Over the years, the global workforce experienced a dramatic shift as many opted for self-employment and freelance work instead of the safety net of a 9-to-5 job. The work-for-hire website Upwork even reported a total of 57 million American freelancers in 2019, an impressive 4 million growth from 2015. With the pandemic forcing businesses to shed millions of full-time jobs, more people have been looking for new work opportunities and turning to freelance gigs out of necessity. They try to find and get clients online in hopes to gain a new source of income.
But whether you’ve been part of the freelance workforce for years or just joined recently, there are several challenges you’ll face with this type of work. One of the hardest things about freelancing is getting a client. There’s naturally a lot of competition, especially with the influx of new freelance workers across various industries. It’s up to you to create and implement strategies on how to find a client online as a freelancer. As a guide, here’s how savvy freelance workers attract and maintain a stream of clientele.
1. Start by understanding the target client.
Successful freelancers have a clear picture of who they serve. They know them inside out: what they want and what makes them tick. Similar to how businesses operate, freelancers need to understand their niche and the needs of their consumers. By doing so, they can continuously deliver impressive outputs that attract new clienteles and drive old ones to come back.
Not limiting yourself to one niche might seem tempting, especially since more clienteles mean more money for a freelancer. But if you’re talking to and serving everybody, you might have a hard time focusing and building a relationship with a client. In the world of freelancing, the real magic only happens when you consistently communicate in a way that resonates with them.
If you’re new to the freelance industry, you must first build a comprehensive profile or description of your ideal client. Before trying to find and get clients online, you must decide first which kind of people you will cater to. Are they small businesses or large enterprises? Which sector do they handle? What are the biggest challenges they face in that particular area? With this client profile, you’ll be able to understand how your target audience makes a decision. You’ll also be able to know how and where they find their freelance partners.
2. Define a unique value proposition.
Since the number of people switching to freelance work is increasing, the competition in the market is tougher than ever. Booking the project and winning the bid from a client will be difficult, especially if a lot of freelancers are eyeing it. In order to get clients successfully, you have to stand out from the competition. You will need to market yourself. Show how you’re different and better from the rest with a unique value proposition.
A unique value proposition describes the benefits you offer your target market. Finding your unique value and then selling what you do is one of the most difficult things in marketing. But when you identify and create this differentiator, you won’t only be able to win a client but also build a sustainable and successful freelancing business.
For example, if you’re working as a freelance WordPress developer, you could differentiate yourself from the rest by specializing within the e-Commerce market. You could also offer add-on services such as technical monitoring or author proprietary software that offers solutions in online marketplaces. With this, you’re not only a simple WordPress developer but an expert who provides clearly defined values.
3. Always have a portfolio ready to go.
As a freelancer, it’s crucial to have a clear and up-to-date portfolio. It is so you can be ready any moment you hear about a good lead or freelance job. In the world of freelancing, it’s vital to show what you can offer and not just tell. Think of your portfolio as the evidence that presents your skills and abilities. It needs to be good enough to stand out and catch the attention of your target market.
Portfolios are the perfect opportunity for a freelancer to shine. That’s why you need to constantly update your portfolio to show your most recent and best works. These sample works can greatly help you to win and get clients. Sometimes, potential customers also want to know more about your previous project. Make sure you also write and include a quick case study of your best works. If you’re new and still don’t have a lot of projects, you can create samples to show what you can offer.
Your portfolio also should describe what you do in full detail. Instead of using general terms like “Freelance Writer,” try to be more specific. You should use direct titles like “Marketing Copywriter” or “SEO Writer” on your portfolio. This practice will help boost your experience. It will also increase your expertise in the eyes of a potential client.
4. Build and Optimize a Freelance Website.
Having a stunning portfolio is not enough if no one can see or access it. In this digital age, people often rely on the powers of the internet to direct them to the right way when they want answers or need something. If you want your target market to discover you and see your samples, skills, and expertise, one great way is through building a website.
If you still don’t have a website, you’re missing out on all those potential customers. It acts as a hub for your portfolio, case studies, and overall online presence. And the bigger your online presence is, the bigger the chance you’ll get clients online. A website is a place where your target market can learn more about you. Through this, they can also learn what services you offer and how you can help them. You can even share your contact information and host your blog.
When you decide to build a personal website for your freelancing services, make sure it’s consistent with your image and aligns with your unique value proposition. The design and content should look and feel professional. Doing so can set a good first impression, increase credibility, and build trust with potential customers. Freelancers should also consider different types of content that provide value to their audience and drive them to keep coming back. They can add pictures and videos of their projects and highlight the results they deliver for their customer.
5. Join Freelancing Platforms.
Using gig sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Flexjobs is one of the fastest ways to get clients online as a freelancer. In fact, those who are new to freelancing often create accounts on these sites to get started on selling their services. While these are great places to start your freelancing career, it might take you a while before you can land a lucrative job.
The competition here is tight. But building your presence as a freelancer on these sites is still worth it. You might be able to connect with new customers that wouldn’t have been possible to reach through other avenues. Some companies even use only these platforms to look for freelance talents that their organizations need. As you grow and get reviews from some of your first small projects, you’ll be able to attract these brands.
But before you take the plunge and join these freelancing platforms, keep in mind that not everyone might be cut out for this. You might be bidding to the bottom unless you have something compelling to offer to your potential client. Some of these sites might even be industry-specific and have a fee structure and exclusivity policy. Make sure you read and understand their terms and conditions before taking a project.
6. Take advantage of job boards.
Aside from the freelancing platforms mentioned above, freelancers can get clients online by searching through regular job boards. There are several of these sites, and some of them might even offer full-time positions. But since they offer a mix of job offers, you may have to sort through their listings if you only want to find jobs.
