“I have a service-based business, so funnels won’t work for me. All my clients come to me from word-of-mouth referrals.”
For freelancers, virtual assistants, and other service providers, this is a common misconception. I even said it myself when I was brand new. (I said some other stupid things when I was new, as well. We all did.)
The more I learned about the power of funnels though, and the more mature my business became, the more I realized I did need a funnel, for lots of reasons.
1. Clients on demand. Sure, referrals and word-of-mouth advertising are great. They have that “know, like and trust” thing already built in.
They can also be slow to produce a new client. When you lose a gig and you’re wondering if you should cancel your Netflix subscription next month to save a little cash, wouldn’t it be better to have a ready list of ideal clients you can tap into?
That’s the kind of power a funnel (and its accompanying email list) can give you.
2. The ability to scale quickly. Business is great! So good, in fact, that you’re ready to bring on a team of subcontractors to handle your overflow. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg issue.
If you bring on a new team member or two, how can you guarantee them enough hours to make it worth their commitment? And if you don’t have people lined up already, how can you confidently take on more work?
Enter your email list, filled with clients who want to work with you–and your new team.
3. A built-in audience when you decide to branch out. Got a cool digital product you’re thinking of creating? How about an app that could change how your clients do business?
Your funnel and email list give you the ideal audience to promote your new venture to, so you aren’t always starting from scratch. (They’ll call you an “overnight success” but you’ll know the secret.)
4. Better word-of-mouth marketing. Sound counterintuitive? It’s not.
Move your existing clients into a targeted follow up campaign that includes requests for referrals, testimonials, and other client-attracting social proof. You can do it all on autopilot, which is so much easier than remembering to ask.
5. The ability to earn passive income. This is the big one. If you don’t create and maintain funnels for any other reason, then let this be the tipping point for you.
Sure, there are other ways to grow your income as a freelancer. You can effectively add more hours to your day by building a team. You can (and probably should) raise your rates. You can simply work more.
Or you can build a funnel and serve your subscribers (and potential clients) with well-researched, relevant offers. Not only are you the expert source for the information they need, but you’ll earn some added income through affiliate programs. It’s a win-win for everyone. Seriously.
Simple Funnels for Service-Based Businesses
Don’t overthink this. Here’s an easy funnel you can set up in an afternoon:
- Create a simple checklist or worksheet outlining your most popular service. For example, if you’re a freelance writer and you specialize in blog post SEO, a one-page keyword research checklist would make a great opt-in freebie.
- Build a landing page with an opt-in form to collect email addresses. Connect this to your email service provider.
- Add a “thank you” page where new subscribers can pick up their download and maybe see a related offer from you (like a coupon or a new client special). There are other things that can make this page even better, but don’t worry about any of that stuff right now. Just get the pages built and the connections made. That’s your first step.
- Create a few follow-up messages (also known as a “nurture sequence”) to further show off your expertise and build a relationship.
- Stay in touch through regular (at least weekly) email marketing. A quick “newsletter” style email with industry insights, new strategies, tool reviews and any other info your clients need is a great start. If you need inspiration, here are 49 ideas you can try.
That’s it. All that’s left is to make sure your ideal subscriber sees your opt-in page. You can do that by sharing it on social media, adding pop-ups to your website, creating content upgrades on your blog, and dozens of other methods.
Funnel Design Workbook
Put your lead gen on autopilot with an automated marketing funnel. This step-by-step guide makes it easy!
You'll also be automatically subscribed to my more-or-less daily email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.
I really liked this post. Very informative. I am a Virtual Assistant and have asked why and how could an email list and funnels work for me. I’m new and still building my website. I don’t have any experience except for work in corporate world. My problem is getting that first client to take a chance with me. Thanks for this post.
Thanks Belinda! You’re not alone. Lots of VAs and other freelancers (and plenty of other business owners!) wonder if an email list is really necessary. Once you start and you see the benefits of it though, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. 😉
I was just brainstorming optin ideas for a service provider this past weekend. It’s so easy to get stuck but we nailed TWO great topics to target her perfect client. Great advice post Cindy!
Thanks Kelly! Your client is lucky to have you!