I thought it was about time to answer every new business owner or freelancer’s biggest question: How do you find clients online? And/or: How do you find freelance work?
The quick answer: Anywhere and everywhere. You never know when an opportunity for freelance work might arise!
Okay, okay. I’ll be more specific. I’ve been at this for a while and I found a sweet spot that works. I’ve never used freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, have never worked for free, and I’m busy (I mean this confidently, not to brag!). Sure, everyone rides the waves of self-employment, but the big-picture verdict is that work is good and I’m working on scaling my business.
If you’re new around here, hey! I’m Jill, a copywriter, brand strategist, and educator dedicated to helping those who are new to business sell their services confidently online. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started, so now I want to help you too.
The first step to finding clients is making the mental shift in your head. You are not an employee. You shouldn’t waste time trolling job boards. You are a business seeking mutually beneficial partnerships with clients. You don’t apply for a job; you pitch your services to meet a client’s needs. Your clients do not dictate your hours, terms and conditions, processes, packages, etc. Instead, they see value in your work and purchase your services, which includes all the nitty gritty details you’ve taken time to outline within your business.
Are you there yet? Keep reading to learn where I find new clients for my copywriting and marketing business…
In the beginning, cold pitching was my bread and butter because I didn’t have a website for my first two years in business. I landed my first paid writing gig by emailing a publication that wasn’t hiring. That’s actually how I landed a lot of my freelance clients. I had a running list of businesses or publications I would like to work for and I would email them as I gained experience, using better samples for bigger names, slowly working up the list.
I wrote about the beginnings of my journey a while ago if you want to learn more. Now, however, I don’t remember the last time I cold pitched for work. This is actually something that I teach on! It’s a good starting point though until you eventually build up enough authority that new clients will come to you.
I love referrals! It’s a feel good moment for everyone. I think this comes from the quality of your work and the quality of your service as a service-based business. It’s one thing to have a satisfied client, but if a past client is so happy with your work that they refer a new client to you without any gain to them—that’s winning.
Referrals can also come from people who have not worked with you yet or others in your industry. Maybe someone recognizes your expertise through the content you create, and they tell their colleagues about you. Or maybe someone you’ve met (and impressed) in person refers another because of your meeting. I have a list of referrals available for my clients that are actually peers or consultant whose work I have followed for a while and trust.
Referrals can come from anywhere, so it’s important to maintain professionalism within all interactions.
Networking—I know. It’s that icky word that no one likes to use because of the images it conjures. I’ve met a few of my best clients at (real life!) networking events. Just like those of us searching for new clients go to these events, people who need help often attend too—either to seek help or to fuel their own business’ growth. As awkward as it feels sometimes, people truly do call when they get to the office the next day.
The best part about attending networking events is that you can choose ones that are meant for business owners, so you know that anyone you talk to is likely the decision maker. Freelancers quickly learn the importance of communicating directly with decision makers (hint: it’s more efficient for everyone!).
As a consultant and service-provider, you probably have lots of information you can share online. Starting my blog has been one of the smartest business decisions not only because it helps attract more people, but it also shows new people that I know what I’m talking about. An added perk, is I can answer common questions in my blog posts. For example, new clients sometimes ask what the difference is between content writing and copywriting, so I can link this blog post to explain.
Blogging is a long game, though. One or two posts isn’t enough to see a return on your time invested creating the content and you need to be strategic with your keywords: What are potential clients searching for? You also need to pay attention to social media as a means to share your new blog posts with your audience.
Through consistent messaging, a strong strategy, and quality content, inbound sales will become more common over time.
I started with these two: Instagram, then Facebook.
A consistent Facebook page looks professional and may help you connect with your target audience (if that’s where your audience likes to hang out!). Facebook groups are a great place for like-minded individuals to chat, learn, and refer others.
Instagram is my favourite way to network though! I’ve found plenty of clients or strategic alliances through the app and I enjoy creating content that connects with my audience. Through strong content and thoughtful hashtag and engagement strategies, Instagram is the place to be for service-based businesses, freelancers, and personal brands.
However, although I appreciate the conversations in these communities, I wouldn’t say that trolling groups and hashtags for hours is a valuable use of my time when searching for new leads. I’d rather spend those hours researching my latest dream client before reaching out personally. Any social media leads for me are typically inbound, which comes from creating good content consistently and engaging with your community on social apps. I also have used social media to grow my email list over time.
In this business, we’re playing a long game. Referrals and a good content marketing strategy takes time, but building strong foundations is the key to creating a sustainable business. You never know…someone you meet in year 1 might come back to you in year 3 ready to work together! Above all, I appreciate transparency and hope to offer you valuable information, especially if you’re new to this lifestyle.
Through all these methods, the trick is consistency. Figure out what makes you unique in your industry and run with it!
Want to keep learning how to sell your services online? I created a free 4-day 4 Steps to Profit course that teaches you the basics to start selling the true value of your services, so you can land dream clients and get paid what you’re worth! Let me know if you have any questions. I’m here to help.
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