This article is Part II in a 5-part series on earning more through freelancing.
Landing your next client is a constant battle for freelancers, coaches and consultants.
So what can you do to make life easier? Below are some brilliant tactics to rise above the competition, score better clients, and pull in more business.
If you don’t manage your personal brand, it’s incredibly difficult to stand out. There are a lot of talented people doing exactly the same thing as you out there, but if you have a successful brand, then you’ll stand out even in a field saturated by the best of the best.
I branded myself as a sustainable designer when I was in LA and made my fortune doing that kind of work, and now I do branding consultations, and I used my own advice to get the clients that I have. If you’re able to state clearly and concisely what you do and why you do it to anyone who comes across your work online or that you meet in real life, you’ll get more work. It’s as simple as that. — Colin Wright
It has all kinds of hidden contexts and implications. From the beginning, I’ve chosen to call myself a “virtual assistant”.
I could call myself a “freelancer” or a “consultant” or a “coach” – but those words don’t click with my ideal clients. “Consultant”, to my clients, means someone who may have expensive rates and isn’t on your level, and who you go to for advice and coaching, but at the end of the day, you’re on your own to implement. That’s not me. I’m an implementer, a “doer”.
So to my clients, “virtual assistant” means someone with knowledge in your area who can take some things off your plate and make your life easier by literally doing those tasks on your behalf. — Lisa Morosky
The web is your friend
Name a medium that can reach more potential clients at once. You can’t.
My first big clients all came as a result of blogging. Coca-cola and Miller Lite both found me while I was blogging about Gen-Y and the music industry. They wanted someone to talk to them about the younger generation and how they could reach them through entertainment channels.
My next major client was the former VP of Disney, Lee Cockerell. I worked with him on promotions for his book. He found me through a blogger relationship I had formed.
Now, nearly all my leads come in through my websites, blogs, guest posts and writing. There is something about someone seeing what your ideas are before they come and talk to you, trust you and start paying or partnering with you. — Greg Rollett
My first three clients came from inbound marketing. That is, they contacted me because they read an article on my blog. I specifically set up my business this way. I do zero “selling,” cold-calling or client networking because I don’t enjoy it and think it’s a waste of time. Clients seek me out because I’ve established myself as an expert in my field by writing about the topic every week. — Corbett Barr
I built my online profile by blogging, creating a client-focused website and contributing articles to build up my collection of clips. (I’d been teaching journalism for five years, so when I began freelancing, I didn’t have anything current.) I began writing for a site called Inspired Author used that experience to get a long term gig providing articles and ebooks for a UK copywriting agency. — Sharon Hurley Hall
I wrote guest posts and sent them to blogs that used paid writers. With the first two, I didn’t even have to ask for a paid job — the editors emailed me to invite me to become one of their staff bloggers! Almost three years on, I’m still working with four of the clients I got in those early days, which is fantastic. — Ali Luke
Go the extra mile for clients
Nothing sells like world-class work.
The one specific technique I’ve always used to get more clients in is treating current clients well and solving their problems as best I can. And the times when I couldn’t, I’ve referred them over to more capable providers. I’m a big fan of professionalism and honesty in business.
And I think if you have a service based business in particular, it’s highly likely that a large portion comes from referrals. So, it’s important to make sure you take care of and are honest with your clients. — Naomi Niles
I make sure that everything I do is kick-ass. When I talk with clients, I give all there is to give. I really want them to succeed, and that passion to get others successful permeates my whole brand. People feel it, and want to work with me.
I always remember the line from Deepak Chopra “If you want to be successful, make others successful!” — Mars Dorian
I take a great deal of interest in their business and spend a lot of time understanding what they do for their customers and what’s important to their customers. They’re not paying for copy by the word, they’re paying for copy that connects and converts their audience and that happens because I care about them as much as they do. — Amy Harrison
Stop making excuses and start building relationships.
I always ask my clients to pass my name onto their friends. Word-of-mouth marketing has been the best way to get more clients. And it doesn’t involve creating an email list or spamming people. — Tammy Strobel
Networking–but not in the corporate, stuffy sense of the word. I just meet and get to know people through Twitter, blog posts, mutual friends, and as my sphere of online friends and colleagues expands, so too do the opportunities to be helpful to new people. Those opportunities often turn into paying work.
It’s so true that people like doing business with people they trust and like, and the only way to increase the number of people who trust and like you is to engage with people. Converse in blog comments, chat on Twitter, even pick up the phone now and then (how old school!)… building relationships with people leads to more paying work, often in ways and through connections you never would’ve predicted. — Marissa Bracke
Networking. It’s such an overused word, but word-of-mouth cannot be underestimated, especially when it happens at the speed of light online. When I was starting out I spread the word among friends, especially in an online forum of which I was a member. Pretty soon one of my forum friends hired me and then someone sent me a referral. The more people who know who you are and what you do, the better. I’ve even had people “find me on Twitter” probably through my friends and contacts re-tweeting me. — Kelly Kingman
100% of my business both individually and with my new company, Proof Branding has been based on word of mouth referrals. In a nutshell, I’ve focused on doing good work and letting the my clients do the marketing for me. — Matt Cheuvront
I made friends and helped people without asking for anything in return. That has resulted in paying work more often than anything else, though I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as an exclusive marketing strategy. — Megan Morris
As I moved towards higher-paying clients, I found that word of mouth and my personal networking were bringing me much better jobs. Just getting out in the world and talking to people have brought me some of my favorite projects. — Thursday Bram
I met my first client while out at a wine bar with my girlfriend. She saw someone she knew on the way out and I talked up the group she was with. In LA, ‘what do you do?’ is almost always the first question people ask after getting your name, and when it comes to things like design and development, everyone is looking or knows someone who is looking for someone reliable.
