When starting your own service business, there are a number of obstacles that can stand in your way. Securing cash upfront to buy supplies, figuring out how to manage your finances as a new business owner, and learning how to market your services are just some of the initial challenges a freelance newbie may face. One of the scariest parts of starting is figuring out how to get clients.
So, where exactly do freelancers find clients … and most importantly, keep them coming?
When you’re growing an online business, you have to be resourceful, tenacious, and look for opportunities in unusual places. We did some research (and asked some freelancers themselves!) for the best ways to find and retain freelance clients. Check them out below!
1. Facebook groups
Many freelancers swear by Facebook Groups as the secret sauce to finding clients. And lately, Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes posts in Groups above business Pages, which means anything you share in a group will appear higher in those members’ feeds. Pretty awesome, right?
Research some groups in your industry, city, or niche. You can join Facebook Groups such as Creative Freelancers Unite, Photographer’s Club, and WordPress Freelancers and Developers, or local Groups like Women Who Freelance Toronto or Austin Freelance Gigs.
2. Social media
Don’t be afraid to share about yourself and your projects online! Some of the best ways to attract clients are to talk about your work and show off what you can do.
Another strategy? Simply ask. Take to your Instagram Stories, your Twitter page, or your Linkedin and post something like this:
Yup, it can be that easy.
3. Guest blogging
Guest blogging is a great way to attract potential new clients, especially if the blog you are writing for has a large following. Some big-name publications, like Forbes, Inc., Create & Cultivate, and 99u accept guest bloggers and are great places to get noticed. But while you’re starting out, try smaller, niche publications in your region or industry, or reach out to friends you may have with a blog and see if they’ll take you on as a guest writer!
4. Be a guest on a podcast
Just like guest blogging, being a podcast guest is a great way to get your story out there and introduce yourself to a new set of listeners. Start with people you know who have a podcast, or some small-but-mighty podcasts that might be interested in taking you on. Email the host with a great pitch about why you’d be their perfect next guest (more on that later!) and you’ll be sure to land a spot on the show, and some new clients too.
5. Start a blog
While guest posting on someone else’s blog is a great way to amplify your voice, don’t forget to nurture your own blog too. Posting regular content not only improves your website SEO and gives you content for social media, but it helps to establish you as a thought leader in your field.
Brainstorm a list of topic ideas, focusing on finding solutions to problems that your clients may encounter. If you’re an interior designer, share a list of your favorite design trends of the year. If you’re a social media pro, share how to write the perfect Instagram bio. These types of blog posts allow you to show off your skillset and build trust with your readers-turned-dream clients.
Search engine optimization is the best way to send traffic to your website — and potential clients to your virtual front door. By dedicating a couple of hours one weekend (or hiring someone to do it for you!), you can greatly increase your website traffic. Start by deciding on a top few keywords to describe your business, then check out this article to learn how to set up Google Analytics and optimize them to send the best future clients to your website.
7. Invest in ads
Both Facebook and Google make it super easy to dip your toe into the world of online advertising, without breaking the bank.
Online ads allow you to reach people who you’ve never connected with before and also allow you to get really specific about the type of client you are targeting. For example, if you’re a freelance engagement photographer, you will most likely be targeting twenty-to-thirty-somethings who live in your area.
If you’re new to either platform, check out a quick online tutorial and get started for an investment as low as, say, $25.
8. Up your Pinterest game
When talking about social media and business, one platform that often gets forgotten is Pinterest. But Pinterest is an incredible tool to help drive new traffic to your website and new clients into your inbox. Plus, Pinterest also allows you to pay to promote your pins, meaning you can advertise within the platform, too.
Here’s how one freelancer has used Pinterest to attract new clients:
9. Host an event (virtual or IRL!)
Events are great ways to meet new people, socially or otherwise. As a business owner or freelancer, they also serve as a fantastic way to draw in new clients.
If you’re a social media manager, you could host an online workshop on growing your Instagram followers or how to use Twitter more effectively. Whatever your niche, think about the challenges that your ideal client may face and try to answer them in the workshop.
Virtual events are sometimes easier to plan than trying to secure a pricey venue. Have your guests join you on Zoom or Google Hangouts (pants optional)!
10. Develop an online course
Much like an event, an online course is a great way to attract new people into your world (and convert them into clients!). You can even record your online workshop and re-sell it as an online course as an easy way to earn some money while attracting potential clients.
