Being a freelancer can be both exciting and intimidating; while you have the freedom to do what you want, there are also many challenges that come with being your own boss. One of the most important skills for any freelancer is marketing. Without it, potential clients will not know about your services and you won’t be able to succeed. If you’re new to the world of marketing (or even if you’re not), this can seem overwhelming.
Marketing, at its heart, is mass psychology. This article will show you a way to distill your knowledge of your audience and your offer down to simple ingredients. These ingredients can then be reshaped into strong marketing messages in countless ways, easily and organically. If your foundational psychology is on point, it almost doesn’t even matter what words you use.
Before we start though, we need to find the “mass” in our mass psychology.
Stage One: Targeting
The initial step in any successful marketing campaign is finding your audience. You’ve done your research and you know the type of person you want to work with. Now you’ve got to find out where they are and how to reach them.
Find out where your audience spends their time
Knowing where your audience hangs out, online and off, is the first key to getting your message across effectively and efficiently.
Start by conducting some more research on who you are trying to reach. What kind of activities do they like? Do they spend time on social media? Which platforms? Are there popular subreddits for your niche? Are there local trade organizations or labor unions you might be able to approach? What about conventions, meetups and other networking events?
The most effective ad campaign would be completely useless if it was only seen by unqualified prospects. Imagine you’ve got a physical product that you’re targeting at golfers. You write up a simple ad, design it nicely, and are ready to show it to the world. What would be a more effective place to display your ad—in the local newspaper? Or a flyer on the bulletin board at the local country club?
Consider how many people would see your ad in the local newspaper that couldn’t care less about shaving a few strokes off their golf game. That’s a lot of wasted ad impressions that you might end up having to pay for. But significant percentage of the people you’ll reach at the country club are your ideal customers.
Beyond this, where you find your audience determines what kind of messaging you will use.
In one moment, a person can be talking, smiling and laughing with someone at work. Minutes later, that person can be screaming violent obscenities at another driver in traffic. People are capable of a vast array of thoughts, emotions and reactions. The scenario one finds himself in at the time is a large contributing factor. It’s your job to anticipate what frame of mind your prospects will be in when they read your messaging.
This isn’t to say you should be a people pleaser, but as soon your prospects see your marketing message, they will be looking for any excuse to ignore it. Don’t give them that excuse. There’s also a good possibility you’ll be absolutely roasted by others as well—and while that’s not always a bad thing, it’s definitely not much fun.
Stage Two: The Messaging Psych Profile
Messaging is how you communicate with potential customers about the service and products you offer. The first objective is to craft an effective message that resonates with the people you’re targeting. This requires a lot of self awareness, empathy, and testing. Here’s the process I use.
As stated earlier, people will be looking for any excuse to ignore your marketing messages—even if you’re offering something they know they need. It’s nothing personal, it’s just an automatic response. You must keep this in mind as you develop your message and always be taking away your prospects’ ammunition.
This and other factors of human psychology are always the foundational element of whether your marketing efforts will be successful. The four aspects I focus on when writing messaging are as follows:
- A clear pain point
- An irresistible solution
- Solid proof to back it up
- A strong call to action
In the psychology profile, you’ll identify each of these four.
A clear pain point
What is the pain your prospects are dealing with? It’s important to note that this section is Pain, not Pleasure. People will always be more motivated to avoid pain than they will be to seek pleasure.
Imagine you step into a sidewalk cafe to use their ATM. An employee asks you if you’d be willing to fill out a survey in exchange for a free burger. There might be days when you’d take them up on that offer, but chances are, you’ll usually have something more pressing that needs attending to. If you’re not hungry, you’ll say no.
Now, imagine you’re in the same sidewalk cafe. This time, you are hungry. You’ve just sat down to eat, but realize you forgot napkins. You stand up to go get some, and when you turn around, you see a person walking their dog, absentmindedly scrolling through their phone. You see the dog about to scarf down your unguarded food. What do you do?
Ten times out of ten, I’ll bet that you’ll take immediate action to prevent the imminent loss of your precious burger.
Find an aggravating pain point that threatens your audience. Aim for something that, to some degree, threatens their very survival. If that’s not an option, search for other fundamental human needs, such as comfort, stability, sexual/romantic gratification, social connection, etcetera.
