6 Figure Creative Icon

How One Cold Email Resulted In $60,000 Of Referral Work | With Joana Galvão

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I see a lot of creatives comparing themselves to their successful peers, saying things like:
  • “Oh they have more experience than me, that’s why they can charge higher prices…”
  • “They have a bigger network than me, that’s why they have more clients!”
  • “They niched down, but I don't want to do that because it's not fun”.
While having experience, a network, and a niche are helpful to becoming a successful creative, I want to show you an example of how those things are NOT all required when you're early in your career.
Meet Joana Galvão.
Joana is the owner of the incredibly successful GiF Design Studios. When she launched her freelance design career straight out of college, her calendar was booked solid for 6 months…
Without years and years of experience…
Without a long list of contacts and relationships built up over time…
Without niching down…
Now that we have those excuses you had out of the way, listen in on my conversation with Joana to break down the concepts of lead generation, referrals, and how to thrive as a creative!
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • How Joana launched her brand new freelance career with a calendar full of paid projects
  • How she earned $2k in ten days to pay for an unexpected expense
  • The problems with accepting any request a potential client has
  • How to stand out (and get clients) as a generalist in a “red ocean”
  • How she's turned “word of mouth” into a strategy
  • Asking easy questions to get a response
  • The $60k cold email
  • Forming strategic relationships to grow your network
  • Handling cash flow problems in your business
  • Asking for referrals the right way
  • Ways to keep yourself accountable as a business owner

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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello and welcome to the six Figure Creative Podcast. I am your host, Ryan Hood, and you are in the right place right now if you are creative and you are looking to earn more from your creative genius, which I love that phrase.

[00:00:10] Brian: you wanna do it without selling your soul or compromising your values. If that sounds like you, you're in the right place with this podcast. before the interview even started this entire day started off in like disaster.

[00:00:19] Brian: Like I was prepping for the interview. I was doing my research before I even got into the show. Cause I like to come prepared And as I'm doing my research, I hear my wife just cry out, like She had sliced two of her fingers open while cutting some onions, preparing for a meal right before the interview went live.

[00:00:34] Brian: And she's like crying over the sink and she. Running water over it, it's not stopping bleeding. And we're getting like these sterile gauzes out and trying to wrap two fingers in it, and it's just not stopping. And like she's panicking and I'm like, oh God, I gotta cancel this podcast. we're just like, okay, we gotta put pressure on it.

[00:00:47] Brian: We gotta get it to stop bleeding first, and then we can figure out whether or not like, can we get it to stop bleeding? Do we need to go to the hospital and get stitches on this? I've never had an injury like this and it apparently, and this is, I guess my fault, I don't know, is whoever's fault it.

[00:00:59] Brian: A dull [00:01:00] knife is way more dangerous than a sharp knife. Cause she was like, thank god this wasn't sharper. And I was like, no. Like we had just talked the other night about how when we were cutting it, it's like dull. I need to get a knife sharpener. I was complaining cuz I can't find good knife sharpeners.

[00:01:11] Brian: I'm just gonna get a wet stone or something. Cuz it's like a knife, chef's knife. I don't remember the brand, but it's a really nice, expensive one and it had, dulled out over the years and we need to sharpen it up. And the reason a dull knife is more. Dangerous than a sharp knife is because a dull knife, like when you're cutting onions, a dull knife will just slip off or slide off go into your hand, whereas a sharp knife will just cut straight through without slipping off.

[00:01:31] Brian: So that's exactly what happened. So The good news is, went through like six sets of gauze, a lot of blood, and we wrapped them up and we taped it up and the bleeding stopped. That was the important part. And then I had to go get on an interview . So I'm doing this intro right now.

[00:01:44] Brian: I think my wife's okay. I hear her in the other room on a call. So she's clearly not deceased, which, or passed out, which is really important. But it's not the best way to start off the interview. I think we did great on this, but we'll, we'll see how the interview goes. today's guest speaking of interview, we had a conversation with Joanna Galvao, and she [00:02:00] is an agency owner. She owns gift design studios. And in this conversation we just talked about how she got started with that and some of the, takeaways from this and things that are important for you to, to even want to listen to this episode when you could be doing so many other things and listening to so many other podcasts.

[00:02:12] Brian: This conversation was great because her experience when she started out, she basically started this agency fresh outta. She didn't have a lot of experience. She worked at another agency for like a few months and that was it. She didn't have this long list of contacts in relationships she had built over time.

[00:02:25] Brian: She started like fresh outta college and she was booked up solid six months in advance, straight outta college. So in this conversation we talked about how she managed to do that when so many other people, especially in the design agency world, are struggling to get any claims. We talked about how she stands out despite being a generalist in a very crowded red ocean. And then we talked about one cold email, meaning an email that was sent as a stranger to a stranger that generated over 60,000. so without any more delay and rambling here, here's my conversation with Joanna Galvao.

[00:02:53] Brian: Joanna, thank you so much for coming on the show today and taking the time outta your day. I know you're a different time zone. I know you're a new mom. I know you've got a lot going [00:03:00] on between your agency and your education business. So first of all, I just wanted to say thanks for coming out and sharing in advance sharing what you're gonna share with us today.

[00:03:06] Joana: Oh, it's my pleasure, Brian. Thank you for having

[00:03:08] Brian: First of all, can you just give our listeners a good rundown of what you're doing at gif, not gif, gif Design Studio.

[00:03:14] Joana: Sure. So we've been, Operating since 2014, I think. So eight years now that I've been running this agency. And we help entrepreneurs elevate their brands through brand identity design and conversion obsessed web design. So we're a team of now seven in Porto, Portugal, and that's what we've been doing over.

