When you’re just getting started as a freelancer, one of the most important tasks you have is finding quality clients. In fact, those first freelancing months often seem like a never-ending hunt for clients.
The problem with getting started as a freelancer is that many of us fall into the trap of creating a portfolio, showcasing our work on social media, and thinking clients will come flocking. The reality is often very different.
Time is a precious commodity and you have to get smart about marketing and promoting your services, instead of spending time on tactics that won’t fill up your calendar with clients and projects.
In this post, we’ll talk about the most important task you have to complete before even thinking about promoting your work. We will also share a number of different ways that will help you land those first few clients.
Get to Know Your Clients First
A good portfolio matters as well as having a website where you can showcase your skills and past projects. However, if you want your website to be effective, you need to get to know your clients first. And by that, I mean, you have to understand what they want and need, instead of offering them what you think they need.
Most web designers and web developers focus too much on which platform the website will be built on, the responsiveness, the current design trends or pricing. In reality, most clients are not interested in any of that. They want to know the impact the website will have on their bottom line.
Show them that and let your website copy and marketing messages speak about benefits they will experience and you will have much better chances of landing clients. You will also be able to charge more.
So, how do you get to know your clients? There are a few ways to do this.
Interview Ideal Clients
The first way is to email a few of your ideal clients that have had their website redesigned recently and ask them what did they want to achieve with the redesign and what made them hire that particular designer. Keep it short, put the focus on them, and be sure to compliment them on the redesign.
You might need to email a number of them as not everyone will respond but the answers that you do get? They are written gold that will help you present your services and packages in a more compelling way.
Ask Fellow Freelancers in Your Niche
Another way to get to know your clients is to simply ask your fellow freelancers for their experiences. They can give you insight into what your ideal client really wants as well as offer extra tips on where to find those ideal clients.
Do Some Internet Sleuthing
Finally, identify social media networks where you ideal client hangs out, find a few people that fit the profile, and pay attention to the language they use to describe a problem related to your industry.
You can then add those words and phrases to your copy bank as well as approach them and offer helpful advice that will get you noticed.
Eight Ways to Get First Few Clients as a Freelancer
Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to understand your ideal clients first, let’s take a look at how you can put that knowledge to use and find freelancing clients.
Word of Mouth
One of the easiest ways to get new clients is by word of mouth. You can reach out to your friends, family, as well as college classmates and tell them you’re looking for new clients. They just might know a person or two who needs a brand new website or a website redesign.
You should also reach out to any past clients and see if they need any work done or if they can refer you to their network. Consider offering a referral fee or a discount on future projects to sweeten the deal. You can even take it a step further and send along a pre-written email that they can copy and paste to send to their contacts. You’ll be saving them time and making it easy for them to refer you as they won’t have to come up with the email or message themselves.
Go Where Your Clients Are
You’ve probably heard this advice before. But, keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to the online world alone. Get creative and consider your local area. Is there a coffee shop or a restaurant where your ideal clients like to hang out?
It pays off to pack up your office for the day and head to that coffee shop where you can not only get work done but also get to know people who might end up hiring you or referring you to someone they know that could use your skills.
Strike up a conversation, show interest in what they are working on, and let the conversation naturally evolve. Don’t forget to chat up the barista as well as they usually know their regular customers pretty well and they might just know someone who could use your skills.
Offline and Online Networking Events
Love them or hate them, networking events can be a great source of new clients. The key part about networking is establishing relationships that have the potential to result in client work now as well as in the future.
For starters, check out Meetup and see if there are any interesting events in your area where your prospects might network. You could also check your local Chamber of Commerce or AIGA. Don’t forget WordCamps and numerous conferences geared for front-end developers and web designers.
When it comes to networking online, take advantage of LinkedIn and Facebook groups as well as websites like Reddit, Hacker News, and other online communities where your target clients or fellow freelancers might hang out.
Partner With Other Freelancers
Do you enjoy designing more than you do coding? Or perhaps you enjoy the backend stuff but want to pull your hair out when it comes to design? In that case, it makes sense to partner with other freelancers who enjoy aspects that you don’t.
Another way to partner with other freelancers is to find freelancers that provide services complimentary to yours. This can include writers, social media managers, digital marketers, brand strategists, and graphic designers. By establishing a relationship with them, you can both refer clients to each other and scale back on the marketing activities you don’t enjoy.
Establish Your Expertise
Another way to find clients is to establish your expertise and provide value at the same time. Here are three ways to do that.
Write an Ebook
Write an ebook about your industry and offer it as a free download or sell it Kindle. Make sure the topic is relevant to your ideal clients. For example, you could write an ebook about using color on their website to get more conversions.
Consider teaching a course that would help your ideal clients. For example, a beginner course on how to use WordPress or a course that covers the ins and outs of a specific plugin like WooCommerce is a great way to prove your knowledge and get on your ideal client’s radar.
Offer useful information on your blog. This can include tutorials as well as past client studies or posts about your design process that show them exactly what it’s like working with you.
Offer Your Take on an Existing Project
Consider redesigning or recreating a well-known website or a plugin that appeals to your ideal clients. For example, if you know your ideal clients use WooCommerce, perhaps coming up with a fresh mockup of the plugin’s interface would catch their attention. Or, if they use Instagram regularly, can you put a creative spin on how the feed looks like?
Projects like these not only have the potential to get you noticed by your ideal clients, they also push your creative skills which is a great way to stay on top of your game while you’re waiting for projects to roll in.
Speak at a Conference
Attending networking events is great but why not take it a step further and speak at a conference or a networking event in your area? You will have to start small but by speaking at an event geared for your target audience and showing them how a website or an online store can improve their bottom line, you’re bound to raise awareness and generate interest for your services.
Remember to provide value, eliminate jargon, and use their own words to explain not only why a great website matters but how they can use it to bring their own customers back and drive more traffic to it.
Teach a Local Class
Lastly, consider teaching a local class. With WordPress, the world is your oyster as there are so many different ways to approach this. From teaching potential clients how to use the platform to specific tutorials on different plugins, themes or even finding the best hosting company for their needs.
If you don’t have opportunities for teaching locally, consider going live on Youtube and holding a class that way. You can even repurpose the class into a free mini training or a course that you can sell on your site.
Finding clients seems difficult when you’re just getting started. But when you take time to really understand what your ideal client wants and needs, implement proven marketing tactics, and speak your client’s language; you’ll have no problem filling up your calendar with client projects you can’t wait to get started on. Use the tips in this article to get your freelancing career off to a great start. Happy freelancing!