I Bought £500’s Worth of Freelance Leads So You Don’t Have to
A review of U.K. freelance directory Bark.com — and if it’s worth the bite
A review of U.K. freelance directory Bark.com — and if it’s worth the bite
Bark.com is a U.K. based directory offering ‘qualified’ leads for your services. With everything from translation services to life coaching and a smattering of marketing in between.
You buy these leads with credits, which works out to around £1.20 per credit.
With an average cost of around 12 credits per listing, that cost is around £14.40 per lead that you buy.
The hope is that you’ll be able to land a substantial client. The worry is that you do not.
So I bought £500 ($610) worth of leads and tested the waters. So you don’t have to.
Below are all of the pros, cons, and sneaky tips that I discovered whilst selling my services. Let’s dive in.
The Cons First
There are a lot of negatives to this platform, some hilariously bad, so I’ll try to keep it brief to save you the struggle.
I placed my services in the Business & Marketing categories, so it may be different results for you. Please keep that in mind.
1. Leads Aren’t as Qualified as You’d Like
The problem with Bark is that the difference between someone ‘pricing up’ a job, those definitely looking for a service, and those trolling the platform is completely indistinguishable.
I found 11 numbers out of 36 purchased didn’t work (30%), and after paying, I got access to email addresses such as ‘BeeJay@gmail.com’ — B.J. Get it?
Not only did it cost be about £10 to become the joke, but the phone number was for a receptionist at a cleaning company who didn’t appreciate me calling for a “Bee Jay”…I’m not making this up.
2. The Cost Is Too High
Life is full of time-wasters. None more so than in the world of freelancing.
Unless you exist under an agency banner, people expect the world for free and go missing when it comes time to pay.
Potential clients will talk a big game, but the actual percentage of those who will commit to the service is far lower than you’d expect.
To double your money (lowest goal), £500 worth of leads would need to land you 20 clients at £50 per hour.
However, at an average lead cost of £14.40, that initial £500 investment only gets you about 35 leads. So to convert 20 of them means you’ll have a conversion rate over a smidge over 57% — that’s unachievable with these leads.
Out of my 36 leads, 11 of them were duds. Things like:
Not looking for the service at all
To really make it work for you, you need a service that commands a huge hourly rate, or you need to focus on landing long-term ‘agency-style’ clients. That being people that retain you one day per week for your usual hourly rate.
3. Giving Away Too Much for Free
With access to your contact details, potential clients will call you directly. As someone who isn’t necessarily dependent on taking the work (I did this as an experiment), I ended up taking 30 minutes to an hour for each call to assess what kind of help they were looking for.
Now it could be incorrectly assumed that this is the cost of doing business.
Some clients will need some extra convincing before signing, but I don’t call a plumber, electrician, or other tradesperson and expect up to 60 minutes of their expertise for sweet f.a.
From experience, I’d avoid this tactic of landing a client. They won’t respect your time if you’re offering it freely. Put up a paywall. Value yourself.
I setup a MeetFox account (not an affiliate link) within five minutes and connected it to my stripe account to collect instant credit and debit card payments.
That way before getting access to me, they were urged to book a call.
Feel free to copy my layout…
8% of purchased leads booked a call via my MeetFox page. The cost for those clients would have been around £45, so I netted £105 gross profit on those leads.
0% of the people I spoke to on the phone, for up to an hour, signed my seven-page service agreement — which ironically would have made it cheaper for them to hire me.
If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will. Stop trying to sell yourself and put yourself behind a velvet VIP rope.
I think it’s better to only work with those who want to work with you.
Finally, the Pros
There are some positives to this platform. Especially if you can learn from my costly mistakes.
Here they are. Nothing held back.
1. The one-click response
If you’re in the middle of a client call or relaxing in bed when a lead comes in, but you don’t want to call them right away, you can select Bark’s ‘One-click response.’
It’s a fantastic feature that allows you to introduce yourself with one click of a button, via email, until you’re ready to follow-up.
This is my one-click response if you want to ‘borrow’ it and make it your own.
