How To Automate Your Outreach As A Freelancer

Switching from a traditional salaried job to a freelancing career can be an intimidating experience. 

For one, you no longer have a steady paycheck coming in. As if that were not a big concern already, you are also now expected to handle sales, support, accounting, and everything else in between.

It is not surprising then that a lot of freelancers who chose this path to lead a better work-life balance as a remote worker end up getting burned out instead.

The easy answer to this is automation – there are plenty of online tools and alternatives available today that can help you free up your bandwidth and focus on what you do best.

However, not everything can, or should, be automated. Figuring the right strategy is often half the job done.

In this article, I am going to focus exclusively on prospect outreach since this is one of the most time-consuming, yet inevitable aspects of being a freelancer.

The 80/10/10 Rule For Automation

As a freelancer, there are plenty of places to find prospective clients. You could, for instance, send cold emails to business owners offering your services.

There are plenty of Facebook Groups where your prospective buyers hang out – participating in these message boards is another way to sell your business.

And of course, there are marketplaces like where you can be seen by prospects with “high purchase intent” – pitching your services to buyers here can be very profitable for your business.

Here’s the thing:

Not all outreach channels are made equal. Twine, for instance, is a freelance marketplace. Bidding on projects and engaging with buyers here is a highly productive use of your time. 

Now, compare this to a Facebook Group for entrepreneurs. While you can potentially find a buyer here, this requires a lot of engagement and work to build visibility and authority. The ROI from this effort may not be worth your time. 

Cold outreach, on the other hand, is somewhere in between. With tools like Voila Norbert, you can build a targeted list of prospective buyers (just make sure you verify your email targets first). While not everyone you reach out may hire you, the ROI is perhaps much higher than blindly engaging over a Facebook Group.

This is not all, though. It would be foolish to not experiment with other client acquisition strategies. You may probably want to try channels like Facebook advertising, blogging, offline marketing, to mention a few. 

So, how do you maintain a balance between these multiple outreach strategies? The answer lies with the 80/10/10 rule. 

This is what you do – automate 80% of your outreach; invest manual effort in 10%; and discard 10%. 

For example, investing your time on Twine can be highly profitable – it is a good idea to spend your hours bidding and engaging with buyers here. 

Find ways to outsource or automate the rest of your outreach tasks. At the same time, discard the strategies that have the lowest ROI, and replace them with newer channels.

Quality Vs. Quantity: Finding The Balance

Automating tasks helps you scale up your outreach. However, most often, you also end up sacrificing personalization in the process.

That does tend to bring down your ROI. Many freelancers however still prefer this strategy as they view the process as a numbers game. 

Here is the thought behind it – if you can reach 10 people in an hour through personalized outreach and have a 50% response rate; you get 5 inquiries. 

However, if automating the task helps you reach 100 people at the same time, and the response rate falls to 10%, you still receive inquiries from 10 people. Sacrificing personalization in order to scale up seems like a better choice.

However, this is not always the case. If you operate in a very niche industry, and there are only a few hundred businesses to go after, automating may be a bad idea. This is because you will run out of prospects real soon. 

If you have a fairly large “catchment area”, then the right way to do this is to adopt personalization along with scale. There are tools that can help you achieve this. 

You may, for instance, use image processing tools to create personalized images to include in emails. Or, pull the top liked tweet or Facebook post from the prospect and include it in your message. 

You can find skilled developers who can do this for you, right here on Twine

This is top-class personalization done at scale. It improves outreach as well as conversion both at the same time.

Outsourcing Vs. Automation

There are two ways to free up your resources – outsourcing your outreach, or automating them. At the outset, it doesn’t matter – as long as you get the work done. 

However, when you look at it at a granular level, you will notice that some tasks are best done through outsourcing, while others are better automated.

It boils down to two things – price and turnaround time. 

Take cold email outreach, for instance. You can find someone to do this for you. But even if you only pay $5 an hour to do this, it still ends up costing a lot of money over the month or year. 

A cold email automation tool, even if it costs a few hundred dollars a year, is cheaper and more effective. Automating even the smaller things like scheduling your GMail messages to send on cue can go a long way in freeing up your resources. Besides, such automation services have developed tech features, which ensure email security and improve email deliverability.

There are some places where outsourcing is more effective. If you are a music composer, a copywriter, or a social media marketer, then your skills have mainstream appeal and you might find a lot of success with offline marketing channels.

You may hire someone from Craigslist to help you make posters and distribute them for you. You may, in fact, hire several people to help you with this. This way, you scale up your strategy effectively with minimal outflow.

Know Your KPI (Key Performance Indicator)

While experimenting with different strategies and outreach methods, it is easy to get distracted by the real objectives. It doesn’t matter if your automation strategies have yielded higher open rates or response rates. 

What matters is the number of client conversions. That’s the KPI you must chase. Look at client conversions at every step of the way – be it deciding between outsourcing or automation, or between any two particular strategies.

Ultimately, this is what determines your success as a freelancing professional. 

Anand Srinivasan

Anand Srinivasan is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hubbion, a free to use task management tool for startups, small and medium businesses.