Learn How to Get Clients in 2022 + Advice From Real Freelancers

There are many obstacles to starting your own service-based business. The greatest challenge is getting your business out there and finding clients to keep you going.

But how can you get clients? And how do you get new clients to come back?

As an entrepreneur, you have to be resourceful and look for opportunities in unusual places. We’ve researched for you and summed up 18 tried and true ways to get clients along with real testimonials and famous brand examples.

But first, let’s talk about branding

Freelancers often overlook the importance of branding. A brand differentiates you from the competition and builds trust and authority in the eyes of your clients. A brand can help you get clients by:

  • Differentiating yourself from others
  • Establishing trust in your services
  • Presenting a professional image
  • Connecting emotionally with customers

Overall, having a brand increases your perceived value and allows you to charge more as you grow.

1. Facebook groups

Many freelancers swear by Facebook Groups as the secret sauce to finding clients. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes group posts so they appear higher in those members’ feeds. Pretty awesome, right?

Research some groups in your industry, city, or niche. Join Facebook Groups like:

Or join local groups like Women Who Freelance Toronto or Austin Freelance Gigs.

“My first client was a close friend of mine. I’ve found other clients from marketing through Facebook groups and local paint stores.”– Maria Bowers, BDesign’D

2. Social media

instagram marketing

Don’t be afraid to share your work and projects online! One of the best ways to get clients is to show off what you can do.

Your social media profiles can act as a portfolio and marketing channel. Use them to your advantage! Use hashtags, location tags, and useful content to increase awareness of your services.

Another strategy? Ask. On your Instagram Stories, Twitter page, or Linkedin, post something like this:

“Hey, all! I am accepting freelance clients for X project about Y and also offering Z! If you know, or someone you know, is looking for support in this area, please DM me.”

It can be that easy!

“The most effective strategy has been my social media presence. I’m able to reach people I wouldn’t. I’ve also partnered up with other photography companies to help market my business.”– Joe Pearson, Piehouse Six Photography

3. Guest blogging

woman blogging

Guest blogging is when you write a blog post for another relevant blog as a way to increase traffic to your blog/business. It’s a great way to attract potential new clients, especially if the blog you’re writing for has a large following.

Some big-name publications, like Forbes, Inc., and Create & Cultivate are great places to get noticed.

Tip: Try smaller, niche publications in your region or industry, or reach out to friends with a blog. In your outreach, mention a list of topics that you have expertise in, and what value you can add as a professional.

4. Be a guest on a podcast

podcasting

With over half of US consumers listening to podcasts, being a podcast guest is a great way to introduce yourself to a new set of listeners. Start with 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 could land a spot on the show, and some new clients too.

5. Start a blog

Blogging builds authority and helps bring in website traffic through search engine optimization (SEO). Posting content will improve your website SEO and give you content to post on social media.

To start, brainstorm a list of topic ideas. Focus on finding solutions to problems that your clients may encounter, and start blogging. 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 engaging Instagram captions. These types of blog posts show off your skillset and build trust with your readers.

6. SEO

Search engine optimization is the best way to send traffic to your website, and clients to your inbox.

You can use Google Keyword Planner (for free!) and build a list of blog ideas to get you started. Choose a few keywords that describe your business, and check out this article on how to set up Google Analytics and optimize your website.

Make sure you’re always targeting a specific keyword when writing your blog posts!

7. Invest in ads

facebook ads to find clients

Online ads allow you to reach people you’ve never connected with before. With ads, you can specify the type of client you’re targeting. For example, if you’re a freelance engagement photographer, you might target thirty-somethings in your area.

If you’re new to advertising on Instagram, check out a quick online tutorial and get started for an investment as low as, say, $25.

Sarah, a bookkeeper, explained how to get bookkeeping clients:

“I got my first clients from browsing Craigslist ads. People think they need to hire an employee for bookkeeping. But, they can hire a contractor and spend less money with fewer errors in their system. From there it was word of mouth.” – Sarah Williams, Bookkeeper By Trade (read more about Sarah’s startup journey)

8. Up your Pinterest game

pinterest browsing

With 89% of Pinterest users looking for inspiration, it’s an incredible tool to help drive new traffic to your website and get clients into your inbox. Pinterest also allows you to pay to promote your pins, and even sell products!

Here’s how one freelancer has used Pinterest to get new clients:

“I’ve found that my formula of using Pinterest mixed with Tailwind (a Pinterest and Instagram scheduling tool). Getting many eyes has been a recipe for success for finding clients. ” – Liezl Swanson, freelance tech coach

9. Host an event (virtual or IRL!)

As a business owner or freelancer, events are great ways to meet new people and draw in clients.

If you’re a social media manager, you could host an online (or in-person) workshop on growing your Instagram followers.  Whatever your niche, think about your client needs and try to serve them in a workshop or event.

10. Develop an online course

An online course is a great way to attract and convert clients. Build authority by educating people on your particular skill set.

You can even record your online workshop and sell it as an online course. All while attracting potential clients!

You can also build a YouTube channel to gain traffic and promote your business. Online courses are 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

Business person reading emails on smartphone and laptop computer screen

On average, businesses can earn $44 for every $1 spent on email marketing. Your audiences won’t always see your social media posts but are likely to see your emails.

Attract new email subscribers through your website with online events and courses, or create a free download that’s sent through an email signup. Send newsletters and offer limited-time promotions and deals. Add value and keep them reading by offering tips and advice, too.

12. Build a customer referral program

When referred by friends or family, people are four times more likely to buy from you. They’re also more likely to stick around! Incentivize your existing clients to refer friends and family with a referral program.

