My first order of business was to identify who I wanted to serve.
As a freelancer, there are two ways we can go:
- Serving everyone who needs someone with our skill set.
- Specializing in a very specific audience and only cater to this niché.
If you want to struggle with finding work and charging more than $10/hour, option number 1 is what you’re looking for. Be a “copywriter” who’s willing to write anything for everyone. Trust me, you’ll struggle hard.
If you, on the other hand, want to charge a fair hourly rate, have an easier time finding prospects and closing sales, option number 2 is what you have to go with. Clearly, this is what I chose.
The first obvious choice would be to brainstorm a list of different industries I could specialize in, but I’ve learned that not all industries are equal.
Let’s just take lawyers and professional dog walkers as two outliers.
Lawyers make a huge profit from each client while most professional dog walkers barely make a living.
Would you rather solve a problem for a client who earns a huge profit or for someone that can barely pay himself?
Dog walkers would never be able to pay you $3,000 for a new web design cause it would take them years before they’d make that investment back.
Lawyers, on the other hand, would be willing to pay you +$50,000 for a new web design if you could prove that it would improve their revenue by just a few percent.
Step 1 – Setting up filters
In order to not end up with a niché audience that I can’t make a profit from, I decided to set up a few filters for the brainstorming phase.
- My ideal audience makes a profit of $500 for every client they serve.
- My ideal audience is already paying for advertisement.
- There’s no one specialized in my audience.
- I have to believe, that I can actually help this audience.
Why did I end up with these filters? Basically, I need to be able to make around $100-200/hour. In order for a client to afford me, they need to make more than that, for every client, I help them get.
I also want to target an audience who is already paying for advertisement as this proves they are willing to spend money on marketing + there’s a decent chance I can optimize their current marketing campaigns which will save them money and prove to them, that I know what I’m doing.
I’d rather chose an industry where there are no competitors as I obviously don’t have anyone to compete with. That being said, no competitors could also be a sign that this audience/industry just isn’t willing to pay. I might burn my fingers with this one, but worst case is that I learned something in the process.
Lastly, I obviously need to believe that I can help my chosen audience with their marketing related problems. I only want to make money by helping my audience, not by selling hopes and dreams about something I know I can’t achieve.
Step 2 – The brainstorming phase
I did a 30-minute brainstorm with my wife on potential industries that might be suitable and we came up with a list of 57 industries that we believe to make more than +$500 per client. This can be done with pen and paper or, as we did, in a spreadsheet.
Now, things are about to get a bit complicated and the following strategies are most likely not suited to determine the demand for your skills, however, for online marketing, this worked great.
Back to basic: For me to make money, I need to help my future clients get more business. I do this by getting them more traffic to their website through SEO, Google Adwords or Facebook ads.
I have a list of 57 different industries and I want to confirm if there are people actually searching for them in Google.
Let’s take the dog walker example. I can use Googles Keyword Planner to see how many people search for “Professional dog walker New York” every month. If there are close to 0 searches every month, there’s no point in me pursuing this audience, as I can’t help them get any more traffic from Google.
If there are a few hundred searches every month, I could probably help a NY based dog-walker get 10-20% of this potential traffic which would get them more clients and earn me money.
So based on my list of 57 industries, I tried to imagine what the target audiences of these industries might search for on Google to find them.
Example: I had entered “Yacht rental” as a potential business niché. The audience looking for yacht rentals are usually searching with phrases like: “Yacht rental New York” or “Yacht rental Bahamas”.
I ended up with a list of 5.928 keywords that I wanted to examine in Googles Keyword Planner.
I ended up with so many keywords because I chose to find the demand for each of these industries in the 100 biggest cities in the US.
I ran all keywords through Google Keyword Planner, 200 phrases at a time until I had data on each of them.
Doing this quickly gave me an idea of which industries actually had an audience I could help them reach. Some industries were almost dead with 0-10 searches/month and I quickly deleted these nichés. Other nichés had a few hundred searches/month which is a bit more interesting to work with.
I manually compared the industries on my list with my filters.
E.g. The “Injury lawyer” industry clearly lives up to the +$500 profit target, but they fail on the competition parameter. There are just too many SEO agencies serving this audience for me to have a shot.
After removing the nichés I didn’t align with my filters I had six possibilities left and I made a simple choice of going with the….
