How to get freelance clients – 9 Stupid Simple Ways
It happens all the time. You just finished a big project, your mailbox goes silent for a couple of days. Suddenly, you start wondering how to get more freelance clients, or if this is the time to redo your CV and start applying for a job at McDonald’s.
I’ve been there. Actually, after freelancing for 12 years, I’ve been there a lot of times. Feast and famine is a bitch.
So how do you stop doubting yourself and start generating leads that keep you busy all the time? Here are 7 ideas.
How to get freelance clients through inbound marketing
No no no… don’t freak out. I am not about to get technical. This is not essay and I don’t want to get into the intricacies of marketing.
But if you want to become a freelancer, you need to know some marketing principles.
Digital inbound marketing efforts involve putting the information out there for the consumer to find on their ownAdobe
For you, that means creating ways for potential clients to find you, without any making any effort.
Building a machine that gets you clients passively is amazing. But it takes time. If you need clients quickly, because you are just starting to freelance as a side hustle or for any other reason, skip to the Outbound marketing section.
1. Rank as high as possible in professional directories
All freelance services have directories of professionals. As a translator, I worked hard for 2 years to rank my profile as high as possible in the Proz.com directory.
It took me a long time to finally get to page one, but it paid off – over the next 5 years, I made $250k+ from leads who reached out to me directly after they found me on the directory. They could have been even more if my rates were lower, but they were enough to keep me busy all the time.
The key here is ranking your profile. Every directory has dozens of professionals, but can you be one of the first names potential clients see when they open the website? All directories have their own ranking system – find one where you can rank as quickly as possible.
Directories you can use include:
- 99designs.com for all design professionals (from logo to websites, but also business cards, illustrations and anything in between)
- Proz.com for translators – undoubtedly the most important directory of the whole translation industry
- Upwork – I know, I know. Upwork has a bad rep among freelancers for their notoriously low prices. Still, it’s a great freelance website for beginners.
2. Create your own website…
Even if your business is a one-person show, we’re in an era where a website is an essential asset. Having a website not only enhances your credibility but also positions you as a dedicated professional mindful of their image.
If diving deep into web design isn’t your thing, or if you’re not keen on hiring a WordPress expert, fear not. WordPress offers intuitive tools for website creation, and with the right lead generation tactics, you can draw in potential clients.
… Without forgetting SEO
To get hired or grow your subscribers, people need to first discover you. This is where SEO comes into play.
SEO stands for enhancing your website’s visibility by aiming to appear in the top search engine results.
To get the most out of SEO, consider starting a blog, producing valuable content consistently, and optimizing it using relevant keywords.
3. Write guest posts (where your clients hang out)
This tactic requires you to know at least a little bit about your ideal client (which you should, by the way). More specifically, where is that they hang out? What blogs or websites do they read to solve their challenges?
If you freelance as a game designer, chances are your potential clients will read industry sites like Gamedeveloper.com (previously Gamasutra). Backlink provider? There are a host of websites dedicated to SEO for businesses of different levels. Where is it that they don’t hang out? Websites and magazines that are dedicated to your profession only – you and your colleagues read it, but they don’t.
Once you have determined a list of potential publications, it’s time to pitch your guest post ideas to their editors/content managers. Ideally, you want a topic that is interesting to their audience while allowing you to showcase your abilities.
If you can include the results (actual data and numbers) you managed to obtain for previous clients of yours, even better!
Your guest post is yout time to shine – research the topic deeply, find out what the best articles are for your keyword, and then go the extra mile to write something that is even better.
Do this for a few months, for the best sites you can get a ‘yes’ from, and always link back to your website at the end of the article or in your author bio – slowly but surely, clients will start trickling in.
How to get freelance clients through outbound marketing
Now that you know what inbound marketing is, outbound marketing should be quite intuitive – if a marketing effort involves you getting in touch with the client, and not vice versa, you are doing outbound marketing.
Why would I ever do that if I can simply generate clients passively through inbound marketing?!All the introverts who ever read this article
Inbound marketing is absolutely great. You can build a whole freelance career out of inbound marketing only, and you’ll do great.
If you are at a point where you can’t raise your rates further.
If you want to work with a dream client of yours.
Or if you want to land clients quickly, probably because you are just starting out.
Then inbound marketing can’t get you there. You have to take the lead and reach out to your potential clients first. Here are a few ways to do that…
4. – Answer job posts
Out of this entire list of ways to get freelance clients, answering job posts is the quickest. By far.
That is exactly why I used it to start my career as a freelancer – I answered job posts on Upwork. At first, I was terrible at it. But I kept reviewing and refining my proposals till I finally got a project.
If you want to become a master at writing proposals for freelance jobs, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- A good proposal is 50% observation, 40% writing and 10% timing – read the job post at least twice
- Your proposal is not about you. The client doesn’t care about you – they care about them
- Everything you write in your proposal should have a goal – define that first, then write accordingly
- Not all proposals will get you jobs. I write good proposals, but my win rate is still less than 50%. Don’t make it personal
Let’s try to explain this better with an analogy. If I told you that you should read my website because it has ‘more than 50 articles on freelancing’, would you care? I don’t think you would. Having more than 50 articles means something… to me.
What if I told you ‘You know how you’ve mentioned several times that you’d like to try freelancing? I have written more than 50 articles on it, so I can help you to start that journey.’
To write good proposals, don’t start from yourself. Start from the client and work from there.
5. Cold email outreach campaign
Nothing activates your imposter syndrome like a good old cold email outreach campaign. And that is exactly why you should plan one.
Cold outreach means getting in touch with people you have never interacted with, in order to create a connection and ultimately sell your services.
