Today's post is less of an update and more of a lesson that I hope NO ONE ELSE REPEATS!

I'm hoping it blows over but it may cost me one of my bigger clients. So instead of waiting a few days, I want to get the message out now.

The agency recently got some awesome success for one of our clients and because of that, my head got a little too big and WAY too excited.

I wanted to make a case study right away so the agency could drum up more business (since we'd have data/proof of our results).

This may seem like common sense (which I clearly lacked in that moment) but if you're going to publicly release any case studies, data, articles, anything about your clients in a public way I HIGHLY recommend you bring it to your client's attention first.

What I initially thought would generate tons of new business may actually cost me my biggest one.
When you get results for your clients it's great to be excited. But don't do what I did and let that get to your head. That pride will most definitely cost you (and it's costing me right now).

Again, anything you decide to release on your website, blog, social networks that involve data about your clients, RUN IT BY THEM FIRST!

Tomorrow I have a call with the CEO. I hope I haven't damaged our relationship beyond repair. I will update this thread once all this blows over.
 
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Lex DeVille

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Today's post is less of an update and more of a lesson that I hope NO ONE ELSE REPEATS!

I'm hoping it blows over but it may cost me one of my bigger clients. So instead of waiting a few days, I want to get the message out now.

The agency recently got some awesome success for one of our clients and because of that, my head got a little too big and WAY too excited.

I wanted to make a case study right away so the agency could drum up more business (since we'd have data/proof of our results).

This may seem like common sense (which I clearly lacked in that moment) but if you're going to publicly release any case studies, data, articles, anything about your clients in a public way I HIGHLY recommend you bring it to your client's attention first.

What I initially thought would generate tons of new business may actually cost me my biggest one.
When you get results for your clients it's great to be excited. But don't do what I did and let that get to your head. That pride will most definitely cost you (and it's costing me right now).

Again, anything you decide to release on your website, blog, social networks that involve data about your clients, RUN IT BY THEM FIRST!

Tomorrow I have a call with the CEO. I hope I haven't damaged our relationship beyond repair. I will update this thread once all this blows over.

One way you can avoid problems with this in the future is to build it into your contracts as a stipulation of working with you. A statement to let the client know that by engaging you for services, some data may be used for case studies that will be shared through your blog, portfolio or wherever.
 

BlackSuperman

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One way you can avoid problems with this in the future is to build it into your contracts as a stipulation of working with you. A statement to let the client know that by engaging you for services, some data may be used for case studies that will be shared through your blog, portfolio or wherever.
Definitely would have been a good idea.
 

Andy Black

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If you deal with these big problems well they can sometimes be turned into a positive. Put your hand up and own what you did wrong, and see if you can turn it around. If not, then it’s a lesson learned.

EDIT: Dumb phone typos.
 
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BlackSuperman

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Update: Looks like we'll continue to work together!

Another lesson: Don't let mistakes ruin your day. I felt like crap the last few hours. Now I feel relieved and back at the grind.
 

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Andy Black

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Update: Looks like we'll continue to work together!

Another lesson: Don't let mistakes ruin your day. I felt like crap the last few hours. Now I feel relieved and back at the grind.
Thanks for sharing, and that’s good advice.

How did the meeting go? Did you take it on the chin and get forgiven for being overly enthusiastic, or had you overblown the situation in your head?
 

BlackSuperman

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Thanks for sharing, and that’s good advice.

How did the meeting go? Did you take it on the chin and get forgiven for being overly enthusiastic, or had you overblown the situation in your head?
The phone meeting is actually tomorrow (the meeting is about work stuff, but I figured they'd probably bring up the case study issue). After my initial apology and correction, the CEO sent me a message saying it was all good, and now I know for next time.

I think it was a combination of the 2. I know they were upset because the initial message (before they deleted it) was intense. But that was last night, and this morning after I noticed the "bad" message disappeared, my mind went to 2 places:

"They either deleted it because they didn't want to make it bigger than it needed to be or because it mentioned continuing our relationship but that this event might have hurt it."

Either way, I think a combination of us getting them awesome results, having a good attitude with no excuses, and being calm regardless of the high emotions, led to this seemingly chiller conclusion.

I'm still thinking about the whole thing so I hope all I wrote makes sense.
 
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BizyDad

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Don't put this case study thing into your sales process. It will be a sticking point for people more often than you'd think. It gives people one more reason to say no to your agency. And they don't trust you yet. I would absolutely say no because I value my company's right to keep my data and success private.

