How a Shopify Agency Saved 60 Hours a Month on Upwork Lead Generation!

7 Years In The Game

Rolling back the clock to 2017, the online platform known as Upwork went through a huge growth phase, with thousands entering the new marketplace in search of opportunity. Among the very first to enter the game was Viktor Bystrov, founder of Bystrov Agency, who has been working in the Shopify development niche for more than 7 years.

Taking a trip down memory lane, we had asked Viktor to share with us the first project the agency had won on the platform. After hearing this question, the founder had chuckled and noted that: 

It was some random client who for some reason found me because I had a rising talent badge. He was actually the CEO of another agency from the USA. We continue to communicate and collaborate for years, and we are also friends now.

Besides playing the role of a lead generation tool for Agencies, Upwork is an invaluable resource to network and meet people that you may work with throughout your professional career, and by helping this particular client find a solution to his problem and save him money, they built a long lasting and fruitful relationship, helping Bystrov Agency reach over $1 million+ earned on the platform. 

Viktor B Upwork freelancer profile

Dealing With Competition

Now Upwork as a platform has been through its fair share of ups and downs, with new players entering and leaving the marketplace daily and a clear uptick in competition with every passing year. Discussing this in detail, Viktor noted: 

Our competitors have become much stronger. I would say that previously they were more like formal competitors, but not in terms of technical skills. But nowadays, the competition is technically on a similar level, and it's a lot more difficult to work now.

In order to remain as a pillar of success on Upwork that continues to fend off the competition, we asked Viktor what his strategy was in terms of differentiating themselves on the platform. He had explained that as an agency, they provide a unique service package for all of their clients, noting that:

We decided to switch to a semi outstaff-outsource model and provide a multi-skill team that is uniquely tailored to the client’s needs. So for example, instead of just getting one back-end developer, the client would be able to dynamically switch between a Project Manager, Front-End Dev, Back-End Dev and Business Analyst, all for the price of one.

Meme about improvising, adapting and overcoming.

Offering such a competitive advantage has helped the agency continue to thrive in the Shopify development niche, which has seen its fair share of issues within the past few months, forcing some agencies to fully abandon the platform, naturally providing more market share for the big dogs.  

Key Rules for Client Communication

With such impressive numbers on the agency profile, we knew that they had to be doing something different from the rest of the crowd, and we wanted to dig deeper into their secret sauce. 

Willy Wonka meme

When inquiring about tips for writing effective Cover Letters on Upwork, Viktor decided to share with us his secret tactic. While initially expecting something very detailed and intricate, in reality, Viktor’s bidding strategy is so simple yet brilliant, completely standing out from the crowd. When discussing the contents of his proposal message to relevant jobs, the agency founder simply said: 

In the last seven years, the most successful cover letter in my niche whenever I bid on anything is just to ask one question: What is your store URL? And can I send a collaborator access request to your store? That's all. And it works.

To be fair, with the AI revolution fully integrating itself in the online platform, most clients will most likely be turned off by fancy long read CV’s with big words, and something short, simple and to the point will definitely catch the client’s attention, as they stand out from the rest of the crowd… Now we just have to pray that the entire Shopify niche won’t turn into a bunch of Store URL requesters. 

Spongebob meme about Dear Hiring Manager on Upwork

However, clever cover letter tricks might get your foot in the door, but walking through it is a whole different challenge. When discussing the keys for effective client communication, Viktor placed an emphasis on speed, noting:

You should communicate amicably with them, even if they are rude or inexperienced in the field, just like any customer support from any famous brand. Also, the communication should be fast as it improves the trust level between you and your client. We’ve gotten many contracts when clients say we decided to work with you even though you're more expensive, but we saw that your communication was a lot faster than others. And communication for us is more valuable than the price.

Viktor also noted that it's not always about being the first to reply to a job, because clients may understand that because of timezones you may be away after sending the initial bid. But once the client replies, and you reply back, the speed in this conversation must be quick and effective, and doing so will increase the chances of closing the deal. 

Making the Switch to GigRadar

Upon asking about their previous lead generation process, we had learned that Viktor was basically a one-man-army, focusing on lead generation and sales communication by himself. Clearly, such an approach may work short-time, but won’t be able to manage at scale. Discussing this in detail, Viktor noted: 

The thing is that we have a great profile which is Top Rated Plus, and it took us around 30,000 hours of work to earn this. I cannot trust someone else to communicate through my own profile with potential clients. People are not very familiar with risks like Upwork terms, where sometimes clients offer in writing to work outside of Upwork, and if someone else who is not an owner of such a profile agrees to this, they risk our profile being blocked.

Trojan horse meme about inexperience VAs communicating outside the platform.

After making the switch to GigRadar, Victor and his team have been able to dedicate resources to other, higher-value business areas. Instead of exhausting the lead generation process, Viktor focuses his energy into selling their actual services. Discussing this in detail, Viktor noted: 

Before I used to spend 10-15 hours per week just to find the right jobs. That's around 60 hours per month! Now I can spend this time communicating with warm leads.

Interestingly, Viktor also highlights GigRadar’s prevalence in the market and the extensive list of Upwork agencies that now rely on GigRadar’s service as well. It looks like the entire Upwork Agency niche is slowly but surely realizing the power of this tool, and very soon, it will be a must have to use GigRadar for lead gen. However, Viktor felt it was important to share some cold hard truths about the software, stating:

GigRadar is a high performance tool that will help you speed up your processes, but you will need to tune and optimize it, just as you would in other niches. For example, in advertising, you cannot just run ads. You need to optimize them continuously. Then they will work for you in the best way. The same goes with GigRadar.

Viktor and Bystrov Agency clearly have spent a lot of time fine tuning their GigRadar account, as we dove in to take a look at their results with which we were highly impressed!

GigRadar scanner showing high reply rate

Closing Thoughts 

By setting the right KPIs and fine-tuning the strategy continuously, Bystrov was able to turn GigRadar into a game-changing tool that guaranteed the company’s success on the competitive online platform. Furthermore, experimenting with different approaches allowed Bystrov to stay ahead of the curve and differentiate themselves in a highly saturated niche. When asking for final commentary in regards to GigRadar and running an Upwork Agency, Viktor gladly noted: 

I would suggest to everyone to invest some budget in experiments because sometimes you could find some niche or product which will be unexpected for you where you will make a lot more money than before. So you need to invest in experiments too.

Victor’s success story is one of many examples of why GigRadar is an irreplaceable tool for a successful Upwork strategy! It also emphasizes a pivotal insight: just having the right tool in your hands won’t do wonders, but fine tuning it and tailoring it to your specific needs can take your agency's performance to the next level! 

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