Thinking about becoming your own boss? Go for it!
According to Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward survey, a whopping 60 million Americans performed freelance work in 2022. And we totally get it. There are plenty of reasons to pursue your passion as a solopreneur.
But if you’re considering leaving the corporate ranks, you’re probably asking: How do I stand out from a sea of other freelancers when I’m just a beginner? Where do I find new clients? And can I win over enough of them to make it all worth it?
Fear not! We’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you grow your freelance client base and continue to crush it no matter how fierce the competition.
Where to find new freelance clients
It sounds pretty simple, but the first step to acquiring new clients for your freelance business is all about knowing where to look. Here’s where to start:
Family, friends and former colleagues: Turns out that most freelancers still find their work through good, old-fashioned word of mouth, so let your social circle know you’ve set out on your own. These people already know that you’re smart, savvy and reliable so they feel more confident recommending you to their larger networks.
Also: your previous bosses can be a great place to start if you’re looking for freelance work. If you got along well, don’t hesitate to reach out and see if you can assist them.
Your community: No matter where you live, you’re likely surrounded by small business owners that might benefit from your expertise. If you’re an accountant, for example, you could help a local business owner keep track of their expenses and file their taxes. If you’re a graphic designer or web developer, you could create business cards for your local shop owners or build out their websites for optimal performance, e-commerce and more.
The key here is not to be too pushy. Let the topic come up naturally, share concrete examples of how you can help, and then leave the rest up to them.
Online marketplaces or agencies: Whether you’re a virtual assistant, IT consultant, or anything in between, you can use an online freelancing platform like Fiverr, Upwork or Belay to connect with new clients. While there is a cost to join (some charge fees right up front, and others will take a cut of your total earnings), they will help you connect with ideal clients quickly and easily. Just check for exclusivity policies that might prohibit you from working with someone if you leave the platform.
Social media platforms: The online world can feel vast and impersonal at times, but it can also be a free and easy way to advertise for new business. Just be sure to use each social network in an authentic way.
- LinkedIn: This platform is all about business. Create a professional profile, post content that highlights your industry expertise, showcase your best work, and build a network by joining relevant groups and establishing connections. Keep in mind that your LinkedIn profile is often one of the top results when your name is searched in Google, so it’s important to keep it up to date.
- Twitter: Much like LinkedIn, use this platform to build connections with people and businesses you’d like to work for and engage with their posts to stay on their radar.
- Facebook: We already talked about sharing with your social circle, and this platform is a great place to do just that. Post your work and join Facebook groups where you can advertise your expertise. But be careful: Facebook can house content that might feel a bit too casual for your professional persona, so do a quick audit first.
- Instagram: Use this platform to showcase your creative side. Post engaging content as consistently as you can and use relevant hashtags to grow your audience.
Networking events: This tried-and-true approach can help you create more meaningful connections than you can online. Search for meetups on Google or get in touch with any small business associations in your area to see what they have on the calendar.
Other freelancers: Make connections with other successful freelancers so that you can take on their overflow work when they get too busy. It’s also smart to team up with freelancers in related fields so you can offer a more comprehensive service. If you’re a freelance writer that specializes in digital content, for example, connect with a web designer. (Here are 21 types of freelancers to give you some ideas).
Referrals: Asking for recommendations from past or current clients is a great way to drum up more business. It can be hard for prospective clients to take a leap of faith, but hearing first-hand from a satisfied customer can give them greater confidence in you and your work.
How to convince freelance clients to work with you
Now you know where to look for new clients, but how do you convince them to give you a try? Follow these four steps:
- Define your expertise. You need to understand the skill set you’re marketing to others so you can create a clear and compelling case for why clients should work with you. Identify both your hard skills (i.e. technical know-how) and your soft skills (like problem solving and time management) and get comfortable talking about both. It’s also important to know your niche. Instead of using a broad term like “marketer,” define your expertise more specifically – like social media manager, SEO consultant, or content marketing specialist.
- Research job postings: Once you’re clear about your own skills, it’s time to identify what skills potential clients are looking for. Check out freelance job boards. What types of jobs are posted and what keywords are they using in these ads? This can help inform your approach so your offer will appeal to more people.
- Create a portfolio: Now that you know what clients are looking for, you can pick the right samples or case-studies to include in your portfolio. Recruiters, business owners and HR folks are all extremely busy, so focus on quality over quantity and tailor your portfolio to the specific job you’re targeting. Plus, don’t forget to include concrete results that can showcase a client’s potential return on investment.
- Perfect your pitch: Whether it’s in-person, online or over the phone, a good pitch gets right to the point. Know each business’ pain point and demonstrate how your expertise will help solve that problem. Since time is of the essence, personalize each pitch to the specific client you’re addressing.
Tips to stand out from the competition
Once you get the basics down, it’s time to go above and beyond. Here are six ways to stand out from your fellow freelancers and ensure you have full-time work.
- Diversify your leads. Once you’ve landed your first clients, it’s time to really get the ball rolling by expanding your sources of income. Build out your website and LinkedIn profile to showcase your recent work, attend networking events, and ask clients to recommend you to others. Just remember: it’s all about balance. You’ll want to say yes to a lot of new opportunities, but don’t over-schedule. Meeting deadlines and producing high-quality work are still key to your success.
- Foster a strong reputation. There’s no point trying to constantly find new clients if you can’t keep the ones you have happy. That’s why it’s so important to make a good impression right out of the gate. Be proactive and ensure you give yourself enough time to produce your best work.
- Demonstrate your value. Take time to do things you can’t bill for – like starting a blog to improve your SEO. Also, consider writing for an industry publication or creating a newsletter. You could even develop an online or in-person course, start a podcast, or produce an e-book. These extras will give your work more visibility and more credibility, which can help bring in more freelance clients.
- Continue to upskill. Things change fast these days – especially for common freelance jobs like copywriting, graphic design, and web development – so it’s important to keep on top of the latest industry trends and best practices. Use sites like Skillshare, Coursera or LinkedIn Learning to grow your expertise in a way that’s both quick and cost-effective, and don’t forget to add your new skills to your professional profile, website and resume.
- Personalize, personalize, personalize. It can take time to tailor your approach to each potential client, but it really does pay off. Identify certain people or businesses you’d like to work with, research them thoroughly, and create a portfolio and pitch that’s unique to their specific needs and challenges.
- Leverage testimonials: Much like referrals, this is an important, but oft-forgotten area. If you’ve had a good experience with a client, ask them to write a snippet for your website or endorse your skills on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to help spread the good cheer by sharing on your social media, too.
Give it your best shot
A freelancing career can be super rewarding if you’re willing to put in the work. If we’ve convinced you to give it a try, get your self-employed journey started on the right foot with Practice. We can help you streamline your admin tasks, boost your client experience, and build, grow and manage your business with ease. Check us out today!