With the right set of techniques, anybody can use social media to generate a steady stream of high-paying clients.
If you’ve been in the freelancing game for any length of time, you already know the importance of diversifying your client-acquisition strategy. Relying exclusively on one source of work - whether referrals, agencies, or freelancer marketplaces like Upwork - is a fast-track route to an empty schedule and a dwindling bank balance.
Social media is hands-down one of the best lead-gen tools for freelancers. In this post, you’ll learn how to leverage three of the most popular platforms to promote your personal brand, build your network, and connect with ideal clients.
1. Grow Your LinkedIn Network
Every freelancer should have a LinkedIn profile. Millions of companies use LinkedIn to find professionals for both short-term and long-term work. And the site itself has an array of features for connecting service-providers with potential clients.
If you only commit to leveraging one social media platform for the foreseeable future, make it LinkedIn. With the right approach, you can turn your profile into a powerful lead-generation asset.
Keep in mind that you don’t need a huge network to benefit from LinkedIn. If you’re starting out and only have a few dozen connections (or none at all), there are still many opportunities. And as your network grows over time, you’ll receive offers at a continually increasing rate.
How to Use LinkedIn to Find Clients
Follow the steps below to find freelance clients using LinkedIn:
Optimize your profile - First, take care of the basics. Set an interesting background image(use Unsplash to find free pictures), upload a professional headshot, write a short, catchy description, and add relevant experience and qualifications.
Set your profile to “Open to Work” - Don’t forget to configure your job preferences so that your profile shows you’re “Open to work” (you’d be amazed how many people don't do this).
Set job alerts - LinkedIn’s internal job search engine is an excellent tool for finding new work. Head over to the LinkedIn jobs page, type in your job title (for example, “freelance designer”), and set the filters for “part-time” and “contract” work. Save the search and pick your preferred alert frequency. You’ll be notified of any new opportunities. And while most won’t be suitable and there will be some full-time positions mixed in, a good chunk will fit with the kind of work you’re looking for.
Join groups - Pick two or three groups to engage with actively. Look for groups closely related to your field of expertise, such as “freelance design” or “freelance copywriting”. If somebody posts something you find interesting, don’t be afraid to let them know by reaching out (this is a great way to build connections).
Let past clients know you’re open for work - Over time, existing clients will become ex-clients. Whenever you’re actively taking on work, it’s a good idea to reach out to your previous clients on LinkedIn and let them know.
Comment on potential client’s posts - Have a company that you really want to work for? Find and follow key decision-makers, comment on some of their posts, and then reach out to them to ask if they’re hiring.
Post content to your network (with hashtags) - As your network grows, post original content to maintain your presence and position yourself as an expert in your field. It doesn’t matter what medium you choose - whether articles, video content, short reflections, memes, and so on - as long as it resonates with your market. Oh, and don’t forget about hashtags.
Bonus tip: Whenever you’re introduced to someone in a business context, search for and connect with them on LinkedIn. This habit will help grow your network quickly.
2. Post Creative Work on Instagram
Instagram is an excellent place for creative freelancers - graphic designers, animators, illustrators, and the like - to showcase their work. Agencies, which represent significant sources of work for creatives, tend to have large presences on Instagram.
Once you’ve built up your Instagram following, ideally with lots of agencies and potential corporate clients as part of your audience, you can create occasional posts broadcasting that you’re available for work alongside your regular content.
How to Use Instagram to Find Clients
Follow the steps below to find freelance clients using Instagram:
Create a professional and clear profile - If you’re going to attract new clients using Instagram, it’s essential for your profile to be engaging, professional, and, crucially, clear when it comes to describing what you do. Use a high-quality headshot, include your job title in your name (for example, “Gandalf - Freelance Wizard”), and write a bio that outlines your skills, states you’re open for work, and includes a link to your website. Also make sure you add your email to your “Contact Options” so that potential clients can get in touch.
Regularly post creative work - When it comes to creating posts, consistency is key. Over time, more and more people, including potential clients, will learn about your work and follow you. You can find hundreds of amazing Instagram post templates at Template.net. Each one includes easily editable minimalist layouts and creative designs that look great on social media feeds, desktop computers, iPhones, and Android phones.
Use hashtags - When you use relevant hashtags in your posts, there’s a chance that you’ll appear in the feeds of people that follow those hashtags. Find hashtags by looking at your clients’ and fellow freelancers’ posts.
Engage with other accounts - Establish yourself as part of the broader community and build connections by commenting on the posts of other designers, companies, and agencies.
Connect with agencies and agency owners - Connecting with potential clients through direct message is a little tricky on Instagram. Generally speaking, there are better ways to introduce yourself to leads, such as through LinkedIn messages and email. The exceptions to this rule are agencies. When you send direct messages to key people in agencies, they can quickly check your work on your Instagram profile. Follow and reach out to agencies if you’re actively looking for new clients.
Bonus tip: Learn about hashtags for themed days - like International Women’s Day (#IWD) and Earth Day (#earthday) - and create content for any that are relevant to your audience.
3. Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter
Twitter is the ideal place for building your personal brand. On the whole, the platform allows for a more individual approach. Try to aim for a middle ground between a hyper-casual tone and an overly formal tone - don’t make your content too personal, but don’t make it all about business either.
A mixed approach works best. Tweets about professional topics are great. But don’t forget to talk about your quirks, passions, interests, and maybe even your political affiliations.
How to use Twitter to find new clients
Follow the steps below to find freelance clients using Twitter:
Perfect your profile - State your profession in your bio, add a little bit of proof (your top two or three accolades), and include a link to your website. Twitter is a little more personal than LinkedIn, but you should still use a high-quality headshot.
Stay active - On Twitter, it’s important to stay active and engage. Follow organizations that you like, tag them in your own posts, and comment and reshare regularly.
Respond to potential clients with direct messages - When a potential client follows you, reach out to them directly and let them know you’re available for work. You shouldn’t do this with every single follower you get. But a selective approach that leverages personalized messages can be very effective. Something simple is all you need: “Hello, and thanks for the follow. I’m a big fan of [client or company name]. If you’re ever looking for a freelancer, feel free to reach out to me personally at [your email address]. Have a great day!”
Don’t be afraid to recycle content - Creating content for multiple social media channels is hard work, especially if you’re doing it daily. Remember that it’s often ok to post identical content across different platforms. If you publish something on Instagram, for example, add it to LinkedIn and Twitter too.
Bonus tip: Experiment with paid ads. This applies to all the platforms discussed above. If you deal with long-term clients with a high return-on-investment (ROI), paid ads are something worth exploring.
Remember That You’re Playing the Long Game
Before you start forging ahead with your new social media game plan, there’s an important caveat.
Client-acquisition on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter takes time. At least initially.
Yes, quick wins are possible. But building a consistent lead-generation asset means committing to growing your network, connecting with other users, and posting engaging content.
You don’t have to drop everything and devote the next decade of your life to expanding your Twitter base. But you do need to allocate ten or fifteen minutes a day to some routine tasks.
But here’s the good news: it’s absolutely worth it. With a little consistency, you’ll build a powerful asset that will deliver high-paying clients straight to your desk whenever you need them. And probably when you don't, too.
Bio: Dan Mowinski is a freelance writer and blogger. He runs the blog Freelance Happy, where he helps freelancers build meaningful, lucrative, and healthy careers. Contact him for writing work at DanMowinski.com.