Learn How to Find Clients Online and Offline
The hardest thing about having a successful freelance business is finding clients. Just the idea of it sends people with an employee mindset back to their 9-5 jobs and they’re happy there, having the work given to them.
But if you have a little hustle spirit and are determined to grow your freelance business, you have several options for where you can find clients for your freelance business. We’ll cover my five favorite (and most effective!) strategies here.
Work with an Agency
The easiest way to find clients for your freelance business is to let someone else bring them to you. There are marketing agencies, design agencies, web development agencies, virtual assistant agencies etc. No matter what service you provide, there is an agency in your industry.
Agencies take care of the client prospecting, sales, negotiation, project management (unless you’re a freelance project manager!) and collecting payments. Agencies do take a cut in exchange for handling so much of the legwork. Splitting the paycheck can be worth it, especially when you’re starting out and still learning or if you just hate that part of the process.
Working with an agency isn’t just for new freelancers. I am the default copywriter for two different agencies. While they don’t have enough writing work to justify hiring a full-time or even part-time writer, they do sometimes need help with copy. Because they can easily pull me in on projects, they can offer more services than they manage in-house. This saves the client the headache of finding someone and managing multiple people. The agency doesn’t have the overhead of an employee. And I get work offered to me on a plate and know someone else is dealing with the payment collection.
Check on Job Sites
Job sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour are a great way to find potential clients. Yes, it’s a lot of work weeding through the hundreds of job posts that are remotely relevant to what you do. Yes, it takes time and energy to write proposals. Yes, it’s true you won’t win every job you write a proposal for.
All that said, if you’re looking for clients and don’t know where to find them, job websites are a great place to start. Job boards have clients who know they need help and are actively looking for someone with your expertise.
This means you only need to convince them you’re the right person for the job, not that this job needs to be done in the first place. And since you’re super good at what you do, helping them see that you are the perfect person for the job won’t be as much work as when you need to explain why something needs to be fixed in the first place.
Ask Your Network
When you’re looking for clients, leverage your network. To be super clear, your network means: your friends, your family, your current and former colleagues, your book club, and even your current clients.
Tell everyone in your network what you do (use your elevator pitch!) and ask them directly if they know someone you can help. The people in your network know and like you, which means they’re inclined to help you. And they know tons of people you don’t know that they could introduce you to.
Don’t be nervous or feel like you’re imposing on them. You offer a valuable service and are charging a fair price (probably too little) for your expertise. Anyone they refer to you is going to benefit from having worked with you, so they’re helping whoever they refer to you too.
Remember that the people in your network know and like you. Because they like you, they’ll be happy to help you and they will feel good about helping. You’re just giving them an opportunity to feel good.
Try Cold Pitching
Most freelancers don’t cold pitch, which means if you’re one of the few who does and does it well, there are lots of clients out there for you. I love cold pitching because it allows me to learn about lots of different potential clients all over the United States.
Some people find cold pitching to be a lot of work and it can be if you don’t have clarity on who you’re pitching and what you’re helping them with. If you are a website designer, you could be cold pitching everyone with a terrible website (and a budget to afford some help) that you come across. You don’t have to be mean about it but you’re emailing them offering to help them. A new website will increase engagement and will probably help with their SEO. This means more visibility and clients for them
If you stay focused on how you can help the people you’re reaching out to, it will make a huge difference in how they respond to your cold pitch and increase your conversion rate. Remember that cold pitching, more than anything else, is a numbers game because you’re trying to help a stranger understand that they have a problem. This can be tricky because they may not want to hear about their problem and they don’t have a clear reason to trust you over anyone else.
Some people will ignore you. Some people will respond and want more information. Some people will be downright rude. I like to assume they’re having a bad day and feel sympathy instead of hurt when those rude responses inevitably come in.
I keep cold pitching because it works and if you have the stamina for the numbers game cold pitching is, you will find it works too.
Reconnect With Former Clients
The best client is a current client and the second-best client is one you’ve already worked with who knows you’re amazing. While the project you originally worked on is over, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with former clients so you’re top of mind when a new project comes that you could help them with.
It’s especially important to keep in touch with former clients so you can keep them updated about any new skills you’ve acquired or services you’re offering since you last worked together. Maybe you used to just offer social media management but now you run Facebook ads too. Maybe you used to just offer copywriting but now you do content as well. Whatever the change is, keep former clients in the loop so they can hire you again and again.
Just like your friends, former clients will assume you’re too successful and busy for their projects. This is especially true if you’re not actively in touch and occasionally reminding them that you’d love to work with them again.
Finding clients is doable if you follow a simple two step process.
Step One: Pick a strategy or two that feels like you can handle it (aka: don’t pick cold pitching if the idea gives you sweats.)
Step Two: Actually do the work.
There will be times when you won’t feel like doing the client prospecting work. Do it anyway. Your freelance bank account will thank you.