Skip to main content

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Pitching Clients and Getting Sales

Lesson 12 of 22

Marketing Tactics For All Freelancers

Peter Corbett

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Pitching Clients and Getting Sales

Peter Corbett

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

12. Marketing Tactics For All Freelancers

Lesson Info

Marketing Tactics For All Freelancers

This is usually what everybody gets excited about. It's literally last in this section, and I think the reason why is if you do a good enough job of building these barrels, boiling the ocean, tracking your prospects, and being valuable in the world, and it's clearly obvious that you are, you probably won't have to do any marketing. In this context, marketing, to me, is anything that is essentially a paid mechanism of, like, getting in front of people. And I think it should be the last resort, and I'll tell you we have been dramatically unsuccessful using things like Google Ad Words to market ourselves to potential clients. Maybe some of you are incredibly good at that, it depends on what services you're offering. Lucky, maybe you guys have used Ad Words successfully? No? Okay, so the reason why we haven't been successful is I think that it's just such a bloody ocean of competition out there that this little headline and body copy thing is never gonna be able to demonstrate the value th...

at we provide. And if someone just lands on the website, and it costs me 15 bucks and then I spend five grand in a month, you know what I get? I get people reaching out saying like I've got a dollar and dream and can you do this for equity only? And I'm like no, no I can't. So I'd rather not spend that money. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't do marketing. Clearly we have done some marketing to get clients like these to hire us, care about us, but it's not typically paid. So these are the, I think, the four big buckets if you only do these things ever, you're likely going to be incredibly successful and you don't have to worry about Ad Words or other things like that. The first one you might not think of as marketing, but these one-to-one connections are very much marketing. I think of this in terms of, like if I get an opportunity to sit in a lunch with, you know, the CMOs of big brands, how do I stand out as not just that guy at that table? Was I the one that, you know, showed up and put like stickers at every place setting? And I said a pithy thing about marketing, and maybe it had our logo, or maybe it didn't, or maybe just had a little website. These are like, I would say guerrilla marketing through one-to-one connections. I think that that's an interesting way to go about it rather than paid. The content marketing piece, you guys have heard me already harp on this today. This is probably the most important thing overall. It's the big, wide bucket, gets you in front of the world, services opportunities you could never even know existed, 'cause they would never show up on a prospect list, they would never get referred to you, you'd never make that one-to-one connection, reach far and wide. The dirty secret, it's not dirty. I mean, the secret is speaking gigs are probably for someone in the service business world, in the creative services world, someone doing design, technology development, photography, content writing, any of that stuff, getting a speaking gig, getting in front of people to demonstrate how smart and creative and innovative you are is crucial. If I get onstage in front of 100 people at a conference, I walk off that stage with people saying, "Can we work with you," every single time. And those deal sizes, for us, you know those are often six figures. I could walk out of the room with a million dollars in potential opportunities. So my objective is to get on stage and do talks wherever I can, and thankfully, I've got some really good ammunition. We've got really great case studies, and really fun work to show, and I find that that is super helpful, and the last thing, word of mouth. If you combine all of this stuff together, you combine doing really good work for clients that will wanna talk about you, boiling the ocean a bit, maybe building some barrels, doing some interesting guerrilla marketing one-to-one kind of things, getting onstage, guess what? People start talking about you, and they start saying, "That company, we just need to hire them. They're incredible, or, I hope, I've heard, this is so good, when you start to hear like, "I've been trying to find an opportunity to work with you for years, and we finally have the budget." And you're like, awesome. Talk about like someone being totally sold on your value proposition, right? And that's a lay up,you write the proposal, you send it over, they sign the thing, and you're running, right? So this is what I think about from a marketing point of view. I don't think about anything else from a marketing point of view. I want to take any questions from the audience or from online, what do you got? Well, I was just curious. This is a speaking gig, what you're doing here. You got it. (laughter) So, you're expecting a return on this? Yeah, I would hope so, they're paying me zero to a little bit of money. So, what do you think, how about... How 'bout what now? With your experience, how much do you think this will pull? I don't actually think it's going to pull much from a new business point of view. This audience is not, like, Fortune 500 marketers. I'd be very surprised if there was a Fortune 500 marketer in here. This is a part of, sort of, my life mission of teaching what I know and pushing value out into the world, and as you heard me say in earlier sessions, if you focus on, sort of, demonstrating your value, pushing that out into the world, it's gonna come back. You know, this isn't a studio audience here. I'm assuming you'll leave here and say, "That guy Peter was brilliant, and he was so awesome, I'm so glad I did it," and then, I don't know how many people are watching online, like, they're gonna go, "Oh my god, I have to tweet about Corbett3000 right now, and share their website to my brother or sister who's the VP of marketing for Haagen Dazs, and tell them to hire this company, 'cause they're so great." I don't have to worry about that. I don't worry about that, what I think about it, how do I demonstrate the value? How do I put it out there, and