[00:03:36] Brian: That is a city my wife and I have been wanting to visit. We've never been to Portugal. We've seen photos of that city and it's absolutely gorgeous. So if we get out there, I'm gonna have to reach out and say, Hey, do you wanna hit a cup of coffee with need? Joanna

[00:03:46] Joana: you should, we'll show you around. I think Portuguese in general are great. hosts.

[00:03:51] Brian: I'll take up an offer at some point when we make it up to, Portugal. all right. so your background, just doing my research ahead of time, I always like to do research on my guests. Your background was working at other agencies [00:04:00] before you launched gift studios. Is that right or am I Horrible researcher.

[00:04:03] Joana: No, that is right. But I didn't do it for very long. I think a year actually, I don't, probably didn't even make it a year until I was like no, no, I'm good on my own.

[00:04:10] Brian: we're gonna get into this and we're gonna talk a lot about what you're doing to make this agency a success. But most people that I see that hit the ground running like you seem to have done when you first launched gift design studios, is they have a long stint in an agency where they're building relationships and they're getting experience.

[00:04:24] Brian: Were you doing something beforehand to get all that? Or like, gimme a rundown of what were you doing before that if it was such a short.

[00:04:29] Joana: That's what I was advised But I, I went against the grain, so I, did four years at university in London, studied graphic design, went straight into internships at agencies. I interned at two different agencies, one for three months, one for one month. So not long at all. Then I got my first job, full-time job at an agency where I stayed from September. Until March and then I jumped ship . That was it. I did not gain a lot of experience. I was [00:05:00] not a great designer when I left, to be honest. And I did not build any relationships then,

[00:05:07] Joana: I did not go the typical

[00:05:10] Joana: route.

[00:05:11] Brian: this is refreshing to hear. Cause like a lot of people that come on this show that have agencies, like we had Michael Jana on the show and he had a long stent working at high level before he launches agency and then he hit the ground running with.

[00:05:22] Brian: I think he said he hit his six figures his first year, and then it was only up from there. So I love hearing this, that you were just straight outta college. You worked for a short amount of time. You said, this is not for me. Which I salute that. Like, I'm like, yes, absolutely. I don't wanna work for somebody else myself.

[00:05:35] Brian: I haven't had a real job since 2008, I assumed you went like freelancing after that and not just straight into the agency world, or maybe I'm assuming wrong. I like to assume the wrong things on this.

[00:05:42] Joana: I think I had dabbled in freelancing while I was still at uni, but it was like for friends of family, you know. but when I started my full-time job, that's what I thought I wanted, I had no intentions of going on my own. I was all in on the job, but I have the sort of [00:06:00] personality, like I'm a quick.

[00:06:01] Joana: So to give you an idea, before that I thought I was gonna be a writer. or like even during university, I had multiple, part-time jobs, one of them being a Zumba teacher, which is super random . I don't stick with the same thing for a long time.

[00:06:16] Joana: I'm actually surprised that I have the agency for as long as I have. I think my husband, plays a big part in that.

[00:06:22] Brian: to me that's again refreshing because I have something called entrepreneurial adhd, , or real ADHD as well. And so I get the shiny object syndrome and my wife is similar way where she. Dabble in a lot of things, and she feels like she changes her mind a bunch. But then like my wife, like me, and now like you, Joanna, it's You found the thing that. I guess you would call, you're calling, or at least you're calling for a while and you double down on that thing. So like for anyone listening right now who feels like they never see something to the end of it, and you always either give up or move on or get distracted by something else, sometimes that's a superpower because you get to try a bunch of stuff out before you find the thing that actually is for you.

[00:06:54] Brian: So you left the agency world and you started freelancing after that. do you remember like the first dollar he [00:07:00] got paid from a stranger that wasn't a friend, wasn't a family? What was it for?

[00:07:03] Joana: Yes. And I wanna circle back to getting distracted in the A D H D, cuz I think there's so much more to explore in that conversation. So the first dollar I got paid, that wasn't from a friend, it was because I had a long commute to my office, right? I had 90 minutes. Each way that gives me a lot of alone thinking time, right?

[00:07:21] Joana: So I found podcasts, I started listening to a bunch of them, and I came across Marie Forlio, which some of your listeners might know who she is. She is an online business coach. you could say. I mean, She's one of the biggest out there and she had this program called B School, which was $2,000 to join.

[00:07:39] Joana: We've seen a lot of them in the industry, but to me it was brand new. I had never heard of online courses. I had never thought of running my own business, but through her sharing her students success stories, I was suddenly open to a different reality. And what attracted me to running my own business was that I could [00:08:00] then travel more, being more in control of my time and the projects that I chose.

[00:08:04] Joana: Because to be honest, I was really happy at my job. I was happy with how much I was earning. I was happy in London. I loved my boss and my colleagues. It was a really great job, but I suddenly was shown that life could be so much bigger. There could be. many more, opportunities to play with.

[00:08:19] Joana: And so after I, followed her launch for B School. I didn't realize it was a, a launch. And in one of the videos she asked like, finish this sentence. Wouldn't it be great if. and I wrote in the comments on YouTube, wouldn't it be great if I magically started to get some freelance clients so I can make enough to join B School in the space of 10 days?

[00:08:42] Joana: So that was two grand in 10 days. I was like you asked me to finish this sentence, so I'm gonna put it out there to the world, not thinking anything of it. A couple of hours later, someone saw that comment. Actually it wasn't on YouTube. The comment was left on her website where you have Gravitt avatar, which I think you can link your name to a [00:09:00] website.

[00:09:00] Joana: And so they clicked on my website, which was a university portfolio. It wasn't even a freelance Hire me website, and she emailed me and she's like, look, I don't have $2,000 for a logo, but I have a budget of 800. Can you do my brand? I was like, wow, I'm so glad you told me the price, because had you asked me, I would've told you like a hundred dollars, maybe 50 for a logo, right?

