Learning how to start a business can be tough. And the piece people struggle most with is how to get clients. And once they have collected all the low-hanging fruit (clients provided by friends and family, and through other personal connections), What do they do? Who can show them how to get more clients? Ones that they don’t know from a bar of soap?
Well, one untapped market is other freelancers. So this ultimate guide will show you a few tricks on how to get clients who are freelancers like you.
- Freelancers need love too! They are constantly working on how to get more clients, just like you.
- A web dev freelancer doesn’t know how to create a brand, and a graphic designer doesn’t know how to create a website, and neither know how to get clients
- Solopreneurs make up a huge percentage of businesses globally
- Trend will continue as more and more people are working out how to start a business
- Think of it as small businesses selling to other small businesses who then sell to big businesses
- So you may need to learn how to sell to small freelance businesses in order to get new clients, so that THEY can get more clients!
4 simple questions to start with to help you get those new clients you’re looking for:
Follow this 4-step ultimate guide to understand who your ideal new clients are, where they might spend time looking to solve their problem (they should actively be looking), and how you can get on their radar:
- My specific customer is someone with this problem: _________.
- My prospective new clients spend time researching the problem / solutions in these 3 places:
- One way I can break in to one of the places above: _________.
- My persuasive pitch in an email to them: __________.
Getting to know the locations mentioned in step #2 can take some time. But if you want to know how to start a business, then getting deeply involved in your industry is a must, because that’s how to get clients faster. You can also build up useful freelancer client connections as well. And building a network is another essential part of learning how to start a business and keep it going.
Remember that Freelance clients will be EXTREMELY price sensitive. They aren’t the clients who will make you uber-rich. But they will be more likely to pay on time because they don’t have multiple signing authorities and bureaucracy. And like you, they are always trying to figure out how to get more clients.
The thing to keep remembering about Freelance clients, is WHO THEY KNOW.
OK, so once you have answered these questions you can look at how to locate and attract freelancer clients. Remember that these dudes understand the power of a good word in the right place. I recently posted on LinkedIn about a great lead generating freelancer in the Philippines. That post had 4,000 views! She has work coming out her ears!
So here’s 10 great ways to find great freelance clients.
1. Word of mouth
This is probably the thing to show you when it comes to how to get clients without doing any work to get them. Which is great when you are working out how to start your business. When someone recommends you to a person they know, it means a lot more than a polished resume.
People trust personal recommendations more than a portfolio, killer resume/LinkedIn profile, or blog. It all comes down to that age-old saying: “It’s not what you know, but who.”
So, do good work, and get referred to others.
People who own their own business probably know others who do, too. And those connections just may need a new website, video editing, new logo, etc.
2. Have a clear, up-to-date portfolio—and market it
A good portfolio is practically non-negotiable.
But just having a site won’t guarantee that people will come to it.
To attract potential freelance clients, you need to market it.
One way to do this is by using searchable portfolio sites, like:
And don’t disappoint people when they get there!
- Have work samples and/or case studies
- Get testimonials from previous clients
- Make sure your contact info is easy to locate
3. Blog (or more simply—create content)
Add a blog to your portfolio or online resume.
But before you dive in head-first into the world of blogging, it’s important to know what your market wants. Which is one of the things we concentrate on when teaching how to start a business.
Here’s a quick example: You are a WordPress web designer/developer. You may think it makes sense to write WordPress “how-to” articles.
These articles are super helpful…but only to those wanting to learn WordPress themselves, not those interested in paying you to build a site for them!
Instead, write articles that will appeal to the people you want to work for and be more likely to lead into a sale.
For instance, post an article about how making a website responsive can generate X increase in sales.
That’ll catch the right people’s attention, and will be more likely to get new clients for you.
4. Keep your LinkedIn up to date
LinkedIn profiles tend to show up high in search results when people Google your name (which almost every potential client does).
Having an outdated, dusty LinkedIn won’t make you stand out among the rest. Make sure to:
- Include a summary that addresses your most important and relevant skills and achievements
- Keep your experience and skills updated
- Add relevant work of yours in the LinkedIn “work samples” area.
- Have a crisp looking profile photo.
- Go above and beyond by adding recommendations from former employers/people you have worked with.