if it comes back, great. If it doesn't, I just keep putting the value out there until it comes back. So, that's, the best possible marketing, I think, but then, as I said, I have a very proactive approach to getting on stage in specific industry events that I know there are customers there. So, this stage is not that kind of stage, and this, I think, you know, it's a new kind of stage for me. I've grown a company now, you know, eight and a half years, and every stage doesn't have to be about selling. I'm teaching a class about it, that's weird. (laughs) Yeah, good question though. What else? Go ahead. So, early days, you're doing social media marketing. How much client education did you have to do? Like, do people know how much they should be spending on this? Did you have to, kind of, coach them about budgets? Sure, so I should have paid you for that question, 'cause it's such a good one. The beginning, it was all about client education. So, when I started this company, it was 2007, the question was how is this valuable? What should I do, and so, actually some of my earliest projects were strategy engagements teaching people about the possible value proposition of doing this work. So, you get hired, you get paid, you know, 20 grand for, you know, a two or three months strategy project, and remember, this is one person. So, 20 grand is a pretty good gig in the beginning, right? And they're like, okay, we get it. You dug deep into how this could be possibly valuable for us, and then, it turns out, I need content. Okay, great, did you see my services slide? We can do that. Oh, we need a new website. Great, we can do that, right? So, I always thought that strategy, education, and training work up front was the best kind of work to do in the onset, 'cause people are always thirsty for knowledge, and then, if they really like that session we did, and hopefully, you would agree that I have a dynamic presence on stage so I could possibly deliver information that people were hoping for. Then, they go, oh great, we're totally comfortable with this guy. We want to hire him and his team for more, so very much so. Today, in 2016 and 17 and 18, I think that that question of, like, the value of proposition for social, specifically, is becoming much clearer. So, that question is asked less, but it depends on who you're talking to. So, I won't say which of my clients it is, but a very big client of ours, very far behind, and we are the first social agency of record they've ever had. There are companies that have had a social AOR for nine years. That's probably the longest that anyone's ever had that. That's the longest it possibly could be almost, and they're learning from us about all the metrics and how we equate that back to what was a broadcast world for them, and the question from this client, I love love them dearly, how do we equate gross ratings points from television to Facebook engagement? And we're actually doing that work. It's not easy, it's not. As someone who is natively digital and steeped in all these things, I don't naturally think, Oh, of course I must equate this to a gross ratings point. For those of you who don't know what a gross ratings point is, it's one percent of a target audience. So, you could say my target audience is 18 to 25 year old men in the United States, and that the size of that audience is 10 million people. So, one gross ratings point would be one... Wait, that would be 100,000 people. So, a weird question to field, and I think those kind of questions are going away more and more. The kind of work we're doing more and more is, like, we totally get it, we know why it's valuable. We want to throw fuel on the fire, and that's our best kind of client. The 101 client is not the best for us now. We want the 301, the advanced one. Any questions from the online audience? Yeah, we have a bunch of them here. So, I know that you mentioned the speaking engagement. We were talking about being here. We had one specific question here. Yume wants to know like, maybe can you just give a specific, people are looking for that path. You know, if someone has never done, for instance, a speaking gig, Yume wants to know. Can you drill down specifically if someone's just starting out, how would you go about landing a speaking engagement? Is there any sort of formula for it? Do you have to kind of start with those one-to-one connections, then word of mouth, then speaking engagement. Like, what's I guess the path for someone. Chris, I would like you to answer all of my questions from now on. Okay, great, I'm ready, I'm here to help. Well, I think it does start with one-to-one connections, I mean, I'll go way back. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead. I'll go way back, eighth grade, was it eighth grade, might've been eighth grade, first public speaking gig I did, I cried. You're not supposed to cry in eighth grade (laughter) like, that's getting a little old to be crying in front of class, but I got so frustrated and choked up, 'cause I couldn't deliver. It was a history class. I had to talk about the Roman Empire or something. I was just like (groans), and I totally crashed and burned, and I got a C and all this, and it was terrible. So, first and foremost, I would say, you should be practicing, you should be finding opportunities to get in front of people and talk. I was deathly afraid of public speaking after that experience in eighth grade. I was fortunate enough to go to college. I went to business school, undergraduate, and in that business school, the entire time, all you do is get up in front of your peers and talk about case studies. You have to present, present, present, present, and so I presented 200 times in two years, and by the end of it, I was like, I love this, like, I want to get in front of everybody all day long and talk. This is great. So, I think, first of all, you need to find opportunities to get in front of people. That's maybe too ambiguous and amorphous, but find an open mic night, go get in front of people and don't care about the fact that you're up here in front of everybody, right? It shouldn't matter, and then I would say, the one-to-one connection thing, I started meeting early on a lot of the conference organizers in the cities that I was living in, and I would just say, like, listen, if you need somebody that knows something about technology, just let me know, and I'll jump on that panel, and they were