When debating the best methods to get clients, most people are primarily concerned with Competition. Less = better… end of story, right?

But there’s another important lens that’s rarely (if ever) discussed: Awareness. And taking it into account may change how you decide to find clients.

To explain, we’ll evaluate freelancing methods through a framework that most copywriters should recognize: ✨ The 5 Stages of Customer Awareness

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz coined these 5 Stages in his 1966 book Breakthrough Advertising.

Here’s a 60-second crash course with examples (I’ll use copywriting for the scenarios):

The 5 Stages of Client Awareness

When you pitch prospects, they’ll all fall under one of the following 5 levels:

1. Unaware

The prospect isn’t aware of any need/desire.

Example: A client is happily working on their company. Everything seems fine to them.

2. Problem Aware

The prospect feels a need, but they don’t understand it enough to know what to do.

Example: A client feels like they should be getting more sales than they currently are… but they’re not sure what exactly to fix.

3. Solution Aware

The prospect knows (or would immediately recognize) that they want what your service does, but they don’t know that it exists.

Example: A client knows their website probably needs “better words” (or would be open to the suggestion)… but they’ve never heard of a “copywriter”.

4. Product Service Aware

The prospect knows of your service, but doesn’t yet want it. They either aren’t convinced of the details, aren’t convinced of how well you do it, or aren’t convinced that this is something they really need.

Example: A client knows you’re a copywriter and understands what you do… but either they’re not sold on your specific pitch to rewrite their sales page, or they aren’t sure that you’re skilled enough to do it to their standards.

5. Most Aware

The prospect knows your product/service, understands it, and know that they want it. They just haven’t gotten around to buying it yet.

Example: A client has seen your portfolio, likes your samples, and thinks your rate is reasonable… all that’s left is for them to actually pull the trigger.

Evaluating freelancing methods by Client Awareness

Ok, now let’s go over a few specific methods for getting clients, following along this same copywriter example:

Cold Email Pitches (Unaware)

Technically, a company that you cold pitch can be in any one of the 5 stages. There is a non-zero chance that someone replies to your email saying “Perfect timing! I was JUST thinking about hiring a _______!!”

…but let’s be real 😂 At the very least, you can’t rely on that!

A more common scenario is that your prospect is Unaware. So through some combination of your initial cold email, follow up messages, phone calls, etc. you have to convince them that:

  1. The problem is they’re losing potential sales (move past Unaware)
  2. The solution is to improve their sales page (move past Problem Aware)
  3. The service they need is sales page copywriting (move past Solution Aware)
  4. The sales page copywriter they should hire is you (move past Service Aware)
  5. Now is the time to get started (move past Most Aware)

This, obviously, is waaay more difficult than pitching a prospect at a later stage.

Networking at Conferences (Problem Aware)

If you go to a conference for business owners, then hopefully you’ll meet lots of business owners who are, at the very least, aware that they need to improve their marketing. This removes at least one qualifying step, but you still have to push prospects through 4 more stages.

Being active in Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc. (Solution Aware)

I’ve seen some people recommend staking out these sites. The strategy is: Wait for someone to make a post asking for advice on something, then swoop in and pitch your services. These prospects are aware enough to know what to ask and where to ask it. But of course, they may or may not be open to hiring someone.

Upwork & other online freelancing platforms (Product Aware)

If a client is aware enough that they go to one of these freelancing sites, make and verify a client account, add their payment information, write and post a job description, and then start reading the incoming proposals… then the only thing you need to convince them of is that you’re the best one for the job. All the usual pre-requisites have already been cleared!

Referrals, Repeat clients, Passive project offers (Most Aware)

Usually the only time you’ll get these prospects are from strong referrals or repeat work opportunities from existing clients. But another way to get clients without having to pitch is by getting Upwork invites. This “Most Aware” client found my Upwork profile on his own, and I immediately made thousands of dollars off this project:

Beyond choosing a method…

The 5 Stages of Awareness are also super important to keep in mind as you put together marketing materials like an Upwork profile, a website, your portfolio, email pitches, etc.

But that’s something for a later post — stay tuned!