Congratulations! You’ve decided that it’s time to leave your full-time job to start freelancing. As you’re about to set off for your big endeavor, you have
Looking for freelance clients?
You’ve probably muttered something like this:
“I want to make money. I want to try freelancing. I kinda-sorta understand what’s going on–but how do I get a paying client fast??”
I already have a website.
I have a few examples of my work.
Where do I start? How do I get my name out there?
Last week I decided to get back into freelancing after 13 months off, so I was faced with the initial burst of “this whole ‘starting from scratch’ thing is super overwhelming and I almost don’t even know where to start!”
But I took a step back, formulated a plan, and got to it.
- 2 paid gigs
- 2 larger clients in the pipeline
- A few referrals (that’ll take a while to pan out, but at least they’ve started!)
- Lots of “seeds planted” in the brains of influential people who could send me paid clients down the road.
A crazy-good jumpstart.
Below are my best tips for getting your name “out there” and generating new clients fast, plus a few lessons learned from my strategies last week.
Important Note: These tips can totally be utilized by brand-spanking-new freelancers trying to land their first client, or experienced freelancers looking to up their game and find new/better clients. Some tactics might differ between these two people–but I’ll point those out where it matters.
1. Be very clear about what you’re looking for.
“I’m looking for freelance work!” isn’t good enough.
It’s too broad, and it forces people you’re messaging to burn extra brain cells trying to figure out how to help you.
Make it easy for people to refer you!
I made this mistake early on in my outreach, but was fortunate that one person I reached out to came back with “What’s an ideal client for you?”
This forced me to get clear about what type of work I want.
Your ultimate goal is to plant very specific seeds in the minds of people in your network (individuals, brands, existing clients, etc).
Everybody should know exactly what you do and what you’re looking for–so when an opportunity does pop up, they’ll think of you.
- Be the “SEO audit guy!”
- Be the “Pinterest VA friend.”
- Be the “freelance writer in the mortgage & finance space.”
Action Item: Write out what you’re after.
Sit down and write out the 2-3 specific freelance gigs you’re looking to obtain, and also write out your “ideal client.” What industries? What size company? Contract or part-time work? Etc.
2. Take a shotgun approach to outreach, not a sniper rifle approach.
Cast a wide net.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
As much as you might hate it, finding quality, high-paying clients will always take time.
- Make introductions
- Get referrals
- Determine the scope of work
- Settle on fees/rates
- Get assignments
- Do the work
That’s the entire “pipeline” from start to finish.
If you’re looking to get work fast, your objective should be to start the pipeline with as many clients as possible!
This maximizes the chances that you’ll stumble upon an immediate referral.
Others will take longer, some won’t pan out at all, but the problem is that it’s impossible to guess which freelancing leads are which!
Reaching out and connecting with as many people as possible (across different industries and niches) helps solve this problem.
You can always filter leads out later.
Note: If you’re not looking to get a gig ASAP, the sniper rifle approach might actually be more effective for getting the perfect client!
Action Item: Make an outreach “hitlist.”
This is the first thing I did last week: I made a list of contacts, friends, and even family members that I wanted to reach out to.
- Other freelancers I know
- Past freelance clients
- Friends who might know anybody
- Past podcast guests
3. Ask for referrals, not work!
I once heard the following expression as it relates to selling things over the internet:
“If you want advice, ask for sales. If you want sales, ask for advice.”
It’s funny how our brains shut down when we think we’re being “sold to.” It’s tough for us to remain objective!
I’ve taken this same approach to freelance clients, and it’s worked.
There are three huge benefits to starting your freelance client search by asking for referrals, rather than directly reaching out for work:
- It’s a friendly conversation (allowing you to reach out to friends & family, in addition to brands!)
- It takes the pressure off whoever you’re connecting with
- Referrals are totally awesome.
Plus, if the company you’re reaching out to is looking for somebody like you anyways, you’ve now just presented yourself on a silver platter without begging.
If you’re looking for some outreach templates to ask for referrals, check out this article.
Action Item: Outline the message/email that you’re going to blast out to people.
Write out a templated email (be sure to adapt it and customize for each recipient!), or make a script or outline if you’re using other forms of communication.
Make it casual, yet professional.
4. Pro tip hack: Utilize video messages & images
Everybody’s inbox and Instagram messages are filled to the brim these days.
There is no better way to stand out, get your message noticed, and cement a picture of yourself in your future client’s mind–than by sending a video.
Not only does it stand out, but it’s way more personal, and it allows you to get your message across faster than typing a 1,439-word email.
Here’s a sample video similar to what I sent to all my contacts, asking for referrals:
I recommend you use Loom. It’s free, simple to set up, and simple to use.
- Don’t worry about perfect lighting or sound (as long it’s watchable).
- Do keep it casual & friendly!
- Do know what you’re going to say before you hit record.
- Do be clear about what you want them to do (even if it’s just “think of me if you hear of any opportunities”)
- Do smile 😃
This personal touch will go a long way!
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t use video, simply sending an image of any type is a good way to draw more attention and stand out, as long as the image is 100% relevant to the person you’re reaching out to, your message, etc.
Bonus Tip: Ask permission to send your main question.
I rarely send cold outreach emails without asking permission first.
For one, this sets up the video response (making it less awkward for everybody), and for two, it gives your contact an “out” should they really not have the time to respond to you.
Send a quick note simply asking permission for 2-3 minutes of their time, and make it clear you’re not actually pitching them anything!
5. Build a network beforehand.
Yes, this is totally a cop-out.
Building a network of influencers, contacts, marketing reps, and other freelancers will take a long time–so this tip isn’t immediately helpful or actionable for brand-new freelancers.
However, maintaining a long-term strategy of building relationships can be a crucial point to generating freelance client leads in bulk–and fast.
You should absolutely make friend-building & connection-cultivating part of your long-term business strategy (and goes double for freelancing)!
- Connect with people on Twitter (you can use tools like Followerwonk to conduct more advanced searches)
- Keep in contact with your friends on LinkedIn
- Engage with the brands and people you follow on Instagram.
- Do free freelance work.
Invest the time and energy required to build long-term friends in the industries you are apart of. It’ll pay off when you do need to blast out a message that you’re looking for freelance clients!
Re-read that. It’s important.👆
Bonus Tip #6: Follow-up!
Even if you have a huge network, and you’re shotgunning a message asking for referrals, you won’t always get leads immediately.
But that’s what follow-ups are for 😉
If you’re using a spreadsheet tracker, or an “outreach hitlist” as discussed earlier, you can write out the date you reached out to people, and then double-back and track who you’ve followed up with later.
Have you seen quick results looking for fast freelance clients?
Drop us a comment below and let us know your tips!