Freelancing is a rewarding way to earn a living. You get to choose the clients you work with, you get to do work you enjoy doing, and the best part — you get to choose when you work. But what if you can’t find clients?
Starting out freelancing can be tough, particularly if you don’t have a pool of clients to start working with…
When I started freelancing, I definitely had no pool of people I could sell my services to.
As an administrator, I didn’t really have a network of people I could promote my services to, so I had to look at other avenues instead.
Before you start looking for clients though, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up so that when you do find clients, you can hit the ground running.
I found it hard juggling getting systems and processes in place as well as managing client work when I first started, so if I can give you one piece of advice, it would be to make sure that your business is set up BEFORE you start advertising your services.
I’d recommend you do the following:
- Get your website setup first. This includes your portfolio and some blog posts.
- Figure out your rates now. Don't try and do this while you're looking for clients. Know your rates and use them as your base for charging. You can change them going forward anyway.
- Write all your processes down now. At some point, you'll look to hire a VA or other people to help — if you've got your processes documented, this makes it much easier to outsource!
- Set up your accounting practices now. Use something like Freshbooks to manage invoices and expenses. Come tax time, you'll thank me!
- Choose a project management tool to help. I've used Clickup, Trello, Todoist, and Freedcamp, but others use Bootcamp or similar. Start using this now, your life will be easier...
Ok, now that you’ve got your business set up, it’s time to find clients. I’m assuming that you already know what your niche is. You know, your secret sauce, the area that you excel in and you’re going to charge people for.
Make sure you know what your niche is because you’ll need to clearly explain to potential clients what you’re going to be providing them with.
Once you’ve got that nailed, then you can start the process of finding clients.
7 Ways to Find Clients as a New Freelancer
Depending on what your services are, some of the ideas below may not work for you. Try them all then stick with what works.
I’m a creative business owner so connecting on social media works for me, but it might not work for you.
Don’t rule any of the ideas out until you’ve tried them at least once, though.
#1: Find Opportunities That Make You Look Attractive
What am I talking about here? I’m talking about thinking outside the box. This idea works great if you’re local too.
If you’re planning to attend a conference in your hometown or some type of event, contact the organisers and offer your services to them. Better yet, think ahead and look for conferences in your area 12 months out.
By reaching out and letting the organisers know that you’re local and can get things done for them at a local level, you’ll find opportunities start piling up.
This also works if you’re planning to go to a conference, maybe you could write a report for a trade magazine or do the graphics for local exhibitors traveling to that same conference.
Put your thinking cap on and see where your services can be marketed locally.
#2: Join Meetup.com Groups
Meetup is a great way to network and meet with like-minded people, but it’s also a way to identify groups that you could offer your services to.
If you’re just starting out, you could connect with some meetup groups and offer a hefty discount for members of that group. You could also offer to do a free talk about how members of that group could improve their blog photos or onsite SEO, whatever your niche or services are focused on.
Figure out how you can get in and do it. People will check you out whether you offer a free talk or a discount on your services. But they won’t if you do nothing…
#3: End of Fiscal Year Opportunities
Depending on where you live, approaching companies towards the end of the fiscal year is a great way to pick up work.
Most big companies and government agencies need to spend the money they’ve been allocated, because if they don’t, they lose it, meaning they may get reduced funding in the next fiscal year.
Approach companies or government agencies with your services about 1 month out from the end of a financial year, and you’ll find yourself with a few extra projects on your plate.
#4: Connect on Social Media Channels
There is no point engaging on Facebook if your potential clients are hanging out on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Figure out where your potential clients hang out and then make sure you engage. It’s good to promote your services, but you want to do that with a 90/10 rule – 90% other people’s content, 10% your services or blog posts.
Facebook groups are a treasure trove of potential clients… provided you apply the 90/10 rule I mentioned above.
When I was freelancing, a strategy I used was to be on Twitter. I found many long term clients there because that’s where my potential customers were hanging out.
If you’re a web designer, Pinterest might be a better option because it’s more visual.
Be helpful, be present, and look out for opportunities…
#5: Run a Contest
If you’re looking to build your client base, running a contest on your website or social media channels is a great way to showcase your services.
You could run a contest that gives the winner $500 worth of your services or give away a specific service. This is a great way to build your email list as well.
Run the contest over a 7-day-period and combine it with email building activities to increase your visibility.
You could get people to answer a simple question for a spot in the draw or have people provide their email address in exchange for a spot in the contest. Market it on your social media channels and follow up the contest with a blog post about the winner for some extra promotion.
#6: Search Outsourcing Sites
I’m talking about sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer. If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll know that I got my break in writing via oDesk (now Upwork). Yes, they provide low-paying jobs initially, but they also provide lots of opportunities to get your feet wet in your niche and if you know how to, you can find the high paying clients.
The key to using outsourcing sites is to find a few jobs, apply, land the jobs and then convert the client to an ongoing client.
Use the search box to your advantage and look for clients who are local to you as well, as it gives you an advantage to be able to go and meet with them in person.
If you can identify some small things within your niche that take you no more than 30 minutes to do, you could earn a tidy side income via Fiverr.
#7: Job Boards
Aim for the quality ones.
If you’re a writer, problogger.net offers a great job board where I’ve found some great higher paying clients.
If you’re a designer, places like 99designs.com are a great option for you.
Find the job boards in your niche that provide you with quality opportunities and you’ll find yourself with plenty of ongoing projects.
Now it’s Your Turn!
Getting started as a freelancer can be hard, but if you put some forethought into it, set your business up the right way, narrow your niche and figure out your secret sauce, finding clients will be that much easier.
Have you found clients using other tactics? I’d love to know and I’m sure others would too. So leave your tips in the comments below…