The beauty of this is that it’s vague. It suits all clients, no matter what service they’re looking for.
2. People Are Looking for Your Services
There are some genuine people that need help — and they’re willing to pay you for it.
You just have to provide them with an opportunity to hire you. Here are my quick tips.
Become an elite user — It makes your profile discoverable and gives you an accreditation that technically means nothing, but makes you stand out to potential clients.
Offer a wide selection of services — If you do marketing plans, you’re likely to offer social media marketing too. Don’t forget to list everything that suits your skills.
Buy credits to spend on the leads that request a quote from you — Two buyers read my profile and wanted me specifically, so buying their lead after they requested it gave me a 100% conversion on leads that requested me first.
Buy all the leads
Buy any leads asking you to do some CV writing. It’ll cost you £10 in credits and it’s a student or an unemployed individual that can’t afford your £100 fee to complete the work.
Buy any leads without additional details. (Example below)
Every client with additional details knew that they wanted the service and that they had to pay for it.
Every single client with an empty additional details box was either nonchalant or a waste of time and money. If they don’t know what they want, what chance do you have?
3. No Continuation Fees
Once the client is landed, it’s yours. So if you’re specifically looking for long-term freelance contracts to independently manage clients’ social media marketing — you’re golden.
Paying £15 for a lead could result in thousands over the course of a clients’ lifetime. Definitely a great return on investment.
4. Credit Refunds
On an introductory call with the Bark.com team, they told me that if I didn’t get hired with my first 140 credits, they’d refund all of them for free. We’ll soon see if this is true.
However, I did test a refund for a person who deleted the app and wasn’t looking for the service at all. After emailing Bark, I received a credit refund just a few days later. Great!
It’s my understanding that it’s only ‘elite users’ who can refund dead-leads. So please don’t buy frivolously thinking they’ll definitely be refunded to you. Air on the side of caution.
UPDATE: I just called Bark and got refunded 140 credits for my ‘starter pack’ as part of their ‘Get Hired Guarantee.’ I also got refunded for three more leads with dead numbers. Not bad.
Get Angry to Beat Your Competition
Everyone says they’re honest or transparent. However, they go on to use terms like “high-level” and “dynamic customer optimisation pathways,” which only frustrates potential clients.
One of the biggest pieces of feedback from those that did book in, or loved what I was offering but didn’t have money right now, was that my profile was straight-talking, no-nonsense and made me stand out from the competition.
Here is the first 50% of it. I couldn’t fit the entire thing in one screenshot, but if you want to ‘creatively borrow’ some of it for your own, feel free.
You can read the rest on my Bark profile.
It’s not professional to swear, even if you do ****ing bleep it out — but I wrote this from a place of anger and frustration too.
I pride myself on results, so it feels beneath me to oversell my services. I have many case studies here on Medium that speak to those results, so instead, I opted to be honest. For some, it will be abrasive, but a lot of people I spoke to actually found it refreshing.
Long story short, it worked and as I’m currently writing this, one more client that I thought had slipped through the net has just emailed me for my availability.
This was his email…
This was my response
Playing hard to get? Maybe — but if you don’t put a price on your time, nobody else will.
If he books in, that’ll bring my new conversion rate to 11%.
NEW UPDATE: He didn’t book, but two other people did request my details and booked in for a meeting with no effort — all from my ‘one-click response’, proving my ‘let them come to you theory’.
That’s now a conversion rate of 13% (14.2% if you count the three leads I got refunded today too)… but who’s counting.
For freelancers, I think Bark has some promise, but only in the ways outlined in this article.
I’ll keep my ‘elite user’ profile active and wait for clients to ‘come to papa.’ If you’re confident in your work, you should never settle for a mediocre return either.
Why accept peanuts in exchange for pure gold?
By giving value, you need to be happy with the value you’re receiving too, or you’ll be underperforming for your new clients and both of you will be unhappy.
Moving into an inevitable recession, it’s tempting to take the ‘quick-sale,’ but it’s referred to as ‘landing a client’ for a reason. It’s not as easy as just reeling— you have to fight with that fish to get it to the net.