I have asked hundreds of freelancers “What is the biggest problem you face in your business?”
The answer is almost always the same – FINDING CLIENTS!
It’s pretty hard to run a successful freelance business without clients. No clients means no income means you’re still stuck at your boring day job. Yuck! This is no good, so let’s find you some clients, ok?
The trick to finding new clients is actually really easy: You have to always be ready for new clients! Open yourself up to the possibility that new clients could be anywhere. Be prepared to talk about what you do in a genuine (ie. not salesy) way, and start getting in front of people.
Here are 7 ways to find your first client:
Tell Your Family & Friends
So maybe your dad isn’t going to pay you for a new website or social media strategy that he doesn’t need, but he just might know someone who DOES need it.
Take the time to write a thoughtful email explaining what you do and what kind of people or businesses you help. Ask your people to pass on your information to anyone they may know that could benefit from your services, now or in the future.
You could even create some incentive to try out your services by offering a limited time ‘friends and family deal’. Sweeten the deal with either a discount or a bonus to get more people to bite now.
*Note: You should try to do a bonus over a discount whenever you can. It enforces that people are paying for your value and prevents repeat discount seekers looking for cheap work. If you do go with a discount, make it very clear on your invoice by including your regular pricing and the discount applied.
Email Your Professional Network
Chances are, you have a vast professional network at your fingertips, even if you’re had a short career so far. Past professors, bosses and colleagues from past jobs and internships, volunteer coordinators and friends, mentors, teammates from an office slow pitch league… Don’t discount friends from your college waitressing job either, most of them are probably professionals now, too.
This is definitely easier if you’ve kept in touch a bit over the years so people recognize your name in their inbox. If it’s been more than a couple of years, maybe try a social media message to start the communication back up before asking for any favors.
Write an email or note asking what they’ve been up to and where they’re at in their career, and let them know about your new venture. You don’t want this to be a one-sided exchange. Be genuine and helpful, not pitchy or pushy. You can build meaningful, long-term professional relationships that will be far more beneficial than a one-time gig. Be your rad self in all your communication and it will pay off in the long run.
Post On Social Media
If you’re not using social media for your business yet, maybe it’s time to start? Twitter isn’t just for following comedians and celebrities anymore!
Start by editing your bio. Add what you do and a link to your portfolio or website on every social channel you use – twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope.
Next, make an announcement that you’re open for business! Much like emailing your friends, make a personal update about what you’re up to and why, and let people know that they can contact you for work. Ask your social media network to share the news with anyone they may know looking for a freelancer with your skill set.
As space is pretty limited on twitter and Instagram, you could create a blog post or landing page on your website and share that link with people. You’ll have more room to share your story and can get some eyes on your work.
Join Facebook Groups
Another way to use social media to find clients is to join Facebook groups in your niche. Facebook groups have gained popularity lately and there are groups for every category you can think of. Look for a few in your niche and join to gain access to a network of people.
How to use Facebook groups to get clients:
- Find groups in your niche. Hint: find one and your sidebar will be full of related groups.
- Spend a bit of time reading the group rules and looking at posts to get a feel for the group and its members.
- Introduce yourself to the group, explaining who you are, what you do, and how you help.
- Answer questions. Be helpful. Build relationships. Don’t pitch or just post links to your hire me form.
It may take a while, but people will see your value, start to recognize your name, and view you as an expert in your field. You will soon become a go-to person in the group!
Attend Networking Events
I hate networking as much as the next guy, but it’s part of being a grown-up business owner. Also, it’s one of the best ways to make instant connections in your community and get a chance to tell people what you do.
How to network like a #boss (the condensed version):
- Check out meetup.com to find events in your area. Look for professional networking events or events where people in your niche might hang out.
- Get prepared to answer the question “So, what do you do?” over and over and over again.
- Head to the event! (Shower first)
- Wow people with your awesomeness.
- Leave them business cards so they can internet stalk you when they get home.
- Follow up with people you met on social or via email a few days after the event.
Check Out Job Boards
Freelance marketplace sites and job boards like Upwork and Elance get a lot of hate because of many low priced and low quality gigs. But they really aren’t all bad!
Real talk – I found some of my best long term clients through oDesk when I was just getting started with freelancing. They’ve remained clients or contacts and have helped me get referrals and grow my business.
The trick to making these sites work for you is to be super selective when you’re browsing. Don’t just apply for anything! Read through the posting with a fine-tooth comb, making note of things like:
- contract length and type – is it a fixed rate project or an ongoing hourly rate?
- the client’s history and feedback score – have other freelancers had a good experience working with this client?
- the job description – is it clear what the client is looking for? can you fulfill the requirements?
- mention of payment terms – if the contract says anything about commissions or pay outs after the job is done, move along. It’s too risky.
- interview process – be sure that you will have a chance to speak with the client prior to starting any kind of work so that you can get a vibe of what they’re like
These sites can be a great way to find work quickly. Not every client that uses job boards is just looking for a cheap contractor, but it’s up to you to determine if the client is going to be worth your time or not.
Another great thing about UpWork and Elance is that there is a feedback process built right in, so you’ll automatically get client testimonials and feedback that you can use as social proof of your quality work.
Team Up With Another Brand or Freelancer
Try partnering up with an established freelancer or agency as a subcontractor. When they get a big, new project or just have more work than they can handle themselves, they’ll call on you to help out.
I have done this in the past with a couple of small marketing agencies and it has turned into repeat work, referrals, and ongoing contracts that bring me consistent income. So I highly recommend this as a tactic, especially when you’re starting out.
Helping someone out when they’re slammed by delivering top notch services for their clients is a great way to build ongoing relationships that lead to recurring work and income.
You could also team up with someone that provides a complimentary service and develop a super helpful service for your clients. For example, a copywriter and designer could team up to deliver all-in-one sales pages. This way, you’re both getting work, you’re utilizing two people’s networks, and the client gets an amazing finished product. It’s win win win.
These are just a few ways to get clients fast. Start implementing a few of these strategies every week and you’ll have clients in no time.