Great article! I’ve seen similar results due to my blogging and social networking endeavors, and thus far have never spent money to advertise my studio (business cards aside, of course). Establishing yourself as an expert is definitely key, and I agree that you don’t have to be the BEST (who could every really be that, anyway?), you just have to be damn good and able to talk the talk and then walk the walk.
How I Used Blogging to Land $20,000+ Worth of Clients
There are numerous ways to expand your client base and increase the size of your portfolio. Common tactics used to do this include utilizing your contacts, taking part in relevant discussion forums, being active in freelance marketplaces and even watching industry specific job boards.
One idea that is implemented by some people but certainly not by everyone, is blogging. Sharing your abilities with the world in the hope that the right person finds what you have to offer. Through my experience though, quite a few people fail to have any success when trying to use this strategy.
Today I want to share my own story, and how I made over $20,000 in 4 months when my only source of clients were through blogging. To some, $20,000 might not seem like much, I really don’t know what your own income looks like. Yet, when I tell you I did this at 17 whilst working in my bedroom, it might make blogging look a little more promising.
Whether you run a blog or are considering starting one, I hope this post gives you a fresh look on some ideas you may have missed.
I Picked a Specific Field
Like most freelancers, you probably have skills in multiple disciplines. If you’re a writer, you might be able to write great blog posts but also have the skills necessary for a compelling sales page. If you’re a programmer, you might have a great knowledge of PHP but also code applications using Ruby on Rails.
Similarly, if you’re a designer you might offer excellent logos and one of a kind website designs. I could go on, but you get my point. My specialty was on the subject of Internet Marketing. I knew lots about SEO, Social Media Marketing and was even quite an expert in Online Reputation Management, but not everybody knew.
I didn’t set myself up to seem good in each of these areas; I took the time to establish myself as an expert in one of them. Because of this, I stood out in that specific field. A good example of someone doing this is David Airey. David is an excellent all-around designer, but focuses specifically on logos and receives a lot of logo work for doing so.
I Knew What I Was Talking About
My first focus, an area where I wanted to really share my talents, was Search Engine Optimization. Was I the best SEO out there? Probably not. Did it matter? No. You don’t have to be the best but you do have to be great. After all, there’s only one ‘best’ person out there in every field but there are tons of people with mediocre abilities.
And, while you have to be great, it’s not enough to just know that is the case. You obviously have to show it though your blog. In terms of SEO that could be performing an experiment that nobody else in the industry has done, as a designer that could be picking apart some famous logos and saying why they work, and so on.
Your blog is your way to showcase your abilities and you should use it to do exactly that. The blog posts that have earned me the largest following are the ones where I went the extra mile. The one’s where I did something different or something that took a little more time than anyone else was willing to spend.
I Discussed My Other Clients
There’s a fine line between being personal on your blog and offering value. Giving the visitor value should always be your first focus, but they still need to feel like they can connect with you. One thing that I found to work for me was to discuss my clients and what I have been able to help them achieve.
The idea behind discussing your client work serves multiple purposes:
- It shows you have them (social proof)
- It shows you want them (you’re not just a blogger)
- It shows you know what you’re doing (results)
Of course, you don’t want to highlight an ugly logo or a script that doesn’t work. Show off your best work because your best work is probably your future clients preferred end result. Finally, don’t forget to get your clients’ permission before doing this.
I Narrowed My Traffic Sources (But Dominated Them)
Dominated sounds a bit devious (I wasn’t) but it is the best way to describe my actions. You can do all of the things above, but they are all pointless if nobody is visiting your site, right? What does it matter if you know what you talking about if there is nobody there to witness it.
You can’t forget about getting traffic to your site, but on that same note, you shouldn’t waste your time just getting any traffic. A Digg homepage might get you thousands of visitors or a burst on StumbleUpon might do the same, but is it really going to bring the buyers in?
Find relevant blogs in your industry, see if there are Digg-like sites in your niche, browse around for service specific communities where people hang out. I know some accountants that work from home who get all of their clients from only one business forum. If that works for them, they have no need to go elsewhere and try to make their analytics stats look impressive.
