We all know the feeling. You’re not winning the jobs you're applying to. You’ve sent hundreds of proposals, spent hundreds of dollars on Connects and you’re not winning any new business. Instead of spending more on outside ventures such as cold emails, look inward and optimize your new business approach.
I’m a paid search and social buyer. When a campaign underperforms, I have countless options to improve performance. These include removing lower-performing creative, AB testing new audiences, images, placements, ad copy, and adjusting spending between ad sets– the list is endless. For new business, I look inward and apply the same methodology.
Insight #1: If campaigns are underperforming, is the campaign set up incorrectly?
As mentioned earlier, creative and ad copy are key factors in paid social. Take a look at your profile. Look closely at your intro video and profile copy. Is it current? Does it need to mention new skill sets, such as AI? Have you celebrated your latest wins or accomplishments? Do you need to follow up on Client testimonials to make a more robust profile? Did you include amazing examples of your work in your portfolio?
All of these add up to a stronger profile to make potential Clients take notice.
Insight #2: Audiences engage with custom messaging.
It’s a fact: copying and pasting generic profile responses does not work. Is your response to their job a custom proposal unique to their job posting? My general rule is, “Do you understand the client’s problems better than they do.” Does your proposal show that you can do an excellent job? It cannot be “good enough”; if you have doubts about the job, do not apply. It is not worth the risk of a negative review. Stick to the basics, and apply to proposals that impress the Client.
When times are tough, applying for more challenging proposals outside of your purview is tempting. I advise only doing this if you have the certifications and know how to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. Know your limitations and what your skills are capable of.
Insight #3: Solid engagement on search and social campaigns leads to projects.
Another approach is betting on small wins and low-risk, low-reward projects. This means sending proposals on short-term wins and quick jobs that can help boost your profile. When I started on Upwork two years ago, once I began to bet on the smaller jobs, helping small businesses who needed assistance, it led me to outstanding testimonials and five-star reviews. Soon, the larger proposal did come.
Insight #4: Retargeting builds positive frequency & and works with target audiences.
It's not fun being rejected. Three Upwork Clients have circled back to me after losing them in the first round of interviews. After their first choice underperformed, they immediately hired me. Not all losses are final—ever. Put your best foot forward, be professional, and end the process nicely. If you felt genuine chemistry and match but did not win the job, check in with them. I would take it further and send them an article, platform update, or your latest case study. This could lead to a referral down the road. Pro tip: Read the Client and ensure they welcome positive updates or a check-in.
Insight #5: Certified perform better than non-certified.
Meta Blueprint certification is a big commitment for a paid social buyer. It takes time to study, and the test is extremely difficult. However, when I compare non-certified buyers vs. certified, there is no better question—certified. Do you need to update your industry credentials? Do you need additional ones? Credentials are your weapon against your competition. Combined with experience, these highlight who is the expert in the room. In a group setting, when all stakeholders debate their approach, the person with the right platform certification is the expert. Show off your dedication to your skillset. This will pay off.
Insight #6: Map out the user journey and identify obstacles the path of conversion.
I do this with all Clients, and it's how I approach the proposal process. Create a user journey workflow that maps out your profile through the end of the process. Keep a list of where you lost the client or where you were declined. If there’s a pattern, you have a roadblock in your user journey.
Lastly, when new business is slow, you may need a simple adjustment or an entire reboot of your sales process. You must be honest with yourself, ensuring your skill set, profile, and proposals are all in sync. Confirm that each step is positioning you for success. Then remove any blockers in your sales approach.
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