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:
2. Social media
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!
3. Guest 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.
4. Be a guest on a podcast
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.
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
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.
Sarah, a bookkeeper, explained how to get bookkeeping clients:
8. Up your Pinterest game
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:
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
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.
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:
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,
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.
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:
16. Think outside the box
Have you thought about other places in your community to connect with new people and promote your business?
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:
- Facebook Events
- Your local community website
18. Leave marketing materials everywhere
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
- 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.
How these famous brands found their first clients
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 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!
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 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’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!)
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
- 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!
Make sure your brand stands out with an attractive logo that draws clients in. You can design your logo using Looka now!