Rather than having to overcome that self-inflicted objection, go with your first approach of picking the clients you want to do a case study about and approach them when appropriate. Find a way to spin the case study into a benefit for them (easy enough to do).
 

BlackSuperman

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Don't put this case study thing into your sales process. It will be a sticking point for people more often than you'd think. It gives people one more reason to say no to your agency. And they don't trust you yet. I would absolutely say no because I value my company's right to keep my data and success private.

Rather than having to overcome that self-inflicted objection, go with your first approach of picking the clients you want to do a case study about and approach them when appropriate. Find a way to spin the case study into a benefit for them (easy enough to do).
Love this great idea. Appreciate the advice.

I got a bit ahead of myself since another client wanted a case study.

I shouldn't have been so reactive and instead just continued proactive effort to get clients that fit well with what I do.

Case study isn't even necessary and I'm seeing that now.
 

Andy Black

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Love this great idea. Appreciate the advice.

I got a bit ahead of myself since another client wanted a case study.

I shouldn't have been so reactive and instead just continued proactive effort to get clients that fit well with what I do.

Case study isn't even necessary and I'm seeing that now.
No-one has ever asks me for a case study, and I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. I do drop plenty of stories into chats though.
 

BlackSuperman

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Update:
I just got off a call with our biggest client. The call went well.

We talked about:
1. Next steps for upcoming articles
2. Webinars/Videos/Product Demos (so now I need to find a competent freelancer who can handle that)
3. Guest Posting (Now they want the agency to guest post on Medium)

They gave us full access to the platform, making content creation that much easier (since we'll finally understand how their platform works).

And best of all: He provided me a list of all the directories he focuses on getting customers from. This means I now have about 10 sites with a list of 1000+ companies in our niche I can reach out to.


I was going to be bold and ask about a case study, but I decided that maybe next month I'll ask (plus I should have better data).

At this point, the agency is almost fully systemized, and now I can and should focus solely on lead generation to scale our agency. My teammates @Madame Peccato and @Edgar King are on point, so I thank them for being awesome :D

I more than likely will not update this thread until I either massively fail to see results (and that way, you will have info on what to avoid doing) or when I book another client (so you'll know how we did it).
 

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Update:
I just got off a call with our biggest client. The call went well.

We talked about:
1. Next steps for upcoming articles
2. Webinars/Videos/Product Demos (so now I need to find a competent freelancer who can handle that)
3. Guest Posting (Now they want the agency to guest post on Medium)

They gave us full access to the platform, making content creation that much easier (since we'll finally understand how their platform works).

And best of all: He provided me a list of all the directories he focuses on getting customers from. This means I now have about 10 sites with a list of 1000+ companies in our niche I can reach out to.


I was going to be bold and ask about a case study, but I decided that maybe next month I'll ask (plus I should have better data).

At this point, the agency is almost fully systemized, and now I can and should focus solely on lead generation to scale our agency. My teammates @Madame Peccato and @Edgar King are on point, so I thank them for being awesome :D

I more than likely will not update this thread until I either massively fail to see results (and that way, you will have info on what to avoid doing) or when I book another client (so you'll know how we did it).
What kind of tools do you use for lead generation?

A hint: you could write your own, easy Python script for reaching many companies. I could help you with that free of charge.
 

BlackSuperman

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What kind of tools do you use for lead generation?

A hint: you could write your own, easy Python script for reaching many companies. I could help you with that free of charge.
Numerous "tools".


Few things:
1. I use google-fu A LOT. Example:
  • site:docs.google.com/spreadsheets B2B Software Startups
2. I also browse MANY articles/lists/directories related to my industry like -> growthlist.co
I add the CEO or highest executive I can on LinkedIn (but this is more relationship building vs. lead generation).


3. Cold emails (and maybe even cold calling as @Black_Dragon43 suggested to me). I'll be honest I get mega anxiety thinking about cold calls, but I'm great on the phone, so it might become my most potent strategy. Who knows.

4. Highly targeted keywords + Google Ads (PAID ads)

My process in a nutshell:
1. Find a company who could use help with content marketing
2. Load the company website into SERPStat
3. Analyze traffic/visibility trend
4. Find/Add CEO to LinkedIn
5. Load website into hunter.io/Google/whatever to get email of CEO
6. Build email list
7. MANUALLY email each member on the list with a personalized email. Firsthand data indicated CEO's will not open an email unless its highly personalized and REALLY speaks to their need.
 
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BlackSuperman

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If anyone knows a professional I can outsource demo video creation to that would help immensely :)
 

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