SPF 004: How to Attract Direct Clients | Marv de Leon

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Attracting direct clients can be a bit tricky. Good thing, Marv de Leon shared his expertise in freelancing and some tips on how to attract direct clients. Discover Marv de Leon’s secrets in this FB Live interview and learn how to attract direct clients too, without using any freelancing platforms.

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Notable Quotes:

  • From a monetary standpoint, you have to have a treasure chest before you jump into freelancing. Kasi when you go to freelancing there may be a time that you won’t get that first client immediately. Wala ka dapat utang. You have to have the emergency fund na sabi nila six months, pero siguro gawin mo nang one year, two years.
  • You have to prepare yourself na you’re leaving the comfort of a monthly salary. There will be frustrations, you will be doubting yourself. Para hindi ka ma-down, dapat prepared ka. You just take it in stride and just continue searching and applying for gigs. Dapat you’re prepared financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically for that.
  • I think yung dream ko was to retire early. I wanted to retire at 40. To do that, I didn’t know. But to dream, at least dream big, tapos you think about the steps along the way. And I was surprised, after ko na lang na-realized na when I resigned, when I retired, I turned 40.
  • The AHA moment is that people will really pay high, if you’re helping them solve a big problem. That’s the abundance mindset. There are clients who have the funds – who are willing to pay high.
  • Pero my best client was myself and it took me nga three years of building my brand, Marv de Leon, Freelance Blend, producing free content, producing workshops, producing meet-ups, to get to that point. Kasi nga if yung client, wala siyang nakitang website, wala siyang nakitang podcast, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to charge that, or maybe hindi nya ko nakita totally.
  • I charge it based on what I want. So wala talagang math into it. It’s the rate that I think I can charge na premium clients will be able to pay. That’s my strategy when it comes to rates.
  • Understand the problem and make them realize that you are the solution to that problem. Let them like you muna, let them understand the value that you will you will give to him or her.
  • Outside of the online world, it’s really connections – building your network and not burning your bridges.
  • Anyone has skills but not everyone can bring value. Your skills can solve their problem, but maraming tao would have the same skill set but what sets you apart is the value.
  • Be more active in finding, being more on the offensive end, kumbaga, connecting with them through LinkedIn, Facebook but not pushing, just building a relationship first.
  • It takes experimentation, and if you found one client acquisition process that works, then double down on that, and stop doing yung mga hindi nag wo-work. It’s a simple as that.
  • When I found that right client I’m happy to work with her, to meet with her every time and I really want her business to succeed because her success is also my success. Pero if your client is becoming successful and you are not, and you’re not happy then maybe nga it’s not the right client, it’s not the right job.
  • You’re not an employee anymore you’re an entrepreneur as a freelancer, so dapat win-win. Trust ka nila, and you also trust them. If you don’t trust them you don’t have the right client.

Marv De Leon’s Journey to Freelancing

  • Worked in the corporate world for 18 years, in the financial services industry. Got bored doing the same things every day.
  • Turned to books and read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” in his late 20s. Applying what he learned, he was able to create multiple income streams: rental property, preschool business, freelanceblend.com, and freelancing.
  • Resigned his job in 2015, got his first freelancing gig (setting-up podcast).
  • Now, he’s an experienced freelancer, a podcast producer, and a workshop speaker to freelancers and insurance agents. He’s the man behind freelanceblend.com and marvdeleon.com.

Q&A Highlights

How you got started? Why you got into freelancing?

I’ll give a bit of a background on yung talagang where I started.

Right after graduation, I worked for a foreign bank and stayed in that company for 11 years. I was in the corporate world for 18 years, in the financial services industry. For 18 long years, I got bored doing the same things every day, although exciting din yung work, because I was in sales. When I get home, I read books.