Online courses are relatively easy to make, even if you’re not super tech-savvy. Check out Melyssa Griffin’s online courses on building online courses or try out Teachable to get started.
11. Email list
Building and maintaining an email list is one of the most important things any online business owner can do. Social media audiences won’t always see your posts but are more likely to see your emails.
Attract new email subscribers through your blog with online events and courses, or create a free download that requires an email address to receive. Stay in touch with your list by sending regular newsletters and offer limited-time promotions and deals. Be sure to always add value and keep them reading by offering tips and advice, too.
12. Build a customer referral program
One of the easiest ways to find new clients is through referrals, of course! Incentivize your existing clients to send new ones your way by building a referral program. Some ways to encourage existing clients to refer you to others include:
- Offer a discount of 10%-20% off their next service
- Reward them with a personalized gift
- Provide them with exclusive deals and promotions that only VIP clients would receive
Read this article on how to build a referral program and incentivize existing clients for more information.
13. Cold-pitch yourself
Cold pitching is one of the scarier ways to pursue new clients, and it’s highly effective if you do it well. Cold pitching involves tracking down a client or brand you’d like to work with, and emailing them out of the blue with an idea for a project you’d like to work on.
Some of the most important elements of a cold pitch include:
- Doing your research about the brand and making sure you’re reaching the right person. Spell their name correctly!
- Introduce yourself with a quick one or two-line sentence that highlights your relevant work experience (here’s a quick guide on how to master the elevator pitch!)
- Pitch your idea: what is it and why would the company benefit from it? Why are you the best person for this job?
Here’s an example of a successful cold pitch:
I’m a long-time fan of your blog (particularly your pieces on SEO). I’ve noticed articles on keyword research do particularly well on your blog and I want to pitch you a few ideas if you’re interested.
In the past, I’ve written for X and Y. Here’s a link to my portfolio so you can check out some of my work. Mainly, I think you’d be interested in reading X and X.
I look forward to hearing back from you,
14. Set yourself up on some freelancer job sites
There are a huge number of online websites for freelancers to find work. Fiverr and Upwork are two of the most popular, but those are just the tips of the iceberg. Depending on your niche, you may be able to find even more too. For example, writers can check out freelancewritingjobs.com and graphic designers can try Designhill. Check out this website for some of the top freelance job sites in 2020.
15. Follow up with past clients, potential clients, and even existing clients
Another easy—and free—source for new clients? Reach out to some of your old clients (or almost-clients)! Maybe you worked on a quick project for a client over a year ago and haven’t heard from them since. Or maybe you once had a long conversation with a potential client but it never ended up going anywhere? Why not give them a shout and see if they need any help?
Another strategy is to up-sell existing clients. For example, if you’re a web developer who happens to take great photos, offer to also do a quick photoshoot for your client’s website. Not only will it build the client’s online presence, but it also means more work (and money in the bank!) for you.
16. Think outside the box
Have you thought about other places in your community to connect with new people and promote your business? Here is a great example from a fellow freelancer on finding clients in unusual places:
17. Old-school networking
Even in these digital ages, a little old-school networking never hurts. As a freelancer myself, I have found clients through friends, friends’ parents, and my parents’ friends! If those connections don’t work for you, try attending some events in your industry.
One of the most unusual places I ever found a freelance client? A job interview! I wasn’t the best person for the full-time role I had applied for, but the interviewer liked me enough to offer me freelance work and even referred me to an additional client a year later. Word-of-mouth can be one of the best ways to find clients.
18. Leave marketing materials everywhere
Whether you’re a contractor, editor, or massage therapist, there’s a high likelihood that people in your immediate area could use your services. The best way for them to find you is to meet them where they are.
Find coffee shops, libraries, local book stores, appliance stores, furniture shops, or any peripheral retail spaces related to your business, and leave your marketing materials there. You’d be surprised how often a person idly waiting for their coffee stares at a corkboard full of business cards and flyers.
Time to find those clients!
As a freelancer, you can find new clients in endless places! The key is to be resourceful, be creative, and be authentic. Trust yourself and what you have to offer and your freelance business will be booming in no time! Make sure your brand stands out with an attractive logo that draws clients in. You can design your logo using Looka now!