Acquisition Channel of the Week: Freelancing Marketplaces

I've analyzed all 489 Indie Hackers interviews and identified 34 acquisition channels that work consistently for founders (see Zero to Users for more details). Today, I'll be reviewing one interesting channel I've seen mentioned across a few interviews: freelancing marketplaces.

Freelancing sites (like UpWork) help companies connect to freelancers who can do a certain service (like web design) for them. Can you use these marketplaces to promote a SaaS, though? It turns out the answer is yes.

Take ActionWins & ActionPages ($4k/mo), a referral marketing SaaS. The whole idea behind creating ActionWins was to take an open-source tool and create a SaaS around it:

I'd read the article that Tim Ferris wrote about how Harry's Shave Club used a simple Rails application to build an email list of over 100k emails. They incentivized subscribers to refer their friends and unlock free products and discounts as rewards.

The awesome thing about this article is that Harry's Shave Club open-sourced their code for the referral campaign. After getting a couple of paying clients who needed this type of service, I decided it was worth building a SaaS product that allowed you to spin up this type of campaign in minutes.

Alex (the founder) used UpWork to successfully get clients for ActionWins & ActionPages:

I've had great success searching UpWork for people looking for help spinning up Harry's Shave Club's open-source code. My pitch to them is that they can use my product to build the same type of campaign without writing any code. I also offer to build and manage the campaign for them if they'd like. The best thing about this channel is that the customer has already expressed interest in the service and has budget!

His pitch was basically something like: "Hey, why pay an expensive developer when you can get a SaaS and pay monthly for it?" Something many people found compelling.

Get updates on acquisition channels that work consistently for founders:

Another example is StoreMapper ($21k/mo), a SaaS that enables you to put a store location map on your e-commerce website. The way Tyler (the founder) got inspired to create StoreMapper was by being a freelancer:

I taught myself to code and started doing freelance development for businesses on Shopify to earn a little money on the side. These clients were the ones who originally asked me to build them a custom store locator, which gave me the idea to productize it instead.

He then realized that many people were repeatedly asking for something like this on freelancing sites and used that fact to promote his SaaS:

I searched job sites like Upwork for people looking to hire a freelancer to do a custom build, and would swoop in and pitch them on Storemapper instead.

Freelancing platforms can be a viable acquisition channel if people are actively looking for a developer to build them something your product already does. Give them a shot.

What's been your experience with freelancing sites?

  1. 3

    Would be curious if they also mentioned their % applied-to-jobs/got-a-yes conversion rates.

    1. 3

      They didn't, but I can hit them up and ask.

  2. 2

    interesting, thanks for sharing!

  3. 1

    Excellent work @zerotousers!

    Not sure if it has already been suggested, but information on the 34 different acquisition channels which you present on p. 1&2 of the report would be easier to digest as a table rather than as a list.


  4. 1

    Thanks for sharing this. I have been doing this method for about a week, but with a bit change. My SaaS dumogio.com targeting companies which running paid ads on social media. Then I am searching on many job board to find companies which hire Facebook/Social Ad Specialist, then I send them email about my tool.

    1. 1

      Have you also thought about targeting people who actively run FB ads?

      1. 1

        Yes, they will be my ideal customer. My ideal customer is people who run FB ads and selling on thrid party platform like amazon, etsy, airbnb.

        1. 1

          Have you tried getting in touch with them?

          1. 1

            Yes, but not many. It was harder to find their contact.

            1. 1

              Many people list their contact email in their about/contact/terms of service/privacy policy. Have you tried looking there? These [email protected], [email protected] emails work as well, especially because most of these businesses are a one/two-man-show.

              1. 1

                In 3rd party platform like amazon ?

                1. 1

                  No. I am talking about people who run FB ads to their websites.

                  1. 1

                    Ah yes, I use email finder service, because most website put generic [email protected] on their about/contact page. I use snov.io for this. Right now I focused to searching companies on job board, because they have bigger budget.

  5. 0

    "Hey, why pay an expensive developer when you can get a SaaS and pay monthly for it?"

    Just a question, isn't going and spamming job offers on UpWork with such messages a violation of their website? I am pretty sure some people will report this and you will be banned very fast.. I know this as when I was a successful seller on Fiverr 2 years ago, I was getting alot of such messages (for finding more clients this time) and those accounts were being banned very fast..

    1. 2

      I think like with many acquisition tactics, if you use it blatantly, yes, you'll get banned. So sending a message like: "Hey, don't hire X, go to mysite[dot]com" will def get you flagged.

      You can do it in a soft/friendly way, peaking their curiosity with a question like: "Hey just a ques, you're hiring for X which would prob cost around $2k. Just curious, why aren't you using ready-made tools which cost 1/10th of that?",

      Something like this is (IMO) unlikely to get you flagged, you're asking a question and not starting with blatantly promoting something. Btw, maybe I wasn't clear, his pitch wasn't using exactly those words (he didn't mention what did he use), but my guess was that it was something soft, like I mentioned above.

      Curious if you have the exact messages these Fiverr sellers used, my guess is 99% of them were doing 1).

  6. 0

    Smart way. I will also use this technique.

    1. 1

      Please report your results here :)

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