“How do I get clients?”
This is perhaps the number 1 question in the mind of every freelancer.
According to data from the Freelance Industry Report, the number one challenge freelancers face is getting clients; 20.8% of freelancers surveyed cited this as their foremost problem, while 16.3% cited the feast-or-famine cycle of work as their biggest challenge.
The report also highlighted other problems related to getting clients such as getting better fees, competition from lower cost freelancers, etc.
The survey revealed that the #1 problem freelancers face, with more than 45% of freelancers surveyed identifying with it directly or indirectly, is getting clients.
As a result, I have compiled a sort of “ultimate guide” to getting clients; this is a list featuring 41 unique ways to get clients, with links to resources/guides on almost all of the methods listed, aimed at helping you better understand each method.
This article is tailored to freelance writers, but the methods listed will work for any freelancer or consultant.
41 Unique Ways to Get Clients
1. Freelance job boards: I’m not talking the bidding sites, but about the high quality job boards. Job boards like the Problogger Jobs board, the Blogging Pro Jobs board and the AllIndieWriters.com Jobs board are great examples. I also have a list of 12 high quality job boards for writers.
2. Sites dedicated to collating freelance gigs; There are probably hundreds of sites dedicated to collating high quality freelance gigs, and you’ll easily find dozens of high quality sites of this nature. Many of these sites are also updated on a daily basis. I featured 10 such sites for freelance writers in this article.
3. Guest Blogging: Guest blogging on its own is a top source of clients. Once you have a website or portfolio that showcases your services so that people know you are available for hire, try guest blogging for top blogs in your niche with a link back to your website/portfolio. You’d be surprised at how effective this is.
This article I wrote awhile back is a good primer on guest blogging.
4. Start a Blog: Blogging is a very effective way to get clients; first, your blog serves as a portfolio. Articles also rank well in search engines over time, further resulting in clients for you on the long run.
If you want to learn how to do blogging in a way that gets clients to reach out to you, get Stop Pitching Clients, my program for getting clients from blogging; it is a practical guide that goes into details on how to get clients by blogging, with relevant examples and necessary resources.
5. Hangout where your clients are: There are success stories of people getting clients from Quora, and from other prominent online communities. Look for top sites/communities/blogs where your clients are, and interact there actively. Also, let people know you are a professional available for hire.
Here’s a really interesting interview with a professional who gets majority of his clients from Quora.
6. Twitter: Several top freelancers have repeatedly vouched for the efficacy of Twitter in being their top, and sometimes, sole source of clients. Businesses repeatedly announce available opportunities, including freelance opportunities, on Twitter and you’d be surprised at how much a quick search can reveal.
Here’s a practical article by Carol Tice on how to make Twitter work for you as a writer.
7. Your website: Most freelancers don’t have a website, and this is a huge disservice to them. As a freelance writer, you need a writer website; even more, you need to make sure you avoid common mistakes that could cripple your website.
You can easily refer people to your website to help them make an informed decision in hiring you.
Once you set up your writer website, you need to ensure you completely avoid the following crippling writer website mistakes.
8. Search engines: Search engines can be unpredictable, and it would be dangerous to rely on them for your clients without having a backup. However, ignoring them is a very silly mistake you should avoid; learn the basics of SEO, and implement these on your website and blog to position it to rank well for relevant keywords clients can use to find you in the search engines.
Here’s a very practical article by Jeff Goins on the basics of SEO for writers.
9. Network offline: It’s easy to get so caught off with this online thing and forget that there are opportunities offline – perhaps, more opportunities than you can find online. Businesses that aren’t online know they are missing out, and reaching out to them and convincing them to have an online presence can serve as a major way to get clients.
Here’s an interesting article on how to get clients offline.
10. Your former employees: Your past employers are also potential clients. Just because you no longer work for them doesn’t mean they can’t be your clients; now, more than ever, businesses are leveraging the internet to enhance their growth.
Also, companies find it to be more profitable to work with freelancers than employees, so that company that once employed you might be very happy to hire you; besides, you already know a lot about what they do.
11. Interact with potential clients on Facebook: While Facebook is the biggest social network, people use it for more than just chatting with friends or sharing cute photos of their kids. Thousands of potential clients are on Facebook, and interacting with them regularly puts you on their radar and can lead to opportunities. This article by Francesca Nicasio explains how to do this in more details.
12. Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s reputation for being the #1 network/database of business professionals is not just in name.
Key people and strategic decision makers in your favorite companies/organizations are on LinkedIn, and you can reach out to them with suggestions for their business and how you can help them implement those suggestions.
This Crazy Egg interview with Josh Turner gives great advice on how to get clients from LinkedIn.
