Five ways to build your freelance client list

Launching yourself as a freelancer? Or need more freelance work? Read five ways you can build your freelance client list – and bring new business in.

Freelancing has never been more popular. Freelancers now make up 33% of the entire American workforce, and it’s estimated that half of the UK’s working population will be self-employed in the next five years.

But, as appealing as this new freedom economy is (especially if you’re a mother wanting to work on your own terms around your family), it’s not without its challenges. The most significant of which being getting started, and then growing your freelance client list.

Five ways to build your freelance client list

Thankfully, as the freelance marketing workforce has grown, so too has our learning about what makes for a successful move into the industry. Here, digital consultancy Omnia share five ways to build your freelance client list and bring new business in.

1) Network

Networking can strike fear into the hearts of even the most confident socialites. But that’s okay, because networking doesn’t have to mean going out to events alone and introducing yourself to strangers (although if you think you’re up to it, that’s a good idea too!).

Networking works best when it’s authentic, so start small and close to home. Begin by using your existing network. Perhaps create an email that introduces your new venture to friends and family and asks them to pass it on to anyone they know who might work with or need to hire the services you offer.

Similarly, write a social media update letting your personal network know what you’re doing now, and day you’re happy for them to pass your details on to anyone who may need you.

Then cast the net a little wider by contacting anyone you have worked with before. Remember to explain briefly what you do, give examples of any work you’ve done in the past and specify the types of clients you’re hoping for – be that a particular industry or a type of business, such as startups.

2) Ask for introductions

Unlike emails, which are received in bulk in business inboxes, and regularly ignored, a face-to-face meeting (even a quick one) is more personal, and enables you to build a more powerful connection.

Using the networking method above, review who you are connected with. Where do they work? Where have they worked? Could they possibly introduce you to someone who makes budgeting or procurement decisions?

LinkedIn is the obvious social channel for this type of information and it’s a powerful business development tool for many freelancers. So don’t leave it until you’ve gone out on your own to panic and start to build up a network there.

Plan for your move (even better if you can do this in your spare time while still in employment) and fill out your profile, use your contact lists to make connections, look over the CVs of your friends and colleagues and post content and updates. Don’t forget to engage with the content of others, too; it will show you are enthusiastic and proactive.

Not 100% confident your LinkedIn profile is completed properly? Find out how our online course, Love LinkedIn can help.

3) Create content

Creating your own and finding and sharing third party content has become an essential marketing tool for businesses and savvy freelancers.

Not only does it help to show off your own expertise, but it keeps you front of mind with people who may need or recommend your services.

But what type of content should you be creating? And how? Ideally you’ll create a monthly content calendar so you can plan a mix of content, ensure you’re sharing consistently and can then tick if off your list as a job done. (Don’t know how to start a content plan? Follow this easy, four-step formula to creating one.)

As an overall guide, remember that the purpose of your content is to share knowledge and demonstrate your expertise (both in authoring and curating expert content). It’s NOT to pitch a hard sell. Indeed, if your content is overly promotional you’ll risk putting people off.

So focus on being helpful and knowledgeable, with a low key invitation for people to get in touch if they need more help in this area.

And finally, when you’re creating content, it’s important to bear in mind your ideal freelance client. What problems do they need to solve? What do they care about? Focus your content around these topics.

4) Advertise on online job boards

Places like Fiverr and Upwork have earned a somewhat mixed reputation, with many freelancers accusing them of driving down hourly rates and encouraging almost-free work.

However, some new freelancers, when building their client list, have used sites like these successfully to land small, entry level projects that demonstrate their skills and enable them to build a portfolio of work, plus happy client testimonials.

If these sites don’t feel like a natural fit to the type of freelance work you want to do (or clients you want to work for) it’s worth investigating other listing site options. And there are many!

As more and more people choose the freelance route, the number of job and project boards, and freelance listing directories increase – catering to an increasingly broad range of freelance clients. Here are a few you can check out (as well as the two above) to see what feels like a good fit for you:

Want to be a freelance writer? Read 10 practical tips to help you launch your career here.

5) Use coworking spaces

Much like the rest of the gig economy, coworking is growing in popularity because of the freedom it provides, the lack of financial setup costs required, and the technological ability to work from anywhere.

Coworking spaces are popping up in cities across the world and, although they’re known for benefits such as avoiding loneliness, improving creativity and productivity, and giving you a professional address, they’re also a fantastic business development opportunity.

Coworking spaces aren’t just full of freelancers who don’t want to work on the sofa at home. They often house startups, entrepreneur business owners, digital nomads, angel investors and small businesses who are at the point of pivot or growth (before they can afford to move to larger office space).

Their collaborative nature and open spaces make them perfect for making friends, growing your professional network and forming work partnerships. Even spending one day a week or a month working from a hot desk in a coworking space could really boost your network.

Never stop marketing your freelance services!

Building your freelance client list is an ongoing job. So don’t ease up on your efforts, even once freelance clients start to book you regularly – you never know when a client will stop needing your services or move on.

For this reason, always keep time in your diary for maintaining your marketing efforts, keeping front of mind with your existing network, and making new connections.

And make the most of the clients you do have, too, to grow your freelance business. Remember to ask clients for testimonials, and write case studies of your work for them. Then promote these on your website, in your blog, on your LinkedIn profile and other social media networks you use.

If your client is happy with your work, don’t be afraid to ask if they would recommend you to anyone else they feel could benefit from your services too. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Are you missing valuable opportunities on LinkedIn? Read 10 ways you can use LinkedIn to find freelance clients.

By Laura Fulton from Omnia.