Every freelancer does what they do because they have a specialized skill and they’re good at it. Whether you’re a freelance designer, event planner, web designer, or whatever else, most of us acquired that skill first before setting off on the freelance journey. Once you dive in, though, you discover there’s a whole other skillset you need: finding freelance clients.
Don’t stress, because you’ll hit your stride soon and find client recruitment strategies that work for your personality and business model. To find that go-to strategy, it comes down to good old trial and error. Start by experimenting with these popular strategies.
Networking has been one of my most successful strategies to find clients, and it was the first one that broke me out of the cozy yet low-paying box of my first two clients. You can network online or in person.
If you’re the type for an in-person meet-and-greet, look for networking groups or business development groups in your area. Chances are that someone has a networking event coming up. It’s as simple as showing up with business cards in hand, ready to mingle.
If you prefer getting to know someone behind a screen, try networking on LinkedIn instead. Connect with people in your industry and strike up a conversation.
Don’t just network with potential clients. Strike up conversations with your fellow freelancers too. They could refer clients to you when they don’t have time for new projects or they may reach out about a collaborative project, like scriptwriters and videographers teaming up to develop new videos.
Growing an Online Presence
The more visible you are online, the more likely clients are to find your site and recognize your credibility. Start with search engine optimization strategies on your own site like writing a blog post every week.
Build a presence on other sites too. Try guest posting on well-established and respected blog sites, especially those in your industry. Post YouTube videos sharing your expertise too, like answering questions about your field or offering tips from your wealth of experience.
Social Media Groups
I wish I’d found freelancing groups on social networks when I started freelancing. I discovered them months later and I haven’t looked back.
Search for Facebook groups for freelancers for example. Find groups dedicated to your industry as well as groups that apply to your skillset. For instance, as a freelance writer in Atlanta, I belong to Atlanta freelance groups, nationwide freelance groups, groups for writers, and Atlanta marketing groups.
In these groups, you’ll often find client leads as well as freelancing advice. They’re great for networking too.
You’ve probably used job boards like Monster or CareerBuilder to find traditional jobs. There are freelance job boards that work the same way but specialize in freelance and contract roles.
Some of these boards post jobs for all types of freelancers, like FlexJobs. Others are geared toward a particular type of work, like 99designs for designers and ProBlogger for blog writers.
As freelancing has grown, platforms have emerged in the market. Take Upwork for example, which aims to be a comprehensive platform for freelance work.
Clients post gigs and freelancers bid on them. All your client communications and deliverables submissions happen on that platform. The platform takes a commission from your invoices.
Some people have tremendous success on these freelance platforms while they’re fruitless for others. Still, especially if you’re new to the freelance business, it’s worth a try to see if it jives with your workflow.
Most freelancers shudder at the thought of cold emailing but in many cases it works. Simply reach out to potential clients with an email explaining what you do and linking them to your portfolio and case studies for more information.
The trick is knowing who you should target. Say you’re a web designer. Technically, any business is a potential client because at some point they all need a website update. The chances of you reaching them while they’re planning that project are slim, though.
Target marketing agencies instead because they have ongoing parades of clients who could need design work, so you’re much more likely to catch them at the right time.
Marketing to Existing Clients
Most freelancers overlook this but your existing paying clients are great resources for new leads. Email them letting them know you have availability for a new project and inviting them to tell anyone they know who’s looking for services like yours.
These clients already know how talented you are so their recommendation will be golden. Don’t assume they would’ve sent someone your way if they knew someone who needed your help.
Finding Your Strategy
Finding new clients is a skill you’ll develop over time. There’s no singular system that works for everyone. It’s all about your line of work, personality, and target audience. Trying all the options above is sure to put you on the right track toward booking client contracts left and right.