An irresistible solution
What is your proposed solution for moving your audience away from pain?
Your solution must be:
- Crazy enough to get attention and provoke thought
- Realistic enough to not be dismissed immediately
- Specific enough to appear that you know what you’re doing
Let’s say your offer is to increase customers for a local restaurant. If you’re promising one extra patron per day, that’s not even worth the time to have a conversation. This promise isn’t crazy enough to attract attention.
Conversely, if you’re promising one THOUSAND extra patrons per day, that’s just unrealistic. You might attract attention this way, but the majority of your audience will assume that you’re all hype and will look the other way.
If you’re promising an average 20% increase of customers, then we’re getting somewhere. This still violates the specificity principle, though. 20% is a vague and general figure. It might not flag negative attention (though with more jaded prospects it certainly will). But your best case scenario is that your offer blends right into the background.
If, however, you’re promising an average 22% increase of customers per week, NOW we’re talking. It’s crazy enough to get attention and create desire. It’s an ambitious, but achievable goal. It’s also specific, which increases your credibility and lowers resistance.
Make your solution irresistible by making it ambitious, realistic and specific! Don’t be afraid to go back to your test audience for more feedback. Create a solution that your audience absolutely could not say no to.
Solid proof to back it up
People buy on emotion, but they justify with logic. If you sell exclusively on emotion, you’ll be seen as all hype—because you WILL be all hype. Real solutions are proven, and if yours isn’t, figure out a way to prove it.
There are two primary forms of proof that you’ll use: data-driven proof, and social proof.
Data-driven proof is exactly what it sounds like: data. Facts, figures and statistics that are used to back up your case. Not all of this data needs to be related specifically to your customers, although it certainly helps. For example, when I first started selling websites, I cited articles from market researchers that showed how important good design is. “70% of people who see a business has a bad website design are less likely to do business with them.” “Businesses that design an effective are 45% more likely to get more sales.” Etcetera. (Don’t quote me on that, I’ve long forgotten the actual figures.) I have no doubt that those statistics were true when I quoted them, but at the very beginning, they certainly weren’t true about the websites I designed. Nevertheless, using those statistics allowed me to close more deals.
Social proof is what I rely on primarily now. This is the words, opinions and deeds of other people who vouch for the quality of your service. Ideally, these will be the words of people who have used your service and had a positive outcome. Though at the beginning, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the words of people who know you and can vouch for your character, work ethic and dedication. Rarely will people spend a lot of time evaluating your social proof. Just seeing that you have it will do 80% of the heavy lifting.
A strong call to action
I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve lost just because I neglected to ask for them.
People will want to say yes to you. Most likely they will be far fewer in number than those who say no, but that doesn’t matter. 99 people who say no and one who says yes is still a deal. Increase the probability of people saying yes by making it very easy for them to do so.
Renowned marketer Donald Miller teaches us to do this through two avenues: the direct call to action, and the transitional call to action.
The direct call to action is the option for people to say “yes” and begin the buying process. It rarely happens for first-time visitors, particularly if you’re selling high-ticket services. But it does happen. The direct call to action makes it easy to start a business relationship. Here are a few examples:
- Start Your Project
- Send Us A Message
- Schedule Your Onboarding Call
- Buy Now
Transitional calls to action offer an alternative for those who are interested, but not ready to pull the trigger on talking to someone who might end up forcing them into an awkward sales conversation. This is how you keep them in the game—keep them learning more, increasing their desire, and moving them closer to the finish line. Here are some examples:
- See My Work
- View The Case Study
- Download The Guide
- See The Results You’ll Get
To sum up, a phone call is usually on the other side of a direct call to action, whereas more content (often a lead magnet) is on the other side of a transitional call to action.
Direct calls to action are pretty easy. Transitional calls to action deserve the majority of your love and affection. As I said earlier, few people buy on call #1. But many of them buy on call #3-10. These transitional calls to action must lead to content that will increase your value, increase your prospect’s desire, and keep you in the sale.