[00:09:25] Joana: Because I hadn't, began to do research. So I said oh yeah, of course. Yeah, we can make that happen. I played at Kohl's like, that's a little less than normally charge, but I can make it. Thank you, for helping me get into B School and she was already in the program, in the Facebook community, so as soon as I started sending her some mockups, she was like, oh, I love this.

[00:09:46] Joana: I'm gonna spread the word to everybody in the group so that you get more clients and you manage to get

[00:09:51] Joana: in. And the community is really big. I think there were 20,000 entrepreneurs in that Facebook group, and so that's where I got my. , [00:10:00] I think over the course of the year 100 clients came from that group.

[00:10:04] Joana: But I managed to get the $2,000 and 10 days to join B School

[00:10:08] Brian: is this your client acquisition Secret, which is pay $2,000, get into a community and then farm that community for clients. Not that that was what you were doing. It was like your inadvertent strategy,

[00:10:18] Joana: Yeah, that was what I was doing without knowing that I was doing that. But I would even say like some communities you don't need to pay for and you could just search for keywords like graphic design or audio production or whatever you do, and see who's already looking for recommendations in the community and then DM that person in your set.

[00:10:38] Joana: A lot of my students use that strategy to get clients.

[00:10:41] Brian: That's great. Okay, so you did that and you got your first under. Amazing. I assumed you joined B School, which probably helped on the entrepreneurial side, especially you being like a college student or fresh outta college. I think you were still in college at the

[00:10:52] Brian: time

[00:10:52] Joana: Fresh out of,

[00:10:53] Brian: And then you started freelancing after the agency. And I'm trying to get a, an idea of like, how long did you lance before you went the [00:11:00] agency?

[00:11:00] Joana: Oh, not long, I was just going with a flow not thinking of the long-term consequences of my decisions .

[00:11:08] Joana: It was like February that I joined B School. I think may, I handed in my notice at work and by that time I was already fully booked months in advance.

[00:11:19] Joana: And it was one of my clients who was like, oh, well if you're fully booked, why don't you start hiring? And I think my husband was boyfriend at the time, he was like well, if we were gonna start hiring, why not in Portugal? And then we can move back home. it all seemed so. oh yeah, sure, I'll hire someone. Oh yeah, sure, let's move to Portugal. That sounds like a fun adventure. Not thinking that it would impact the rest of my life. Not thinking that, oh, be careful cuz you're probably choosing a forever thing now.

[00:11:46] Joana: Because as we get older and settle down and hire people and, and get an office, it's harder to move countries and relocate your whole company or your family. Not that I have any intention to, we're very happy here, but I didn't realize I was making such, [00:12:00] life-changing decisions at the

[00:12:01] Joana: time,

[00:12:01] Brian: I think that's the power of being a quickstart. I'm like the opposite of whatever kickstart is. I think way too much about things and I'm a perfectionist and I plan 58 steps ahead before I do step one. and I'm thinking about the tenure impact of my life So the great thing about the quick start is you can make these decisions without thinking about, Hey, a decade later I'm still gonna be doing this and I'm gonna have a team that depends on me and my agency to support their entire lives and families. If you would've known that ahead of time, you may not have made such quick decisions.

[00:12:27] Brian: And it's good that you didn't know that stuff ahead of time, because when you're fresh outta college, you shouldn't be considering those things in the making decisions. Or maybe you should, I don't know. But I, I love that story. So you, went pretty quickly into the agency with your boyfriend now, husband.

[00:12:41] Brian: And I'm looking at your site and I, I wouldn't say this is a debated topic in our community of niche services versus broad services. And you were very much in the broad services category. And I'm gonna read off all the services I found on your website through various pages

[00:12:54] Joana: Oh no, . we're a week out of launching our new website. I'm like, I [00:13:00] should have sent you the new one cuz we have honed it down.

[00:13:03] Brian: I still wanna know your thoughts on this. So you do mobile apps, branding, web design, editorial design, web development, e-course design, responsive design, mobile apps, sells page design, packaging, and motion design. Are all the things that I found listed on your site.

[00:13:14] Brian: Did you start this broad? Did you start in a very narrow band of services and slowly expand out What was your, process for acquiring all these different services and then maybe you're narrowing back down. I'm just, curious where your thought is for service focus versus broad.

[00:13:28] Joana: So it was actually the opposite. like many freelancers, I was just saying yes to whatever was coming my way as a good quick starter, I was saying yes and then figuring it out later. It would go something like, client needs a logo. I say, yes, now client needs a website. I say yes and be like, I don't know how to develop, let me , ask my old agency colleagues.

[00:13:49] Joana: And they were like, yeah, sure. I charge an arm and a leg. And I had already quoted the client, so I was like, okay, no need to rethink this. And then my husband's I can teach myself WordPress, And so [00:14:00] if a client would come in and say like, I want a mobile app, I'm like, yeah.

[00:14:03] Joana: I'll figure it out, and that's why , that old version of our website has so many services listed. But that very quickly became a headache and, it might be for some people that you are the one stop shop for everything because it is really fun to follow a big project from beginning to the end and be involved in all aspects.

[00:14:22] Joana: also a great way to guarantee that the client Sustains the level of quality that you pictured them to have for their brand and as creatives we tend to be multi-passionate and so it's really fun to be involved in so many different aspects. Like we've creative directed photo shoots, we've designed their book covers, we've done magazines, you know, all the things. But it does become really hard to scale as an agency from there. So at a point where our agency was like 10 people, that's where I started to realize that it wasn't sustainable for us to offer all those because each project then had its own process, had its own, set of skills We had to [00:15:00] reinvent timelines. We had to spend a lot of time putting proposals together because we didn't know what we were doing. We had never done a app, so we had to do some research on that, et cetera, et cetera. So I do advise, to my students or anyone who I speak to who's, freelancing, There's no right or wrong answer to this because it depends on what you want your life to look like, what you want your day-to-day to look like, and what you want your business to look like.