The first business book that I read was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and that’s when I realized na I won’t reach my dreams being an employee forever. That opened my eyes and I realized that I needed to create multiple streams of income, kasi kung mawala yung corporate job ko, I’m finished. That book taught me to create additional income streams and one of those income streams is rental properties. In about two years I was able to find that property and have it rented. And then umisip pa ako nang other ways to earn. Nakaisip ako ng business maybe franchise—Generica (Pharmacy). It was very expensive. We applied pero we got declined. Then, I discovered podcasts and online businesses.

The first podcast, business podcast I listened to is “Smart Passive Income,” by Pat Flynn. That’s how I discovered online businesses and even freelancing. After listening to the podcast, naisip ko “Why don’t I create my own podcast—a podcast for freelancers?” So, I attended this event for freelancer, yung Freelance Camp – that was 2014. Na-realized ko na marami palang freelancers na successful, and I wanted to learn from them and I wanted to do an online business around that idea. That’s why I created podcasts as my main channel and that’s how I discovered the world of freelancing. I was able to guest successful freelancers and I was able to learn from them. Fast forward to 2015, I decided to resign from my job so I can work for the preschool business (another income stream), work as a freelancer, and focus on the business which is Freelance Blend. That time, I was already doing workshops for freelancers and bloggers. After that workshop on personal branding, I was able to get my first client. He hired me to set up his podcast, and so yun yung first freelancing gig ko. From there, I was able to get local clients, and now, I was able to get my first officially long term na online client.

Why did it take six years from the time you had your AHA moment to quit your job? Why didn’t you just stop everything and then say, “I want to do this 100%?”

Siguro fear, since I was starting a family back then. When I bought that first property, I was about to get married that year. I got married in 2006, and we had our son on the same year, and our daughter in 2007. I want to make sure that I am able to support my family. I was already in management at that time and one of our benefits working for that company is we got 100% coverage for medical bills. That’s why a lot of people who work for that company don’t leave – because of that security blanket.

At the same time, I was also learning and applying. You can’t really buy a property right after reading the book. So, it took some research, visiting the properties working with a bank, working with the real estate company, before you close the deal. Then after, finding a renter. It’s another ball game, so it takes time. But for myself, it’s an achievement na I was able to apply something that I learned from a book and it really works. Because most people will just stop at learning.

But to answer your question, it was really the fear of leaving that comfort, that safety net in the corporate environment brings you.

When is the point to quit your corporate job and go into freelance? What advice would you give to freelancers who have that dilemma?

From a monetary standpoint, you have to have a treasure chest before you jump into freelancing. Kasi when you go to freelancing there may be a time that you won’t get that first client immediately. Maybe months, even years, so you have to be prepared for that. Wala ka dapat utang. So, I made sure I’m not indebted. You have to have the emergency fund na sabi nila six months, pero siguro gawin mo nang one year, two years.

Another important thing is yung mindset. You have to prepare yourself na you’re leaving the comfort of a monthly salary. There will be frustrations, you will be doubting yourself. When you get rejected sa mga gigs, you will feel down. Para hindi ka ma-down, dapat prepared ka. You just take it in stride and just continue searching and applying for gigs. That’s what I did. The good thing nga, I was doing it while I was working. I was already preparing for my eventual early retirement.

That’s what I really suggest. Dapat you’re prepared financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically for that.

You mentioned earlier that you had the epiphany that you wouldn’t be able to reach your dreams, if you were an employee forever, which is why you look for multiple income streams and freelancing. So, can you let us know like what were those dreams?

I think yung dream ko was to retire early. I wanted to retire at 40. To do that, I didn’t know. But to dream, at least dream big, tapos you think about the steps along the way. And I was surprised, after ko na lang na-realized na when I resigned, when I retired, I turned 40.

You mentioned you got your first client when you were doing workshops for freelancers and bloggers. Since you learned everything on your own, how did you become proficient or an expert to the point that you were able to deliver workshops to these freelancers and bloggers?

I think it’s confidence na I know I’m a beginner. I am just starting, but I’m a few steps ahead of others who totally don’t know anything about what freelancing is about. Yun yung target audience ko, and those are the people who I wanted to help through my workshops.

