You’ve got a freelance business. Maybe you already have a few clients, or you’re looking for your very first ones. Either way, you need successful strategies to add more customers to your roster. Diversification is key when you are freelancing, so use the following tips to expand your client base and build a more solid foundation.
1. Take advantage of social media
It’s free, it’s popular, and it’s a quick and easy way to reach millions of people. If you don’t already have them, set up business pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and if it’s applicable, Pinterest. Then start pushing out content.
Retweet articles about your industry and comment on them. Publish links to articles you have written. Get your work samples photographed and uploaded, and make sure you use plenty of hashtags so that people can find you easily. Check out the social media sites of businesses you would like to do work for, and leave comments leading back to your pages. The more you post, ideally several times a day, the more chance you have that people will find you.
2. Attend networking events regularly
Depending on your location, you should be able to find regular networking events that you can attend to promote yourself. Websites like Meetup, Eventful, and even Facebook Events make it easier than ever to find something close to you that will be filled with the kind of people you want to meet. Be prepared with business cards, but don’t jump right into your elevator pitch. Just mingle, get to know the people there, and when the conversation turns to the inevitable “So what do you do?” question, that’s when you can promote yourself.
Don’t be too pushy, keep it light, but make sure you leave a great impression and a way to be contacted. Even better, ask for their information and hit them up a few days later with a follow up. (See also: 11 Ways Freelancers and Telecommuters Can Make Friends and Network)
3. Speak at a conference
If you don’t have a problem with public speaking, you should consider speaking at a conference. There are many different organizations and venues to explore, and it is fantastic exposure for you and your business. Speaking at TED is tough, but the local TEDx events are much easier to get into. They are well organized, extremely popular, and the TEDx talks get almost as much coverage as the bigger TED presentations. They are filmed and distributed via the TED website and app.
If that’s not to your liking, find local (or national) conferences that are industry specific. For example, if you’re in the design and advertising industry, HOW Design Conference, South by Southwest, and Advertising Week offer excellent opportunities to put you in the spotlight and reach new clients. (See also: How to Make Public Speaking Less Terrifying)
4. Do some spec work for a client you really want
Picture the ideal client list on your website. Who’s on it? Who are you most proud of? Now, create something for that client that’s better than anything you’ve seen out there. If it’s an ad campaign, flesh it out. If it’s a logo design, show it across a range of applications. If it’s a website design, make it functional. Spec work like this can often lead to real work for that same client.
Now, it’s important to note that this is work you will do to prove your abilities, and was not asked for by the client. This is more of a, “Hey, look over here, I’m really good,” kind of deal. If a client approaches you asking for free work, that’s another story. You should consider this carefully. Reach out to other professionals and ask them if it led to paid work. If not, they may simply be exploiting your talents. (See also: 8 Ways Freelancers Can Make Sure They Get Paid on Time)
5. Become friendly with freelancers in your field
While freelancers are often in competition with each other for the same business, they also know that it’s important to have good contacts. For a start, freelancers with impressive client rosters can put you in touch with people who could provide regular work. Then, there’s the case of overflow, or last-minute unavailability. If a freelancer has bitten off more than they can chew, you could become a lifeline.
How do you meet these fellow freelancers? Well, at the same places you’d meet clients: networking events, online forums, and group chats on Facebook. Be polite, ask for advice, and tell them you are looking for work. Sow these seeds now, and harvest the rewards later.
6. Check in daily at job boards
There are plenty of them out there now, including Upwork, Freelancer, Guru, Indeed, and Glassdoor. Plus, LinkedIn has a jobs section, and you can also create a Google alert for freelance jobs in your industry. Be wary of jobs that pay very little (such as postings on Fiverr, for example), as these are more like one-off projects that will rarely lead to anything substantial. Don’t be afraid to pitch on multiple projects at the same time. The chances are, your success rate in the beginning will be low, so you’ll want to improve your odds of landing a gig.
7. Consider an ad campaign on Google or Facebook
If you have the funds available, a well-written text ad targeted at the right demographic could bring in some great prospects for you. With both Google ads and Facebook campaigns, you dictate the amount of money you want to spend over a set period of time, and fine-tune the target audience so that the clients you’re interested in landing will see the ads.
You will want copy that is search engine optimized, so if you are not savvy with SEO, find a copywriter to help you. You will obviously need to make sure that your website is completely finished, and you should also consider a unique landing page. This is first page that the potential client will see, and is a good opportunity to hit them with a bulleted list of your services and easy contact information. (See also: 8 Surprising Ways a Personal Website Can Improve Your Life)
8. Partner with an agency
Sometimes, the easiest and most convenient way to get new clients is to work with agencies that have already done the hard work. They have access to a wealth of accounts, and if you work directly for them, you can make the agency your own client and work on a diverse array of projects.
Advertising, marketing, design, and PR are some of the industries that cannot survive without freelancers. There are also agencies looking for freelance writers and bloggers, photographers, artists, and even carpenters and security guards. Do a search for agencies in your line of work, and don’t limit yourself to local firms only. Many writers and designers have clients halfway around the world.