Originally published June 13, 2018 on The Original BritishPandaChick blog. I made tweaks to the original post so it would work for Code Newbie.
This week means a brand new lesson from Skillcrush 300. This lesson is a turning point in the course. For now, the course has been about getting set up for freelancing. Now you are ready to start reaching out to clients.
Today's lesson is going to teach Skillcrush's fast track formula to help you land your first client. This is the formula all the Skillcrush instructors and teaching assistants have used to find clients when they were freelancing. By the end of this post, you'll be ready to start finding the right clients for your business.
What is the fast track formula?
This formula isn't necessarily a mathematical formula, but it is a method Skillcrush encourages students to use to land their first clients. Skillcrush instructors and teaching assistants have used this formula to land their first clients. This method is meant to help you focus and organized so you know which approach is going to work for which client.
The fast track formula separates clients into three circles. These circles are inner, outer, and everyone else. Freelancers begin with the inner circle then expand their reach to other circles. Although this lesson only concentrates on the first two circles, eventually all the freelancers start making connections in the third circle.
This method makes things easy for freelancers that they can repeat to find clients. It also helps keep the process of finding clients less overwhelming and keeps your eyes on the prize.
When I think of this formula, I think of the training sequence from the movie The Mask of Zorro. This scene reminds me how similar the fast track formula is to the training circle Don Diego de la Vega tells Alejandro about when he begins to train as Zorro. In the clip below, Diego explains how the training circle works and how Alejandro will progress from circle to circle as he gets better.
This is the same way the fast track formula will feel. Although you won't be training to be the next Zorro, you will be expanding your circles at a similar pace and adjusting your focus when it feels necessary. As you expand your circles, these circles will build upon each other. This can be helpful in expanding your online presence and get more clients, but it can make things very confusing really quickly.
Every circle is going to have a different approach and as you expand to different circles, it can be hard to keep track of what circle you get which approach. Although it sounds like a broken record in these posts about how to stay organized and having a specific focus, this approach works! Being organized and narrowing your focus is going to help you stay on track, helping you give the best service for each lead you talk to.
The first circle is where many freelancers often find their first clients. This where I found my first client and the one I'm using frequently right now to try to land clients. The inner circle is your close friends and family.
These can also be your first connections on LinkedIn. Possible clients in this circle are your best friend and any family members. Potential clients also include people closest to your family and friends such as close family friends, any of your children's teachers, and more.
The inner circle is a great place to start when you are freelancing because these are people who will most likely support you in any way possible. They already know you and can establish trust, one of the most important qualities that potential clients use to make a decision on who to work with. Some of your inner circle might not need a website or can use any of the services you are offering. However many people from your inner circle can spread the word to people in their own networks to help you find someone who might need your services.
Since this circle is made of people closest to you, you don't have to have a sales approach. The best approach for this group is just being straightforward and honest. The people in your inner circle already trust you so you don't need to worry about using any tricks or hacks to get them to choose you.
The outer circle is where freelancers start venturing outside their comfort zones. Skillcrush defines the outer circle as your extended network. People in this circle can any acquaintances you might have. These are friends of members of your inner circle or members of your community spaces.
Members of your outer circle can be a little uneasy to deal with at first since you don't know them as well as members of your inner circle. In order to make things easier, Skillcrush recommends getting an introduction or using a simple version of an elevator pitch to help you connect with them. You can use people in your inner circle to help introduce you and meet potential clients in this circle.
Remember trust is a powerful factor in helping ideal clients decide who to work with. Many freelancers stress the value of trust when finding clients since clients are going to trust someone they know over a stranger with the same services and skills. Therefore having a connection to these clients is going to make the conversations with them much easier.
The last circle is everyone else. You can think of people in this circle as ones you have no connection with. Skillcrush considers this group as contacts you haven't made yet.
Freelancers like to approach this circle by using the connections they've made in your inner and outer circles. As you make more contacts, they will be important in helping you meet more people in your niche audience and keeping a constant stream of clients.
Now the internet is a crazy place, so it is still important to be careful when you start reaching out to people in this circle. Therefore you should proceed with caution as you move through this circle. Luckily, you can rely on your inner and outer circles to help when you get to this step. These circles will help you meet the right people.
Time to organize your circles!
It is time to brainstorm your inner and outer circles. For this step, your goal is to think about who will be in your inner and outer circles. You don't want to just identify potential clients.
These lists are a way to identifying people who might support you and help you meet people in your niche. Skillcrush reminds students that they will never know where their clients will come from.
Take a piece of paper or open up a new Google Document. Then start writing down everyone you can think of. You can make lists or create a Venn diagram to organize all the people in your lists as you go.
The goal is to start looking into your network and grouping them into different circles. Feel free to use your social media accounts to help you during this step. The goal of this step is to think about which group each person is. The group you put each person in will help you see what kind of approach you can use when you reach out to them.
Figure out your leads
Once you've figured out your inner and outer circles, it is time to narrow down these circles to figure who you should reach out to first. You want to identify a few people to reach out to first. Many freelancers tackle their circles a few people at a time to keep them from getting overwhelmed as well as staying organized. It can also help you manage your time and investing your time wisely.
Take a look at your lists or the Venn diagram you are using. Go through your lists and put a mark or symbol beside each lead you want to tackle first. Narrowing down your list can be tough, but Skillcrush identifies a couple of criteria to help you figure out who would be a good lead to start with first. The criteria Skillcrush recommends evaluating your lists with are:
- Is this person in your niche or very close to your niche? These are people you understand the businesses they have. These leads are more likely to understand the value you bring.
- Does this person need your services? Pick the person who is most in need of your services.
- Will this person be invested in your success? Freelancers pick people who know them and care about them. They will want to support you and vouch for you so you can get more clients even if they can't be one themselves.
Now that you've narrowed down your circles to your leads, it is time to start reaching out to them. Call them on the phone or send them an e-mail. Regardless of how you do this, this approach might differ depending on what circles your leads are in. Skillcrush encourages students to be professional yet authentic with any potential client.
As you start reaching out to clients, it can get confusing very quickly. Therefore Skillcrush encourages students to use a spreadsheet to track what clients they are talking to. Create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Excel file so you can start tracking active leads, clients, former clients, and people who don't want your services.
You can customize your spreadsheet any way you like. I recommend putting sections on your spreadsheet that make the information you need easy to find such as contact information to dates you sent the last message to specific clients.
Now it is time for you to start reaching out to clients using the fast track formula. The fast track formula is all about building trust staying organized and how you should focus. In order to do this, freelancers start looking for clients in their inner circles then expand as they go with help from their inner circle.
Take advantage of this break to start brainstorming your circles and reaching out to potential leads. Tomorrow, I will review the next lesson about finding clients. This lesson will be looking at how to find clients online. I'll be going into more detail about online networks and groups which can help you connect with more potential clients.