In the first of our freelancer/solopreneur profiles series, we talked to Darin Hartley, an L&D Consultant and Content Marketer, about how he uses LinkedIn, doing your homework before pitching, and how he got his former competition to hire him.
Name: Darin Hartley
Occupation: Learning & Development Consultant, Content Marketer
Location: Poulsbo, WA
Entity: LLC (The Janus Experience)
Typical clients: Suppliers of L&D solutions and/or content (eLearning, etc.). I have also worked with social activism groups and executive recruiters seeking technology selection support and content marketing.
I understand that LinkedIn is an important sales & marketing channel for you. How and why do you use it? Can you share an example of a client you've gotten via LinkedIn?
I was an early adopter of LinkedIn and have found it to be a great place to support your professional goals. Looking for a job? LinkedIn has a “jobs” section, and your peers are often sharing opportunities too. Need research on a prospect or client? Almost anybody you want or need to know now is on LinkedIn, and it is a great way to have a more informed conversation with nearly anyone. Want to share your knowledge or interact with smart people? Again, LinkedIn is a great place to be.
LinkedIn is my best overall channel to get new work and build my reputation. I spend about 30-60 minutes on it every day participating in groups, sharing and commenting on posts, and making new connections. You have to feed your network - you can't just ask and take. Recently, a guy with a million followers reached out to me to work with his sales team. I'm not sure exactly how he found me, but it was through LinkedIn, probably a keyword search.
However, my experience with ProFinder has not been great. It seems to source only local projects, and I have only seen about four come my way that were relevant. I have only gotten one actual response from my submissions, and I believe that some of the people trying to “find pros” are actually looking for pricing information or pro-bono consulting.
I enjoy meeting people face-to-face, and LinkedIn often is my catalyst for those meetings.
When we first chatted, you shared a wonderful example about giving away free advice to land a new client. Can you share a little more about what you did, and the sales cycle for this client?
Through a mutual friend, I had heard that someone I knew and occasionally competed with in the past had taken on a new leadership role with a professional services L&D company. I figured he'd want to make an impact, so I reached out to set up a meeting. After catching up and sharing what each of us was currently doing, I learned that marketing was one of his domains of responsibility. I told him about my freelance content marketing experiences with other companies, and offered to look at their current website and make some recommendations.
I spent about 90 minutes researching their site and social media, then wrote up an email. I gave a realistic assessment of the positive aspects, as well as areas that needed improvement. For every finding, I listed actionable things I could do to support them. This led to a discussion with several of his peers, a proposal, and SOW, all which happened within two weeks. Since that initial SOW, they have continued to ask me to do more. Recently, they asked me to help to develop and implement their 2018 marketing plan.
I have sold professional services for almost twenty years. Some prospects or clients simply don’t know what they don’t know. If you can help them see this and lead them through viable and high-value solutions, you can win the work. And, making appropriate investments of your time in the beginning can pay off with huge dividends.
What motivated you to take the leap into freelancing?
I used to commute ~3 hours a day round trip via car, bus, ferry, and foot more than twelve years into Seattle. In the fall and winter, I was making the “dark to dark” commute, meaning it was dark when I left my house and dark when I got home.
I am a trooper, but eventually I sensed I was getting burned out. I figured that as a freelancer, I’d be able to forgo the long commute and focus on the types of projects I was passionate about.
What has been the best part about freelancing? What's been the most challenging?
I have been freelancing for 19 months now, and I have a registered LLC. I've been in the training and development world for over 25 years, and I also started writing and doing content marketing as part of that. The biggest obvious change has been the amount of time closer to my family and less daily stress.
The biggest challenges include the continuous need to find the “next client.” I always want to have multiple clients, so I have less financial risk should one client or project unexpectedly go away. Chasing payment for invoices is also challenging, but it all eventually works out. My motivation during difficult times comes from what I learn from each of my projects.
What song do you have completely memorized, start to finish?
There are many, but one of my all-time favorites, is “Margaritaville,” by Jimmy Buffett.
How do you use LinkedIn? Have you conducted a free "audit" as a part of your sales strategy? Leave us a comment below!
Through our Profiles series, we are looking to share successes, failures, humor, tips, and strategies with the Peerkat community. Got a good story that others can learn from, or a nomination for someone we should interview? Contact us to let us know!