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! And when you’re just getting started, it can seem like an impossible feat to find your first client.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve hit a slow patch in your business, these ideas will help you to find new clients fast.
10 Ways To Get Freelance Clients
Create a portfolio website
For every suggestion in this post, having a website will help. Here’s why:
- It gives people something they can share when making a referral or talking about you
- You can show off examples of your work in a portfolio or a blog
- You can display your services with a contact form so people can easily get in touch with you
- It makes you look more professional. Honestly, there are so many unprofessional freelancers out there that just having a simple website will make you stand out. Putting the time into creating a website shows potential clients that you’re serious about your business.
Set up a WordPress website that tells the world who you are, what you do and who you help.
Tell Your Family & Friends
So maybe your mom isn’t going to pay you for a new website or social media strategy, but she just might know someone who DOES need it.
Your friends and family might have valuable connections in their life that could lead to your first (or next) client.
Take the time to write a thoughtful email explaining that you’re starting your own freelance business. Tell your friends and family what you do and what kind of people or businesses you are interested in helping. Ask your them to pass on your information to anyone they may know that could benefit from your services, now or in the future.
You can create an 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.
Tap your existing network
With so many people starting their own businesses, and more companies hiring freelance workers than ever, you never know who in your circle might need your services.
Your network isn’t limited to the people you see on a weekly basis. Think bigger and go way back. Classmates, old colleagues, professors and teachers, past bosses.
Find some of these people on LinkedIn (and Facebook if you’re already friends there) and reach out to them to start a conversation. 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.
Post on social media
For a while when I was starting out freelancing, I didn’t want to share anything about it on my personal Facebook profile. I use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends back home and sharing funny memes, not for promoting myself.
But everything I read told me to get over that. So I did. I made a post about how I had left my job to start my own thing. I got so many congratulatory comments and messages, and questions from people who wanted to do the same.
An old friend saw it and messaged me. She had started her own business and was doing really well. We ended up working together and it turned out to be my biggest contract ever. All because I got over myself and posted that I was looking for clients. Long story short, it’s worth it.
To try to get some traction for yourself on social media, 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.
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.
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 in the last few years 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 right 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. Don’t ask for anything at this point.
- 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!
Depending on your industry, you might have luck finding your audience by using LinkedIn or Slack groups as well.
Go to networking events
I hate networking as much as the next person, but it’s part of being a professional. And it becomes even more important if you’re trying to be a 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. Come up with a straight-forward, simple bio that says what you do and who you help. Leave out the buzzwords.
- Start conversations. Don’t talk about yourself the whole time. Ask lots of questions, and be genuinely interested in the answers.
- Ask them if they have a card so you can connect with them after the event.
- Add everyone you met to LinkedIn and follow up with a ‘nice to meet you’ note within a few days of the event.
Not everyone you meet at these events is going to be your dream client, but many can become referrals or great connections to have down the road.
Look on job boards
With the surge in freelance and remote work, there are literally hundreds of job boards you can browse to find freelance gigs. (Looking for a list – I’ve put together 21 sites to find freelance work quickly. Download it here.)
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?
- Payment terms – if the contract says anything about commissions or payouts 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 for 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.
Cold emailing can feel awkward and scary, but it’s another one of those things that you just have to get over.
Make a list of potential clients and businesses in your niche (you can use Google and LinkedIn to find them). Write a pitch template that presents you as an expert in your niche, and customize it for every email you send. Address the struggles and goals of the individual client. This takes some homework, but it’s worth it.
Contact local agencies
Many marketing, web and design agencies outsource some of their to freelancers and contractors. In addition to their in-house employees, they usually have a roster of freelancers and ‘subject matter experts’ to call on.
I have done this in the past with a few content marketing agencies. Working with these agencies turned into repeat work, referrals, and ongoing contracts – all of which help to create consistent income. So I highly recommend this as a tactic, especially when you’re starting out.
Partner with other freelancers or entrepreneurs
Another reason to join Facebook groups and attend networking events.
Partnering up with other freelancers – especially freelancers who have been at it a bit longer or have a longer client list – is a great way to get work. There are two ways to make this work:
- Offer to subcontract – When they’re slammed with work or looking to outsource certain tasks, you can work for them.
- Partner with a complimentary service provider – Team up to offer a wider range of services than you can do on your own. For example, a copywriter and designer could team up to deliver all-in-one sales pages.
Whichever route you go, 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.
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