13. Reach out to top blogs: If your favorite blog has products and does not have someone that handles dedicated aspects of their business, they could need your help. Copywriting for their sales pages to boost sales? Writing content pages and guides to help their search engine rankings? Something else? Let them know how improving on these could increase or even double their sales. It’ll only probably cost a fraction of that to hire you.
14. Partner with other freelance writers: It’s true that other freelance writers are constantly looking for work, but there are some who get more jobs than they can currently handle, or who due to some current life changes/responsibility cannot focus full time on client work; make a deal with them to do the work for a reduced rate than they charge their clients.
15. Partner with freelance designers: It’s true that designers design but, more often than not, they are working on new websites that needs some content. Partnering with them and giving them and their clients a special deal could lead to you handling their clients’ content needs.
You can also agree to refer your clients who need design work done to a particular designer, in exchange for the designer referring clients who need website copy to you.
16. Offer suggestions for improvements to businesses and startups: If you see something a particular potential client is doing wrong, send a detailed analysis/review of this as well as suggestions for improvement. Let them know this feedback is coming from your expert perspective in the field, and they could very well hire you.
This article by Neil Patel is very interesting and offers some practical tips on how to do this.
17. Lists of freelance gigs: A quick Google search will reveal lists of sites that pay writers, and your favorite writing site probably has a list of this nature. My recent list of sites that pay is a good example; Carol Tice of MakeaLivingWriting.com also has a great list on her blog.
18. Startups: Startups are often overlooked as a source of freelance work, but you’ll occasionally find startups in need of your services. Several startups are looking for talents to join and grow with them, and this is often a great opportunity to work with them.
19. Companies that just got funding: When companies raise a new round or capital, or have some new investment made into them, they are often ready to grow more aggressively and as a result are willing to spend more with the right people to help achieve their goals. Reach out to these companies and let them know how you can help.
20. Old clients: A penny saved is a penny earned. Check your database for clients you haven’t worked with in years, and follow up with them to see if they need your services.
21. Old Clients at New Companies: Now, this is different from the point above; just because a point of contact at a company you used to work with no longer works at the company doesn’t mean you still can’t work together.
Send reminders to old clients working with new organizations to see if there’s anything you can do with them. Using this strategy, I occasionally make a few thousands of dollars from a point of contact at a major company that was once my client.
22. Industry trade shows: Industry trade shows and exhibitions can also serve as a great source of clients. Jun Loayza says his startup spent around $25,000 in a year on trade shows and conferences, and they made much more as a result.
According to Jun, the best places to close deals while attending trade shows is at the actual event, not at the exhibition floor, since that’s where the decision makers are.
23. Conferences and events: No matter your industry, there’s probably a top conference or event you can easily think about. More likely than not, there are businesses at these events that need a really good writer; go to these events and reach out to these businesses.
24. Ask for Referrals: Sometimes, referrals can be a great source of clients for you. My biggest client till date, who spent six figures with me in less 2 years, was referred to me. Let your good friends, past clients, and people who could reach out to your potential clients, know that you’re on the lookout for clients and that they can send them your way.
Most people claim referrals to be their top source of clients.
25. Agencies: Marketing agencies, SEO agencies, and other types of agencies need content for their clients. Sometimes, they don’t have someone on their team who handles content, or they get clients whose budgets are too low for them, but not necessarily low for you.
Partnering with these agencies is one surefire way to get clients you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
26. Flippa and other Online Marketplace: Flippa is renowned for being the #1 domain name marketplace; it’s a place where people list and sell websites and domain names, and this is a business model for some people.
As a freelance writer, this presents several opportunities for you; some Flippa users would like someone to write copy for them to sell their domain name, while some – who are in the business of building, selling and buying websites – would like to have a writer develop content for them.
Look for people with repeat listings on the site, or people with some serious listings, and let them know how you can be of help to them.
Just to show you how powerful this can be, below is a screenshot of a Flippa user reaching out to me a few days ago; now, imagine how many more people are on the site itself that can benefit from your services.
27. Have a good follow up strategy: I’ve gotten clients I’d have otherwise lost just by following up. Sometimes, clients even thank me for following up.
A potential client not responding right away doesn’t necessarily indicate lack of interest; if you wait awhile and do not hear back, follow up. Follow up at least twice or thrice before deciding to abandon a certain prospect completely.
28. Introduce a starter service: I’ve had a clients spend five figures with me who only started with a few hundred dollars. I’ve also lost clients who spent a few hundred dollars with me in the process of “trying” my services, but I’d have lost the hundreds of dollars they spent as well without allowing them a trial.
Have a starter service aimed at letting people try your services without necessarily being a full client that has to commit to paying thousands of dollars; most likely, they’ll be convinced and spend more with you. Even if they don’t convert to full clients, you’d lose nothing.
Also, be very clear about the difference between a starter service and a “free trial”. Don’t EVER offer free trials of your services; it often devalues you. However, if clients aren’t convince and want to try you with little risk, then give them the chance to try with an article or two, or something similar – no full commitment required.
