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EXECUTION [Progress] Replacing freelance income with agency profits

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Saavik

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Hi all,

in this thread, I am going to track progress towards my 2019 goal:

Increasing my agency revenue from currently 3k (average of last quarter 2018) to 15k.

In my model calculations, this number should result in sufficient profits for me to give up personal freelancing and live off of my agency profits. Both the freelancing and agency are in the field of content marketing, in a certain niche.

This thread is for my own accountability more than anything else, but of course, I'm happy about suggestions, constructive criticism and other kinds of feedback. :)

What is the current bottleneck?

Sales, for sure. In particular, we don't have enough clients that bring recurring revenue. Traditionally, both my freelancing and my agency clients come with sizable, but one-off projects.

Thus, we need to increase 1.) the total number of agency clients, and 2.) the proportion of clients who bring in recurring revenue.

In the past, I have probably focused too much on vague marketing, rather than actual sales. In order to change this, I have started reaching out to prospects in a systematic way this week, and will continue to do so throughout the year.

What's the detailed plan?

- Reaching out to 10 prospects from our niche every day, 5 days a week.

- For now, I intend to do this via email. I already have several lists with personal email addresses compiled by my VA, and I will continue to research more, using public lists of industry fair exhibitors and such, and then researching/guessing personal email addresses.

- In every email, I will offer the recipient something that will promote their business for free and at the same time shows our agency's skills and expertise in the field. I have already tested this offer on some sample prospects, and it has been well received (most people were interested and took up the offer, and it was a good conversation starter).

- In addition, to increase the proportion of recurring revenue clients, I will contact old clients, ask about their business and suggest ways to continue working together to benefit their businesses even more.

I'll add to this over the next days and weeks.

(EDIT: Here's the backstory.)
 

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Saavik

Saavik

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Dear Diary,
today was a good day. Got 2 positive replies overnight to yesterday's 10 emails. Will proceed until swamped with projects.
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Dear Diary,

another reply to yesterday's bunch of emails, asking whether or not my offer was free. It is, which may not have been obvious from my initial email. May have to make that clearer.

As it's not certain that the strategy above will lead to paying clients anytime soon, I've started writing proposals on two project marketplaces as well.
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Dear Diary,

today started off less than awesome as one of the freelancers had done something very, very stupid.

But then, I did something I've never done before: I went out (like, physically, on my own two feet) and asked business owners and employees locally, in our small community, if they wanted help with a certain aspect of their marketing.

Lo and behold, amazing things started to happen: I got one test client for this particular service (meaning that we'll do a certain amount of work for free) and one paid client, which wasn't even intended! And all within 2 hours of walking around town (though in slight drizzle, I might add). In a couple of other shops, I couldn't get hold of the owner (it's a Saturday after all), but the employees kept my flyer and we agreed that I'd come back during the week.

Thanks @MJ DeMarco, who pointed out that one needs to cater to "unsexy" businesses (which I did today), and Peter Bowerman (of The Well-Fed Writer), whose thoughts on cold-calling made me get my behind out in the rain today.

Unexpectedly, I did even enjoy it. And, on a side note, in my day-to-day remote office I usually go the sweatpants and slippers route, fashionwise, so it was thrilling to dress like a respectable businesswoman for a change, fancy handbag and all. :rofl:

EDIT: Added appropriate emphasis. ;)
 

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Gepi

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Hey Saavik, glad to see another woman being bold, I am looking forward very much to your journey! All the best! (And I chuckled at the "business woman attire complete with fancy handbag", I can relate to that so much :) )
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Hey Saavik, glad to see another woman being bold, I am looking forward very much to your journey! All the best! (And I chuckled at the "business woman attire complete with fancy handbag", I can relate to that so much :) )
Thanks for reading this! :)
I do think that too many days in a row spent in sweatpants, there is a real risk of not taking oneself seriously anymore, and that can easily project outwards. Fancy handbags for the win!
 

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Saavik

Saavik

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So... does anyone else feel EXTREMELY unproductive when prospecting?
Rationally, I know that cold-calling and such is just as revenue-generating (or even more) than actually doing the work, but still, I feel like I should be sitting and working on client projects instead of hunting down new clients. I guess I'll have to get over that feeling by just trudging on...

Also, I'm not usually prone to procrastination, but this prospecting thing seems to bring out the worst in me. Damn! o_O
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Dialling the next prospect right now! Ha!
 