like, great, yeah, 'cause I knew something. I was valuable to them. They knew that Peter will be in that chair and say the interesting things that we need. Now, if you don't have anything interesting to say, you're screwed. No, I'm kidding. But you should figure out what is it that you know that you can share so that people can ask you to join that panel or do that keynote, and then, it honestly becomes a snowball effect. So, last year, I probably did speaking gigs in like, 15 countries. I probably did 60 of them, and people just started to hear about it, and they'd see a video, and they're like, "Whoa, that guy is really good, like let's invite him." I still do the proactive thing. So, I see a conference coming up in six months, and I was like, wow, I think there's a lot of clients there that I probably want to speak to. I reach out to the conference organizer and say, "Hey, if you need anybody to join for keynote or otherwise, this is usually what I speak about or if you want someone from my team, just let me know, happy to help." And they go, "Oh yeah, great, we're looking. Yeah, the person who just dropped out is this." Or like, "We want you to buy sponsorship." And I'm like yeah okay, and I usually say no. Good question though. So, I want to get one more question here before we wrap up. We've had a couple of people vote on this, and as you know, the creative live audience, there's a lot of variety out there. We have a lot of designers, artists, photographers, people in all walks of life, and this question was originally posted by Nisha Fuentes. A couple of people voted on it. Would you apply these same strategies to any type of business, in particular, Nisha, she is a photographer. Now, if you're a photographer, do all these things still apply? Is there any other things you need to know? Do you still kind of start with those one-on-one connections and work your way up as photographer, or are there different ways of doing this for different industries? I think they apply. I don't know if Nisha is like a wedding photographer or commercial fashion photographer, or whatever else that might be. If I was a wedding photographer, for example, I would host a session in a city every month of what to consider in terms of styling your wedding so that your wedding photos look the best, hosted by me who shoots weddings all the time. (smacking noise) Ten people come, twenty people come. You know why they're coming? 'Cause they're getting married, (laughter) and they probably need a photographer. So, that's building a barrel. That is putting yourself on the stage. Why wouldn't you do that, right? If I was a fashion photographer, I would probably be, well first and foremost, shooting really really great photos of like, street level fashion and keeping a great medium or a Tumblr blog and making sure people are always, sort of, seeing the work, seeing that work, and then, I'd be building little books and sending them to the agencies that do all the marketing for, you know, Maybelline and Sephora and whatever, right. And then, I'd host, I'd go to Sephora in Chelsea, and I'd say, "Yeah, every month, I host a little like fashion photographer slash fashion marketing meetup, and we all come and hang out, and we talk about, you know, the power of images for capturing consumers attention around fashion, and I'm moderating it, and I've got two other super famous photographers, and now people are coming. Right, so I think if you're not getting the speaking gigs, you have to create them for yourself, and that may sound like a lot of hard work, but it takes a lot of hard work to get up the mountain and that's, I think, what most of us want. So, you're gonna have to work hard. Robin. Peter, if we just gain all of this mather and be using it in our daily life, but it doesn't work, or it does not have a big progress, so it is necessary to find a professional company to done it. To do it, yeah, you know if you're doing all of this, and it's not working, meaning you're not driving revenue, you're not closing deals and all the rest, the first thing I would personally do is wonder whether or not my service mix is right and wonder if my value proposition is right, 'cause I don't think it's that the marketing mechanisms are wrong. It may be that the world doesn't want what you're selling. So, I'd want to look at that. I'd just look at my business model canvas or something and say, like, "Man, I keep trying to sell newspaper advertising. No one wants to buy it, must be the marketing." No, it's like the world has maybe moved on from the thing that you're selling. If it works, but it's not the result you wanted, something like you wanted more than you expected so just for some specific section, I mean, it is necessary to get trained from you know, outside like your company for example. Sure, sure, sure, if you're selling more of a service line than you expected, that's great. If you're selling less than another one, you're like, "Well, how do we enhance that part of our business? We want to be doing more video content production work, but we're getting too much web work." I think it becomes a matter of tuning your sort of public marketing approach. So, the thing you walk into a meeting saying isn't like, "We're an awesome content production company," if you have too much content production. You're going to walk in saying, "I'm an awesome web design and development company." So, tailor it on the fly. I think my company has had, I don't know, 10 different we're the best of this, depending on what we really need to drive at that time. It's like, we're the best social media marketers you could ever hire is when we really need social media marketing work, or it's like we're the best web designers and developers when that's what we wanted, or we're the best video content producers when that's what we wanted, so it's about tailoring the thing that you're accentuating at any given moment in time in order to balance the service line items, but that's, I guess, you'd call that a rich man's problem. It means, you've got enough service lines and enough ability to tailor your marketing, enough people to be thinking about that. I think in the onset, it's all about trying to get in front of people that have problems that you could possibly solve, and that's boil the ocean, build a barrel. Do some surgical prospecting approaches, and you should hopefully do well without having to do any paid marketing.

