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How to find new clients for your freelance business
If there’s one rule that successful freelancers should learn early on in their careers, it is this: always be selling. Stopping your search for new work opportunities is a bad idea at any point, even if you think you have enough work to feel successful. Because projects can end suddenly, it’s best to keep a steady supply of new clients in the funnel. But how can you go about finding those clients?
While you may think that different types of freelancers have different strategies, most go about it in a strikingly similar manner. Developers, writers, designers, and marketers all use the same methods to grow their client base and keep a steady stream of work opportunities at their fingertips. We spoke to freelancers who are confidently growing their businesses with this proven advice:
1. Ask your current and past clients
You know what they say: “It never hurts to ask.” And, in the case of hitting up those who have been happy with your work, it can pay off big time! Don’t hesitate to keep in touch with clients who have responded warmly to your work. Getting new business can be as simple as letting them know you’d appreciate them passing along your name to anyone who has a project coming up.
Grant Pardee (writer, producer, and comedian) has used this technique successfully for his own business. Getting work via recommendations from past clients can also be an effective way to get hired for projects without doing a lot of extra pitching. You’re also less likely to have to bid against too many other candidates.
"A lot of times it's recommendations from friends or past clients. That tends to lead to the most success." Grant P / Twitter: @grantpa / Web: grantpardee.contently.com
Want to sweeten the pot? Some freelancers have even offered referral bonuses for past clients who send new work their way. The amount may vary, but it may be as simple as discounting future orders by 5-10% for each new major contract they refer.
If there’s ever a time to get out into the world and meet people face-to-face, it’s when you work virtually. Networking in person is something many remote workers and freelancers struggle with, so it’s no surprise that those who do it will have an advantage! Conferences, small business meet-ups, and conventions are the best opportunities to do this.
Remember that you are there to meet a need, so don’t lead with your sales pitch. Get to know the people around you, understand their pain points, and seek to solve their problems. If you can convince them that you are there to make their life easier, the job will be yours! Bring plenty of business cards and a listening ear.
3. Make it social
Not going anywhere soon? Don’t discount the value of online networking. Will Hawkins is a digital marketing professional who has made LinkedIn and Facebook work for him in getting new freelance clients. Update your bio and statuses with samples of your work and upcoming projects for maximum results!
"Make the most of your social media accounts such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I update my status not with 'sales messages' but with the results of my work. That might be a new website, article on my blog, or photo of an something on show."Will H. / Twitter: @whawkins / Web: digi-business.co.uk
Remember, what you get out of social largely depends on what you put in. Don’t just talk; observe. Set up keyword searches for people who may need your services. Answer their questions, and establish yourself as an expert. Your social media profile should direct them to a portfolio of your work and more information on your services, should they seek it.
"Pay attention to your portfolio, this is key. Share your work on social media and also Behance if you're a designer."Andrew Marriott / Twitter: @thelogocreative / Web: thelogocreative.co.uk
4. Create case studies
Sometimes, there is no better way to earn a new client’s business than by proving you’re the best. A well-written case study can provide this proof and become a powerful tool in your selling arsenal. Freelance designers like Pablo Massa have used them to get new clients. (You should, too!)
Need help putting one together? These tips for creating a killer case study can help. You should be able to clearly community how you took the client from point A to point B, solved a problem, and showed proven results. Client testimonials and direct quotes will make it even more compelling!
(Note: Case studies can be a challenge for those who are not writers or marketers. It’s a worthwhile purchase to hire this task out, if you’re not confident in your own abilities. Consider it an investment in your business.).
5. Propose your first gigs for free
If you're new to freelancing and struggling to get your first clients, working for free with high caliber clients might help you secure your first paid gig. However, be careful when choosing who you work with, or learn how to deal with difficult clients in advance.
"I did a lot of guest blogging, and many of those guest pieces turned into ongoing paid blogging gigs."Ali Luke / Twitter: @aliventures / Web: aliventures.com
6. Have a process in place
While every potential new client will have unique needs, you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you apply for or bid on a job. In fact, there is a lot of value in having a template for many of the redundant parts of finding new work. You can start by having custom cover letters for each type of work you might do, then tweaking them slightly to be different for each job.
Grant Pardee believes in streamlining, as well. While he is continually looking for work on different freelance job boards, he makes the process simple by making sure to keep his portfolio and resume up-to-date so that sending applications is quick and easy.
7. Building a sales funnel with trust
All the freelancers we interviewed agreed on one thing: Building a community of trusted friends, colleagues, and clients is important. You will likely be back in contact with most everyone you have worked with at some point. Developing relationships and nurturing connections is a sure-fire way to never run out of clients – or work – again.
What are some of your best strategies for finding and landing new work?