Tell us about the current client that you have right now in freelancing.

My client right now is a Podcast Production, my role is a podcast producer. She found me through onlinejobs.ph.

I’m not very deliberate in getting clients from Upwork, so what I did is I created profiles in all the market places, and if people will find me there and reach out to me, then it’s good. So, I posted my profile in onlinejobs.ph as a podcast producer. At first nga wala akong specialization, nilagay ko lahat. Pero eventually, I started to focus on podcast productions kasi yun naman yung experience ko. I think my value is being a podcaster myself, my experience hosting a show, and running it for three years with hundred plus episodes.

So, the client saw that profile, and I assume researched me, research the podcast. I also have a profile and yung pinaka-personal page ko, marvdeleon.com. When she reached out to me, talagang warm na, parang she really wanted to work with me. So, we arranged a call and dun din, na-validate ko na I wanted to work with her, kasi parang may level of comfort talking to her, and she, ganun din with me. Also, sa profile ko sa onlinejobs, tinaasan ko yung rate ko dun. So, I knew that she’s willing to pay for that, which is higher compared to what normal podcast editors charge. The fact that she reached out for me, I know that she is capable of paying that rate.

After the strategy call, I was able to get kung anuman yung mga problems niya. Then I created a plan for her. The role was just supposed to be podcast production, but nag-add ako ng additional option for me to help her in her online business, kasi I experienced running my first course last year, and sila, they’re still starting from scratch, and they will be launching their own online program. Kumbaga, I was aiming for the podcast producer role, pero sumubok lang ako. What if she wanted me to help her with her online business? So, I charged a second, third option na higher pa than what I posted in onlinejobs.ph. And when we were going over the proposal I was surprised na she took the higher priced option, which is an AHA moment for me.

What was your realization always the AHA?

That the AHA moment is that people will really pay high, if you’re solving a problem, if you’re helping them solve a big problem. That’s the abundance mindset. There are clients who have the funds – who are willing to pay high. May be in Upwork, there are people who are although small businesses, yun nga baka kuripot sila. They think that Filipinos are low income, they can get away with paying them a low salary. But ang thinking ko, if this business is hiring people also in the US and they are capable of paying them high fees, tapos they pay us below their minimum wage, that’s unfair. Why don’t I charge at least kung ano yung minimum wage nila or a bit higher? So yun yung AHA moment, I can charge pala a high fee.

Now going back to this experience that you had, and are still experiencing, you mentioned that your only experience with parang podcast producing was your own show where you didn’t really do this for clients in the past?

Second na. Kasi yung first client ko after the workshop, podcasting din yon. So, in a way may isa na kong experience. Pero my best client was myself and it took me nga three years of building my brand, Marv de Leon, Freelance Blend, producing free content, producing workshops, producing meet-ups, to get to that point. Kasi nga if yung client, wala siyang nakitang website, wala siyang nakitang podcast, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to charge that, or maybe hindi nya ko nakita totally.

Marv how do you base your rates? Capacity of the client? Or something else? What factors do you consider?

I charge it based on what I want. I researched. Ano ba yung minimum wage sa US? Parang 50 or 80k a month. I was thinking I’m worth more than that. I don’t want to work per hour. So wala talagang math into it. It’s the rate that I think I can charge na premium clients will be able to pay. That’s my strategy when it comes to rates.

You can get that also through the strategy call. Ano ba yung goal niya for the business, how much revenue? Let’s say ang revenue na target niya is a million. If ganun ang revenue niya, they can pay a high rate to you. At the same time malalaman mo rin. Sabihin niya, “I hired this person here in the US for my team.” So, I assumed na may team sya sa US, na she’s paying above minimum wage at the least. So, kaya naisip ko yung minimum wage na strategy. Plus, during the call, I also found out na she invests in high end courses rin, which means she is willing to invest in her business. And yun yung mga parang flags, white flags siguro na “this client is capable of paying for value.” Kung kabaliktaran, during the call napansin mo na kuripot siya, yun naman yung red flag. Baka she’s just shopping around for the lowest rate. Which ayun ang ayoko, I’d rather refer her to another editor if that’s the case kasi yun nga, yung mga kuripot yun pa yung mahirap na client. You will really get a lot from that call with the client, so make sure that you ask the right questions.

