After a long break it’s time for another essential lesson for new freelancers: finding your first clients.
When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, the thought of where you can find clients can be a worrying one, but here are three simple ways to find prospective clients.
1. Everyone you know
This might seem fairly obvious, but have you told everyone you know that you’ve started a business and are looking for clients? And I do mean everyone, not just your mum and dad and best friends.
Tell your whole family – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even call up your Great-Aunt Betty and tell her, because if they don’t know that you need clients, they can’t put any work your way.
Be sure to tell all of your friends too. Send an email out, post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, phone people, and drop it into conversation until you’re sure you’ve told everyone. Even if no one in your direct circle needs your services now, it’s likely that at some point someone will, or they’ll know someone who does and can refer them to you.
Local businesses can’t hire you if they don’t know you’re there, and networking is a great way to introduce yourself to local businesses and identify potential clients.
Choose an event to go to; if you can, choose an informal style of event for your first time as you might feel less nervous. Work out a simple way to introduce yourself; keep it simple and just tell people who you are and what you do.
After you’ve exchanged introductions with someone, hopefully conversation will follow, but if you find yourself in an awkward silence, try asking the other person a few simple questions, like “how’s business?” or “what projects are you working on right now?”. You’ll make a good impression by taking an interest in their business.
Go armed with plenty of business cards, and be sure to ask people for their card too. In the few days after an event, if someone has expressed an interest in your services, or if you just got on really well with them, do a follow up. If they seemed interested in what you have to offer, send an email suggesting coffee and a chat, or you could connect with them on LinkedIn, or another similar site, so that you start building a circle of professional contacts. The next time that they, or someone they know, need the service you offer, they can easily get in touch with you.
If you’re like me and get grumpy with every unsolicited sales call (especially as they invariably call just as I’ve started my dinner!), you might be hesitant about this one, but it’s really worth a try. This year I have started a small cold-emailing campaign and have had great results so far.
Cold-emailing is far less intrusive than cold-calling as you haven’t just interrupted their day and if they’re not interested, they simply have to ignore your email.
All you need to do is identify a group of potential clients, who you think would benefit from your services and you have a genuine interest in working with. Then send them a short introductory email about yourself and what you offer, along with a simple call to action, such as visiting your online portfolio. Make each email personalised to the recipient; it will be off-putting if they can see it’s a generic message you’ve sent to a group of people.
Keep a list of everyone you’ve contacted, and include information such as when you contacted them and any feedback received. If you get a “yes” from someone, well done! If you get a “no”, make a note not to contact them again, but if you get a “not right now” type of answer, make a note to check in with them again in a few months to see if they’re ready to change it to “yes”.
So there you have three simple ways to start building up your client base. Good luck, and please come back and share your success stories if you make any of these methods work for you!
Photo: cobrasoft on SXC
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