And get hold of the free e-book by Sam Rathling called Linked Inbound: 8 Social Selling Strategies to Generate Leads on LinkedIn.
5. Keep other, industry-relevant social media accounts up to date
These days, there are social media sites catering to a variety of specific industries, especially freelance-oriented fields. Depending on your expertise, there most likely is a platform for you.
To name a few:
- For developers – GitHub
- For designers – Dribbble and Behance
- For photographers – Flickr and Photo Critique
- For videographers – Vimeo
Like with LinkedIn, maintain an updated profile with relevant work samples.
Make sure that you hang out on the social networks where potential freelancer employers are looking for talent.
Plus, you can network with peers to gain insights and connections.
6. Start coworking
Coworking is like another form of in-person networking. The main difference is that you typically go to a coworking space daily, or at least semi-regularly.
They’re ideal for getting work done (especially freelance work) in a collaborative environment.
Plus, a coworking space is a great place to make friends, because being a freelancer can get lonely. (It’s not like your typical office life, where you are surrounded by coworkers by no choice of your own.) Network with others, collaborate, and get your own work done.
Coworking has many benefits, including networking with others who could need your services. It puts you in the right frame of mind to think about getting more clients.
7. Speak at events/conferences
One step up from attending events is speaking at them. The best kinds of events/conferences to speak at are ones where audience members may need your services.
For instance, you are a web designer. These days, every business should have a website (made easy by companies like Brandcast – who offer a killer end-to-end web design platform for professional designers) so speaking at a conference for business owners will get quite a few potential clients to remember your name.
And if you give a talk about the importance of good website design in business, outlining all benefits it can bring (longer time on site, increased visitor engagement, more sales, etc.), you’ll demonstrate your value even further.
Of course, when it comes to landing speaking gigs, you have to start small. But as you build up credibility as an amazing speaker, it’s even possible to get paid to speak at events. Promote your brand, get new clients, and get paid for it? Sounds too good to be true.
8. Network online
Nowadays you don’t have to be face-to-face to network. You can now attend conferences virtually.
- For developers – hack.summit
- For internet business folks – 1 Day Business Breakthrough
- For online creative business owners – Maker Mentors
More than online conferences or events, there are industry-specific forums you can also join.
- Quora – a bunch of different questions you can answer, showing your knowledge on the topic
- Freelancers Union Hives – requires a membership with Freelancers Union, but is a great place to discuss the ins and outs of freelancing
- LinkedIn groups – for instance, Photography Business & Marketing or Freelance Graphic and Web Designers
- Relevant subreddits – like r/webdev or r/freelancewriters
- GrowthHackers – for the marketing-minded
- Relevant Facebook groups – like this WordPress one or this user experience group
Participate in forums that are relevant to you and your expertise. Offer insights, recommendations, and connect with others. These are the steps experts advise on how to get more clients.
Key takeaway: Even if you live in a remote area, there is no excuse not to connect with others in your field.
9. Position yourself as an expert
There are ways you can establish you as an expert in your field that goes beyond the standard blog (which it seems like everyone has, these days).
For instance, you can write an eBook. The fact is anyone can publish a book on Amazon or on their own using a platform like Gumroad…but not everyone knows that.
However, if you’re not much of a writer, you can do other things to position yourself as an expert, such as:
- Create an online course—on your own, or on a platform like Udemy or Skillshare
- Build another kind of information product—like a package of goodies (videos, files, etc.)
- Mentor newbies to the field online or in person (you can do this either on your own or via a structured program)
10. Using the “Remora Method”
The Remora is that little fish you’ve seen on the Discovery channel that cleans off other larger animals like sharks as they navigate through the ocean. The term, coined by James Clear, sums up a way that you could be finding more freelance clients—by offering to pair up your services to go after big, established businesses.
Simply put, if you can…
- Find a business that your product or service can help
- Partner with that business and share the profits
…you can put this method into action without much trouble.
In the end, it’s all about relationship building
When it comes down to it, getting freelancer clients is all about building relationships (online or offline) and demonstrating your value and expertise.
Use these methods of passive promotion and you just might start each day with a couple more email enquiries about doing some work in your inbox.