Planning an email campaign is simple. Here are the necessary steps:
- Create a list of clients you want to work with
- Find the contact person you should talk to within the clients’ businesses. Freelance writer? Content manager. Freelance translator? Localization manager. Most of the time, big businesses will have a manager that’s dedicated exactly to your area.
- For each business and person you need to contact, you need a specific email address.
Once you have your list, it’s time to send your highly-targeted, customized email. That’s when the going gets tough. My tip? Keep your email short and to the point. Make your cold pitch about the client, not about you. And don’t be afraid of rejection – it’s part of the email outreach game, and nothing you should be scared of.
PS: Don’t forget your follow-ups. I recommend at least one email + 2 follow-ups. But I’ve heard of people following up periodically (around once a month) for 6 to 8 months before they even got an answer.
Is this inbound? Is this outbound? A lot depends on how you use social networks, but that’s beyond the point.
What truly matters is that social networks can be a goldmine of potential clients… if you know how to use them. Here are a couple ideas to establish a social presence that actually makes you money.
6. Build a strong LinkedIn presence
LinkedIn optimizes your profile using keywords for search visibility.
For instance, if you search “freelance app developer near Chicago” on Google, you’ll likely see a selection of LinkedIn’s leading freelance graphic designers in that area.
When building your profile, focus on these sections:
- Headline: It’s a space to establish credibility. While incorporating keywords is good, remember you’re engaging humans, not just algorithms.
- Summary: You’re allocated 2000 characters to showcase your expertise. Make the most of it.
- Projects: Feature your top-notch work by uploading PDFs or images, and include descriptions rich in keywords.
- Header image: This 1000 by 425-pixel space is essentially free advertising real estate. Use it wisely.
- Recommendations: Encourage past colleagues and clients to highlight your strengths. And reciprocate the favor! Sometimes, the key to receiving a recommendation is to give one first.
And remember, LinkedIn is still a social network – be social! Join groups and comment on clients’ and colleagues’ posts… if you have something relevant to say.
7. Answer posts on Facebook groups
With 200 million small businesses using Facebook for marketing, getting clients through Facebook groups is definitely possible… if you know which groups you should hang out in.
Put yourself in the client’s shoes – what’s interesting to them? Groups where freelancers complain about their nightmare client of the week, or groups where:
- They can find insights and expert advice on what matters to them
- Other entrepreneurs share their challenges
- They get assistance when a software they use (that’s related to your niche) stops working
I think you know the answer.
If you are in the right groups, it’s easy for you to find clients who are struggling with something that’s related to your area of expertise. Once you do, just showcase your expertise. Give them suggestions. Don’t offer them your services, because people hate to be pitched something when they only asked for advice. Show them you are the real deal and you can solve their problem. They’ll come to you. Rinse and repeat. Build yourself a name in these groups. It’s just a matter of time before clients come knocking at your door.
8. Post daily – and strategically – on TikTok
We mentioned Facebook groups and LinkedIn for inbound interest, but what about other platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok? I never thought much of them until I met Janine, who kickstarted her freelance design business on TikTok. Here is what she recommends:
- Identify Your Target Audience: Understand the types of TikToks that interest you to narrow down your audience, like those interested in fashion or comedy.
- Consistency is Key: Regular posting helps build a body of work, shows commitment, and increases visibility in feeds.
- Stir Up Controversy: Creating controversy can attract followers, but it’s important to balance it with positive engagement.
- Include a Call to Action: Encourage actions like subscribing or following other accounts, which helps in growing your follower base.
- Cross-Promote on Other Platforms: Share TikTok content on other social media platforms to reach a wider audience and gain followers.
9. Answer questions on platforms like Quora and Reddit
It may not be applicable to all freelance businesses, but if you are a writer or a marketer, answering questions on platforms like Quora and Reddit can add fuel to the fire of your freelance business.
Nicolas Cole, ghostwriter and writing course creator, became the most-read writer on all of Quora in 2015.
This is his advice on doing this the right way. To read more about each and every point, you can check out his LinkedIn post about how he used Quora here. (And give him a follow, he’s pretty great.)
- Don’t just answer questions. Tell stories
- Answer every question possible in your category/niche
- Only answer questions you can write high-value answers to
- Don’t delete old answers
- Volume wins
- Submit content to Quora Spaces (or create your own)
- Answer Suggested Questions
- Turn your Quora answers into content on other platforms as well
- Include a picture, if you can
- Don’t overthink it. Just write
Your action plan to get freelance clients over the next 3 months
‘Ok, let’s create a website’ ‘No, wait! That guy said the quickest way is to start answering job proposals!’ ‘What if I tried Facebook instead? I’m there all the time anyway’
I don’t know about you, but that’s what happens in my head when I read all those ways to find new clients. I want to try them all out.
And that would be a mistake.
Mastering one channel is not easy, mastering two requires experience, and if you think you are mastering 3, you are probably doing them all wrong. When it comes to lead generation techniques, my suggestion is super simple.
One product. One channel. One avatar.
Actually, it’s not my suggestion. I heard it from an online business guru, so it must be true!
That business guru was Alex Hormozi. A guy who builds and grows multi-million businesses for a living. When he speaks, I pay attention.
I don’t want you to start doing all of these things at once. On the contrary, I want you to choose a single one, and dedicate it one hour per day for 3 months. Monday to Friday, every day, religiously, no matter what. Most people will spend 3 hours per day on their freelance business in their first week, 2 in their second week, and they’ll be out of (a never-really-launched) business in one month. Don’t do that. One hour per day is all you need.
In 6 months, I can pretty much guarantee you will have so much work that you won’t be able to take on new clients, not even if you wanted to. When the time comes, come back – we’ll discuss how to raise your rates.