If you think you need experience to get hired for something, think again.
In my early twenties, I was a freelance designer and creative. I spent years designing brochures, flyers, and websites, as well as shooting and editing product photography, promo videos, and so much more. I did much of it under the guise of the Conscious Creative brand, until summer of 2018 when I had the opportunity to help rebuild PubLoft v2 from the ground up.
During my 18 months building PubLoft, I became a bit out of touch with modern freelance problems. Mat handled all the business development and growth, and I sort of forgot how to do sales. I’d never really executed on a proper growth/outbound sales process, but in the past I’d managed to figure it out well enough. This time, I didn’t have to do any of it. Mat loved it, and was great at it.
This layer of removal became more apparent when we started coaching GigLoft students. It was difficult for me to write sales curriculum, and to coach our students on how to run an effective prospecting campaign. Then, when Mat decided to leave, I realized it was an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the nuances of true freelance: the soloist’s journey.
No business partner, no outsourcing. Just good ol’ fashioned me-doing-everything-myself.
At that point, I’d just taken an interest in growth marketing thanks to DemandCurve.com, and decided to dive in 100% since it’s perhaps the most valuable service any startup can receive—when done right—and since I’ve always been a scientist at heart. It just felt right. (Growth marketing is essentially the science of maximizing product-market fit.)
I took GigLoft’s own curriculum to heart, cracked my knuckles, and got to work prospecting startups on Crunchbase.
My freelance sales process
The cold prospecting
I found hundreds of active, recently funded startups, and I started picking out the ones I thought were doing particularly interesting things. I sent dozens of cold emails—without automation (though I did use a Superhuman snippet). 🙊
I complimented the founders on what they’d done well so far, and pointed out advice I’d learned they should be doing as soon as possible—simple things like setting up tracking tags/pixels and recording custom conversions for more effective growth experiments later on.
I got lots of “not yet” and “no thanks, for now” responses and took them all in stride. I got a couple like “we’re pretty interested, just give us a month” and that gave me hope.
My coaching calls with GigLoft students started becoming much more actionable, realistic, and relevant to what really moves the needle in building a freelance career.
One way we teach our students to look for freelance opportunities is through job boards and career listings. Many times, companies—especially startups—are looking for a type of role that kind of fits what you do. Sometimes, those companies are open to working with a confident, reliable freelancer instead. 😁
I’d known about Crash for a while, first through my good friend Nisreen who’s always on the bleeding edge of random, cool new stuff. 😋 I’d had a few excellent conversations with then-Director of Marketing Mitchell Earl about how they and GigLoft could partner up. Both companies shared a singularly important belief, which they’d expressed beautifully in the following words:
You can be your own credential. We can all be our own credential.
No resumes, no portfolio, no experience, no problem. Make it happen (with the right process, which Crash teaches).
Naturally, seeing that Crash was hiring for the very position I wanted to be in, I did a little joy-jig in my kitchen and got to work on my pitch.
Until then, the only experience I had with growth marketing was a couple short-lived, low-budget growth experiments on Google Ads and Facebook. But I had learned a lot, and I was smart enough to document my process from the get-go—a crucial step for any freelancer serious about doing better work. So, I planned to pitch CEO Isaac Morehouse by simply running through my discovery checklist, which was having great results with my cold prospects. I reached out, we set a time, and 3 days later couldn’t have come soon enough.
Of course, I had a terrible interview. Terrible because it was an interview—in which Isaac asked me a bunch of questions, and I didn’t run through my process at all. I’d acted like a classic job seeker. Proving you can answer questions to some degree is a piss-poor way to convince someone of what you can do.
We must instead pitch ourselves. Pitching really is what it feels like, when you’re not a known, recommended, sought-after industry professional. (That comes later.) 😊
I actually had to request a second chance to prove myself. Isaac graciously accepted, and I came much more prepared. I created a Crash pitch (in a tank top 🙈), ran through my growth client discovery checklist, and sold him on doing a one-month trial—which I highly recommend for anyone starting off in a new field.
Trial projects are a fantastic way for both candidates/freelancers and businesses to “try each other on” and
It limited Crash’s risk, and gave me the chance to build rapport with the team, get firsthand experience collaborating with product engineers, and prove that I’m a generally enjoyable guy to work with.
I jived well with the Crash team.
Just one week into our freelance contract, CEO Isaac Morehouse offered to fly me out to Colorado Springs for the 6-person team’s in-person vision party—a three-day crash course, you could say. 😉 We jammed hard on product vision, customer success, and strategy moving forward.
We also had a delicious dinner at Dave’s one night and hiked through the Garden of the Gods a different day. Overall, it was a pleasure to work & play with the Crash team.
Not only did this experience help me build rapport with the whole team, it also left me convinced that they are people who care about the problem they’re solving, the people they solve it with, and the results their users get.
It even got me a full-time job—something I didn’t ever think I’d have again. 😱
The moral of the story
Life decks lemons at us all the time.
Every now and then, life also tosses us a hand up. We have to be prepared for it, and we have to work for it. (This is the basis for Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.)
I fucking worked for Crash—as a newly reincarnated freelancer (less than two weeks of prospecting and practically zero experience), I earned Crash.co as my first growth marketing freelance client. You can too, with the same process.
Originally published Dec 2, 2019 in the Post-Grad Survival Guide