[00:15:28] Joana: if you want to offer everything to that one or two big clients, and that's really fun for you, go for it. Now, if you're telling me no, my ambition is to run an agency like yours, Joanna, that runs itself so I can spend more time with my kids or so I can only. Three days a week for half a day, then I would say, this is not the right thing for you. Because it's not scalable. And then it's not easy to just create a process, repeat it so that everybody on the team is trained and then hand it off.

[00:15:59] Brian: That's good advice. So I,[00:16:00] think a lot of our listeners are in that. They're either in the yes mode or they're like the quick starts where they're just like, I'll figure it out. I'm gonna do all things for all people. And there's pros and cons to this, but I guess the big thing I was curious about is how you stand out in such a competitive market, because there are people who specialize in mobile apps, there are people who specialize in branding, people who specialize in web design, people who specialize just in physical packaging, things like that.

[00:16:22] Brian: So how do you, how do you stand out when you have all these specialists that you are competing against as a, I don't wanna say generalist, cause that has a negative connotation, but as somebody who is, doing all these things, what is your, unfair advantage that allows you to still make this.

[00:16:34] Joana: Here's one thing that I'd love all your listeners to consider is how do you think your clients found you? Or how do you think people look for the thing that you offer? Because when someone is looking for a surface, they don't necessarily Google it, and then look at everyone who offers that service and then pick the one that they think it's best.

[00:16:57] Joana: So you're technically not competing with everybody in the [00:17:00] world that offers the same service as you. I was only competing with the other graphic designers in that Facebook group initially. If I think about it my coach told me that my target audience is the people in the communities I was a part of and the people who attended the events that I did, because that's where I got all my clients.

[00:17:18] Brian: I like that a lot. so going back to kinda like the red ocean, blue ocean strategy kind of stuff. If you're in a really red ocean, you find the small pockets that are blue that aren't infested with sharks and blood and gore and whatever, . So you found these in these communities where you are the graphic designer of that group.

[00:17:33] Brian: You are the go-to person in that community or in that group or at that conference instead of the person Amongst thousands of other people on the internet offering all these different services. Is, am I getting you right on that? is that what you're.

[00:17:45] Joana: exactly. And what happens more often than not? For example like you Brian, I'm looking to start podcasts How do I go about selecting who's gonna help me with audio production? Because there are thousands and thousands of, people out there, right? [00:18:00] So what I did was I looked at my friends who had podcasts, I chose one at random cuz I don't have time to like go look at thousands of websites and compare pricing and whatever.

[00:18:11] Joana: So I, picked one person I know and trust really well. I asked them, do you like your, team who edits your podcast? He said, yes, put me in touch. And then the friend I'm, gonna be doing the podcast with, she did the same with one of her friends. And so we jumped on calls with two. these two people, they only competed against each other.

[00:18:29] Joana: We didn't look at anybody else's website,

[00:18:31] Joana: And yet there's so much competition for podcast production,

[00:18:34] Joana: right?

[00:18:34] Brian: there is, and, and there's ways to fight that. One is just when looking at your unfair advantage, I use unfair advantage in quotes cuz it's not really an unfair advantage, but it's just the area you choose to focus in. Cuz there's a lot of different ways to get clients and yours, and this is a quote from you.

[00:18:46] Brian: From, uh, your conversation with Christo, which I recommend anyone go listen to. You did a whole workshop for him on his podcast. You said, make word of mouth a strategy. And I thought that was so interesting of a quote because I think I've been quoted to say word [00:19:00] of mouth is not a strategy. like you can't just go out and get word of mouth clients. So I love when people have completely different, not opinions, but like experiences than me, cuz in my experience, word of mouth is not a strategy. In your experience, you've made word of mouth a strategy. So I'd love to just spend some time talking about making word of mouth a strategy so that you are one of the two people considered for a project instead of one of the thousands of people fighting for the scraps that are left over when they can't find somebody.

[00:19:25] Joana: . Yeah. We look at the data every single year and on average for the last eight years, it's been something like 85% to 90% of our clients come from word of mouth referrals. Some are now coming from the footer. Of the websites that we design, but none are coming from anywhere else. Content we put out on Instagram, not really even being on a channel like Chris Doe, that doesn't necessarily bring in clients because that's not for the agency anyway, because it's an audience of people like us service providers, creative service providers, So the big picture view [00:20:00] of it is the more people know about who you are, what you do, and for whom, the more likely it is that they'll send people your way. one of the most important things is to get that sentence very clear. Because so often, my dad will refer me clients that I'm like, wait, dad, I don't think you understand what we do at gif.

[00:20:18] Joana: So one of the important things to make this work is be very clear when you articulate what you do and for whom. Then it comes down to like, the more people you know, Or the more people know of you, the more likely it is that they'll send people your way. And so it's working on your network,

[00:20:34] Brian: do you have. Certain strategies are the things that you like to do to increase your network size, because I know, especially after Covid, where we all just became reclusive for two years or so, depending on where you were, some of us, especially me, we got to liking being alone. As a somebody who's I'm not an extrovert, I'm an introvert.

[00:20:51] Brian: I don't necessarily seek out. Expanding my network and a lot of people have an aversion to that because they don't want to be seen as that person who's just out there trying to connect [00:21:00] with people and hanging out business cards like it's candy. there's wonderful ways to do it.

