You’ve taken a big step in becoming a freelancer. Presumably, you have the talent, and a willingness to work hard. Unfortunately, that’s not even half the battle. Your efforts at self-employment are going to fall flat if you can’t land enough clients to pay the bills. Here’s how to find clients for a novice freelancer.
That’s a task that’s more challenging than many people realize. Still, it’s your key to success. If you’re a new freelancer who isn’t landing new clients, keep reading. The following guide should give you the jump-start you need.
Get the Basics Down
There are certain things you must do, at a bare minimum. Consider these the must-haves of your business presence. Get these accomplished, and you’ll have a great foundation to build your business. If you fail to check these off your list, you risk coming off as ‘not quite legitimate’ to potential clients and associates. Without further ado, make sure that you have:
A Dedicated Website with Portfolio
Clients will want a place where they can learn about the services you offer, see examples of your work, and find out how to contact you. A website that you own is the best place for this. What does ‘own’ mean? It means that you pay for website hosting, and have a legitimate, business URL. In other words, myfreelancebiz.com, not myfreelancebiz.cheesyfreewebbuilder.com.
If possible your website should have a portfolio of your work samples. If that’s not possible because you provide medical transcription services, or some other confidential service, you’ll want to gather up testimonials from happy customers or write up a few case studies.
A Professional Social Media Presence
If you’re working as a freelancer, you also need a social media presence. This is where you’ll connect with people in your industry, build relationships with potential clients, and establish your thought leadership. As a professional, you should start by building a LinkedIn profile. Facebook is also a good idea since potential clients will likely look for you there. As far as other social media platforms, that depends on your niche and target audience. For example, if you’re a visual artist, Instagram would be a good choice.
Take a look at the following tips for establishing a respectable presence on social media.
- Complete your account information.
- Link to your website in your social media profiles.
- Add your contact information.
- Use a professional headshot for your profile picture.
- Post regular updates to your social media that are relevant to your profession.
- Respond to engagement on your social pages.
Skype or Other Means to Live Chat
Sometimes, email and text aren’t enough. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with Skype, Zoom, or similar apps so that you can engage with your clients as needed.
Understand Your Customers
Before you market your services to your customers, you have to understand exactly who you are targeting. Are your services for individuals, other businesses or both? Who is your ideal customer? What are their interests, needs, or concerns? What problems do they have that you can solve with your expertise?
It’s quite possible that your target customer base is quite varied. In that case, you may need to create a set of distinctive customer personas. These are profiles of the different people you think will be interested in hiring you. By creating these personas, you can better understand your customers, and reach out to them with greater success.
A well-written customer profile will contain information that helps you to understand their business needs, and also help you to develop a relationship with that client. It should answer why they might use your services. A customer persona might look something like this:
‘Joe’ is a local business owner. He’s 45 years old, married with a couple of kids. He enjoys fishing and watching baseball. He has a college degree. Joe is most likely to use the services of a freelance accountant because he is concerned about making mistakes on his taxes, doesn’t want to get audited, and is busy with running his business.
By creating these customer personas, you are forced to get to know your target audience better. By doing this, you can begin to identify needs that other freelancers may not realize exist. There’s also the possibility that you might uncover entire customer groups that simply aren’t being targeted at all.
Use Job Boards
Yes, people have very strong feelings about freelancer job boards, and many of those feelings are negative. While it’s true that you won’t get rich using these sites, you shouldn’t dismiss them altogether.
As long as you manage your expectations, and use them wisely, these boards can be helpful to new freelancers. Here are some of the benefits of going this route:
- You don’t have to handle administrative tasks like billing.
- You can get work quickly in order to cover expenses.
- You can build relationships with new clients.
- You develop a portfolio of work as you complete more projects.
- Many boards have an online community for you to join. This can lead to additional connections.
If you decide to use this option, do your homework. Research the different job boards available to you. Read reviews from other freelancers. Compare hourly rates, and learn what each board charges as a commission.
Ask for Referrals and Recommendations
Your satisfied clients can lead you to more customers. When you successfully close out a project, reach out to the client and ask for feedback. If they are satisfied, ask them if they would be willing to do any of the following:
- Write a positive review
- Provide a testimonial for your website
- Refer you to any potential clients
There are a couple of things you can do to encourage customers to comply with this request. First, make it easy for them. Provide clients with links to relevant review sites. Add a form to your website to write a quick testimonial, and leave contact information for client referrals.
You can also encourage referrals and recommendations by offering an incentive. Consider offering a discount on future services, or some type of upgrade or freebie. Finally, when people do leave reviews of your services, respond to them. This shows potential clients that you are responsive and focused on customer service.
