In 2011, sites like Freelancer, Elance, and Upwork were becoming more mainstream.
At the time I was switching from being a freelance graphic and web designer who worked primarily with referrals to building out a full-service communications agency that needed to attract clients.
I knew my target audience would be on these platforms so I signed up.
Instead of bidding on projects like the freelancer, I bid as if I was the strategist.
What this meant was looking at the project and trying to understand what the client was actually trying to achieve.
Press releases were a bread-and-butter service for me in these early days.
In school, I learned that media coverage and publicity were the reason for them, but I also knew from my web design days that press releases were being used as a tool to get backlinks for SEO.
Two very different reasons – media coverage vs SEO – but also, very similar outcomes.
They wanted to increase awareness and traffic while increasing trust and authority.
For each client, I would research what they were currently doing to increase their visibility and position themselves as the industry leader.
Then I’d craft a proposal that described the bigger strategy that I would suggest, and offer to start with a small project first like the press release.
I’d also explain that while other freelancers used templates and content spinners, I would help them come up with a press release that would build trust and authority (goals from above) for their brand.
Basically, I explained why I was different than 99.9% of the ‘competition’.
All in all, I spent an hour or two on each proposal.
Other people on the platform would spam copy and paste proposals to hundreds of projects, so I knew that I would stand out as long as mine was read.
How did I ensure that my proposal would be opened amongst hundreds of other bids?
I bid 10x the price of the current highest bid on the project.
While I didn’t win them all, I won enough.
When the press release project was done, I’d reach out to the client by email (which they opened because they knew me) to continue working together.
It was the opposite approach of all the people cold emailing and pitching a massive list of leads.
Again, not all of those engagements moved forward, but I got my foot in the door – and actually got paid to do it.
The client also got a taste of what it was like to work with me before committing to a bigger project.
As a result, I landed a few 4- and 5-figure ongoing engagements and was able to build a team to help me deliver on them (that’s a story for another day).
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because if you’re trying to get new customers into your business, focusing on unscalable foot-in-the-door type work is something you might want to consider.
I say unscalable because you literally can’t have your foot in too many doors at a time.
Focus on a small group of people and treat them like gold by providing amazing value at every step in the relationship.
Be thoughtful and generous with your time and knowledge.
Make the first step of working with you easy, low-risk, and impactful.
And it doesn’t hurt to find a way to stand out.
I don’t recommend the specific strategy above in 2022. If you’d like to chat with me about your own growth strategy, you can learn more about how we can work together here.