Focus on a few sources of traffic that you can really dominate, sources that can really help show your authority before people even find your site. Despite my internet marketing blog being on Digg multiple times and receiving over 100,000 visitors from StumbleUpon in one month, it was these niche sites that sent me clients.
Key Points to Remember
While any of the above items can really help increase the size of your bank balance, there are a few things you need to remember when it comes to “blogging for clients.”
- It’s Not About the Size of Your Audience – There are literally millions of people who might land on your site and have no interest in what you offer. If you’re just blogging for feed subscribers then realize that you might not be making the most of your time. 10 of the ‘right’ visitors are far better than 100 of the ‘wrong’ ones.
- Keep it Personal — I see a lot of people starting blogs for their business and then they act as if they have to be all professional and corporate. The style of writing I’m putting out here on this site is exactly the same as I was putting out on my own. If corporate and professional is not your thing then don’t even try to act like it is as it will just be putting a wall between you and your potential clients.
- Make It Easy to Contact You — Obvious? Yep. Implemented by the majority? No way. If someone is impressed by your blog and wants to get in touch, the least you can do is make it easy for them. Whether that means being available on Skype, Twitter, MSN or even just having a functioning contact form, have something in place.
- Realize There Are Exceptions — The points in this post are all based on my experiences and what worked well for me. There will be people who managed to get clients from blogging by doing something completely different. In the online game, there are exceptions to every rule so try out other ideas and see what works for you.
I don’t really take on much client work these days as I’m ‘doing my own thing’ but I know my life situation and my bank balance would have been a lot different without blogging. If you haven’t tried blogging before, give it a shot. If you already run a blog, see if you can implement some of these ideas.
If you run a successful blog relating to your own business, I would love to read some of your own stories in the comments!
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June 18th, 2009 at 10:25 am
June 18th, 2009 at 10:41 am
Sounds like some sweet clients came your way due to your blogging efforts Glenn. And as you have discovered is great to pay the bills, but it is great to be able to focus on your own projects. Great advice about focusing on the niche sm sites rather than the big generic ones.
June 18th, 2009 at 10:45 am
I wil be giving a try to the bloggin in a short time, just getting the domain name right now. The point is to position yourself up in Google and to be wherever the people is looking.
The only thing I’m not sure about is if I should build a site based on portfolio or if a should make my site based on blog and have my portfolio in second view. What would be better for positioning?
June 18th, 2009 at 10:55 am
Very nice post Glen. You’re really working hard to get that top spot in Google for ‘Personal Development’ huh? hehehe. Since I started posting regularly I’ve been happy with my readers but I’m not sure whether they’re targeted potential buyers or developers/designers which might not be interested in what I have to offer. I think I should do more research and find out where my buyers hang out. :-) Thanks Glen
June 18th, 2009 at 11:13 am
@Colin – Thanks mate, great comment. I definitely don’t recommend the “fake it till you make it” approach in terms of blogging.
@Adam – Thanks, I’m glad you liked the post
@Leo – Personally I would go for the second option, but it depends on how strong your portfolio is. You could highlight your projects on your blog as well so that works both ways.
@Raymond – I’m actually a regular contributor here at Freelance Folder, nothing to do with Google rankings.
June 18th, 2009 at 11:17 am
I enjoyed the article very much, Glen. I do have a question, though: is http://www.pluginid.com/ the site that brought you so much success or are you talking about a different blog? I am only asking because I think it would be interesting for the readers to have a “model.”
June 18th, 2009 at 11:20 am
I didn’t mean anything by that ‘rankings’ comment Glen. My sincerest apologies.
June 18th, 2009 at 11:23 am
Hey Mihaela, sure.
The site has changed quite a lot which is why I didn’t really share it as an example. The original name for the site was ‘Viperchill’ and you can find more about me / it through a google search. ViperChill.com now re-directs to another location though and the site looks quite different as I no longer accept clients in this industry.
June 18th, 2009 at 11:31 am
Yes, I did Google you after reading this – I even found your contribution at Search Engine Land (another post I enjoyed). Congratulations, Glen, you do exceptional work. Many young men should follow your example.
