II. Market. Message. Medium.
III. Get Active On Job Boards
IV. Send Cold Emails
V. Post Organic Content On Social Media
VI. Go To Events
VII. Build Relationships In Your Industry
VIX. Wrapping Up
Finding clients is the hardest part of freelancing for beginners.
You need to build hard skills, but that's only half of the equation.
The other half is understanding how to build a business.
When I started freelancing I'd spend a few hours a day on job boards, like Upwork.
Upwork can be a good source of client work and experience for beginners (I'll get to that in a moment).
It can also feel like hell.
You're pitching and pitching, but maybe a whole month (or more) goes by where nothing happens.
You don't get any replies. You don't schedule any calls. You don't land any clients.
That means you're not making any money either.
Then you see all these other people supposedly landing one client after another, making more money than you and you're like, "When is it going to happen for me?"
This is the point when a lot of people quit.
They play the comparison game. They feel insecure, doubt their abilities and throw in the towel.
The people who really want to succeed, who are focused on building valuable skills and who are persistent will keep pushing.
This post is going to cover the 5 best methods for finding clients as a freelancer.
These methods are also ranked from what I believe are the easiest to the most difficult for a beginner to pull off.
You will need to experiment and see what works best for you.
II. Market. Message. Medium.
Before you start pitching clients, you need to know your:
- Market: The group of people you're serving (i.e. niche)
- Message: Your offer and how you're going to communicate it (e.g. "I help e-commerce stores make daily sales through email marketing")
- Medium: Where you're going to reach your target audience (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, cold emailing, etc)
*** Credit to Dan Kennedy for this framework.
II. Get Active On Job Boards
This is where I believe everyone should begin. Job boards get a lot of hate, but it doesn't make sense.
Whenever I see people complaining about Upwork's fees or low hourly rates or bad clients, guess what?
It's not much easier outside Upwork.
You just don't know how to sell or run your business.
Think of Upwork like training wheels on a tricycle. It's a great low-risk environment for you to practice and make some money too.
Job boards like Upwork are a great way to get:
- Experience working with clients
- Experience figuring out your process and workflow
- Testimonials and case studies
They also make payment collection easy and you KNOW:
- What these clients want help with
- They have a budget
- Where to find these clients
I wouldn't rely on job boards exclusively, but they're great if you're just getting started and you might even find a few gems (with little effort).
"Can you make good money on job boards?"
Well what do you mean by good money?
$2,000 a month? Sure.
$100,000 a year? Possibly.
I've landed 4-figure deals and monthly retainers, so I wouldn't rule them out.
Still, you need to realize that the highest paid freelancers in the world do NOT rely exclusively on job boards.
I don't know of anyone making mid 6-figures or higher on job boards.
So how do the highest paid freelancers find clients?
They use the other methods in this article.
III. Send Cold Emails
Cold emailing, like every other method, works if you do it right.
The key is to send a LOT of emails because it's truly a numbers game.
The biggest mistakes I've noticed when it comes to cold emails are that:
- They're not personalized
- You're not doing enough volume
- They're too long
- You don't follow up
- The writing sucks
- They lack a strong Call to Action
You can check out my book for a specific process and scripts.
IV. Post Organic Content On Social Media
I've found great clients on both Facebook and Twitter.
I know other freelancers have had success on LinkedIn and Instagram too.
The key is:
(1) Posting content that gets engagement
(2) Posting offers consistently
If you do those two things, you should be able to land at least one client within 30 days.
My recommendation is to focus on Facebook to find clients. In my opinion, it's the best platform because it's the most interactive and social.
You can share text posts, images, videos, etc. Tons of ways to create content that matches your strengths (personally, I prefer text over video).
The strategy to find clients on Facebook is simple:
- Participate in 1-2 Facebook group where your target audience hangs out by posting and commenting
- Send friend requests to people in the group who seem like they'd be good potential clients (people will also send you friend requests if they see you adding value or if you have friends in common)
- Create a mix of posts on your personal profile that pitch your offer and position you as an authority
I cover this entire process in my book also.
V. Go To Events
I've never attended events, but I know they can work.
(I've already got access to millions of potential clients from your laptop and I'd rather work 100% from home).
