Planning image by rawpixel.com
If you’re a freelancer, you’re also a salesperson.
You might not think of it that way, but you have to be sales orientated – when you work for yourself, especially when you’re starting out – next to no one will just show up ready to put money in your hand.
Now, if your passion is creativity, you might not like this sales role, which is exactly why you need to be as good at it as possible – because the better you are, the less time you’re going to spend doing it. The very best way to get good at selling yourself is to understand your sales funnel.
The idea of a sales funnel might sound dull – but trust me, understand the sales funnel principles and you’ll revolutionize your way of working.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is simply a visual (or imaginary) representation of the steps that someone takes from becoming aware of you and your service; to becoming a fully paid client.
It’s called a funnel because, generally, more people will be aware of you than actually use you. So, if 100 people see your advert, website, gig site post or social media page, but only 1 of those people becomes a client, then your conversion rate from the beginning of your funnel to the end is 100:1 – wider at the top, shrinking right down to the result at the bottom – in a funnel shape.
The thing is, you and I both know that there are lots of steps between a person seeing an advert or getting a recommendation and actually paying your first invoice, so you need to break your funnel into stages…
What are the sales funnel stages?
No two sales funnels will be exactly the same, but the way they break down is, so, let’s quickly consider an example now.
At the very top you’ve got ‘awareness’. For the sake of this example, let’s say you get 50 visitors to your website each month, 300 views of your social media adverts and 500 views of your Upwork and PeoplePerHour pages.
As we both know, just because someone’s looked at what you offer, it doesn’t mean they’ll take action. So, the next section, ‘interest’ actually charts how many people enquire after becoming aware of you. Let’s say you get 50 enquiries each month through the platforms you use. It’s important at this stage to ask your customers where they saw your service offered.
The next section; ‘decision’, represents the amount of people who engage with you based on their interest. This section of the funnel usually requires that you talk to these people, show them what you can do, send them some examples, etc. The customer’s aim is to gather all the relevant information, so they can decide if your service is right for them. Let’s say that you engage with 15 people each month who want to know what you can offer them.
The final section is ‘action’. This is the handshake, the invoice, the ‘click here to order’ or the transfer of money that signifies that the deal is done, and you’ve got a new customer. So, to add to our example, let’s say you pick up 2 pieces of additional business each month as a result of all the work you’ve put in.
The result? Your funnel numbers are this:
850 people are aware of your service
50 people are interested in your service
15 people talk to you about your service
2 people place an order for your service
Learning from your funnel
Working on numbers image by rawpixel.com
So, you’ve got a bunch of numbers that relate to your marketing and sales efforts – but what can you learn from them?
Well, looking at this example, you now know that if you put your product in front of 850 people, 2 of them will become customers. To be certain this is the case, you might want to continue this process over a couple more months – and take an average that starts to represent your whole year.
When you’ve got solid figures that represent your business as a whole, you can decide what to do with them. You’ve got 3 initial options…
Option 1: Increase your numbers
The simplest thing you can do is to reverse engineer the changes you want to see. If you want 3 new customers a month, then you know that you’re going to have to expose your service to 50% more people at the top of the funnel too. This might look like:
- Increasing your AdWords spend
- Working across more freelancer sites
- Blogging more
- Pushing your social media harder
…and so on. Quite simply, if you drive more people toward your services, you’ll see more people convert at the bottom of the process.
Option 2: Improve your conversions
If, like many other freelancers, you just don’t have enough hours in the day to increase your efforts at the ‘awareness’ stage of the funnel, you’re going to have to improve the numbers coming down the process.
This involves a bit of reflection. Ask yourself; “what could I do to increase the amount of people who enquire through my website/Upwork listing/Facebook page?”
Of course, these aren’t the only areas you can optimize; you might want to look at the example work you send people, the way you phrase your emails, the kind of clients you’re targeting – and about a million other variables. In fact, any point at which you or your marketing efforts interact with your customer is a potential for optimization.
There’s a lot to go at here – and it can take time, but ask enough questions about what you’re doing (and ask your potential customers too) then you’ll find some areas you can adjust to increase the conversion rates all the way bottom of the funnel…
Option 3: Decrease your effort
Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels
Not all of us want to work flat out all of the time – and there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, having a funnel can help you spend a lot less time working, if that’s what you’d like.
Remember I told you to ask all your customers who got to the ‘interest’ stage of your funnel where they’d seen your service? This is absolutely key to working out how you can take your foot off the gas a little – without dropping your income.
See, when you’re marketing across more than one area, your funnel breaks down into mini-funnels. In our example, we said that out of 850 people, 50 of them had come from your website, with the other 800 coming from elsewhere. What if you found out that both of your new clients had come from those 50 people who visited your site?
For me, the answer is simple. I’d abandon doing anything else and focus on driving people at my awesome website that’s converting people amazingly well.
Suddenly, I’ve got a bunch of spare time that I was previously spending on social media and PeoplePerHour – which now becomes time that I can spend on getting more people to my site, or, quite honestly, getting away from my computer and doing something fun.
Remember I said there were 3 options? Well, there’s not; there’s a 4th – but option 4 isn’t for the feint hearted.
Option 4 is that you do ALL of the above.
Work out where your results are coming from
Focus your energy on building more awareness on those channels
Improve your conversion rates across these channels
This is the kind of option that going to send your freelancing into the stratosphere. You’ll work less, earn more money – and spend less time selling your business. This is all about knowing what you do well – and doing more of that.
Having and working on a funnel might look boring – but if you want to build your business and improve your income without having to work 20-hour days, then it’s literally the only piece of sales and marketing advice you’ll ever need to follow…