29. Learn New skills: I’ve often had to turn down clients because I couldn’t offer a service they really needed; it could be writing press releases, or some other kind of content I couldn’t do. If I had those skills, I’d have gotten those clients and earned more.
Sometimes, the best way to get more clients is by adding more skills. Imagine how much more you can make if you have 3 – 4 additional skills, and are able to convince each of your clients to use 1 – 2 of these services?
30. Establish contact with clients you couldn’t gain: Perhaps a potential client once reached out to you and things didn’t work out, or they didn’t need your services then. Things could have changed; don’t just assume they no longer need your services. Instead, occasionally reach out to them until they tell you not to reach out to them again, or until you are sure they can’t be a client.
31. Online Ads: In the past few years, online advertising has quickly emerged as a viable and predictable source of revenue; it is predictable, controllable and can be massively scaled. Either you are starting with Facebook ads, Google ads, or some other ads network, online advertising can be a viable and reliable way to create awareness about your services and attract clients.
This is an interesting article on how to get clients from Facebook ads.
32. Cold Emailing: Cold emailing, if done right, is also a very effective way to get clients.
Due to increased spam and competition, it might take a bit more effort and strategy, but it is also a powerful way to get new clients.
In this article, Marco Massaro details how a single cold email resulted in $15k in freelance income for him.
33. Email Marketing: The other day, I sent an email to the newsletter at my other blog announcing new articles on the blog; I also included a short “PS” telling people I’m available for hire. This resulted in a potential client who has a budget of $2k monthly; at the time of writing this, we’re still talking about the deal.
Freelance writers and consultants often underestimate the power of email marketing for client attraction, and research has shown that it is the most powerful channel for business transactions.
If you don’t have an email list now, start building one; have a free incentive to entice people to join your email list. Also regularly inform your subscribers about your availability for work.
34. Be in the business of advising: This is especially important if you have a blog. Not all clients will signify an interest in hiring you straightaway; I have had a client hire me after first asking a few questions, initially with no signs of hiring me. He spent high four figures with me.
You should also be careful not to turn down people who have questions just because they didn’t yet signify an interest to be clients.
35. Critique/Analyze Businesses that Could be Potential Clients: Especially if you have strong evidence that their strategy is flawed, and you have insights that could help.
Do a public critique of their business, changes they could make and how you would go about it differently if you are in charge; the fact that the critique is public will force them to take notice, and this might lead to a job for you.
Again, this article by Neil Patel gives some insight into this.
36. Get Major Press: Potential clients take me more seriously when they find out I’ve been featured in Forbes, Digital Journal and other major publications; I’ve had clients tell me that’s a major reason for working with me.
There’s something about being covered by the press that not only makes new clients seek you out, but also makes existing ones take you more seriously.
You can get press by reaching out to relevant reporters/journalists in your industry, or by subscribing to sites like HARO that connects reporters and individuals.
37. Actively Repel Clients: This sounds counter-intuitive when your aim is to get clients, but it’s nevertheless really effective.
You need to realize that you won’t work with everyone that reaches out to you; some won’t be able to afford your rates, and some will be downright insulting with their offer.
Making it very clear the kind of clients you accept and work with won’t only send these people away, but it’ll actually attract more of the kind of clients you want and get them to value you more.
38. Leverage Popular Communities and Platforms: Sometimes, a reputable platform or community gets so big that they can’t focus on offering services to people who use them, and as a result have to refer the work to others.
Being a core part of this community and leveraging them can be highly beneficial, since they’ll be sending most of their clients your way.
Some great examples are popular WordPress themes like Thesis and Genesis that have a list of their recommended designers, and a massive community like Copyblogger that has a list of recommended content specialists.
39. General/Industry Q&A Sites: Most industries have a popular Q&A site, and you’ll often find newbies, businesses and experts alike participating on these sites.
By being active on these Q&A sites, regularly interacting with users over there and being as helpful as you can be, you’ll easily get clients from these sites as long as people know you’re available for hire.
40. Specialize: Most freelance writers fail to get clients because they want to do everything for every client they can attract; this seldom works.
By specializing and focusing on one key service and/or niche, your potential clients are more likely to take you seriously and spend more money with you.
For example, you’ll get more results focusing just on lawyers, schools, or healthcare specialists than by trying to attract every client possible.
41. Set daily client attraction goals: This is more of a strategy than a “tactic”. Sometimes, the clients you get have more to do with implementation of your approach than the approach itself. Try making it a goal to do a set number of tasks daily aimed at helping you get more clients; reach out to a set number of potential clients a day, spend a certain amount of time daily interacting where potential clients hang out, set a daily goal for updating/promoting your blog/website, etc.