Wedding planner industry
My reasons for choosing the wedding planner industry
- I estimate wedding planners to profit at least $500 per wedding. (Still a theory and if it turns out it’s not true, I would have to go back and chose another industry).
- Some wedding planners are already paying for Google Adwords or for having banners on wedding blogs.
- No other SEO agency specialized in helping wedding planners.
- There are decent searches for wedding planners across all the major US cities, meaning I can actually help local wedding planners gain more clients.
Instead of specializing in a niché audience, you could also specialize in a location which is what dog walkers and music teachers would most likely choose.
Step 3 – Setting up a basic website
Having decided on the wedding planner industry I decided to buy a domain name and setup a website.
I wanted the domain to tell something about what I’m doing. Once again I did a brainstorm and ran all my ideas through Namecheap.com to see if the domains were available – I ended up with the domain: Bridetraffic.com which cost me around $12-13 for a year. (I’ve later learned that some people read this as “importing” wives from Thailand. So this might be my first mistake? But until it proves to be a barrier for wedding planners, I’m going to stick with it.)
I also decided to buy an SSL certificate for the website, which set me back another $15. It makes entries to my website “secure” however, the only reason I bought this is because I like the green lock icon the browser gives my site.
Then I went to photoshop to make a very basic logo for the website. Not that I could have made anything better than what I made even if I wanted to use more time. My photoshop skills are worse than a five-year-old’s.
By now I have a basic website with the essential pages and a very basic, non-flattering design.
The job is done for now. There’s no point making it more advanced and invest to much time into the website before I know whether this niché is going to work out.
If you’re not sure how to setup a basic website, then just go to Google and search for guides related to “How to set up my first WordPress website”.
Step 4 – Deciding on a marketing strategy
There are so many ways of marketing your services. Applying for jobs on Upwork, cold-calling, reputation marketing, paid marketing etc. I prefer to use outreach through email as my marketing tool so that is what I’m going to use for now.
I don’t have a ton of experience emailing prospects, and my initial thought is to establish some kind of connection with my prospects before pitching them.
Based on a fantastic video series that Glen from Gaps.com shared some months ago, I decided to do an industry report to show my knowledge about the industry and let my audience know about my existence.
My idea for an industry report is to show how wedding planners in different areas are doing compared to each other when it comes to online marketing – In other words: “Which wedding planner is doing best when it comes to SEO in [CITY]”
I came up with a scoring system that would measure wedding planners on factors like:
- The number of domains linking to their website.
- How well optimized their website is in regards to SEO.
- How fast their website is.
- How many of a predetermined list of relevant keywords they are ranking in the top 5 on.
- How many followers they have on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
With my list of the 100 largest cities in the US, I started finding wedding planners in each of these cities, one at a time, by simply searching like their audience would: “Wedding planner New York“.
I then calculated a score for every local wedding planner in that city, created a specific industry report and published it. See an example for Wedding Planners in LA here.
It takes me roughly an hour per city to do the research, type the data into my industry report template and publish it.
So far I’ve researched and published industry reports for:
- Los Angeles
- New York
With these reports published, I have a reason to contact the wedding planners who have been scored and compared in my report.
As you can see below, I kept my emails very simple:
By sharing this report with them, I:
- Show that I know how their industry is doing when it comes to SEO
- I get them to compare themselves with their competitors, which will hopefully get them to contact me cause nobody wants to perform worse than their competitor.
So far I’ve only reached out to Los-Angeles-based wedding planners, which I did on the 24th of February.
Within 6 hours I had replies from five of them and all of them were extremely happy to have been mentioned.
The conversation could have ended there, but if you have already checked out my industry report for LA, you’ll notice that I have a contact form in the bottom of the page, where they can receive a free ranking report if they fill it out.
Two of them did that as well and within 48 hours they had a .pdf in the inbox showing them how they are ranking on +20 relevant keywords that their audience uses. This further proves how well/bad they are doing and gives them an idea of how well they could be doing.
This is an email I received just after sending one of the reports.
This months numbers
- Time spent in total: 10 hours.
- Landed clients: 0
- One-off income: $0
- Ongoing income: $0
- Expenses: ca. $30
Plan for the next month
My idea is to continue with the industry reports and see whether it’ll perform as wished.