It’s often a good idea to use lead magnets as transitional calls to action. These are downloadable PDFs, video tutorials, physical books, or similar assets that are sent to your prospect in exchange for something—usually their email address or another form of contact information. Once you have this, you have tacit permission to reach out to them, though how you do so is a topic for another day.
Once these four components are nailed down, you’ll have all the psychological ingredients for a powerful message.
Stage 3: Ship The Messaging
This part is something that I’m still practicing myself, so I’m not going to go crazy in depth with it. I’m just going to give you the steps that I’m currently taking.
- Create valuable content and post it where they will see it (digitally or not)
The important thing is to be active on social media and be seen around the internet. If you cold call somebody and they recognize your name from somewhere else, your credibility gets an instant and powerful boost. If you’re focusing on a local market, it helps to be seen speaking in public, hanging out at local venues, or being involved in your community. I know one photographer who would pick up students for his online course by giving free 45 minute seminars at the local library every once in a while.
- Pick up the phone and start dialing
Cold calling has been a tremendous income-producing activity for me. The reason why is that most other developers that I’ve met are introverted, socially anxious, socially awkward, or (like me), a mixture of all three. This means that few of them are predisposed to calling people on the phone when they can just as easily hide behind a screen. I realized this after I voiced an interest in hiring another developer to work for me on a white label basis. I got 13 unsolicited emails over the next 24 hours. ONE of them bothered to call my publicly available cell phone number. Guess which one got my business?
- Send cold email campaigns regularly
Yeah, you read that right. I know I just railed against them, but cold emails are VERY powerful when done correctly. But you can’t assume that it’ll be enough to write an email, download a list, send it to 1000 people a day, and wait for the money to roll in. Do this, and you will get shut down by the spam police faster than you can believe. Plus, you’ll almost certainly have a conversion rate of a quarter of a percent or less.
Your targeting needs to be laser-focused, and every single email needs to be personalized. They don’t need to be 100% written from scratch. But if you can’t make it obvious that you have done your homework and reached out to this prospect for a good reason within the first 2-3 sentences, you’ll be left on read and ignored (as well you should be).
My cold email campaigns are automated. I send 10 cold emails a day, 5 days a week. Each batch of 50 emails involves about 5 hours of labor in research, writing and admin work. Cold email is not something you can do flippantly if you want to have any chance of standing out from the crowd.
- Talk to people in real life
People WANT to be talked to. Humans are social creatures. There’s a reason big cities are everywhere—we like to be around other people, and we desperately want to connect with them. Talking to people in real life is the #1 way to get this fact into your head. It’s also the #1 way to become good at talking to people, and to become someone that people want to talk with.
If you can become someone people want to talk with, you’ll also become someone people want to do business with. The effects of your sociable or unsociable nature carry over into every aspect of your life, including your business. And they’re felt in every interaction you have, whether in person, via phone, or through text. Get out there, chat up some strangers, and get good at it!
- Use platforms like Upwork if you must, but…
Don’t get dependent on them. Grow your own avenues for generating work as fast as you can. Use platforms like Upwork to supplement your income during lean times, or to find novelty when you’re starting to get bored.
With platforms like this, you’re being compared head to head against your competition. And many of your competitors are every bit as good as you are. It’s harder to compete by being the best, so the next logical choice (apparently) is to compete on price. There will always be someone on these platforms who is willing to do the same job for cheaper, which means that the jobs that are available are often a race to the bottom.
It’s possible to stand out by commanding high rates (a high price can often be a big selling point in and of itself), but this happens rarely. I definitely encourage you to watch for jobs you’d love to do, but please, please don’t make it your primary source of income.
Once you’ve written out your Psych Profile, incorporate it into all of the first four activities, and then make habits of all of them. Use the fifth as well if you like, but focus on the first four as much as humanly possible.
If you make daily habits of creating content, making phone calls, sending cold emails, and talking to strangers, you’ll be amazed by how everything else seems to happen automatically. From here, you’ll be in a position of power to determine the course of your own life, and you’ll be free from the rat race forever.
If you want to talk about creating a powerhouse messaging system for your own business (or a killer website to display it on), hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re reading this, you’re going to accomplish spectacular things, and I want to be a part of your story.
Until next time,
Panama City, Panama