How do you tell your client that you would like a higher rate? How do you say it?

You don’t say it. Understand the problem and make them realize that you are the solution to that problem. And dun mo na siya ilalagay sa plan na ibibigay mo right after the strategy call. So, nandun na yung rate.

What I did that I learned from a podcast I listened to, “when you deliver the plan to your client you deliver it through a call.’’ So, wag mo muna papadala. Pero medyo iniba ko yun. Medyo pinadala ko muna, tapos I walk through the plan in a call. Pero after ko pinadala, nakita ko na yung reaction, “Wow Marv this is very comprehensive, so I’m excited to get on a call with you. I think I understand the plan but I have a few questions but yeah just walk me through.” So, in-explain ko yung plan. Tapos parang parating na kami sa rate siya na ng sabi na, “Okay. Marvs let me take over, I think I can take over from here.” Tapos siya na yung nagsabi, ‘’I see your monthly rate. I’d like to take the highest option.” So yun na, parang siya na nagsabi sa kanya na galing. Wala talaga akong minention na, “I will charge you very high.” Wala akong ganon. Let them like you muna, let them understand the value that you will you will give to him or her.

Aside from onlinejobs.ph, what are the other strong factors or strong ways, wherein you were able to get your clients and clients were able to be attracted to you?

I’m trying to apply strategies that I learned from you, from John Pagulayan, and from Valerie de Veza who I interviewed two days ago for the podcast – connecting to clients through social media, LinkedIn.

I’m still learning pa rin naman, but for local clients who found me naman, I focus on teaching social media for insurance agents. Yun yung niche ko, insurance companies. It’s really through connections, word-of-mouth din. Connections, kasi nga I worked in the corporate world a few years ago. One of the industries that I handled was insurance industries and mayroon na akong mga kilala dun. So, I just approached them na, “I now do mini workshops for insurance agents, teaching them how to use social media to get leads for their business.” It took years din to form that relationship. So, totally outside of the online world, it’s really connections. Building your network and not burning your bridges. So, may advantages din naman of me working for many years in the corporate world kasi nga I was able to build that network.

Do you think your website was an important deciding factor in you getting these clients that you got?

Yeah, because I started with freelanceblend.com and definitely it’s my brand. It’s what is building yung leads. Like for example, I talk to an insurance company, I directed to freelance blend, dito yung mga workshops ko.

Kasi, I just started my marvdeleon.com workshop last year. I’m not really promoting it, pero I believe yung mga clients ko now, (it’s) for them to see what I do. Like for speaking, meron akong page don for speaking, for workshops. That’s where I direct them. Wala pa kasi yung people contacting me directly from the website, so I don’t really know. But I’m sure it helps, kasi nga I link to that whenever I apply for a gig.

What do you mean when you say put value on the skills you have? Any tips on a newbie on how to put value on their limited skills?

I think magkaiba yung skills sa value. For example, I can just say to the client, “Ito yung skills ko, I will edit your podcast. It will sound very good na you will sound like Noli de Castro after I finish editing your podcast.” Parang it’s just a skill na magaling ka lang mag edit.

If you think about the value that you will bring. Ano ba yong value? Ano ba yong mabibigay mo pa more than the skills that you have?

“I will produce a consistent podcast that will be available in iTunes every week, so that you don’t have to worry about it. You just need to record your audio, send it to me, and I will take care of the rest. At the same time, since you are launching a course, and I have experience from launching my first course last year, I will help you launch your first course and avoid yung mga mistakes that I made so that you launch it in a timely manner. Then you earn immediately from that course and increase your revenue for your business.”