[00:21:02] Brian: I'd just love to know your thoughts on how you, managed to expend your network to the point where you're staying booked up six, eight months in advance for your agency.

[00:21:09] Joana: Sure. I started by. Connecting with people in communities that I was a part of. events was a big one for me, but now I don't go to events and as a new mom, I don't really see when I'll be going back to events. So, things that I'll, do is Ask for introductions to people.

[00:21:27] Joana: That's a way to, grow your network. You know, I could be like, Hey, Brian, so as a podcast host, you must know a lot of cool people, anyone I should connect with,

[00:21:36] Brian: We can talk about it

[00:21:37] Brian: after the show. I'm happy to connect with people.

[00:21:39] Joana: and so I often do that. Or For the introverts listening, you can be really thoughtful.

[00:21:44] Joana: You know, Introverts typically don't like the surface level conversations. They like to go deeper. And so, you could listen to a guest on Brian's podcast and create a really thoughtful email about what you liked hearing that guests say, and, [00:22:00] maybe follow up with a quick question that they can answer just to get the conversation going, because if you don't end the email with a question, it's just gonna stop there, They'll just read it. Maybe they'll say thanks and then it ends there. But if you. adequate question at the end. That is an easy question for the person to answer. You know, So don't ask them like, what's the biggest lesson you've learned? Now ask something like, oh and by the way, Brian really love that neon sign behind you in your office.

[00:22:25] Joana: Where did you get that done? That's something you can answer, like quickly, right? But suddenly it, opens the door for a possible conversation. To a march and then it's kind of like dating. Then you're just like, every now and then you reach back out to that person and you see if it organically grows into something, maybe you comment on their social media and now they recognize your name from that thoughtful email, and suddenly it gets to that point where you can ask them on a quote unquote date, maybe you could be like, Hey, like we've been chatting online for a while.

[00:22:55] Joana: I have some ideas for you. Or like, I'd love to. Talk about this, a little bit [00:23:00] more. Would you like to hop on a virtual coffee on Zoom or something? . And that could be one way to grow your network. Now what you'll also wanna be doing is be very strategic about the relationships you form. So if you're in audio production, for a podcast, let's take that example.

[00:23:18] Joana: You might wanna form strategic relationships with agencies who produce podcast websites or business coaches. , our fans of podcasting as a marketing tool who will suggest it to their, clients who can then refer all their clients to you and maybe you set up a referral fee.

[00:23:38] Brian: That's right. And you had somebody actually reach out to you with this sort of strategy, I think you mentioned uh, Delia, a copywriter you worked with.

[00:23:44] Joana: that's who I'm starting a podcast

[00:23:45] Joana: with. We've become really close friends.

[00:23:48] Brian: I, I know you don't probably have the exact email she sent you I think, that's mentioned in Christo's conversation you had with him.

[00:23:53] Brian: But what goes into a good referral, like outreach message You and I both we've probably gotten really bad pitches from [00:24:00] people I know I get them all the time for the podcast or some of my businesses, people that are pitching things that just don't make any sense at all in like a million years.

[00:24:07] Brian: It would never make sense. And some people do pitch things that make sense and they just do it horribly and it puts a bad taste on their mouth. So what did Delia do that made it so much better and make it stand out from other pitches you might have?

[00:24:17] Joana: But you read them all right.

[00:24:19] Brian: weirdly enough, I do, like this morning I got a pitch for somebody on the show, for a guest for the show. And my friend and I were working out this morning and I'm just literally talking to him and making, him read the email to see how bad the pitch is, just to commiserate with me

[00:24:31] Brian: So yes, I do read them all, and they're all bad, mostly.

[00:24:33] Joana: but I think that's important for us to say out loud in this episode so that people understand that. Their email will get read because I think so often people are like discouraged from sending that message because they're like, oh, I'm sending one in a million. There's no way this will even be read by the person.

[00:24:50] Joana: So that's thing number one is even before we talk about what goes into this great email, just actually send it. Try and start sending [00:25:00] some cuz you'll be surprised. The likelihood of it being read, but then what goes into the email start with a compliment, but a thoughtful one, not like a over the top, where you're clearly like what's the word?

[00:25:11] Brian: Kissing ass

[00:25:13] Joana: Yeah, that's the one that came

[00:25:14] Joana: to mind, but that doesn't feel very on brand for me to say.

[00:25:17] Brian: I can say it. I've said way worse on this show,

[00:25:20] Joana: you wanna pick one thoughtful thing to say that also gives them confirmation that like you've actually followed their work or read their stuff or, whoever it is that you're contacting, whatever is relevant and.

[00:25:32] Joana: it depends. So in Delia's case, she actually went for the pitch. I wouldn't recommend that to everybody. It depends who you're wanting to set up relationships with. Because what you might wanna do instead is, like I had suggested before, is and the email with a quick question just to follow up.

[00:25:49] Joana: So it might just be that you share a compliment and then share a question to open up the conversation. If you have something that you know, can offer value to the person [00:26:00] without it being a pitch, let's say someone comes on your website and they mention how they're having trouble sleep, training their kid, and probably not gonna happen on your podcast, but let's say the person listening was like, oh, I actually have a really good resource.

[00:26:15] Joana: Here's a blog that I follow that help me. So start with a compliment. Add value if you can. It doesn't have to be anything to do with your work, There could be so many different things. You can bond with a person over that. Then the conversation turns it into a work conversation, but it doesn't have to.

[00:26:32] Joana: You can start a conversation with your shared love of snowboarding, and then next thing you know, they're asking you what you do and three months later they're referring Work your way. Right? It doesn't have to be all about work. So a compliment, share value if you can and with a question. Now, Delia's it went a little bit further than that in that she did craft a little pitch. But it was clear that she knew who she was talking to. So she reached out saying that she [00:27:00] often, copyrights for similar clients that we do. So to me, that's a tick. Then she showed me examples of her work and they were great, so that's another tick.

