One of the most common questions I get from aspiring freelancers is “How do you get your clients?”
When asked this question, I never quite have a perfect answer because the truth is that my work comes from many different places.
There is no one method that I use to get a majority of clients.
Instead, I invest 30 minutes per day into marketing myself and prospecting for new customers. Over time this adds up into a steady flow of work.
But what do you actually do for those 30 minutes. What tactics work in finding and acquiring new customers?
There are tons of ways to get new clients, but below I have included a list of 16 tactics that have landed me new clients.
1) Stay in touch with friends and past colleagues
If there is one way to get a consistent flow of work, it starts by utilizing your existing network.
You will be amazed how old high school friends, college roommates, or drinking buddies can end up being a source of work when things are running low.
If you are ever in a need to generate work, turn to who you know.
2) Make the world aware of what you do
Author Seanwes calls this ‘Curate what you share’. Begin to share articles, blogs or media relevant to the service offering you are bringing to the world.
When you do this via your social media channels, e-mail newsletter or whatever else you do, it makes people subtitling aware of what your offering.
Often this can lead to acquaintances or friends who you haven’t spoken to in ages reaching out when they are in need of your services.
Curating what you share keeps you top of mind when people are looking to hire you.
3) Direct outreach
One of the most underused forms of acquiring work is simply asking for the business.
If you know of a friend or an acquaintance who you can tell would benefit from your services, simply reach out and ask.
Sometimes just putting yourself out there and asking is one of the most effective marketing tactics you could ever use.
4) Build a sales page online
In my article The Freelancers Guide to Online Marketing, I share a simple strategy for building a sales and lead generation page online.
This strategy is simple but can lead to a large number of leads if you put time into it and do it right.
5) Look for hubs of work
A hub of work is any single client that will continually feed you multiple clients.
For a copywriter, a good hub of work is a web designer who may need regular copy for their website projects.
For a web designer, a branding agency may be a regular source of new web design projects.
For an event designer, an event planner may be a regular source of work.
Every type of creative skill has a different hub. Figure out who the hubs of work are in your industry and target them.
For more on this, listen to my interview with Mat Newton on how he utilized hubs of work to build up a large client base for his SEO business in just a couple months.
6) Look for channel partners
For those of us in the technology side of the creative craft, there is a huge opportunity to grow your business through channel partners.
Channel partners are any large company or service that align with your service offerings.
In my personal business, I have built a strong relationship with Squarespace which has lead to a large number of leads for new work.
Every skill has different channels, but if you can align yourself with a big player or vendor in your industry, then there is huge potential for a large amount of work.
7) Ask for referrals
Whenever you finish up the project, simply make the ask to your past clients for referrals about future work.
If you have done a good job and they are happy with the results, then you have a great chance of them referring you for future business. Sometimes, you just need to ask.
This includes both online and offline networking. With networking, remember that is is not just about the quantity of connects, but instead the quality.
When I had my first video production business, I can trace 90% of our clients back to a single connection that I made.
Meeting more people is not the key, instead it is about meeting the right people and building a strong relationship with them.
9) Building authority
Do something to build authority in your niche.
Start a youtube channel, a blog or something that positions you as an expert in your field. This can do wonders to position you as an expert and also generate leads.
When I was starting up my Squarespace design business, I started a Youtube channel about Squarespace which consistently generated leads for new work.
10) Guest post on blogs where your clients may be
A great source of leads is to guest post in a place where your clients may be reading. Generally, this tactic is best done when paired with building up your own authority in the niche.
For example, I wrote a guest post for WPCurve about comparing Wordpress vs Squarespace. Their audience is primarily Wordpress users, but often people come across the article who are debating between the two platforms. This post alone has lead to multiple leads for new projects.
If you can guest post for various blogs and lead them to the sales page described in The Freelancers Guide to Online Marketing then a few quality guest posts can lead to a large number of new leads.
11) Create a list of all of your contacts and stay in touch
Get organized with a Customer Relationship Manger (CRM). This is simply a software or excel spreadsheet full of all of your contacts and business prospects.
Every month or two, dive through your list and put out a friendly message to stay in touch.
If you do all the work to market and attract new prospects, then at least do to he work to follow up and keep them engaged.
12) Start an e-mail newsletter
An e-mail newsletter, weekly or even just monthly or quarterly is a great way to keep top of mind with past and potential prospects.
Don’t overthink it. Sometimes the content in the newsletter isn’t even the important part. Instead it is just the simple act of popping up in someones inbox and reminding them that you exist.
If you don’t have a newsletter. Start one now.
13) Job posting websites
Early on in my freelance career I utilized these sites to generate over $1,000 per week for quite sometime as I built up my portfolio and eventually moved toward bigger projects outside of oDesk.
These platforms aren’t for everyone so read my post on How to make $1,000+ per week on oDesk to see if they are right for you.
14) Build a solid online presence
A strong website and online presence is essential in todays freelancing world, especially for digital nomads.
Consistently work on building and improving your website. It doesn't need to be perfect the day you launch it, but if you can consistently work toward improving it over time then you will eventually reach something near perfection.
15) Find someone more established and get their scraps
When you are getting started, find some mentors or individuals who are more established than you.
Often an established creative gets more work inquiries than they can handle or many of their leads are simply too small for them to care about.
One mans garbage is another mans gold.
Sometimes the scrap from a well established individual is all you need to get your career started.
16) Do good work
This sounds obvious, but if you do good work and give customers a great experience, then your business will grow over time through simple word of mouth and referrals.
This is just a partial list of ways to get clients, although this is the list of what has personally worked for me.
Invest 30 minutes per day into these tactics and you will see your business grow over time.
Often it will feel like luck when you win a project, but in truth it results of simple preparation and consistently putting yourself out there.