So yun yung value. Anyone has skills but not everyone can bring yung value na namention ko. Just think about how you can twist it. Your skills can solve their problem, but maraming tao would have the same skill set but what sets you apart is the value. I hope I’m able to give it more meaning. Ano ba yong value? What will make them a better person? What will make them earn more revenue? What will make them a better influencer? What will make them more popular? So yun yung isipin niyo. What you know. How can you add to that?

When your next seminar for social media for insurance agents is?

For insurance, my freelancing there is that I’m hired by the insurance companies. So, it’s the insurance company who pays me to speak to their agents. Hindi ito public workshop for insurance agents, it’s a private workshop. I am thinking of doing an online course for insurance agents. That’s in the future pa. So, to answer your question, wala pa. I validated na there’s a market for it so maybe one of these months.

You do so many things. You do the podcast, you’re doing freelancing, you have these side businesses. How do you manage your time?

The good thing with this client nga, this is a part time client. I’m not paid by the hour, I’m paid by the value that I bring to their business. So, as long as I finish what I’m set out to do for that day or for that week, then I’m free to work on freelance blend. Since I’m still new with this client, I’m focusing more on helping them. Siguro, I spend usually a day or two days of the week for that client. Sometimes half a day, sometimes a few hours, sometimes the whole day. So, when I am finished with that client, that’s when I focus on freelance blend. And the good thing with freelance blend, it’s on autopilot in a way na I have somebody who does the editing and the writing for me, so I can just focus on the content.

So, it’s a mix of freelance blend, and that client, and the rest of the day, I’m applying John and Valerie’s teaching – to connect with clients through Facebook groups, through LinkedIn, through Twitter, etc.

If I get hired shall I accept the VA post given that there would be no medical benefits?

I won’t be able to answer that, kasi ikaw yong makakasagot nun. You will be the one inside the call. You’re the one who will be talking to the client, so you will know whether you are a fit for it or not. Siguro ang ma-sa-suggest ko lang talaga is to be very open sa situation mo. Also, prepare yung mga questions na itatanong mo. Make sure na alamin mo muna kung ano yung problem and kaya mo bang i-solve yung problem na yon. If you can, then be very honest and frank with the client, better to do that during the call versus after na nag-sign ka na with them. Make sure na you don’t leave the call na may questions pa. So, you will answer that question for you whether to take that job or not.

What’s the best way to get direct clients for those who don’t have that much experience?

I think it’s either they find you, again building a profile online where people can find you, even maybe kahit sa LinkedIn, and building profiles in the marketplaces. Well hindi na pala direct, but LinkedIn or a website, they contact you to work with you. That’s one thing, but again, it takes times kasi kumbaga you’re fishing, you’re waiting for the fish to bite that bait. So that’s one strategy.

Another is to be more active in finding, being more on the offensive end kumbaga, connecting with them through LinkedIn, Facebook but not pushing, just building a relationship first. Most successful freelancers have a process na they don’t just wait for people to reach out to them. They build relationships first, and then when the time comes, si potential client na yung magsasabi na, “It seems that you know your stuff well, I’d like to work with you.” It’s not quick. It takes time din. It takes maybe weeks or months or even years, that’s why it’s best to start now – to build that profile, to build relationships. Kasi, it will take time before you reap the benefits. If it’s get-rich-quick scheme, then matakot ka. Also, if you have a network of friends and family, then you approach them. Tell them what you’re doing and maybe they give you referrals, but you have to be consistent in doing that. So that’s how you get direct clients.

If you outsource some of your tasks, do you have an in-house of full-time VA for yourself?

For the podcast, as I mentioned earlier I have a team, doing that for me. I have an editor, who is also sort of a VA for me, and also a writer and a social media person who helps with promoting the podcast.

