Having a steady flow of clients or projects is crucial for freelance success.
As a freelancer, you may sometimes feel like trying to get clients with limited resources is an uphill battle.
The good news is there are other freelancers who have gone through the same feeling and come out on top, including myself.
In this guide, I’m going to share with you the step-by-step strategy I have deployed to get clients as a freelancer over the last several years.
By following these steps, you will be well on your way to success in no time.
We will look at preliminary steps to prepare yourself, where to focus your efforts while searching, and tips for closing deals.
I started freelancing full-time from home in March, 2020 during the pandemic lockdown out of necessity. Up to this point, I acquired a few valuable hard skills while experiencing life on various marketing teams.
The perfect storm surfaced where people were becoming very comfortable with remote work on Zoom, and most companies went on a hiring freeze as the world shut down. I embarked on my journey to make a living as a freelancer.
Since then, I have done hundreds of discovery calls with potential clients. I have submitted countless proposals, and have been lucky to work with over 50 different companies.
Before long, I found freelancing to be the ultimate dream job.
Why do I say this? Here are a few of the benefits that are most important to me:
- Financial security
- Freedom to build my own schedule
- Ability to choose who I work with
There are many more reasons to become a freelancer, but for now I’ll stick with those.
Getting Your Business In Order
Before I take you through where I have been able to find clients, it’s important to note the areas that should be covered before getting your first client.
When you work a traditional job, you get paid in intervals with a percentage held back for taxes. As a freelancer, you become responsible for your own finances and tax witholdings.
It’s important to understand the options you have in terms of which business entities are available and what the benefits of each are.
For instance, an LLC will separate your personal finances from business, protecting your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit.
You can use this freelance entity guide to decide which strategy will work best.
Setting Your Rates
Once you begin contacting new business prospects, you will want to have a clear understanding of how you would like to charge for your services.
Some freelancers work best by creating packages. For instance, a freelance writer may charge $50 for a 500-word blog post with keyword research.
Others like to set an hourly rate. This helps when the scope of a project goes over the expected time.
Whether you decide on a package or hourly rate, customers will usually ask about these details early on.
For bonus points, design a rate sheet to share with clients easily. Here’s one I had created early on:
When you close your first deal, will you use a contract to protect both parties? If so, create a simple template you can use for each time you onboard a client. This will save you tons of time and allow you to focus on other things.
In addition, you may want to build a template for proposals as well. Proposals show the prospect you are professional and prepared to get the job done.
There are several ways to get paid by clients as a freelancer.
After I set up my business entity and opened up my business bank account, I downloaded Square to send electronic invoices.
Invoicing platforms like Square or Stripe make it easy to send invoices and simple for customers to make payments.
The downside to relying on invoicing platforms is the processing fees the companies charge. When you’re just starting out, it’s not as big of a deal. Down the line, as you build your business, it becomes more noticeable.
Another method outside of invoicing platforms is by accepting checks. I have clients who mail checks each month which saves a ton in processing fees. Once the check arrives, I can mobile deposit right into my account.
Where To Find Clients
Once you are ready to find clients, It’s important to know where to look. The perfect mix of lead sources will depend on things like services offered, location, etc.
As a digital marketing freelancer offering services like ppc management and web design, focusing on these channels has worked best for me.
1. Google Business Profile
A Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google my Business) can be a freelancer’s secret weapon if maintained. A GBP is a 100% free tool by Google for local businesses to be found by their area.
My performance metrics only go back 6 months, but during this time I have received
- 19 phone calls
- 18 messages
- 566 websites visitors
It took me a little while to understand how to get the best results.
Read my GBP guide if you would like to learn how to set up and optimize your own Google Business Profile to get more freelance clients.
Utilizing your current network is an excellent way to start a freelance career. Reach out to people you know and let them know the services you are offering.
You can tell them the type of jobs that interest you and encourage them to spread the word.
Talk to friends, family members, everybody you can. These contacts will think of you when somebody asks them if they know anybody in your field.
As a freelancer, it’s important to maintain relationships with contacts regularly in order to make sure they stay aware of your availability and skills.
Having former colleagues in your corner when starting out as a freelancer can make a world of difference, too.
Cold outreach can take place across LinkedIn, Instagram messaging, and website contact forms. Each of these message channels are completely free and only require some time and thought.
When I have a good experience with a specific project, I like to reach out to similar businesses and share my experience. The more personalized your message, the better.
4. Handwritten Letters
The issue I have found with outreach is the response rates are low. It can be difficult to set yourself apart from the hundreds of others trying to sell themselves in a prospect’s inbox.
While handwritten letters may not work when targeting large corporations, they can be quite effective with small businesses.
Taking the time to write a personalized letter and send it to a prospect is sure to stand out infinitely better than a call or email.
Here’s a sample of a letter I wrote that converted into a new client:
Hi [company name] team,
I got a chance to stop by your shop this weekend and love what y’all are doing. If you ever need help with digital marketing, give me a ring.
[Signature & Contact Info]
Now that you have some places to start finding clients, go out and spread your wings. There is nothing more rewarding to a freelancer than signing that first contract and landing a client.
Be sure to follow the preliminary steps to ensure once you start looking for freelance clients you will be ready to go.