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Here's where most freelancers f*ck up

Daniel Marzullo
Daniel Marzullo
5 min read
Here's where most freelancers f*ck up
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

Table of Contents

They rely on applying to job postings to generate 100% of their revenue.

If you're an early-stage freelancer, or even a veteran struggling to reach a level of comfort and stability in your work... this one's for you.

Are freelance job postings bad?

Absolutely not. If they were, I wouldn't include some of them in my newsletter every month. The problem is when freelancers rely on them to generate all of their client work. Here's why:

Freelance job postings are extremely competitive

Hundreds of other freelancers are applying for the same opportunity. For example, this post has 124 responses in only 3 days...

Aside from the likes, comments, and reposts, I'm sure Maghan's DM's were flooded with even more freelancers interested in working with her.

The company has all the leverage

When you're competing against hundreds of other candidates, the company gets to set the rates they're willing to pay. Not you. If you're not willing to accept what they offer, they'll find another talented freelancer from the 124+ other responses who will.

In this scenario, you simply won't be able to charge what you want.

Applying to freelance ads is mentally exhausting

Spending all day responding to freelance ads shifts you into an employee mindset. You spend most of your time submitting apps, often with minimal or no responses.

After banging your head against your keyboard for so long, you look up from your computer and it hits you. You realize you're no different from a full-time job seeker on the hunt.

And that's not what you signed up for, is it?

When you first took the leap into entrepreneurship, I doubt you did it because you love spending all day applying to freelance ads.

After enough rejections, you start getting desperate and discouraged. You start accepting work with less-than-ideal pay (as dictated by the client) while working on projects you're not excited about.

Sound familiar?

Don't fall victim to this trap. If you have, don't worry, it's not too late. You can still climb your way out.


What's the right approach to business development as a freelancer?

Spoiler alert: Not thinking of yourself as a freelancer in the first place. It's time to start seeing yourself as a business owner. That's what you are.

Do business owners spend all their time applying for jobs on LinkedIn and Indeed?

Hell no.

They market themselves through a variety of channels to create a healthy marketing mix and you should too.

What's the ideal marketing mix for freelancers creative entrepreneurs like you?

There's no secret formula, but there are a few tried and true tactics proven to work for creative service-based businesses.

If you need more clients, here's how I recommend dividing up your time for lead gen:

  • Doing cold outreach
  • Posting content to build trust and generate inbound leads
  • Applying to freelance job postings (if needed)

Try structuring your day like this:

Cold outreach gives you leverage

When you reach out to businesses that are your ideal customers with a compelling offer, two things happen:

  1. You've positioned yourself as the expert. The most qualified person the prospect is aware of to deliver the service you're pitching at that exact moment in time.
  2. As the expert, they're looking to you to solve the problem you've identified in their business (hence why you're reaching out in the first place) and therefore will pay accordingly, based on the rates you've set to solve the problem you've identified for them.

You have all the leverage in this scenario. The prospective client isn't getting 124+ other responses from candidates about the problem you've reached out to solve.

(Unless they happen to have a job posted for what you're offering. Which is highly unlikely. Even if they do they'll likely hear you out because you took the time to reach out directly to the right person in the first place.)

Just like any other type of service-based business, that's how you succeed. It's how you kill the feast or famine cycle, get off the revenue roller-coaster, and finally charge what you're worth.

Kill the feast or famine cycle for good 🌮

Prospecting is the single most important factor that separates the freelancers who go on to have 20+ year rewarding careers from those who scrape by for 2 years before throwing in the towel and going back to a full-time j.o.b. for a small paycheck and no freedom.

If your dream is to take control of your time and earn a real income from your craft, you MUST make time Every. Single. Week. for prospecting activities.

It’s the most critical activity you can do for your business to:

  • Keep you out of the feast or famine cycle
  • Give you the confidence to raise your rates
  • Relieve the financial stress to spend more time with your family

My co-host Terry and I dive deeper into the topic on an episode of The Copy Corner Podcast.

Regular outreach also helps you build predictability into your sales process. This allows you to understand where your next client will come from, the volume of activity you need to reach your goals, and more.

Where's your next client coming from?

You need a scalable and predictable way to bring in new business. Here’s what a predictable outreach strategy looks like:

  1. Build a highly targeted list of your ideal clients on LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Apollo, etc. 
  2. Do some research to find out how you can be a resource for them.
  3. Reach out to people on that list every week to let them know how you can be of value or solve a specific problem for them.

It's as simple as that.

If you send 100 messages, get 20 replies, book 8 discovery calls, and land 2 clients you now have the data you need to create a repeatable lead gen engine.

If you know that you can land 1-2 new clients for every 100, 200, or 300 prospecting messages you send, you now know exactly what you need to do to secure the number of clients you need to support your business goals.

But you won't know these numbers until you start reaching out and testing your approach. From there, you can reverse engineer your results.

This is it folks. That's the secret formula. The magic potion for success as a creative entrepreneur.

The ability to generate leads is the lifeblood of a successful business

If you're new to cold outreach or what you've attempted so far hasn't worked, you need a better strategy. Most freelancers (and businesses in general) suck ass at cold outreach.

If this resonates with you and you need help building an outreach strategy, check out my masterclass:

The LinkedIn Blueprint for Freelance Writers: A Masterclass on Lead Gen & Business Growth

In the masterclass, I teach the same strategies I used to land clients like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Foundr, Google, HP, Capital One, SAP, and more.

Get access here.

To your success,


Dan's Dispatch

Tools to discover your strengths and do work you love.

    I'll never share your information because I'm not a jerk.

    Daniel Marzullo

    Hi, I’m Dan! 👋 I typically spend my days buried in a booth at a local coffee shop. Ideas flow best with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other.