How Sales Reminders Help Freelancers Get More Clients

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Peter McPartlin and Una Herlihy both started freelancing to get more freedom and control in their lives. They aren’t alone in this – the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing a lot of people to consider freelancing. Hailing from Ireland, the duo both freelance full-time while building The Indie List, a marketplace and community for freelancers in Ireland. 

Through their experiences, both Peter and Una learned a lot about handling clients. In this interview they shared their journey into freelancing, their tech stack, and why gentle reminders can be the best way to close new clients. 

How did you get into freelancing?

Peter:  I had spent a large part of my career working for large organisations and had enjoyed most of it. I think though, as you move further up the corporate ladder you end up more removed from the things that you really enjoy doing. In my case, that was working very closely with clients or companies where I knew I could offer sound advice that would help to make a difference. 

The responsibilities of running an agency or indeed a radio station very often mean that your focus can be too inward looking or managing up. Freelancing completely opened up a whole new range of experiences, knowledge development and networking for me. I meant working without the safety net of a big organisation and the resources that go with that. However, I think it makes people realise that in most cases they can get by without most of those things and that clients buy people they can trust, can work with and will make a real impact on their business.

Una:  I spent all of my corporate career working in creative agencies and I struggled to progress in the way I wanted to.  I found agency life at the time, not to be a friendly place for women with children and I had 2 small children at the time.  That didn’t impact on my commitment but with the Agency’s mostly male leadership team, a lot of the decisions about my career were taken out of my hands.  I very much wanted to operate in a niche area and I also wanted freedom and flexibility in my life and so in 2005 I jumped 2 feet first into the world of the self-employed and it was the best decision of my career.

What’s The Indie List all about?

Since we launched The Indie List on July 4th last year (Independence Day, of course!) it has taken up the majority of our time. The advertising, media and creative services sector isn’t one that would naturally be front and centre in the minds of the public or policymakers, as one in need of help when the pandemic hit.

But freelancers suffered an economic ‘double whammy’ from Covid-19 because their traditional bread and butter revenue stream from SMB’s: (small and medium businesses and start-ups) also dried up.

Together we set out to create a database of freelance professionals whose work levels had been impacted by the pandemic. The initial response was extremely positive from existing freelancers and industry experts who had been recently let go as well as small indie shops and agencies looking for work. 

Without any knowledge of the global freelance platforms, we set down our principles and vision for a new type of marketplace where agencies and clients could easily access a curated list of some of the best independent talents across the market.

The Indie List was launched with our own money and some generous help from freelancers who aided us with design and digital skills. As of today, almost 500 people have signed up across a wide range of disciplines, including content creators, copywriters, art and creative directors, SEO experts, digital specialists, photographers, brand strategists, videographers, content creators, UX/UI specialists, web developers and media consultants.

Share the best client experience you’ve ever had. What happened?

Peter:  I was recruited by an agency to head up their largest client relationship – an international mobile operator – who was the biggest media spender in the Irish market. The agency had just lost the senior client lead to a rival who was pitching for the business and was fearful that the business would follow.

I succeeded in building a very strong relationship with the client marketing director based on our shared backgrounds and interest in gaelic football. We did have to pitch against our rivals but held the business against the odds not just because of the rapport with the senior client but also a renewed approach to media strategy that had become tired under the old team.

That senior client still remains a good friend and although changed careers, continued to give me business in the agencies that I subsequently worked with.

Una:  I got a call one night from the head of a big Irish brand. She said to me:  “Una I need your help.  I want you to look at your little black book of contacts and get me the best team in the world to come to Dublin and hot house this problem in 2 weeks time.  Can you get back to me by tomorrow?”.

The next morning I went on the phone and didn’t stop until I had a group of 8 global experts across strategy, creative, experience, PR and research all signed up and ready to come to Dublin for a massive week long workshop event.  My role was to curate this talent and create the conditions for them to collaborate effectively leading up to the event.  This particular job, even though I didn’t know it at the time, became a test case for The Indie List. 

What’s your freelancer tech stack?

What’s your advice for freelancers having trouble closing clients?

Peter:  If you’ve sent a strong proposal to a client and the response has been slow or non-existent, don’t assume that you’re not getting the gig. Very often the project in question will have moved way down a client’s priority list. A timely reminder to the client within a fortnight or sending them a relevant piece of competitive information may prompt you to the top of their call list and at the very least, show that you are really keen to progress the work.

Una:  Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.  Make sure you have multiple irons in the fire to avoid panicking and subsequently becoming too pushy.  Keep on being memorable and top of mind.  Think about your Clients business and problems and be generous with inspiration you may come across that will nudge them closer to a decision.  But remember that you are only one of so many things they need to get to so cut them some slack.

What’s your top growth tip for freelancers?

Peter:  It was advice that Jon Younger, the great freelance writer from gave us…hunt in packs! Try to find a good network of complementary freelancers who can help pitch with you on projects and who might also be a good source of new clients too.

Una:  Always be looking for ways to add value.  Otherwise you will be seen as a cost to business.

Connect with Peter & Una through The Indie List Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook

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