But for my existing client, for now kasi nga, they will be having a launch. So, I’m helping them with that launch, so hindi pa namin sinisimulan yong podcast part. So ngayon totally ako lang, but when we launch the podcast, yun na yung I will outsource the editing part of the podcast, kasi my role is a producer. So ayon din ang sabi niya sakin, “I don’t want you to be editing the podcast, I want you to be the producer.” It means na she really hired me because of my mind, my brain because of the experienced din. She’d rather than somebody else will focus on the nitty-gritty part of editing the podcast.

Do you have a client acquisition process that you follow?

I think I explained that already with a defense and offense part. It takes experimentation and if you found one that works, then double down on that, and stop doing yung mga hindi nag wo-work. It’s a simple as that.

I’ve been with three clients simultaneously for 5, 4, and 2 years na. Any tips para di mawala motivation? I mean they do trust me for the years I’ve been with them, kaso minsan nakakaumay na talaga. Baka na experience nyo na rin yong parang burnout?

It seems that you don’t like what you’re doing right now. To be very honest, baka kaya ka na bu-burnout, kasi you don’t love what you do, and maybe haven’t found the right client. Kasi like for me when I found that right client I’m happy to work with her, to meet with her every time and I really want her business to succeed because her success is also my success. Pero if your client is becoming successful and you are not, and you’re not happy then maybe nga it’s not the right client, it’s not the right job. So, you have to maybe reassess your skill set. Ano ba gusto mo talagang gawin? And go out, and how we explained earlier yung acquisition process how to find client. Search for that right client for you.

Baka merong other openings sa kanyang business that you can help. So, if they trust you and hopefully you trust them too it has to be a two-way thing. So, if you trust them na they will look out for you, na they want to work with you longer, then maybe they can increase your rate na. You can maybe remove one, so that maybe you just have two clients, your best clients that you want to work with na can also either maybe promote you or at the same time increase your rate.

Timplahin mo rin muna, baka mamaya alam mo yon, ayaw naman namin na mawala yung trabaho mo. So, timplahin mo rin we’re just answering this based on the little information that you gave us, but you know more about your situation so timplahin mo. We don’t want you naman to lose your job.

You’re not an employee anymore you’re an entrepreneur as a freelancer, so dapat win-win. Trust ka nila, and you also trust them. If you don’t trust them you don’t have the right client.

How do you convince your spouse to be a good freelancer?

Just like in freelancing it takes time. You really need to discuss it as a couple, as a husband and wife. Wag ka basta basta mag de-decide of course. It has to be with the blessings of your spouse. In any major decision, you have to involve the family, kasi everyone will be affected. It’s no problem if you’re single but if you have a spouse, then kailangan nyo talaga pag usapan.

How to convince? You have to show her the success stories. Let them listen to freelanceblend.com, when I interviewed with Jason Dulay, Althea, John, to let them know na meron talagang kumikita ng malaki as a freelancer, so freelanceblend.com. Instead of Netflix everyday manuod kayo nung live sessions ni Jason, saka freelance blend.

Any final advice that you can convey to the audience right now?

Siguro just first experiment. If you’re already a freelancer, walang one way to do it, there are many ways to do it. Find which client acquisition process works for you whether it’s emailing, whether through Upwork, whether it’s through onlinejobs.ph. Marami, just experiment. If it works, then just continue doing that, and focus on that channel. And also yun nga, what work for me is that I have a website, a blog, a podcast, which made it easier for clients to find me, and in a way it’s social proof that I know what I’m doing and I will be able to help them in as much as I was able to help myself build that online business.

Just to add, I think the term of the day is value. Just to add value to your audience, if they still have questions, just post it sa Facebook Live session na ‘to below. I will answer all of your questions directed to me. I’ll try to answer it, and this is available naman forever di ba? So, I’ll make sure na I’ll turn on the notification. If you read this, watch this session in the future, and you’re watching this recording, then you can still ask your questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. It’s a pleasure to speak in front of your very large audience and I want to add value to your group. It is my way of thanking you, Jason for having me on the show.

11 episodes available. A new episode about every 8 days averaging 62 mins duration .