[00:27:09] Joana: Then she gave me a testimonial here's what people say about working with me. So I read the testimonial. I'm like, okay, just. , like really great professional to work with. That was another tick. And then she even thought about what would be questions that are going through Joanna's mind or what, could be.

[00:27:25] Joana: Deal breakers for the team at gif And so she mentioned I'm happy to white label my services work behind the scenes, or I'm also able to take the lead and be front facing with the clients. And so already she's answering a lot of the questions that I have when I'm thinking of who to refer my clients to for copywriting.

[00:27:43] Joana: And in the end, she just asked like, and if you wanna grab a 20 minute coffee on Zoom, here's my link. No, it did help first, it was a beautifully written email. It was funny, it was delightful. It was cleverly written. So I could see she was a good copywriter. She was telling me all the right things.[00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Joana: But then also when I followed the link to check out her website, I saw that she was a new mom like me, you know? so all of those things helped. for me to say like, yeah, this is a no-brainer. I wanna meet this person grab a coffee.

[00:28:11] Brian: She probably spent a while writing that email. That's not a quick. Template, which is funny. I looked at our email, I'm sorry to throw my team under the bus here. I saw the email that went out to you and your team when we first reached out to you to come on the show, and they literally left a piece of the template in the email that said topic.

[00:28:27] Brian: Instead of actually putting the topic into the template that we send out to you, we found you on the show, blah, blah, blah blah. Love what we heard, blah blah blah. It's similar kind of thing. But they left just the word topic in there instead of actually writing it down. And so we went back and fixed her s o p for everything and we actually used a different tool for these emails anyways.

[00:28:43] Brian: Anyways, going back to this, she spent time on this And the thing that mattered most was, it was actually a good. and just those two things alone are probably enough to get you further than any other strategy. it's faster than just spamming a bunch of people. It's faster than, quick emails that don't make sense

[00:28:58] Brian: if it's not a good fit, don't even [00:29:00] bother. That's the big thing. One other thing that's worth mentioning is you are what she would call a referral partner. Meaning like you are the gateway to a lot of projects, So she can spend more time crafting a really well thought out message, because it's not a hundred dollars project, it's not even a $500 project.

[00:29:16] Brian: It's many, many, many projects over the lifetime, and then eventually a podcast together , because you formed a really good relationship. So the value of that one email

[00:29:24] Joana: We did the math and it was over 60 grand

[00:29:26] Joana: so

[00:29:27] Joana: far

[00:29:27] Brian: That's amazing. So 60 grand from one email. because it made sense. you are the gateway to multiple projects for her.

[00:29:33] Brian: And this is another, thing to point out. She's a, kind of a specialist. She's offering a specific service, which is copywriting or conversion focus, copy for agency owners. And one of the things that stood out to me in the email that she sent, again, the full template, we'll have it in the show notes.

[00:29:46] Brian: We'll have the links to the interview you did with Christo and the workshop you did with him. But That email showed that she was part of the in crowd. She was also inside of the agency world working with other people just like you. It just happened.

[00:29:56] Brian: She was also a, a new mom, so like you had that to bond over cuz you in similar life [00:30:00] circumstances. But the big thing is, it wasn't just some random freelancer who's never worked with an agency before. She knew how to speak to you and your specific needs. Most freelancers probably don't know anything about white labeling or what that even is. So just that alone prove that she kind of understands what you're looking for as an agency owner. What else have you seen as far as turning word of mouth into a strategy? Cuz like, I would say that strategy was cold outreach, which is kind of a different strategy altogether, but I know you. strategies around getting clients to come back to you, getting clients, to refer people to you, getting friends and family, to refer people to you.

[00:30:28] Brian: Like what is, going into those, email.

[00:30:31] Joana: The most important thing is to keep nurturing the relationships you've just formed. So the relationship isn't over when the project is over. And a website and a brand identity, if we've done our job right, they won't need us for a couple years. So it's about how can you keep the relationship going?

[00:30:47] Joana: And so our coach at the agency, Matthew Kimberly, he suggests a tool called Dex. you input the contacts. And then you say like, I wanna stay in touch with this person twice a year. I wanna stay in touch with this person like three times or [00:31:00] once a month.

[00:31:00] Joana: And then I'll give you reminders like, oh, this person hasn't heard from you in two years. And it'll be read. it'll give you reminders. You can give it prompts, but then it's just about how can you connect with this person in a meaningful, authentic way?

[00:31:12] Joana: Sometimes I just check my client's socials and I see that they. Kid gone into a new school or they've just gone on a trip, and that gives me an excuse to reach out, if it feels genuine and get a conversation going. I have a client that we only talk about parenting stuff now on Instagram, but that keeps me top of mind for her, not that I'm.

[00:31:36] Joana: talking to her about parenting stuff. So did I stay top of mind? Like I'm doing it quite organically, but I know that it's important to keep those relationships alive. So in Christmastime, we often send a Christmas card. Now we're launching our new website.

[00:31:49] Joana: We're sending like, A really intricate postcard that's like a popup, in the mail to all of our past clients. So that's 300 handmade [00:32:00] postcards that are getting sent out to all over the world. I think that's the main aspect of the strategy is stay top of mind and deepen those relationships.

[00:32:09] Joana: five years ago, I think we were really struggling financially I managed our cash flow very poorly. And this might happen to a lot of you listening where you, know that you have certain payments coming in that month, but suddenly three clients delay and one of them counsels the project and what you thought was gonna be a 10 K month.