Some ways to encourage existing clients to refer you 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 our blog on how to build a referral program and incentivize existing clients to learn more.

“Our first clients were referrals from the manufacturers I’ve partnered with. The repeat business is from providing outstanding customer service. My advice to others would be to build a good reputation and great partnerships.”– Larry Bond, Active-Security & Investigations

13. Cold-pitch yourself

Cold pitching is tough, but highly effective if you do it well. Simply track down a client you’d like to work with and email them with an idea for a project you’d like to work on.

Some of the most important elements of a cold pitch include:

  • Do your research about the brand and making sure you’re reaching the right person. Spell their name correctly! Try using Hunter.io to get the right email address.
  • Introduce yourself in one or two sentences that highlight your relevant work experience (here’s a quick guide on how to master the elevator pitch!)
  • Pitch your idea: what is it and How would they benefit from it? Why are you the best person for this job?

Here’s an example of a successful cold pitch:

Hello John,

I’m a long-time fan of your blog (particularly your pieces on SEO). Articles on keyword research do particularly well on your blog and I wanted to pitch 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,

Your Name

14. Set yourself up on some freelance job sites

Online platforms like Fiverr and Upwork are two of the most popular for freelancer jobs. But there are more out there depending on your niche! Writers can check out freelancewritinggigs.com and graphic designers can try Designhill. Check out this website for some of the top freelance job sites.

“To get referrals, I try to post on relevant websites or communities. Add your product to a website that serves your desired community to drive tons of traffic.”- Mason Payne, Masonite Studios

15. Follow up with past clients, potential clients, and existing clients

Reach out to some of your old clients (or almost clients) to see if they need any help!

Another strategy is to up-sell existing clients. If you’re a web developer who takes great photos, offer to 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.

Tom, a former real estate agent, told us how to get clients in real estate:

“I constantly network and let others know that I’m a real estate photographer. Once I’ve done a few jobs for a client, I ask for referrals. I also rank well for some keyword phrases, which brings in a steady amount of requests.”– Tom Poblano, Big Island 360 Media

16. Think outside the box

Have you thought about other places in your community to connect with new people and promote your business?

Freelance photographer Devon Williams got his first clients through the online bartering platform Bunz. “It was a great way for me to get my name out there and connect with my dream clients.”

Tip: Join different Slack or Discord communities to tap into new client pools. Communities like Online Geniuses or Growmance are free to join and very niche. There are Slack communities for everything!

17. Old-school networking

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 signing up to networking events (online and in-person) on these platforms:

  • Meetup
  • Eventbrite
  • Facebook Events
  • Linkedin
  • Your local community website

18. Leave marketing materials everywhere

branding example

Whether you’re a contractor, editor, or massage therapist, people in your area could use your services. The best way for them to find you is to meet them where they are.

Find retail spaces related to your business, and leave flyers and posters there. Try placing your flyer or business card at high traffic areas like:

  • Coffee shops
  • Local bookstores
  • Libraries
  • Coworking spaces
  • Bus stops

You’d be surprised how often a person waiting for their coffee stares at a corkboard full of business cards and flyers.

“I got my first clients the old school way: a business card! Now, repeat business is number one and referrals a close second. If you work hard and help your clients, they’ll get you the best referrals”– Deborah Beck, Haight Fitness

How these famous brands found their first clients

Tinder

tinder user

Tinder’s late CMO Whitney Wolfe used an in-person demo to gain 10,000 Tinder users. By presenting at colleges and demonstrating the product, she gained awareness through word of mouth.

Who hasn’t stopped at a grocery store demonstration or food sample kiosk to try something new?

Neil Patel

Neil Patel used a free trial to get people to sign up for his business. This way, he grew clients through word of mouth and referrals. In his words, “Your free users will drive you even more users”. Meaning a great free product does the marketing for you.

Try offering a small service for free. It could be anything from a free consultation to a trial on your services to grow your portfolio. Consider it business development!

Nasty Gal

nastygallogo

The Nasty Gal founder used her network as well as social media to grow her online clothing store. She built an empire by creating a brand identity that people recognized and trusted.

Focus on building a brand and a social media presence that’s memorable and distinct.

Dropbox

Dropbox grew by 60% every three months through the magic of a referral incentive program. The program gave free cloud space to the referrer and the referee, making it a win-win for everyone.

Incentivize referrals amongst customers to supercharge word of mouth and client growth.

Buffer

Buffer’s co-founder Leo Wildrich “acquired 100,000 users within the first 9 months of running Buffer” by guest blogging alone. He published around 150 guest blogs and built the relationships he needed to grow Buffer’s awareness.

Advice on how to get clients (from freelancers!)

how to find clients open door

Here’s how some of Looka’s entrepreneurial customers got their first clients.

  • Give out samples and spread the word

“I gave samples to close friends and family, and they helped spread the word. I also spoke to small retailers who were happy to stock a product that was similar to what they already stocked but with the bonus of being less harmful to the environment.” – Matt Vincent, Ecolunchware

  • Add your business to directories

“I’m interested (and self-taught) in health, wellness, and nutrition. I used Thumbtack for finding my first few clients and then word of mouth keeps me going.”– Crystal Connelly, Plantiful Delights

  • Connect with other entrepreneurs

“Our first clients were from our shared office space. We’re also using word of mouth, our website, and Facebook to get exposure.” – Juliana Norris, CP MedSpa – Lotus Wellness Center

  • Offer a free trial and get feedback

“I sent out an email invitation to friends and family letting them know my new credentials and what I was doing with them. I got a great response and got my first clients by getting in touch with people I know and love.”– Tina Haskim, TruBody Coaching

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!

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