Standing out from the crowd

The freelance web development marketplace can be crowded, so you have to stand out from your fellow freelancers. So last month, I decided to experiment with some new marketing strategies, in the hope of grabbing some new clients

Strategy 1: the give-away

I keep in contact with all my clients via an (admittedly quite sporadically-sent) email newsletter. This is basic marketing and something that is often recommended for businesses. Thing is, nobody actually reads these emails – at best they skim read them.

The first email newsletter I sent out went to around 10 clients and it mentioned my comings and goings, some links to the blog, some industry news, yadda-yadda-yadda. I got maybe one response from email.

For the next email newsletter, which was sent out 6 weeks later, I told you they were sporadic, I resolved to do something a little different. I announced that I would reward any existing clients, who referred me to a new client, with an iPod Nano. The theory was this: people like free stuff, people like free iPods even more and if someone was thinking of recommending me or another guy they might swing for me instead. That email went out to around 15 clients and roughly 6 people emailed back within a day telling me they were intrigued about the offer – wanting to know why I was doing it and they all asked to be kept informed as to how successful it was.

So was it successful?

It all depends how you look at it. I got only one new client via the offer but I was more impressed by the increased contact with my existing clients – it got them talking to me again, inbetween jobs, when otherwise they may have forgotten about me. The picture to your right shows me giving away the iPod nano to fellow freelance web developer Chris Gibson who referred me to a client in July.

Chris Gibson, he of iPod winning fame, said:

‘One of my clients needed a freelancer to help out on some projects while I was away, and I passed on Phil’s details because I knew he’d do a great job for them. I was delighted when Phil told me about the iPod, but I recommended him because of his ability and his professionalism. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Phil to other clients and contacts in the future.’

Strategy 2: the interesting email

My target market, for the most part, is bigger web agencies who need freelancers who work when they get too busy or when their permanent staff are away/sick. These guys are usually very busy and often sending them a generic email telling them who I am and what I can do can get overlooked.

Bearing in mind, that these agencies are often creative at heart, I came to the conclusion that they’d appreciate something a little different than a run of the mill plain text ‘hello my name is Phil, I’m a freelancer email’. So I designed a HTML email based around the theme of a lonely hearts column with the tagline:

Has your heart been broken by one too many bad-boy freelancers?
Get in touch with Phil Thompson… he’ll make you feel like a start-up all over again.

Once again, this increased people’s reasons to talk to me – with quite a few new agencies responding to my email asking me questions about my availability, services and rates.


The iPod give-away was a pure gimmick and maybe I’ll come up with more gimmicks in the future, but the HTML emails was certainly more successful in terms of gaining new work. I intend to follow up the HTML email with other themed emails in the future – I see them as a great way to get people interested in my services at very little cost. Especially when one of my services is email marketing.

What ideas have you come up with to try and get new business?

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