Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How to Build a Profitable Freelance Database -- Quickly!

In my December 6th post, I wrote about turning old job listings into freelance cash. To piggyback on this, this is an excellent way to get a jumpstart on your freelance career. How?

If you want to freelance, but have no contacts (or very few), you can easily build a substantial database in a few weeks or months, depending on how much time you put into it, by doing the following.

1. Do Detective Work on Blind Ads: As I said in the previous article, many times the ads will be blind, but sometimes there are clues as to who the company is. Eg, take an ad that reads, "Submit resumes to hr@xyzcompany.com." What I do is go to www.xyz.com (the company's website) and hunt for a number to call someone.

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2. Pick Up the Phone: After locating a number on the website (or via a Google search or Yellow Page listing), I then call and ask for the name of the appropriate party, eg, Communications Manager, Creative Director, Editorial Director, etc. (depending on the type of company, this will vary). I usually say something like:

My name is Yuwanda Black and I'm a freelance copywriter. I'd like to send the appropriate party some information about my services for their files. To whom would I address this?

Nine times out of ten, they will give you a name. I like to get a name because: 1) postage is expensive; and 2) it is much more likely to get opened; and 3) you know who to ask for during successive calls/mailings (which you will be doing if you want to be successful).

3. Verify, Verify, Verify: While you have someone on the phone, verify the mailing address (which you will usually find on their company website) and any other information you feel comfortable asking for.

I usually keep my calls short and try not to ask more than 2-3 questions. Some respondents are chatty, while others can be quite brusque. I just kind of go with the flow. The reason I think I've had such success with shorter calls -- especially on the first contact -- is that I don't badger the receiver for information.

I keep my inquiries brief, professional and to the point. The whole idea is not to get immediate business -- although some calls will definitely lead to that -- but to build your prospect list.

If you scour your weekly paper -- especially if you live in a large city -- you will find that it is a full-time job just getting the leads into some type of manageable database.

Prospecting from a small town? Don't worry, as a freelance copywriter, you can work for clients nationwide. So, feel free to go online and scour any newspaper you want, eg, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, the New York Times, etcc. Prospects are EVERWHERE!

If you do this week in and week out, you will build a large, "clean" database in no time. What do I mean by clean? Clean is when the information is verified. Since you called, you know the phone number, you got the name of the hiring official, verified the address, and know the company's website.

This is more than some professional lead selling companies have. Feel accomplished!

This is your business's most important asset. Continue to build it and use it. When you do mailings and they come back, update the information as it comes in. When the contact person leaves, get the new person's name. If the phone numbers change, change them in your database. Doing all of this keeps your database clean.

If this seems like a full-time job, it is. But, marketing is the lifeblood of every business. And, to market, you need prospects -- to follow up with, to mail to, to ask for referrals from, etc.

4. Make Contact: Once you get a minimum of 250 verifiable contacts, send them your info (I'll explain why in tomorrow's post). If you do it by email, be careful to not to spam. To accomplish this, include a short note, eg:
I called your office and Sarah, your administrative assistant, said you prefer to receive info via email, so I'm sending this one-time correspondence to make you aware of my services.
Make sure you have called and when you do, record the name of the person you spoke with so when you refer back to it you make your contact more personal (more on this in tomorrow's post).

I like email because of the ease and expense. However, with spam being such a problem, unless the prospect has invited you to email, I'd still snail mail a package. I happen to know that companies keep freelancer info on file for a good bit of time. And, you just never know when your package will arrive at the perfect time.

TIP: Get some free database management help by calling local high schools and colleges to see if they have internship programs. Explain what you need an intern to do and see if they have programs where students can earn credit while working for a small business like yours.

Many approach the world of freelancing as a way of making "extra" money. While this is certainly possible, the time you put into marketing for the work you will get will make it seem like a full-time job. So, getting free help like this can add immeasureably to your bottom line.

Good luck!

TOMORROW' POST: Making It Personal -- How to Double (Even Triple) Client Response Rates

ARTICLE MARKETING E-BOOK: To be honest, I'm simply in over my head (where is the time I wanted to take off!). I just haven't had time to sit down and finish it. I do client projects first b/c they pay the bills. Then I do "my stuff" (eg, article writing, case studies, e-books, etc.).

As I finish this post, my head is bobbing from lack of sleep (forgive any typos/grammar errors), my stomach is growling b/c I haven't eaten since 8:30 this morning and I need a shower like nobody's business.

So, I will do my level best to get the book finished by this weekend. That way, I can enjoy Christmas without it hanging over my head -- and hopefully leave you with some insightful holiday reading to psyche you up for next year.

Y. Black, Publisher
Copyright Notice: Read my copyright notice to the right and adhere to it -- or, Santa won't come to visit you this year -- and Rudolph and his gang will dole out some fierce revenge!
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