Some examples include Indeed.com, Reddit For Hire, We Work Remotely, and AngelList. You can also search on Google and even Craigslist, just like how you would search for a normal job. For example, a company may have a “Freelance” or “Remote” opening for a “Head of Product” role. If you have the skills and experience in product design services, there’s likely an opportunity here.
Even if companies are looking for full-time positions, you should still take your chance and apply for them. You can offer your services as a contractor until they find someone suitable for the job. If the company finds your services satisfactory, they might ask you to take on multiple projects for them.
7. Network on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has always been an effective tool for anyone who wants to build business connections with people in their industry. In recent years, this networking platform also became an excellent place for freelancers to find and get clients. Freelancers who have valuable contacts can get insider information on how to get work from certain companies or even a connection who can send their portfolio to the right person. But aside from allowing you to reach out to your ideal client and build a relationship manually, LinkedIn allows companies to find you.
Many freelancers even said they got their first client from LinkedIn. Even those who found them through other platforms check their LinkedIn account before getting in touch about work. That’s because recruiters and HR professionals use this platform to search for full-time and freelance talents and even have tools for that very purpose.
Having a LinkedIn account also increases your digital presence, not just on its platform but across the internet. That’s because LinkedIn profiles show up high in search result pages like Google when people search for a user’s name. So if companies are checking you out for a freelancing project, you can make a stellar first impression when they see you on the top page.
8. Use industry-relevant social media platforms
Since LinkedIn is built for business and employment connections, the types of users are usually different from social media platforms. While creating a LinkedIn account offers several benefits to a freelancer, there are still some limitations and downsides to this platform. Let’s take a look at freelancers who offer wedding photography services as an example.
While they might be able to connect with wedding event coordinators or businesses at LinkedIn, they won’t really be able to reach their target market: people getting married. After all, who uses LinkedIn to plan their wedding. Here’s why social media platforms are a vital tool for freelancers. Each of them caters to a variety of specific industries. Depending on your freelancing work, skills, and expertise, you might find some platforms easier to use than others.
If you’re a photographer, graphic designer, web designer, or another type of freelancer who works in a visual field, then Instagram might be a better platform to showcase your services. Due to its visual nature, you can use it to share photos or short clips about your projects and show off your creativity and originality. Facebook is also a popular hub for freelancers. With its collection of groups and robust advertising system, this social media platform widens your circle of contacts and can lead to new customers. Choosing the right platform will help you get clients successfully.
9. Tap into their network
Taking stock of the people they know is another efficient way for freelancers to look for customers. Most people don’t realize this, but they already have a group of potential customers near them. Their family, friends, previous co-workers, and even acquaintances are all people who might need their freelancing service or know someone who does.
Whether you’re embarking on a new career or you need more work to put food on the table, you should get the word out. Tapping into your network and starting with the people close to you about your freelancing business has its perks. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice your pitch and tell people what you do. You can refine it and find the most effective way to drive sales.
If you can get your family and friends to understand your work and hire you, you’ll be ready and feel more confident explaining yourself to people in your industry. Of course, this strategy isn’t just a way to test your oratory skills and charm. By telling your family and friends, you’re also tapping into their network and getting your message out to everyone they know. They can be your referrals when someone from their circle needs a service you offer. This is another effective yet easy way to get clients.
10. Join social gatherings and networking events
Networking and forming valuable connections in person may seem intimidating, but it’s one of the best ways to get clients as a freelancer. It doesn’t even have to be complicated since networking is all about being yourself and selling what you do. Freelancers can join conferences or local meetups. They can give their business cards to other people, and talk about their interests and freelancing business.
If you’re located in a metropolitan area, these social gatherings and events are not hard to come by. Many organizations host these events to garner good press or attract professionals who may want to be part of their team. Smaller towns might also have these types of events, albeit on a smaller scale. Freelancers should take advantage of these opportunities to grow their circle and attract their target market.
Joining a co-working space is another way to practice networking. Due to the nature of work, freelancers typically stay at home and sit in front of the computer all day. It’s hard to get clients when you’re not socializing. Sharing office space with a group of people will get you connected with potential colleagues and a new circle of friends. You can help expand each other’s network of contacts and refer customers to each other.
11. Experiment with paid ads
Freelancing is all about connecting with people and building relationships to get clients. You don’t necessarily have to resort to spending money on paid advertising. However, there is no denying that this is the fastest way to attract new customers. Cash-strapped freelancers don’t even have to worry about setting aside a big budget to run compelling campaign ads.
Both Facebook Ads and Google Adwords let you set up an advertisement for only a small daily budget. It’s also a great opportunity for freelancers to run A/B tests and experiment with which campaign is effective at attracting your target audience. There are other platforms where freelancers can advertise, depending on their target audience. However, they will likely see more success with Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Twitter, and Google.
Since these channels have an active user base that is likely full of their ideal customers, running a compelling ad will ensure they get the message across in front of their target audience. If you’re on a tight budget with no room for even the cheapest ads, you can also provide valuable content as a form of advertisement. You can offer eBooks or newsletters that share your expertise on a given subject. When they sign up for those things, you can start building relationships through emails.
Growing your freelancing business takes time and effort. Since the competition is now tougher because of the increasing number of freelancers, you will have to implement strategies to attract customers. While there are plenty of techniques you can follow, keep in mind that not all of them will work right away. You will have to consider your target audience and the nature of your freelance business. As long as you follow these steps and continue to connect and build relationships with your audience, you can get a stream of clientele.
Hope this helps! Which of these tips would you like to try out to get clients and more freelance work? Comment down below and let us know! As a follow-up to this article, it’s also best to read our Guide To Freelance Rates so you can know how to charge premium rates as a freelancer. You can also read our article about How To Manage Multiple Clients so that you can still work efficiently while working on multiple projects as you gain more clients.