Class Description

The distance that your small business has to cover to become a thriving enterprise can seem like an unbridgeable gulf at times. You need to land bigger clients to build name recognition and scale up your business model, but they appear to be out of reach.

Entrepreneur Peter Corbett has lived this struggle, and built his business iStrategyLabs into a multimillion dollar brand. Join us for this class, and Peter will teach you how to price, pitch and create a statement of work. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to prospect a client, prepare a tailored pitch, and land meetings.
  • How to estimate the work that needs to be done, and close the deal.
  • How to operate projects, and exit gracefully once they’re completed.

Peter has built his business from the ground up without VC funding. His client work includes projects for brands like GE, Disney, Volkswagen, and Coca-Cola. He mentors fledgling entrepreneurs who have strong ideas and straddle the tipping point between just maintaining and runaway success. You’ll walk away from this class with a step-by-step playbook on how to secure bigger clients, and a toolkit of techniques and ideas to arm you as you move onward and upward! 


Bonnie Aunchman

Peter & Creativelive - I loved, loved this class! I would HIGHLY recommend. The class is extremely informative in content and has great document samples you can use. I will implement Peter's advice and practices immediately! (Loved Peter's teaching style!) Thank you! :)

a Creativelive Student

I had the great privilege of being in the studio audience for this class and had a phenomenal experience. Peter shared not only great insights and experience but templates that I've already started implementing in my own business. His experience and approach towards working with clients really resonated with me and my business partners. I specifically encourage you to find the section and write down word for word what he says when a client says "well, I don't know what our budget is, we want you to tell us". I've already used his approach of responding with "oh, it's a million dollars :-)!" and using that to open the conversation. It get's results and the answers you need to put together an aligned proposal. On being an audience member the staff at CreativeLive was kind, clear with instructions and made sure we always knew what was expected of us. I encourage you to apply for a class and experience it first hand. As a bonus, their office and catering was phenomenal.

Che Pilling

Peter Corbett is a very clever man, I appreciate his honesty and creative thinking. This course is amazing for people who are in a process of setting up different areas of their business. I can also see how it would benefit business owners/managers who want to review their processes. Corbett is a very engaging speaker and his communication is excellent. Fabulous course, A+.