Need some new clients? Aiming for your first freelance client? Then you’re in the right place!
This blog aims to help you not only figure out where to find your ideal clients, but how to successfully sign them.
Before Approaching Clients
If you have given your business and your brand some thought, got those boring admin bits done (such as getting a business bank account), and planned your social media strategy, head to the next section where you’ll learn how best to go about getting clients on board.
Get your ducks in a row
Obviously, I’m not talking about literal ducks here. By this, I mean having a good think and planning around your business and your brand.
✏️Here are some questions to get yourself started. Write down your answers in a notebook and begin to formulate what your brand and your offering is all about.
- What do you value?
- What 3 characteristics do you want to communicate with potential clients? (These are your pillars – the things that every bit of communication, offering and service you provide will be based around)
- Do you have a mission statement? If not, write, in one sentence, what you do right now. What’s your purpose? What do you help clients achieve?
- Do you have a vision statement? If not, write, in one sentence, what you aim to do. What’s the big end goal?
- What are you good at and what could you work a bit harder to improve on? It’s important to know these areas so that you can identify areas
Get the boring admin bits out the way
These boring admin bits are different for everyone, but vital to the successful functioning of your business. Take a look at the checklist below and see whether you’ve got these processes set up already
- onboarding process
- offboarding process
- business bank account
- tax stuff (are you registered as self-employed etc)
Social media strategy
Getting clients is effectively a process in which you market yourself and your services, aiming to build a rapport with people and their brands. Even if you’re lucky enough to have word of mouth as your main source of income, social media marketing cannot be discounted as an effective method of marketing in this digital age.
For more info on how to build your own effective and successful marketing strategy, check out my recent blog on the subject!
Key elements – who, what and how
The final thing you really need to know inside out before you start looking is the following:
- WHO your ideal clients are; in as much detail as you can, identify the demographics of your ideal client, the industry they operate in, where they hang out and thrive, and what business level is?
- WHAT you sell; in as much detail as you can, work out your offering, your methods of upselling, your package design if you want to sell your services as a ‘package’ rather than individually, your pricing, and most importantly, your boundaries.
- HOW you can provide a solution to their problems – when speaking to potential clients, make it all about them. Make it about how you can solve their problems, but showing your understanding of their situation, and identify why you specifically can help them reduce that pain point.
Without these key elements, chances are you will be spending valuable time (even more valuable if you are starting out your freelancing as a side hustle!) on targeting the wrong people, with the wrong language and in the wrong way. If you get as far as signing one of these non-ideal clients, you might then find that they don’t share the same values or the way of working as you.
Now onto the juicy bit…
Proven Methods of Signing Freelance Clients
Talk to your acquaintances
Whether you do or don’t have any current freelance clients, this method could be the one for you. You’d be surprised how many people you know (either personally or on social media) don’t know about what you do, therefore it’s often the case of just speaking up!
Let your family and friends know what you do, what you’re interested in, the solutions you can provide and what you aspire to do. Whilst this won’t necessarily give you instant leads, you’ll spring to the front of someone’s mind they’re in a situation or talking to someone they know who needs someone with your skills.
Working with existing or past clients
Working with clients you’ve worked with before is probably one of the easiest methods of increasing your client numbers – if it worked out okay the first time around and you want to work with them again that is – and there are a number of ways you can achieve this.
Cross-selling, or extending the scope of your current client projects is one such way. This could mean, you’ve just written some copy for the revamping of their website. You could then suggest writing some blogs for the ‘News’ section of their website.
Alternatively, perhaps you’re helping a client with their general marketing strategy and operations and are finding that your contracted 10 hours per week is preventing you from taking things to the next level. Do just that and enquire about doing some more work with them to achieve their business goals.
The difference between cross-selling and upselling is that upselling helps show your potential clients that other versions or models may better fulfil their helping them to walk away more satisfied with their purchase.
An example of this could be that someone approaches you requiring some content creation for their social media platform. By working with them to create a specific social media audit and strategy, followed by content creation, you will find that the content produced is more effective and in line with achieving their business goals.
