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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
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How to get clients: a simple subject that sometimes requires complex strategizing.
A great freelancer holds their clients in high regard, making sure to consistently deliver quality work within the agreed upon timeframe. But a top freelancer also understands the need to treat themselves as a client, spending time on projects and activities that will leed to business growth down the line.
No matter what you do, there are a number of short and long-term marketing activities you should be engaging in on a regular basis. Some should result in immediate interest in your products and services, while others are foundational relationship building activities that will pay off weeks, months, or even years after your initial efforts.
At any rate, it’s important to spend time on both. Sometimes the simplest efforts result in new clients, but they may not be the highest quality businesses to work with. And the harder things take time to contribute to your business’s bottom line, but can bring about the highest quality new clients.
When you’re trying to decide what to spend your time on with regards to how to get clients, the following short and long term marketing activities should be your top considerations.
By their very nature, Facebook ads are a short term strategy for driving action. To be effective, you need to have a very good understanding of your ideal client, and set ad targeting parameters accordingly. You also need a compelling image and ad copy to drive action.
If you’re trying to get new leads, the goal of the ad should not target vanity metrics, such as new page likes. Instead, your ad should drive people to a contact form on your website. For best results and for the easiest budgeting, opt to pay for ads with a cost per conversion. With the proper setup, you’ll only pay for leads that actually fill out a contact form. This tends to be more expensive than typical ad goals, but also results in more qualified action takers.
Facebook ads take a fair amount of testing and experience to get right, so don’t just set them and forget them. As freelancers usually aren’t flush with tons of cash to perform short term marketing activities, you owe it to yourself to take some time to educate yourself, and spend additional time refining your ad after initial campaign launch.
One of the best strategies for how to get clients is to adopt the habits of a salesperson. But instead of cold calling, you’ll be pitching for jobs. Of course, sometimes the difference is hard to understand, as they’re often essentially the same thing.
One of the best strategies for how to get #clients is to adopt the habits of a salesperson. Click To Tweet
At any rate, there are two major methods for pitching: responding to a posted ad on a job board, or cold pitching a company that hasn’t indicated a need for a freelancer, but you see an opportunity to help them.
In either case, it’s a good idea to create a templated response, so you’re not spending your day writing a novel for each ad you respond to. But while templates can help save you time, you should never send them exactly as-is.
Customize each response to the company and ad. Personally, I have a pitch customized for each niche I’m interested in writing about, and a 25 page (yes, really) Google Doc with topically organized links of every article I’ve ever written. This allows me to quickly grab a relevant example, depending on how specific of experience they’re looking for.
Like when applying for a full-time job, paying attention to small details and proactively doing your research on the company will help you to stand out. The main issue with job boards and freelance work sites (like Upwork) is that competition is high, and only the most pristine (or platform optimized) applications will rise to the top of the pile. Furthermore, with the power of choice completely in the hands of the hiring company, pay rates will likely not be competitive.
Cold pitching is a bit harder, but a lot more lucrative than responding to job ads. When you cold pitch a company, you’re sharing your expert opinion that there’s something a company can improve, then you communicate how you’re the perfect person to help them solve their problem. Then, you get to set the price.
For best results, pitch a mix of posted jobs and opportunities you find on your own. Then when you get the client, go above and beyond to make sure they stick around as a retainer client.
One of my favorite new ways to pitch for writing clients is by directly responding to email newsletters of blogs I follow or services I use. There’s usually a person behind the email a newsletter comes from, and they usually are in charge of/connected with content marketing efforts. Here’s an example of an exchange that resulted in a new client:
Creating content is an essential marketing strategy for gaining trust and demonstrating expertise, especially if your freelance business operates primarily online. We’ll later touch on writing content for your own blog (most would consider this a long term marketing strategy). For a short-term boost in traffic and interest, write a guest post for a popular blog that shares a target audience with you.
For best results, write this guest post like you’re being paid riches for it. Don’t hold back on giving away your best advice on the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Take advantage of the platform you’re writing for to make the best possible impression with their audience.
It’s essential to be allowed an author bio (or blurb at the end) to direct people back to your own online properties. But for best results, spend a little extra time creating an exclusive content upgrade for readers. Gate this content behind an email signup form (Leadpages is excellent for this). Instead of waiting for people to check out your website, then maybe getting in touch, you’ve effectively leveraged your guest post to grow your email list and potential future client possibilities.
Before saying anything else, it’s important to mention that the expectation for going to a networking event should be to make relationships, and not how to get clients. If you go in with a client farming mentality, you’ll come across as desperate, and people will avoid you like the plague.
That said, almost every networking event I’ve gone to with an open mind has resulted in a client lead. Sometimes, discussion sparks a request for an immediate meeting. Oftentimes, it’s more like weeks or months before we find an opportunity to collaborate. At any rate, your initial efforts to attend and converse with networking event attendees are a short-term effort that will help your business grow. Here’s an example of an opportunity coming through from networking:
In the short term, this doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The main goal is to have some sort of online property that you can direct clients to for the purpose of showcasing your work. If you just want a placeholder for now, try Behance or Contently (depending on what type of freelance work you do) to build a simple but good looking portfolio.
As a long-term goal, invest in a more robust website platform, like a self-hosted WordPress install, or Squarespace. Both options give you more control over information than the typical portfolio site platform, as well as the ability to implement more marketing features, like calls to action to sign up for your email newsletter, or to get in touch to talk about services.
Email marketing is definitely a long-term strategy, although the foundational elements should be set up in the short term. These short term items include creating a prominent signup form on your website, with a call to action that effectively targets the type of people you want in your audience or as a customer (this call to action ideally takes the form of a lead magnet).
Longer term, growing your email list means consistent email sends that aim to deliver value over anything else. An easy way to maintain consistency is to create a weekly curated content roundup using a program like Revue. While sharing other people’s industry insights, you can also sneak in information about your services and successful client projects, with a call to action for subscribers to get in touch for more information.
Besides guest blogging, it’s important to also consistently create content on your own blog. And there’s that word again: consistency. Your best chance at success with using various short and long term marketing strategies with how to get clients is to always be consistent. It’s ok to take some time to test out strategies, but you eventually have to settle on a few and keep them up.
It doesn’t necessarily matter how much you post, so long as you do it on a regular basis. While you’re at it, establish a consistent social media marketing strategy to drive people to your website, to demonstrate your expertise, and to create an industry resource (so the content you post is not all blatantly self-promotional).
For your blog posts, take the time to research topics that your target audience actually wants to read, and optimize them for target keywords. Yoast SEO and Google Keyword Planner are the two main tools you’ll need to use to ensure success on this front.
Most of these strategies for how to get clients involve short term and long term gains, but the important takeaway is that you need to include elements of both for your continued success.
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