Why YOUR Freelance Jobs are Getting Outsourced to Someone Who’ll Do It Cheaper

The answer: You’re not branding yourself effectively. If you were, your potential clients would never hire another developer just because they’re cheaper.

As business guru, Tom Peters, puts it:

“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Of course, the big question is… how do you brand yourself effectively and fix your “outsourcing problem”?

You need to start with what it is you’re actually doing when marketing yourself as a freelancer in order to get hired. There’s a few fundamental assumptions:

  • People don’t hire freelancers they don’t trust
  • Gaining someone’s trust rarely happens because of a sales letter
  • Left with a lack of good options people always choose the lowest price (least risk)

Every single one of my clients hired me with some sort of “pre-experience” of my work. I’ve never had a single client simply come to my site, view my sales page, and hire me.

Maybe, that’s just me… but I know a lot of freelancers in a number of different industries and that kind of thing is pretty rare. You’re not going to build your freelance business based solely on a good sales letter.

So, what do you do then?

You find ways to get potential clients to trust before they hire you. Sounds impossible but there are ways you can build trust in small increments in order to make a client feel more comfortable when they take that big leap of faith and hire you for a project.

Here’s are the three most important ways I’ve done that in my business:

  1. Relationships. Most of my clients came to me as a result of a recommendation of a previous client or colleague. Word of mouth from your existing clients is your most powerful asset as a freelancer.
  2. Portfolio. I also get clients based on previous work I’ve done. They see a site I’ve built and ask me to build them something similar. Or, they say, “Well if so-and-so trust you to build their site, then I do to”. Your portfolio is your second most powerful asset as a freelancer.
  3. Content. Many online business owners build their sites themselves. Help them do that with an article or a video and you gain a bit of their trust. Content is the least powerful of the three… but the one you can start doing right now without any portfolio or existing clients. If you’re just starting out, you should be cranking out tons of content.

NOTE: I probably don’t do a good enough job of emphasizing this above so just in case… I can’t overstate how important creating quality content is! It’s the single best way to create a lot of “loose associations” that one day could turn into paying clients. It’s also one of the best ways to position yourself in your target market. And, the fastest way to get clients if you’re just starting. Absolutely critical!

The result of how well you do the above is your brand. It’s what others think and more importantly feel when they think of you. As a freelancer your brand is your reputation. The two are inseparable.

  • If you’re just starting out and have no brand people with think, “Who?” and feel nothing.
  • If you have a bad reputation people with think, “Ugh. Not THAT guy!” and feel anger or distrust.
  • If you have a good reputation people will think, “I love that guy!” and feel trust and appreciation.

Clearly, you’re after the third one.

Of course, in today’s social-media drive online world… all of the above becomes that much more important. The character, Zoe Barnes from the TV show, House of Cards, says it best:

“Remember, these days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand.”

Whatever your reputation (your brand) is… in today’s world, it’s magnified. Which makes branding yourself correctly all the more important.

And when you do brand yourself correctly, your potential clients will consider you the only true solution to their problem and they’d never consider hiring anybody else. If you’re having an “outsourcing problem” it’s because you’ve failed to effectively market yourself.

Question: How have you dealt with potential clients outsourcing to someone cheaper?

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. milizza

    I’ve found your article to be quite informative and it really made me think of something I’ve been dealing with.

    I don’t know much about marketing and I’m not so new in freelance translation business. Sometimes I get projects, sometimes I don’t. But what strikes me is that I don’t see any “pattern” that would explain me why I didn’t win some projects, except seeing other bidders bidding (usually) way lower than me (way lower than any translation standard rate actually).

    In other situations (non-bidding) I win projects fairly easy. I cannot but think that sometimes the price is a key factor in client’s decision making. And if I’m wrong, I’d really like to know what’s the deal and what I could learn to make it better. 🙂

    English is not my native language so pardon for any mistakes.

    Kind regards,
    Milica @ Translation Experience

    1. John Morris

      Well, I can only speak to my own experience and I don’t even get into the bidding game. I’m on Elance but I haven’t bid on a random project is almost a year. What happens for me is a client or former client of mind recommends me to someone, someone sees something I built on another site, or they have been following my blog or YouTube for awhile and they contact me via email. I then have them create an invite-only project in Elance and invite only me.

      So, I’m competing with no one and already have the job. That’s where you want to get.

      If you play the bidding game on these sites the results will always be unpredictable because you don’t know what the true motivations of each potential client are. Some understand value… some are only concerned with price. Some look at certain things when assessing you and some look at other different things.

      Ultimately, you want to get in a position where clients are coming to you not the other way around… and you do that using the 3 things I talked about… relationships, portfolio and content. And you need to really put yourself out there and give as much free value as you can.

      Eventually, it’ll come back to you.

      1. milizza

        Hi John,

        Me neither actually, but I see now what you meant, especially when you mentioned clients comming to you and not vice versa. Thank you for the valuable info.

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