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Free audits are a common method people lean on in an attempt to attract leads and eventually land clients.
When I say “audit,” it means that you do a review or inspection of the client’s work. If you’re a writer, you audit the blog. Web designers will audit the website. If you’re a social media manager, you’ll audit their social media platforms.
You’re looking for things they’re doing right and wrong and areas for improvement.
Once the audit is complete, you typically present your findings in some kind of report.
I Used to Be All About Free Audits
When I was first building my agency, I would spend about an hour doing a single audit. In painstaking detail, I’d go through each of their platforms and report my findings in a fully branded slideshow presentation. Here are a few slides from one, just to give you some context.
I’d send my beautifully crafted audit to the lead and basically cross my fingers and hope for the best.
At one point, I was using screenshots I’d collect from my leads’ social media and online review platforms. I’d then handwrite notes, comments, and suggestions. Here’s what one looked like in the making for a local bouncy house business. (P.S. I hand-delivered this and dear God, was the place awesome. Can grown adults use bouncy houses?)
As an example, next to the screenshot showing that their IG page was private, I probably wrote a suggestion that they make it public. For those negative Yelp reviews, I suggested they respond to them with something kind and professional.
Lots of research. Tons of work. Too much time doing things manually and then in some cases, taking my findings to the business owner in person.
Here’s the grand total number of clients I closed using this method. Are you ready for it?
Free Audits Are a Waste of Time
I know there are people out there who swear by free audits. In fact, some people do free video audits. I think this is absolutely remarkable and if I didn’t look like a total potato on camera, I might have considered this approach myself at one point.
The point is that some of us prefer different methods of client acquisition. To those who love free audits, I say you do you!
Here’s why I believe you shouldn’t waste your time doing free audits.
It’s Too Aggressive for First Contact
Imagine that a complete stranger whom you’ve never spoken to before reaches out to you to tell you everything you’re doing wrong.
That’s essentially what you’re doing when you send a cold email with a free audit.
It doesn’t matter how friendly you are. The purpose of an audit is to find things that are being done incorrectly. Is that the best way to reach out to a lead for the first time? Personally, I say no.
Now, if you want to offer a free audit after you’ve already communicated with a lead, that’s a different story.
Here’s an example — one that really burns me up. I get a lot of (very spammy) emails from people politely telling me that my Instagram page sucks and they could help me get more followers. I also receive a lot of emails informing me that my site is performing poorly and will probably implode and my whole business will collapse.
Or something along those lines.
These emails never work. I never respond. I simply hit my favorite button: Spam.
You Don’t Want a Client Who’s Only Looking for Freebies
People in favor of free audits argue that it’s an incentive — a way to hook people so that they’ll want to talk to you more and you can eventually close them.
But here’s the problem with that logic.
No. He’s going to be the kind of client who wants your services for as cheap as possible and will argue with you every time you send an invoice.
You Set the Bar Too Low
When you send free audits, you’re telling that lead right away that you’re willing to provide your knowledge and expertise for free.
People LOVE getting free stuff. But when the conversation progresses and you tell them your rates start at $1,000 a month (or whatever), they’re suddenly shocked, insulted, and you’ll never hear from them again because it’s way out of their budget.
But they were happy to accept the free audit.
An Alternative to Free Audits
“Well, I want to offer them something,” you say. And you can! I’m not telling you to be selfish or stingy with your time.
Again, if you’ve already communicated with someone and know that they’re at least interested and open to your rates, then it’s usually okay to do a free audit.
Other than that, I suggest that in your cold email, you simply offer some helpful feedback on the work they’ve done thus far. For instance, when I’m sending a cold email to someone I want to blog for, I might say something like:
- I noticed there are no images on the blog.
- I see that the content is missing internal and external links.
- I’d love to talk about how we can improve the SEO of your pages by using relevant keywords.
It’s not a full-blown audit, but it’s a good compromise. You might not be giving them the whole cookie, but you’re giving them a little crumb, and that crumb is going to be delicious and they’ll come back for another bite.
You know what I mean.
I think it’s awesome to provide free value. I provide free value all the time. This blog? My YouTube page? It’s all free.
But you still need boundaries and a sound strategy. If passing out free audits worked like magic, it wouldn’t matter how much time you spent on them. But in my experience, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.