Gepi

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You go for it! Procrastination happens to everyone.
My biggest step to overcoming this hurdle was to set clear goals and sticking to them. Another person called equals one step closer to the goal of getting "da sweet greens" ;) :p
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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You go for it! Procrastination happens to everyone.
My biggest step to overcoming this hurdle was to set clear goals and sticking to them. Another person called equals one step closer to the goal of getting "da sweet greens" ;) :p
Thanks! :) Did you mainly rely on cold-calling to build your business?
 

Gepi

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Hi Saavik, you have read that correctly, yes. From the first day on, cold-calling was my transporter to more and better clients. My website, my work ethics, my presentation...all played a role. But nearly every client I ever had, was from contacting him after reading up on their business, and presenting them a solution that fit their goals.
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Ha! Impressive! :fistbump:

I am now working on growing the thick skin that I need to swallow the multiple "no, thanks" I get every day (now that's a mixed metaphor).
 

Gepi

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"Every NO is one step closer to YES" (I think it is from multiple clever sources of salesman, I have forgotten where I first read it :) )
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Diary Update:
My cold emailing campaign resulted in a total of 4 replies now, netting about 10% response rate (about 10% of the email addresses were non-functional).
I used to think I was good on the phone, but my cold calling has been much less successful than visiting businesses in person. Apparently once I've crossed the doorstep, people are too polite to kick me out again (even though I come without being invited, which incidentally means I'm not a vampire).
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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And another thing: I created a useful brochure (mainly out of stuff I had written earlier that was just lying around, unused) to lubricate my cold-calling efforts. As soon as the graphic design is done, I'll offer to send it over by email or post when I talk to a prospect on the phone. Not sure though if this is actually smart or just a crutch to make myself feel more useful in a sales situation.
 

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I feel like I should be sitting and working on client projects instead of hunting down new clients.
What if you did? What if you spent some of that time building a website for a specific vertical in a specific location, and then asked prospects if they knew anyone who would want it? I'm curious how that would work out.


I'm trying to make it so that the work I do every day is what brings in new clients, rather than do something entirely different to bring in new clients.

In my case, I run Google Ads campaigns for clients.
  • I don't cold call or cold email businesses. I'm not ruling it out, but if I did this then I'd likely outsource it.
  • If I do a great job for current clients then they can refer me to others. I could be more proactive with this, but it works well as is.
  • I've started setting up Google Ads campaigns for potential new clients, without asking them, and getting my salesman to show the prospect the ad as a way of getting a conversation with them (as described in my 2019 Insider progress thread).
  • I'll be trying to make a repeatable and scalable process whereby we generate leads of consumers looking for businesses, and use those leads to find businesses who want a steady stream of them.
 

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Saavik

Saavik

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I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 21, 2018
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What if you did? What if you spent some of that time building a website for a specific vertical in a specific location, and then asked prospects if they knew anyone who would want it? I'm curious how that would work out.
I'm not offering websites (yet?), but I know what you mean. I am doing a similar thing in my field of work, and it works out much better than just cold calling or emailing without offering them concrete, ready-made value.
However: One needs to find a balance between doing paid work and doing unpaid work, and if there is a paying client who needs something, they will always have priority in the business, in my opinion.

So, what I actually meant by "working on client projects" above was, I get a bit antsy when I'm not working on a paid client project. I guess that's a freelancer habit that I need to get rid of. :p

In my case, I run Google Ads campaigns for clients.
  • I don't cold call or cold email businesses. I'm not ruling it out, but if I did this then I'd likely outsource it.
Why? I am tempted to outsource it as well, but I haven't yet because I think the resulting conversations are important for me to get a feeling for what clients need and want.
I'll check out your progress thread. :)
 
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Saavik

Saavik

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Dear Diary,

today, some numbers!

I have currently two cold email campaigns that I am actively working on, targeting two different industries.

Campaign 1 offers a certain freebie and only briefly mentions our commercial offers.
Campaign 2 is more sales-focused.

Campaign 1 now has a response rate of 17%. Turns out, some recipients will reply even after a week or more, so the response rate is better than I originally suspected (and getting better still).

Campaign 2 has a response rate of 3% now, but I've only started the day before yesterday, so I expect it to increase further.

Also, both campaigns have resulted in several leads, one lead in each campaign seems ready to buy at the moment and I'm trying to get them onboard with my services these days.

Interestingly, my "cold visits" campaign - cold calling in person, so to say - had a response rate of 40%. :D (Response in the sense of them telling me that they're interested and we should talk again, not merely them faking polite interest.)

I'm currently developing promotional materials (a whitepaper and a flyer), and I'm seriously considering visiting businesses and handing them out in person instead of calling prospects on the phone and asking them if they'd like to receive the whitepaper by email or post.
 

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