Why some creatives rake in big freelance clients while you're always stuck looking for work
When you first started freelancing, you may have pictured this glorious moment when you sign a contract template or agreement template your first big freelance client, you submit scope of work templates and start working on projects you love and everything is magical from that point on.
But it’s possible that months or years down the road, you still haven’t quite found those dream freelance clients you hoped for.
Have you ever paused in the middle of your hectic day as a freelancer and asked yourself:
“Why did I sign up for this?”
Between juggling the demands of your clients (such as design feedback), managing your freelance invoices, handling marketing, and wearing a zillion hats related to running a business (Bonsai can help you with that), sometimes it’s easy to forget why you ever wanted to start freelancing in the first place.
After working with thousands of freelancers on an almost-daily basis, I’ve learned there are a few critical things creatives with big freelance clients do that others who struggle simply don’t.
So today I’d like to share with you a few of the most common traits I’ve personally seen in freelancers who rake in big clients — compared to those who are stuck looking for new freelance clients every month.
1. They don’t wait for jobs to come to them
First, the creatives I’ve seen who rake in big freelance clients don’t just wait for those dream clients to come to them.
This may seem obvious at first, but how many times have you heard freelancers say their primary way of finding new freelance clients is by word-of-mouth?
For me? Like a million times.
It’s a bit ridiculous. Even if it’s true and you’re finding all your new work from freelance clients you’ve had in the past, that’s the worst possible advice to pass on to a freelancer who is struggling to find work every month.
Why? Because telling them to rely on word-of-mouth marketing is just encouraging them to wait around for good freelance clients to come knocking on their door.
And 99% of the time, it doesn’t work.
Clients don’t come.
And freelancers go hungry. Or worse, they have to get a day job.
In order to rake in big clients (at least in the beginning) you have to work for it; you have to be proactive.
That means going to networking events. It means regularly searching freelance jobs sites for new opportunities and reaching out with a quality pitch when you find freelance clients you want to work with.
It means you have to constantly be marketing yourself. Selling yourself even. Which brings me to my second observation: creatives who rake in big freelance clients have learned what it takes to sell.
2. They’ve learned how to sell
Creatives who routinely have big freelance clients take the time and put in the effort to learn how to sell.
When I say “sell,” you might have a visceral reaction — getting a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you think about the pest control guy that knocks on your door every summer.
But selling doesn’t have to be sleazy.
In fact, selling can be incredibly natural, fun, and rewarding.
The problem is, however, that most freelancers are not salespeople. We’re writers or designers, or developers or coaches. We make things. We’re creators. We’re builders. We’re artists.
We never classify ourselves as salespeople.
The artists, makers, creatives, and builders who find and work with the perfect freelance clients, though? They are salespeople… and they know it.
As a freelancer, you should learn to identify selling moments in your everyday life and always have your marketing pitch polished up and ready to go, and learn how to respond to an RFP if you are sent one.
To become a good salesperson will take time, practice, hard work and patience.
Of course, you can speed up your learning by taking sales courses, reading sales books, joining social communities, or even getting a part-time sales job to learn from someone who’s been selling for decades.
However you choose to do it, money and time you invest in learning how to sell and send cold emails for jobs will be some of the best time and money you can spend on your freelance business.
I can almost guarantee it’ll be the top contributing factor to finding bigger, better freelance clients.
If you want to take your game to the next level, use tools designed to help your freelance business such as Bonsai to manage everything from proposals and contracts to invoices and time tracking -- give it a try and sign up for your free trial today.
3. They focus on converting one-time clients into recurring revenue
Of course, being successful as a freelancer doesn’t always mean you have to bring in gigantic freelance clients.
Some freelancers, instead, choose to focus on serving just a few clients on a recurring basis. Thus turning what might have been one small or medium project into a monthly recurring freelance contract.
For more details on how to build retainer work into your freelance business, try reading the freelancer’s guide to retainer agreements in just 7 steps.
Not only does this pay off over the long-haul (stacking up recurring freelance payments over 12 months can really add up), but it can also take a huge part of the feast/famine burden of off freelancers, giving them more breathing room to focus on all areas of their business.
For example, smart freelancers realize that there’s a science and an art to charging the perfect amount. Bringing me to my last critical finding:
4. They’re not afraid to raise their rates
You may have heard lots of fellow freelancers tell you if you want more (or better) freelance clients, you have to raise your rates.
While I’m always hesitant to encourage a freelancer to raise their rates just for the sake of raising them, there is a less-commonly understood truth here:
When you charge more, you have better freelance clients.
Of course, your ability to pitch and sell yourself using freelance proposals has to also increase and your ability to actually deliver quality results has to match what you’re offering.
But almost every successful freelancer I’ve talked to gives me the same story: things started to turn around with their freelance clients once they started charging more.
Regardless of what you’re charging now as a freelancer, you can probably increase your freelance rates. Then, you don’t have to manage as many freelance clients at one time — leaving you open to provide higher quality results and manage all the intricacies of your business too.
That’s what makes the difference.
As far as I’ve seen, that’s what makes the difference between creatives with bigger, better freelance clients and those who are struggling to make ends meet every month.
The question is: are you dedicated enough to put into practice the advice I’ve shared with you today?
If you are, you’re going to see success. And if you want to spend more time doing the work that you love, and worry less about managing your freelance clients, tools such as the all-in-one suite from Bonsai are here to help.
Check out the free trial and see for yourself.