June 18th, 2009 at 1:00 pm
Hi Glen, thanks a lot for the compliment, and it’s great to know how successful you have been in your own blogging efforts.
Mig, thanks for bringing Glen’s post to my attention (I stop by FreelanceFolder now and again but you sped up the process;).
June 18th, 2009 at 1:33 pm
First of all, great post. You make some good points.
I’d be concerned about the legality of discussing clients on your blog.
I don’t know what the US law is, but in Canada, without a contract that says otherwise, freelance work is considered work-for-hire which gives the copyright to the client and the freelancer needs (is supposed to get) permission to take credit for the work.
Even if it’s not illegal, it’s probably better to point out that you have permission to share information like web stats; otherwise, you’ll likely scare away privacy-conscious clients.
June 18th, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Great post! I actually started a blog in my site, http://www.topofguitar.com as a way to keep visitors informed on what’s going on in the website. Plus to comment on some guitar stories. Maybe that’ll help make visitors feel more connected to it.
It took a few months before I decided to start the blog, because having it also means a commitment to update it regularly.
Thanks for the advice,
June 18th, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Excellent post. Most people underestimate how valuable it is to be on the top of niche (even if it’s a small one).
June 19th, 2009 at 4:59 pm
I had considered using client experiences on my blogs as well. Thanks for the advice, as long as I can remain positive, I think it might have a shot.
June 20th, 2009 at 4:18 am
I run an online-based audio mixing and mastering business and we write a blog which targets musicians, including songwriting and production analysis (http://blog.fixyourmix.com). We have since seen our new client submissions skyrocket, with most of our blog traffic coming from Google searches and sites like Digg and Reddit. For example, we get tons of hits from people Googling for “Sound like Bonham” (Led Zeppelin drummer), because we rank first with the help of SEO.
Not only are we getting significantly more business, but we’re also able to control the TYPE of clients we receive by writing about only the types of music that we want to work on. If we want to work on indie projects one month, we write about MGMT. If we want to work on rap, we write about T-Pain or Kanye. We get fan mail each week from self-described ‘music nerds’, thanking us for being the only blog out there writing about pop music from a philosophical and music theory perspective. These emails alone are enough to inspire us to keep writing, business growth aside.
I can’t say enough about blogging for freelance business. My advice is to ask yourself “what are my potential clients interested in reading about?” and “what might my potential clients search for on Google?”
June 21st, 2009 at 11:16 am
Glen rocks and impresses me every day.
June 22nd, 2009 at 4:50 am
Great article! I used blogging for one of my websites as a tool for marketing. It worked great, I got alot of clients and still do!
June 23rd, 2009 at 3:36 am
Excellent article ,,keep writing
September 6th, 2009 at 3:49 pm
we also are “freelancers” who are working to build into an all inclusive marketing firm. (We are almost there) and although our design portfolio is not yet done, we have found that blogging is the new “networking’
We have gotten most of our clients through word of mouth.. this was enough for both of us to quit our jobs and do this as our main source of income.. but we want more. We want to become THE firm, and i know for sure that having a semi successful (meaning quality over quantity in terms of traffic) is the best way to go when talking about online marketing.
If you can get solid readers.. readers who are maybe even your competition or in the same field as you.. you can become more and more respected in the field (if you are good) and more people will quote your work, and possibly send people your way.
I agree.. the best you can in the field you love the most.. SOOO many people try to offer EVERYTHING because they think that they will make more from it.. but what it does is make you look like a mediocre firm that is trying to hard.
October 6th, 2009 at 2:57 pm
I am a new follower of yours and I want to thank you for sharing this information with your fellow freelancers. I am in the process of creating my first blog and you are an excellent resource. Keep up the good work and I look forward to your future posts.
February 20th, 2013 at 12:06 am
It’s funny many people think because you have an online service that you are doing some magic voodoo to get clients, what I’ve learned is that the same ways you get clients in the real world apply exactly to the online world. The only difference is the means of communicating is different. Instead of a customer walking into your store, they “walk into” your website.
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