How do you get clients as a freelancer?

February 02, 2022 by Panama Harris

Are you just getting started in freelancing and are looking for your first clients? Or perhaps you’ve been at it a while, and are looking to expand your clientele?

Landing a contract isn’t as easy as it seems.

It all boils down to growing competition. According to the INSEE (the French statistics and economic studies institute), over 600,000 individuals opened up a micro-business in France in 2020. A record.

This means that you have to get proactive in your search for clients: advertise your skills, leverage your network and actively seek out prospects.

Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and watch your business grow.

This article will give you the tools you’ll need to get there.

Tip #1 : Build a portfolio that showcases your skills

Before you even start your search, the first most important thing you need to get ready is your portfolio.

Your portfolio is a file that assembles the extent of your work. In this respect, it’s much more concrete than a CV. It doesn’t just list your skills and experience, it illustrates them.

This way, your clients have a tangible way to appreciate your knowhow.

It goes without saying, portfolios vary according to industry.

For example, if:

  • you’re a copywriter, you’ll display articles, ads, newsletters or any other relevant copy that you’ve written.
  • you’re a graphic designer, you would put together your most beautiful illustrations.
  • you’re a web developer, it would make the most sense to demonstrate apps or websites that you’ve built.

How do you build a portfolio as a freelancer?

There are several ways to go about it.

Ideally, you would create a showcase website that best reflects your projects and work. Don’t worry, though: you don’t need to be a master coder to put a solid webpage together. There are many solutions in the market that can help you quickly set up a presence online, such as Wordpress or Wix.

If you so choose, you could even create a Google Drive to hold all of your work (articles, illustrations, etc).

Whatever the format, it’s displaying the works that make you proud that’s important.

Are you just getting started and you don’t have much to present yet? Don’t hesitate to create content for the sake of building your portfolio. You don’t have to wait until you’ve had many projects under your belt to show you’re capable and passionate about your craft. You can even do some unpaid, pro-bono work to get you started and have something to show.

Tip #2 : Personalize your search

As a freelancer, you already have solid experience in your field. But in the process of building out a clientele, you also have to work on your people skills and learn to be a great salesperson.

Scouting clients isn’t easy; it can be intimidating to sell yourself, or promote your skills.

But actually, it’s not as complicated as it seems. If you’re well-prepared and approach the process methodically, you’re already on the right track.

Step one: Identify your target audience

Before you even begin your search, you have to get clear about who it is you’re targeting. In marketing speak, we call this a persona.

In other words, you should be able to spot who would be most interested in whatever it is that you’re offering.

Take a minute to ask yourself the right questions and try to answer as precisely as possible.

  • What kind of person or business needs my services? In which industry?
  • What are the kinds of problems my persona encounters?
  • How will my offer help them solve these problems?
  • What role do they have in their business? Are they a key decision-maker?

Thanks to this exercise, you’ll be able to scope out your offer and present it to the right sort of clients.

Step two: Make a list of suitable contacts

This brings us to the second step: making a list of all the companies that could use your services.

Do a quick study of the active members of your target industry and bring them together on one document.

Once you’ve made this list, ask yourself: “Who should I contact within this company?”

The answer varies according to your offer and the size of the business concerned.

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Marie is a writer with a passion for Fintech. She specializes in technical, financial texts. Therefore, she’s looking to target startups and businesses in the Fintech industry.

In her case, her services would most likely interest the marketing department of a Fintech company. In order for her to make the right connections there, she has to do her research on how the business is structured.

  • Is there a marketing team?
  • And if so, who is the decision-maker? Is there a Head of Marketing?

LinkedIn is a must-have for quickly getting to the root of these questions. In a few clicks, you can access all the information to find your key contacts.

Step three: Personalize your messages to your leads

Found your persona and your list of contacts? Excellent. But before you set out to contact your leads, it’s important to research their companies thoroughly.

When is comes to prospecting clients, personalization is key. Avoid canned, prefabricated messages. Show that you’re interested in their particular business. Don’t forget that first impressions matter. This step will determine whether or not your conversation will be productive one.

Here are a few ideas on how to steer your search:

  • Are you a freelance developer? Check out whether the company you’re targeting has a website or an app. How well do they work? Are you able to detect any bugs in the system and can you provide a solution to solve them?
  • Do you specialize in content marketing? Go to the company website. Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes you can correct? Do they have a blog? Are the articles up to date? Can you come up with some content ideas to pitch to them?
  • Are you a freelance graphic designer? Study the company presence. Do they have a graphic charter? Are the visuals coherent? What are their strong points? Where is there room for improvement?

It’s true that a personalized approach takes time. But by getting to the heart of your prospects’ unique needs and positioning yourself accordingly, you vastly improve your chances of gaining not only their interest but their business, too.

What are the best channels for outreach?

Yet again, LinkedIn is indispensable for making quality contacts with a wide array of professionals without coming off as intrusive.

You could even opt for contact by email, if you already know your prospect.

Tip #3 : Respond to listings

Many companies are actively searching for freelancers.

Most of the time, they tap into their existing network, or go via LinkedIn ads or recruitment sites like Welcome to the Jungle. Don’t hesitate to consult these sites regularly or set up an alert so you get notified as soon as the right post comes along.

Also keep in mind that your potential clients likely receive many job applications. Once again, this is where personalization will help set you apart from the rest. Show that you’re invested in the company and its needs. You’ll be relying on the previous research you’ll have done in the previous step to really make your mark.

Tip #4 : Sign up on freelancing platforms

These days, there are plenty of websites that put freelancers in touch with companies.

It’s easy: fill out your profile with any and all relevant information about your craft (your speciality, your rates, your experience, your portfolio...). Then, prospective clients can view your capabilities at a glance and offer you work.

Take the time to fill out your profile thoroughly and be sure to complete all the required elements (like a profile photo, for example). Your page should be accurate, comprehensive and personalized. In other words, it should inspire confidence in your prospective leads.

Among the better known, more serious platforms, we recommend looking into Malt and Crème de la crème.

Tip #5 : Develop your professional network and build your reputation

Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for your network. It takes perseverance and regular effort. But in time, it can prove to be a great pipeline for work, without the effort prospecting often requires.

How do you build a good professional network if you’re just starting out?

The idea is to meet people in your industry and be casual. Engage in simple chat, without overtly proposing your services.

There are many ways to meet others in your field:

  • going to events with themes related to your area of expertise;
  • being active on social media;
  • joining online communities.

Every new exchange can be considered a seed planted today that could grow into future opportunity. Thanks to word-of-mouth, one new client can easily lead to another.

Finding clients as a freelancer isn’t as hard as it seems, after all. You just have to be thorough and committed to hard work. Now you have some tips to better help you develop a strategy to win over clients.

Are you a freelancer who’s looking to open a professional account for your business? Discover Qonto, the business account that’s making freelancing a little less complex.

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