Create Valuable Content
You know you need to establish a presence on social media in order to attract customers. The best way to do that is to create and curate a steady stream of relevant content that showcases your expertise. By giving your audience great content through your blog or social media channels, you:
- Establish yourself as a source of information and insights.
- Increase your name recognition among potential clients.
- Build your social media presence.
- Drive traffic to your website.
- Increase your audience.
- Boost sales.
- Build relationships with potential clients and industry influencers.
So, what is valuable content? It’s content that you create, or that you find and share with your audience that is relevant to your industry. It should be timely, informative, and up to date. Ideally, your audience should be able to take the information you share in your content and put it to good use.
Yes, it’s okay to promote your services through your content, that shouldn’t be the main focus though. Many people recommend an 80/20 ratio where 80% of your content is educational and helpful, and 20% is promotional. The idea behind this is content marketing which is based on the idea that if customers see you as a thought leader and source of information, they will be more likely to come to you when they are ready to spend money.
To ensure that you reach your audience effectively, you should commit to producing a variety of content on a regular basis. This includes:
- Blog Posts
- Articles and Guest Posts
- Demonstration Videos
- Explainer Videos
- Question and Answer Sessions
Of course, producing worthwhile content can certainly be challenging. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources and tools to help you create, publish, and promote great content including; Grammarly, Whitesmoke, Canva, Powtoon, Slideshare, and Audacity. These resources and others will make it easier for you to create great content for your audience.
Build a Network and Use It
Your network is one of your most valuable assets. It consists of previous employers, your alumni network, coworkers, friends and family, influencers you’ve connected with, and previous clients. Essentially, anyone who can provide you with advice, references, positive testimonials, or connections to others should be a part of your network.
Build your network, and use it as a tool to reach out to clients. Just be sure that you are reciprocating these efforts. Most people are very willing to pass your name along to a potential client if they are certain you would do the same for them.
Partner with Other Freelancers
Taking the concept of networks a bit further is the practice of partnering with other freelancers and small businesses to expand your service offerings and theirs. You can team up with freelancers in different industries to offer bundled services, or simply agree to act as referrals to one another. For example, a web design freelancer could team with a digital marketing expert to offer a great combination of services for small business owners. Likewise, a freelance translator could work with a boutique travel agency as a mutually beneficial source of referrals for one another.
Learn to Pitch
This last tip almost seems as if it is becoming a lost art. That’s a shame because it remains one of the most effective sales techniques there is. This is simply picking up the phone, or sending an email in order to pitch your services to someone you believe will be interested.
There’s no doubt that this can be an intimidating technique. Making a cold call certainly runs the risk of being rejected. Still, this is a popular method because it really does work. The key is developing a sales pitch for your business, and practicing your delivery. The key is to communicate the benefits of working with you quickly without being long-winded.
Focus on Local
Unless you live in a very remote area, there’s a chance that you have many potential clients in your home city. You can connect with these customers by becoming active in your local business ecosystem. Try one or more of the following steps:
- Join your local business association or chamber of commerce.
- Seek out local facebook groups for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
- Attend local business events and conferences.
- Join a local coworking space, and participate in their networking events.
Offer Your Services for Free
As a freelancer, you should demand a fair price for your work. Avoid doing business with people who expect you to cut your prices to bargain-basement levels, or who expect you to work for ‘the experience’ or ‘exposure’. All you’ll do is undercut your worth as a professional.
Having said that, there are times when offering your services for free can help you land more paying clients. Done in the correct way, this practice can build trust and goodwill, and increase your name recognition. For example, if you are a web designer, you could offer customers a free audit of their website. A tax accountant could offer a limited number of senior citizens free tax prep services.
The key here is to offer something of value, and that you can afford to give away for free. It’s also imperative that you stay in control of who receives the free services, when, and for how long.
Final Thoughts on how to find clients for a novice freelancer
If you’re in the fledgling stages of starting your business as a freelancer, you know that landing clients is an intimidating practice. It’s also key to ensuring that your business remains afloat. The tips here should help you to make your business attractive to new clients, establish your reputation as an expert in your field, and make the connections you need to succeed.
Author Bio: Angela Baker is a freelance writer. When she’s not busy there, she is intensely focused on furthering her blogging career, and being the best person she can be. She is naturally curious, and is always seeking new ways to grow personally, professionally, and spiritually. One of her goals is to continually improve her writing skills, and she does this by writing for LiveInspiredMagazine. In her spare time, Angela enjoys distance running, traveling, and swimming.