Congratulations on starting your own freelance business! Wait, you haven’t started it yet?

You have a great idea, you have the skills and you have the passion…so what is holding you back?

Well, even if you have all of those things, you still won’t get anywhere if you don’t have a strong client base. Here is what you need to know about getting clients if you:

a) Have started doing freelance work but have no system for sustainable growth

b) Have the a freelance skills but aren’t sure where to start

c) Stuck in a 9-5 but want to strike out on your own

Getting clients is the most challenging part of freelance business for many entrepreneurs. No matter what your service is, you need to promote yourself, make connections and follow through to get clients. I know, I know…those are all great phrases but what does that actually mean?

Keep reading for actionable ideas on how to find clients that grow your business.

Nail down your audience

Clearly define the people that you want to offer your freelance service to. It helps to create a persona or two so you can keep your ideal clients in mind. The key things to know about your audience is what problems they have (and how you can solve them) and also how they want to be communicated with.

Keep a list of clients

Once you know who you are looking for, it’s time to start looking for them! Find all the businesses that fit your profile and reach out to them. You should dedicate time daily, or at least weekly, to adding to your list. Having a list will help you systematically reach anyone who may be interested. Even if they don’t respond, at least they have heard your name.

Make their problems your problems

While it is tempting to brag on yourself (and you definitely should be confident in your skills), potential clients want to hear what you can do for them. Do research on the people that you want to be hired by. What are their struggles? What changes are they dealing with? How can you put them ahead of their competitors? These are all things you need to be thinking about so you can get the clients you want.

Join the club

Build your freelance community by reaching out to peers. Find other freelancers who are already doing what you want to do and ask them some questions. If they are successful, then they have obviously found ways to build their client base.

Check out our awesome community on facebook!

Were constantly posting motivation content, practical tips as well as ACTUAL FREELANCE GIGS! Crazy right. Check out the FTN Group here.

Use your existing contacts

As you already know, business is largely about connections. Starting with people you already know will save you a lot of effort and will also give you better results. Previous bosses, previous co-workers, friends from school and family friends will surprise you with who they know or how they may be interested in your services. Use a friendly and simple e-mail saying something like

Hello (friend, family, co-worker),

As you may know, I am in the process of growing my own freelance business. I offer (short explanation of your services) and can do (additional explanation if needed). I would really appreciate it if you would pass my name along to anyone that you know that you think may be interested.

Word-of-mouth and personal recommendation are the strongest weapons at your disposal, so use them!

Freelance Job boards

When you are just starting out, you need to get in front of as many people as possible. Freelance and remote Job boards are a great way to do this. You may have to start out by bidding on anything, even if its less than what you would choose to make. Check out these job boards for starters

We Work Remotely

Authentic Jobs

Smashing Jobs

Krop

Get out there (literally)

Find out where the type of people you want to be hired by are hanging out and go there. Go to conventions, join online groups and jump in on discussions if possible. The more you get to know your audience, the better. You can get a better feel for their point of view, plus they know you exist (a definite plus if you want them to hire you). Is your online game strong? Don’t forget to make connections in real life too. Meeting face to face is a great way to stand out from your competitors.

Create content

Create, create and create some more. If you have good content, it will speak for itself. Get busy generating content that your prospective clients will be interested in.

Start with a freebie

Just like apprentices trade grunt work for experience, you need to be open to giving free work in exchange for publicity. Here are a few rules for doing free work, since it can become a sticky situation:

Make your regular rate known up front

Get a commitment of a testimonial

Reiterate that you would be happy to do work in the future for your regular rate

Create a product

Creating a product (even if you normally offer a service) can give you the popularity boost you need. For example, if you are a web designer, you could write a free ebook on the top 10 things web designers shouldn’t forget. A free ebook can put your name in front of customers and get connections that other methods can’t do.

Find a partner

Working with someone else to produce a more complete product is a great way to attract more clients. If you are a graphic designer, link up with a programmer that can handle the back end of a website. By offering your clients a complete product you will make more money and you automatically get your partner’s client connections to boot.

Pitch with precision

Finding clients is a lot like asking for a first date. You need to make them feel special, not like you are casting a commercial fishing net for anything and everything that swims. Do your homework on every potential client that you pitch to. Even if you take just 10 minutes to do some quick research, it will be worth it to catch their attention. Note any issues you think they are dealing with and how you can help fix them.

Get and stay prepared

Spend time on your portfolio. Keeping a clear, up-to-date portfolio that is ready for any and every potential client is a no-brainer. Once you have that together, you need to market it. Check out these searchable portfolio sites:

– Sortfolio.com

– Coroflot.com

– Graphicartistsguild.org

– Hireanillustrator.com

Put your best face forward

In the same vein, keep your LinkedIn and all of your other industry-relevant social media accounts up to date. This is how potential clients are going to reach you, so make sure you look good on all your platforms. There are now social media sites that cater specifically to a variety of freelance industries. Here are just a few:

– Developers – GitHub

– Designers – Dribbble and Behance

– Photographers – Flickr

– Videographers – Vimeo

Create content for others

Creating content for others will put you in front of a whole new set of potential clients. It also sets you up as an expert in your field. Look for other sites with similar interests to yours (or at least complementary) and pitch your content to them as a featured guest.

Another great thing to do is to speak at conferences and gatherings. As a keynote speaker, you set yourself up as an expert. You capture the attention of your audience for an extended period of time and hopefully they like what you have to say. Granted, no one just asks a random freelancer to be a keynote speaker at an important event. But it is an important thing to network towards.

If you like what you have read and want to grow your client base more, check out our upcoming webinar. We are offering some valuable information for up and coming entrepreneurs. You do not have to do it alone! If you find yourself struggling with any of these areas:

Getting started

Finding clients you love

Building and optimizing your portfolio

Earning More (the rate you deserve)

Pitching for Contracts

Then we have some great stepping stones for you. Join our tribe of creative, forward thinking freelancers who want to share their journey.