While becoming a freelancer, following your passion and being your own boss can seem like the dream work-life option, getting your first paying clients can be challenging for any new freelancer.
Here are 5 things you can do to attract your first freelance clients.
Have an online presence
An SEO-friendly freelance website where clients can find you and you can display your skills, portfolio, and expertise, as well as inform your clients about your processes (i.e. what it’s like to work with you and how you operate and how they can contact you) is essential for most freelancers.
However, when starting out, you might not have the budget for an all singing all dancing website, so you should consider building an online presence via social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Being on the platform where your ideal audience hangs out is important, but you don’t have to be on them all. A general rule of thumb is to start on one (or at least focus on one) until you are au fait with how that platform works and what type of content works best to attract your specific audience and highlight your skills.
In essence, you are using social media platforms to market your content (in the same way you’d leverage an SEO search engine-friendly blog). By solving your ideal audience’s problems (or answering their most burning questions) with your content. Or simply by displaying your wares.
However, you need to be aware that if the social media platform were to close down, significantly change, or your account, for whatever reason, was closed, you could lose your followers. That’s why it’s best to have your own online real estate, i.e. a website.
Another thing you can do to mitigate this risk is to ask your social media followers to sign up for your email newsletter, that way, you can have direct contact with them and don’t have to worry about them going to different platforms or ever-changing algorithms, meaning that your followers don’t get to see your posts!
Email marketing is a highly effective way to attract clients and/or sell products.
Network (on and offline)
In-person industry events, conferences and social meet-ups are a great way to network with others, build relationships and get clients. Meeting people in person is memorable and a great way to make a positive impression on potential clients and develop business relationships with others in your field. You never know where a conversation might lead.
It’s the same online, too – remember – there’s a reason why they call it ‘social’ media. Use it as a powerful tool to market your business but also to be sociable, engage with others and be helpful. But don’t let it become a distraction.
You can also join specific industry or business groups online that can be a great place to network with other freelancers or business owners.
Family and friends
Don’t forget to let family and friends know you are looking for clients, also ex-work colleagues. Not only might people within these groups be potential clients in need of your services, but they may know of other people who do. All referrals are welcome!
The great thing about family and friends is that they already know you are skilled and trustworthy, and word-of-mouth referrals are the best!
At the end of the project with your first client, along with a client testimonial, ask them for a referral – i.e. ask if they know of anyone else in need of your services. This is a great way to garner a growing network of potential clients.
Make use of online job sites
Online freelance job sites sometimes get a bad press, so freelancers often avoid them. This is usually due to the low rates offered, but plenty of freelancers make a living from using an online job site alone. And many freelancers cut their teeth on such sites.
It’s a great way to gain experience and build a portfolio. You could also pick up long-term clients.
They are also an excellent place to research your target market. After all, a job site is full of clients looking for solutions to their problems. You can use them to investigate the type of things people are struggling with so you can create an offer or package around that problem.
Have streamlined processes in place
It’s one thing getting a potential client interested in you, but once you have piqued their interest – what happens next?
That’s why, regardless of the type of freelance work you perform, it’s essential to have proper processes in place. These processes range from client onboarding (e.g. discovery calls, quotes, and written agreements) to streamlined invoicing and payment options (e.g. what, how and when will you be paid).
Providing a slick front-end client experience builds trust and signals professionalism. A client will be more attracted to a freelancer who has done all they can to ensure the client side of things is as smooth as possible.
With Invoice Ninja, you can offer your clients online payment options (so they can pay with just one click). It also has professional invoice templates that you can customize with your branding and a client-side portal where your clients can view their invoices, quotes, payments, documents, and all transaction history.
Good processes will enhance long-term client relationships and significantly increase the probability of returning clients.
Ultimately, running a business is all about nurturing good business relationships and helping others get what they want in the most frictionless way possible. But you have to be proactive about it – don’t wait for clients to come to you.
If you can achieve this while fostering a great off and online presence, then you are set up for success.