[00:32:28] Joana: Now you have zero, but you still have people to pay. And at that point I had already nurtured and deepened relationships enough that I could just ask a client can you pay the rest of the project in advance? This is what happened to us. and then the same thing can be done for like, I have no projects booked for next month.

[00:32:45] Joana: You know, Anybody that needs our service. But then you can do it more elegantly and have it into your operation procedures at the end of the project where you say was really great working on your work. You wouldn't [00:33:00] happen to know anybody who just like you may benefit from increasing their conversions.

[00:33:06] Joana: Through a brand new web design. Now this, specific sentence is taken from Phil Jones. He has a book called Exactly What to Say, which I highly recommend. And the words are very carefully chosen in that sentence. So you wouldn't happen to know challenges the person, now they're like, oh, try me, let me see if I know. Just one person makes the ask reasonable. You're not asking for 10 referrals. You're not asking can you send everybody? You know my way? You're asking for one person. Then you're saying who just like you, and this is where you might. Add some more compliments.

[00:33:38] Joana: who just like you, Brian is fun to talk to and, has a podcast and needs a new website for their podcast. you add the compliment into that sentence and then you remind them of the benefit they had working with you. So that's the sentence. You ask all your clients and you can go and ask them.

[00:33:55] Joana: Now today you can send this email to like 10 past clients. I [00:34:00] have six email templates to send out to help you get clients. We'll put them@theambitiouscreators.com slash six figure creative for you guys to grab them for

[00:34:08] Joana: free.

[00:34:09] Joana: Delia's email is on there and you can go do that today and like, reach out to past clients, ask for the referral. You know, say why you popped into their, heads today. And You'd be surprised as to how many people will either say like, oh, I never send work your way, cuz I always assumed you were so busy.

[00:34:29] Joana: Or like, oh yeah, sure. Somebody actually just asked me about it yesterday. I didn't even remember to send them your way.

[00:34:35] Brian: That's the power staying top of mind. I vouched for those, templates. I looked over them from the workshop you did with Christo, you was offering to them as well they, and they can apply to many different industries cause I'm from the music production background.

[00:34:44] Brian: And you're in the design background and they work in my world just as yours. And it's just like any of the other listeners if you're a copywriter, if you are a photographer, videographer,

[00:34:51] Joana: Anyone who offers a

[00:34:52] Joana: service, they're

[00:34:53] Joana: relevant.

[00:34:54] Brian: So I would, I would have recommend people to get those and go send it out to 10 people and see what you get.

[00:34:58] Brian: And you will be surprised whether it's [00:35:00] somebody that's like, you know, I don't know of anybody, but actually we're ready to get back into the studio, or we're ready to get a new design for our new app or whatever, you know, for you, do you. I'm gonna go back to a quote you said that I think is just really important to highlight. You said the relationship doesn't stop after the project is over. if I were to say there's a key to getting referrals and making word of mouth a strategy. It is living that out I can say I'm not the best at. But I do love your strategy of like staying top of mind with these people. And you mentioned software called Dex. That's interesting. I haven't heard of that one. I'm gonna have to look that up. It'll be in our show notes over@sixfigurecreative.com slash 2 38 for this episode to get all the links that we mentioned here linked to her email templates and anything else we mention in this show.

[00:35:37] Brian: I have to look into that. That's, That's awesome. Cause I love tools like that to help me cuz like I was gonna ask you like, what systems do you have in place to remind you to do this? Like Do you have routines, software like that? Which kind of answers that question because it can, what can happen is we as creatives, Especially freelancers who are solopreneurs.

[00:35:51] Brian: We don't have the mental bandwidth to even remember to do this stuff. some of us are just trying to stay afloat. Either we're slammed and we have more projects than we even know what to do with, [00:36:00] and we don't have time to really like do this sort of intentional work asking for referrals, or we are barren and dry and we are trying to figure out what to do and we don't think about reaching out to past clients or we don't wanna feel like we're bothering them.

[00:36:13] Brian: do you have anything you're doing, like strategies tools or routines around this that you.

[00:36:17] Joana: . This is where we can also circle back to that conversation about being a quick start and h ADHD and getting distracted and cuz that's my personality. I'm like, okay, yeah, yeah, sure. Let me put blocks of like half an hour every morning to reach out to people, but then I'll very quickly replace that with no, but I saw this video on YouTube that.

[00:36:35] Joana: Taught me this thing, let me go do that instead. That feels more fun. I'm that person. So the first thing you need to do as an entrepreneur is have heightened self-awareness about what your personality is like and what do you need to stay accountable? I will not go to the gym unless I have a personal trainer waiting for me.

[00:36:53] Joana: That was one of the things that motivated me to go freelance just cause I wanted to really bad afford a personal trainer. or [00:37:00] that's why in university I became a Zumba teacher because that would force me to go to the gym. I've always created these strategies for myself to keep myself accountable because if, I am not the type of personality that will.

[00:37:13] Joana: Stick to a routine and that will make time every morning to like check Dex. I don't use Dex by the way,

[00:37:19] Joana: it's a tool that does all the things, but like I don't personally use the I found that my secret weapon is my ops manager. So I have someone who's the exact opposite of me. She's a finisher and she is risk averse.

[00:37:35] Joana: So she, helps me stay grounded on some things, like she will say like, Joanna, You don't do that just yet because we have all of this in the pipeline and this in the calendar, and you're taking on too many new projects, you're not gonna finish them all. Or I'll be the one who says let's launch, our new website tomorrow.

[00:37:50] Joana: And she's like, no, Janet, we're in the middle of launching two client websites. You're gonna have to wait until February. so that is my strategy. I found that I need people to help me stay [00:38:00] accountable Joanna will help me and she will tell me what I need to do and in what order, and she checks in on me.

