image for post - FT 130: Turn Influencers into Client Referrals with Sean Smith

FT 130: Turn Influencers into Client Referrals with Sean Smith

How do you connect with influencers in your industry and build a freelance business off of referrals that you receive from them, even when you’re just starting out? In this episode of the Freelance Transformation podcast, Sean Smith explains how you can connect with influencers and amplify your freelance business.

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Sean shares with us:

Sean is the co-founder of Simple Tiger, a small remote agency that specializes in search engine optimization. Sean started this agency – and the rest of his freelance endeavors – from the ground up. Through reaching out and networking with the people in his industry, Sean was able to create an entire client list organically. Sean explains how you can connect with influencers in your industry and amplify your freelance business.

Find your industry.

“I was sort of pushed into freelance work.”

Sean grew up in a freelancing family. He was working freelance by the time he was 15, but not everyone can be motivated like that at that age. At this point in your life, though, it’s not too late to keep learning. Don’t be afraid to get a job for a while just to get the experience. Working within an agency or industry that already does what you want to do is a great way to learn all the angles of running a business.

“I needed to go to an agency and learn at the ground level how things work.”

Sean spent a couple years working with a tech agency in order to get the experience he needed. Working a job with an agency you respect will give you first-hand experience in finding clients, making sales, managing team members, maybe even a little bookkeeping and financing. All of this experience will be immensely helpful when you start freelancing and building your own brand.

Network your industry.

Working with an agency also puts you in the unique position of networking with influencers in your industry. With a job and a professional title, you establish yourself as a sort of authority in your niche market. And your experience is great leverage when it comes to attracting the attention of some of the most important people in the room. Use your experience to your advantage and stand out from the rest of the crowd.

“I wanted to have my own playground online.”

Sean used his time at the agency to build his blog and website. His own curiosity combined with his skills and experience from working helped him create a successful blog that attracted traffic and gave him an excuse to test different SEO tactics he otherwise would not have had a chance to try. These tricks and tactics became valuable with the clients he was working with, and his groundbreaking techniques attracted the attention of a lot of big names and websites.

Now, you don’t necessarily have to be a renegade to connect with influencers in your industry, but finding a way to show off your talents is a great place to start. Social media acts as both an outlet for your skills as well as a way to connect with influencers and other people you admire. Sean’s advice is to reach out to these influencers online and offer your services, whether that’s writing an article for their site or offering some advice from your portfolio. Whatever your talent is, don’t hesitate to show off what you can do.

Playing the long game.

The trick to connecting with influential people is taking the time to build genuine relationships with them. You want more than just promotional material. You respect these individuals and want to work with them for the long term, so be genuine when you reach out to them. These relationships will evolve into real-life clients, so it’s important to take your time and really get to know each other.

Think about being very genuine. As one of my favorite 3-11 songs says, "Come Original"

Sean says it’s important to do your homework. Research these influencers before you start talking to them. Read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Show off your professionalism and bring whatever you can to the table. Make it clear that you want to cooperate and share information. You’re all working in the same industry, so build a foundation from that common ground and mutual respect for one another.

“Some of the connections I made were the most important part.”

Taking real time to build strong, genuine relationships with these influencers will pay off big time. Not only will you get recognition and build your brand and client list simply from knowing these people, these influencers can also be amazing mentors. Connecting with the right person at the right time can boost your confidence and make you capable of taking the next step in your own freelancing business. An influencer can give you more than just a promo or a platform to speak from. You can learn so much by reaching out to the people who inspire you most, so put in the work to make it happen.

Always hustle.

“You have to be willing to put in the hustle.”

As it is with freelancing, you’re responsible for everything in your business. This includes networking. Connecting with influencers will come down to you and how much energy you devote to networking. If you take the time to do your homework and don’t shy away from cold-calling or cold-emailing these influencers, you’ll find yourself connecting with all sorts of prominent people.

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