When it comes to starting a freelancing business, your clients are everything. After all, they’re the people that give you money to put food on the table, but finding well-paying clients is often the first major struggle of a budding freelancer.
I first started freelancing on the side of a job and used a variety of techniques to find clients. Admittedly, some were much better than others – and some I still use (and love!) to this day.
Let’s face it, leaving your full-time job to freelance can be a leap of faith, but these tips can help you to find your first clients without spending your days trawling through crappy content mills (Upwork – I’m talking to you!)
1. Start with who you know
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
When I first started freelancing, I was lucky enough to be working full-time with an amazing boss that helped me to kickstart my freelancing business.
We agreed a deal that he would recommend me to any business owners that were looking for marketing content writers and in turn, I’d help him out by writing a few articles for his website.
Whilst this isn’t a tactic that I’d recommend to anyone as working for free isn’t really worthwhile, there are certain circumstances when free writing can help your business.
If you’re not in a position to ask your boss for referrals, you might feel a bit stuck. However, I’m sure that there are a few people on your Facebook list that own a website or work for a company in your niche, so start promoting yourself to people that you already know.You might be missing the most obvious place to find freelance clients... Click To Tweet
It might not be the fastest and most pro-active way to land your first freelancing client, word of mouth is the best type of referral and will pay off in the long-term!
2. Your blog
I’ve already raved about how important a blog is to a freelancer, and it’s a fantastic way to attract prospective clients.
Along with providing people with an instant online portfolio to show that you know what you’re writing about, it proves to people that you love writing and understand the importance of consistent content.
Starting your blog doesn’t have to be complicated. Just set yourself up a free site until you’ve earned enough money to get a proper, self-hosted domain and use it as a platform to get your name out there.
It’s also a good idea to start thinking about the SEO value that your blog is adding to your website as a whole. With more indexed pages and more opportunity to use your keywords, blogging can help to improve the organic ranking of your site; a technique that can bring natural visitors to your site without manually searching for them!
3. Use job boards
Whilst I’m not an advocate for content mills that post job offerings, reputable job boards have been a goldmine for me to find new clients.
Most job boards post great quality gigs that pay well and as a beginner, you’ll want to find a free job board to get started.
Here are a few sites that I recommend:
You can even sign up to receive emails when new jobs are posted, helping you to get in with the first few pitches for consideration.
Use the tips you learned throughout your cold emailing experience to help with your pitches but as a general rule of thumb, always include links to previous writing samples, along with how you can help the company through your writing in your first email.
P.S. You’ll get bonus points if you can suggest a handful of articles that would suit the website – it shows that you’ve done your research!
4. Social media
In order to attract your first clients, you’ll want to think about establishing some sort of social media presence. For me, the most successful (in terms of new clients) are Twitter and LinkedIn, so I’m just gonna focus on them for a lil’ bit.
Let’s start with Twitter. Sign yourself up for a profile, add a profile photo and fill your bio with meaningful sentences that clearly show that you’re a freelancer. Then, once you’ve decided the types of company that you want to write for, take some time to research their social profiles and reply to a handful of their tweets.
Not only does this method help to boost your freelancing profile, but it also allows brands to know that you exist. And, you might pop up just at the time when they’re looking for a freelancer!
LinkedIn is also a fantastic social platform for freelancers. I started using the network by following a similar method, but looking for content managers of the companies (instead of the company in general).
After sending 20 connection invitations, I was contacted by a careers company who were looking for help with writing their website content. Just like on Twitter, I came about at the right time and because I was regularly publishing content that would appeal to the brand, it helped me to land my first freelancing client through social media.
5. Cold emailing
Here’s a fun fact for ya’: when I first started cold emailing, I was scared shitless. I read over every email with a fine tooth comb before I hit send, and was so anxious about the kind of response that I got.#TopTip: Make cold-emailing more successful by interacting BEFORE you pitch! Click To Tweet
Whilst I still get panicky about landing directly in the inbox of a company I’d love to write for, I follow these tips to help make the pitch more successful:
- Interact with people before you cold-pitch (i.e. through social media).
- Show that it’s not just a run-of-the-mill template, and personalise your email for more chance of a response.
- Suggest article ideas that you can write to give them an indication that you’ve taken the time to research their business before writing them an email.
6. Guest posts
I mentioned before that writing for free isn’t always a good thing, but in the case of guest posting, I’m all for it – so long as the website provides you with some kind of benefit, even if it isn’t monetarily.
I’ve had my writing featured on The Huffington Post and Social Media Examiner. The first option has been great for my Twitter profile and I’ve built-up relationships with companies that have liked and shared my posts (helping with the pre-cold emailing interaction!). The latter convinced a company that I was a good enough writer to email me out of the blue to write for their site.
Proving that using a strategic guest post strategy can help you to attract freelance clients, it’s also a fantastic way to build your portfolio and build relationships with website editors.
What technique did you use to attract your first freelance clients?