[00:38:06] Joana: And it's funny cuz I got into business to not have a boss, but I realized I need a boss. So I made her my boss

[00:38:14] Brian: was she one of your first hires that you did? Like, how long have you been working

[00:38:17] Brian: with her and how did you find her?

[00:38:18] Joana: this is a story that is not helpful, but I was very lucky in that it was one of my designers who was like, Janet you don't have time for everything at the moment.

[00:38:28] Joana: And we need you more in the creative direction. I actually have a friend who's a project manager, which is the role you, I think you need for the agency right now. This is where it was really helpful that I got over my mindset of I need to hire people, less experience than me.

[00:38:42] Joana: Cuz at 22, that's what I was doing. And then I realized no, I could benefit from hiring people who have been in an agency world much longer than I have and can teach me all the things that I didn't learn because I didn't stick around the agency world for long enough. So he told me, this designer told me like, no, you need a project manager.

[00:38:58] Joana: I'm like, okay, let [00:39:00] me meet this person. And Yeah, at first we were both hesitant about it, like we went back and forth, in conversations, multiple interviews, and even like, she took a week of vacation out of her nine to five to trial with us before she made a decision. So it was like a two month process in hiring her.

[00:39:16] Joana: that doesn't really help, but it's worth spending the time to hire this person, right? If you are in a position that you can hire, right? An integrator, I like to call her,

[00:39:25] Joana: but if you're not in a position that you can hire, can you find an accountability partner,

[00:39:30] Joana: someone whose time you really respect and who you know?

[00:39:34] Joana: will help you show up because even personal trainers, like there was one personal trainer that I had, he was my age, and I'm like, ah, no, I'll just, say like, I'm sick today, and it was very quick to cancel like the personal trainer I have now. I respect her so much and I know she's so fully booked that she will drop me as a client if I start missing too many

[00:39:56] Brian: So this is called a forcing function. It's like you have something in place to force you to [00:40:00] do something that you either aren't natural at or you don't want to do. I have that for my jump partner that I've worked out with for the past decade now. if he's not there, I'm not there.

[00:40:08] Brian: That's just kind of the way it is and I'm glad I'm not the only one that does that. I'm glad that you do that as well. Joanne , this is great.

[00:40:12] Joana: like I was like, Deeley, do you wanna start a podcast? Because I've been wanting to start one for years, but I won't keep myself accountable.

[00:40:19] Brian: And when I first started this podcast, I had a co-host that was the forcing function for me. It was somebody who depends on me to be there, and now that we're doing guests, I have you that I know is gonna show up. And if I don't show up to this, then it's an embarrassment to me and my company.

[00:40:31] Brian: So I love forcing functions. I love the different ways that that can be applied to your business and your personal life. I'll tell you right now, one of the best forcing functions to make you take things seriously is hiring. And I know we're short on time here, so we're not gonna get to like go deep into hiring, which is one of the ways to what I call graduate from freelancing is hiring. There's other ways to do it as well, but that's the way that I think most people tend to do it, is they start hiring a team so that they can do things like you've done like taking four months off for maternity leave or traveling more we had the guests on the show uh, last week, Jacob Cass, who, he [00:41:00] started his agency and he wanted to be a digital nomad, so he traveled the world, like 88 countries he went to in a few, several year period and is crushing it now.

[00:41:07] Brian: So forcing functions, hiring a team. There's a lot that goes into that, so I don't, think we can really get into it today, but is there about this entire conversation that you'd like to wrap up your thoughts here on, things around client acquisition or or teams that maybe we didn't get to chat about yet.

[00:41:22] Joana: the main takeaway that I hope people will get out of this conversation is that it's very important to know yourself and know what you want your life to look like before you take on any strategy that you hear, either from me or anybody else that you learn from. Cause it's very easy for us as entrepreneurs to get distracted by shining new strategies.

[00:41:44] Joana: but just because that's creating those results for that person, that doesn't mean, one, you're gonna enjoy the journey there. Or two, you're even in going to enjoy the success it's gonna bring. So those two things are key, like getting very clear about what you want your life to look like.

[00:41:58] Joana: I don't want a big agency. [00:42:00] I don't wanna sell my agency. I wanna be able to spend most of my day with my kids at. Season in life where they're so small. And so that affects the decisions that I make. And then knowing yourself can help you realize what strategies you're gonna need to put in place to help you get there.

[00:42:20] Joana: And to also make the journey fun.

[00:42:22] Joana: Cuz that's my thing for this year, is I wanna make this year fun. I wanna enjoy the things that I'm doing this year, the conversations I'm having, and the people I'm doing work.

[00:42:30] Brian: you wanna enjoy the conversations, you're having people and have fun, a podcast is the right move. Like, I get to talk to so many amazing people like you from different backgrounds and learn from their stories and what they're doing that's working and challenging my assumptions that, hey referrals can be a strategy you approach it the right way.

[00:42:45] Brian: . So, . Where do you want our audience to go to learn more about you or connect? Do you just want 'em to go to get those email templates from you or is there somewhere else you wanna send?

[00:42:52] Joana: I think that would be the, best way to get into my world. And the, templates are really solid. We get [00:43:00] emails every day saying that it's worked or people have revived leads from the dead or gotten more clients as referrals. So you can find that@theambitiouscreatives.com for slash six figure creative.

[00:43:13] Joana: And then from there, if you remove whatever's after the forward slash you will see our website. And if you're curious about the agency, it's gift design studios.com. We have new websites launching very soon, so hopefully by the time this is out, they will be up

[00:43:29] Brian: great. Well, Thank you so much Jonna, for coming on here and sharing everything with.

[00:43:31] Joana: Of course. My pleasure. Brian. Thank you for having me.

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