I don’t mind admitting that when I started freelancing almost ten years ago, I struggled with my own marketing. In fact, it came as a surprise that I had to do so much of it.
It felt relentless, and often still does. You scour around hunting for projects. You bid on them, win them, heads down while you complete them and then the cycle repeats again.
Of course, years later, I have learnt to be far more organised with my marketing. Specifically, that it needs to be a continuous effort – see my article “how to get more work than you can handle”
I have also learnt that quite often, the best route is the most direct route in. Quite literally, if you want something, ask for it!
And so here are three ways to find new clients that in speaking to other freelancers, I have found are often ignored.
Offer Pro-Bono Work
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you are ever aware of the need to build up a client portfolio. And quite rightly so – your ability to do the task in hand will be judged by the work you have done in the past.
While it might be tempting to try and fill up your portfolio fast by sourcing ‘cheap labour’ from the many freelance sites out there, you will end up restricting yourself to precisely that – cheap labour.
To land decent, well-paid work from top paying clients, consider offering them pro-bono work. Obviously you’ll only do this for a few, carefully selected list of potential clients, (and do it well and you will only have to do it for a couple),but at least it will demonstrate to them your worth as a high fee earner and you’ll stand a better chance of securing their next big project. Additionally, the glowing testimonials that you’ll receive from them will be extremely valuable for building up your portfolio.
I’ve mentioned this before and can’t emphasise enough how useful it is to have a network of people who offer complementary services. So as an example, if you’re a copywriter, be sure to have a good graphic designer/web designer/illustrator etc among your friends to recommend or call upon to help, so that there are opportunities to cross refer.
Do get offline and search out local businesses that might be able to use your services or refer you to others. Can your local printing company refer you to their clients? Offer them a commission to do so.
Talk to people
Of course social media is important, but to find new clients, you need to talk to people (and talk to people who know people).
Compile a list of companies that you’d like to work for, pick up the phone and ask them if they have work available. This direct approach often works precisely because so few people have the guts to try it.
By all means, practice your elevator pitch (a short, concise ‘what you can do for them’) so that you don’t waffle or take up too much time. If you receive a favourable response, follow up with a concise email and offer to meet with them in person to discuss further.
Attend networking outside of your usual events. So as an example, attend an event in your clients’/prospective clients’ sector. It’s got to be the best place to meet more of the same!
Talk to local people – in your local hair salon, other parents on the school run, at your kid’s football games. Small talk is the foundation of business relationships and a great route in to telling people what you do.
Obviously there are ways and means of doing small talk so that you don’t run the risk of people running a mile whenever they see you. But the more people you speak to and the more people who know what you’re able to offer, the more likely you are to get referrals when they crop up.
Do you agree that these methods are commonly ignored methods to find new clients? What what tips would you add?