Events will work best if you're extroverted and a people person.
My biggest issue with events is you can't do them often and the ROI is very low unless you land a client(s). Otherwise, you've gone through the time and expense for nothing.
So events can be a good option for finding clients, but I wouldn't rely on them exclusively.
VI. Build Relationships In Your Industry
This is a longer-term play.
You want to start building relationships sooner than later.
It's a great feeling when you get a text or private message from someone who says, "Hey I know someone I want to introduce you to. You might be able to do some business together."
So although it probably won't result in clients TODAY, my advice is to start connecting with people right away.
I have tons of friends and business contacts I've made online (and a social media audience of over 15,000 people).
Many are 6 and 7 figure entrepreneurs.
The best way to build relationships is to:
- Communicate every so often (private messages are a good way to get started)
- Comment on and share their posts
- Refer them business
Of course, the best way to build relationships is to meet people in person.
I've met a number of people either in my hometown or throughout my travels, from digital nomads to expats to email subscribers.
How do you get clients when you're a beginner with no experience?
The popular advice is to create samples, a portfolio or case studies.
As usual, the popular advice is WRONG.
There is one thing clients value above everything.
Do you know what that is?
Note: My book, Freelance Foundations, explains how beginners can get clients in incredible detail.
When a client agrees to work with you, there needs to be an element of trust and trust is about fulfillment.
I.e. If a client gives you money, the client expects you to fulfill your end of the deal with whatever results you promised.
But what exactly are results?
If you're offering any kind of online marketing service (copywriting, Facebook ads, funnels, etc), your client is going to be interested in sales.
- Increasing monthly revenue by 10% over the next 30 days
- Selling 20 spots of their high-ticket coaching program in a week
- A promotional campaign that sells $40,000 in courses in 5 days
Those are real, tangible results a client can sink their teeth into.
But I know...
You're brand new, so how the hell are you supposed to promise a client any of this stuff (especially when you have no track record and you've never done it before)?
Here's my advice:
If a client starts asking about samples, a portfolio or case studies, ALWAYS steer the conversation towards pre-qualification and the results the client wants.
"Mr. Client, I know you're interested in samples, but before we get to that, I want to make sure we're a good fit [pre-qualification] so I can help you get the results you're looking for.
You said you don't have time to write email copy and want someone who can take that off your hands and increase your sales at least 5% next month [results], right?"
Now let's talk about Process...
Everyone - including complete beginners - needs to have a process in place (and it doesn't need to be complicated).
Process just means the steps you're going to take the client through, from from A to Z.
You want your customers/clients to be able to visualize how you're going to help them.
For example, most freelancers have the same basic process.
STEP 1: Research / Discovery
STEP 2: Strategy / Planning
STEP 3: Creation (Write copy, build website, run Facebook ads, etc)
STEP 4: Submit to client for review/feedback
In my client business, even though each client is different, I tend to follow the same 3-step process every single time.
Just like McDonald's or any other fast food chain.
When you order a Big Mac, do they make it different every time?
No. They follow the same exact process in every McDonald's in the world.
You want to approach your client business the same way, whether you're a freelancer or an agency.
This accomplishes a few things:
It helps you stay organized
Like you know that I'm not going to write or build a funnel before you've done research.
It helps the client know that you're organized
Processes, workflows and systems build trust.
It gives you a REPEATABLE process to increase the likelihood you'll deliver results
Have you played baseball? It's just like practicing your swing.
The more often you do it, the more likely you are to make contact and hit homers.
VIII. Wrapping Up
If I was a complete beginner I'd focus on job boards and cold emailing. Then I'd layer in the other 3 methods over time or just stick with the first two if they're working well.
When you're a beginner, you're in a race to find what works, then double-down on the activities that are getting you the best results.
You DON'T need to do a million things at once.
When a potential client asks for examples of past work or experience, always shift the conversation to pre-qualification and results.
Think about your process and keep it simple. Identify the 3-5 MAIN STEPS every client goes through when they work with you so they can visualize what that looks like.
Lastly, your two priorities should be pitching and client work.
Focus on those two things and you should start landing clients.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS POST:
Event - 10X Growth Conference
Event - Funnel Hacking Live
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