That way, your client is happier with the results produced, and you were able to sign a larger project and higher-paying client!
If you have some past clients in mind, it might be worth checking in with them every so often for a few of the below reasons:
- It is useful to see the results of the work you previously did – for your own development, and as a testament to your services.
- You might discover a pressure point that you can help them solve.
- It’s always good to keep the communication with clients you enjoyed working with – you never know when you might be able to help in the future, or when they can help you!
Soft selling on social media
Soft selling is basically the method of saying ‘hi, here’s what I sell’ without pushing it hard in front of the customer’s nose. It has a more ‘it’s here if you want it’ vibe about it which often aids rapport building and helps you come across as a friendly yet helpful brand. Often, on social media, this means using your organic content to speak for you, rather than using paid advertising on these platforms.
So how and where can you soft sell on social media?
If you are a freelance writer, there are multiple groups that not only share advice but opportunities for each other too. I would recommend ‘Female Freelance Writers’ specifically, or the ‘Being Freelance’ community (you should really check out their podcast – I learn something new every week from Steve Folland’s guests!).
Your personal profiles
Using your personal social media profiles to increase brand awareness, your reputation and authority, and generate leads, can be an effective way to gain new clients. For more info on how to build an effective strategy, check out my recent blog.
Check out my personal Instagram account @bronwyntagg, to see how I use this social platform as a ‘getting to know me’ tool that helps build rapport with potential leads and generate brand awareness. Alternatively, I use Twitter (@bronwyntagg) to build my brand’s reputation by participating in community discussions and making connections in my industry and profession.
Paid social media campaigns
Creating paid social media campaigns to gain clients should not be your first thought, however, it is a good method to complement more organic social media campaigns, client conversations, or cold pitching. There are 3 key elements that need to be included in order to make a basic successful ad campaign:
1. Imagery that attracts attention
Whether you use still imagery or an attention-grabbing video, the asset accompanying your ad copy should have the main purpose of attracting the attention of your ideal consumers (potential clients). It should be an image that relates to your offering, but can also contain text that helps your ad stand out in a crowded feed.
2. Copy containing a CTA (Call To Action)
Whilst a CTA won’t translate into lead generation on its own, copy without one won’t be much use either! Here are some examples of CTAs you can put in both your paid ads and organic content:
- Visit my website now
- Email me today
- Drop me a DM
- Find out more here (insert link)
- Sign up before places run out
- Subscribe to take your business to the next level
- DM me and let’s work together
Note: there are some great YouTube tutorials out there that will take you through creating an ad campaign step-by-step!
When you finish working with a client, the relationship does not end there! There are three things that are a MUST when it comes to your offboarding process.
Getting a testimonial can help to gain other clients in future because you are able to showcase how you can solve specific problems and get tangible results. Once you’ve got your testimonial, you can post it on your website and on social media to showcase your industry expertise and skillset.
2. Client research
After finishing your client projects, it’s really useful to understand the problems and pain points your clients were facing at the beginning of the project. Such information will help you to create content that better resonates with your ideal clients, as well as showcase stats and results that show your positive client relationships.
Asking for a referral from a client can seem scary and awkward, but the benefit it brings is extortionate. People trust other people’s views and experiences (hence the importance of testimonials!), therefore the most powerful gift you can receive is a recommendation or referral from past clients. This evidences the importance of retaining contact and continuing to build client rapport after the completion of a project.
Now my least favourite method of getting clients, however, I know many freelancers (especially freelance journalists) that swear by this method and use it as their primary source of signing new clients.
Colleen Walsh details how to effectively cold pitch to potential clients, including collating your portfolio, creating an email signature that builds trust, writing personalised emails, and making a spreadsheet of specifical brands to target. Read her thoughts here.
And that’s a wrap – those are all my methods of getting clients!
It’s important to remember that methods work differently for freelancers / solopreneurs / small businesses, depending on their personality, product, and industry.