The second client came from a social network I had joined…it was actually he CEO of the network that asked me if I would be interested in doing some graphic work for them, as they had just started up and they liked the work I put up on their site.
The third came from Twitter – I was in the process of branding myself as a sustainable designer, and a company with a sustainable technology product wanted a ‘green’ brand. I was happy to oblige.
Networking across all available avenues is important as it is allows you to meet potential clients, but also to expand your network so that when anyone you know hears that a friend is looking for someone who does what you do, they’ll think of you first. Most of my later clients came from friends of friends of friends who had heard of me and my work. — Colin Wright
Good, ole fashioned hustle
Sadly, the worldwide standard is often to do nothing, which is why it’s still totally possible to hustle your way to the top.
I talked to everyone I met, whether it was at a bar, on a train or at Starbucks. I was constantly hustling to connect with people who would lead me to a new client or who would turn out to become a client themselves. It’s not fun or pretty but it definitely gets the job done at first. — Maren Kate
Cold calling. My husband and I set up our first web design business in 1998. I went through the Yellow Pages targeting industries like real estate or financial services who I knew would benefit from having a website but hadn’t got one. I’d never done any tele-sales before and would be literally stammering and stuttering down the phone at people. It didn’t help that most of them had no understanding of the Internet and firmly believed that they didn’t need a website.
I persevered, got good at finding who the right person to speak with was and then at educating them about the benefits of the Internet. We set up that first business as an experiment to see if we could support ourselves working from home on a small island in New Zealand where we lived at the time. It took a long time to build up the business but now, 13 years later, we’re still going strong. — Annabel Candy
For the most part, I went out and hunted down projects or clients on various websites like Craigslist and Elance. I applied for a ton of jobs and eventually got a lot of responses. I also got some clients from referrals, which was always a big help as well. — Justin Wright
Run a promotion or give it away
You don’t want to give everything away for free, but it will certainly bring clients in the door.
One of the smartest, most fun marketing activities we’ve done to get more clients and spread the word about a new service we recently launched was to give out awards & prizes. Specifically, we give out three Shine & Glue awards each week and then award a monthly prize winner who wins some free graphics/tech coaching. It’s been a great strategy to spread the word to completely new audiences and prospects in a fun way and has resulted in the new service generating way more clients in the first few months, than some of our old services generated, ever. — Lea Woodward
I got my first paid clients as the result of giving away my expertise. I made an offer on my website and in a couple of paid forums I was a member of that I would give a free 30-minute session to anyone who signed up in the next three days.
I made it very clear: if I got a thousand takers, I’d do a thousand sessions! I was almost completely unknown and I had never offered consulting before, so I wanted as many learning experiences as possible.
I got about 40 takers (which was pretty damn excellent for a nobody, I think) and did every session before work at the Day Job (luckily, 5am in Australia in the middle of the day in North America). A couple of the sessions turned into paid work straight away, and some of the other sessions gave me product and service ideas that sold, too. — Catherine Caine
I partnered with a friend for a 30-day program that we did in conjunction with the book Get Clients Now. It was amazing! We set-up a shared tracking spreadsheet in Google Docs and had weekly calls to check-in on the ten daily actions/goals that we set from the book. I definitely had five clients by the end of the program – and recommend it to all business-people who are trying to figure out how to bring clients in the door. — Jenny Blake
Like most people, I gave away a lot of free sessions in the hopes that people would sign up. I probably did 10-20 free sessions before I got three clients. Also, creating an introductory session where they can see a road map to where they want to go, and then offer them support with long-term coaching to stick to and complete the road map. Even if it’s not that structured, just showing people a new reality for what’s possible for them and offering support is a great way to get more clients. — Jonathan Mead
When I started out, I made a free contest with my blog readers. I asked a question and chose the 5 best answers. The prize was a free consulting session for each one, and two of the winners got so much value out of it that they paid for the next one. That’s when it all started. — Mars Dorian
Trust me. You can do this too.
There is nothing unreasonable, unrealistic, or even unusual about doing business online. It’s still people working with people.
The course and newsletter are totally free, but I am still willing to say that you will earn $500 in 5 weeks if you put the tactics to use right away. In fact, I personally used the exact strategies in the course to earn $655 from just 6 hours of work on my first try.
This article is Part II in a 5-part series about earning more through freelancing.