When you start out as a freelancer, it is important to know that your skills alone will not be enough. As a freelancer, you need to be able to sell yourself well so that companies trust you and give you assignments. So whether you are a webmaster, web editor, web developer, graphic designer, photographer or translator, you need to know a few tricks to get work. These are the tricks we're going to share with you in this article. So how do you find freelance clients? That's what we'll look at.
What are the basics for finding clients as a freelancer?
When you start out as a freelancer, it is very important to look for contracts in your very first months. Only by looking for assignments will you really expand your portfolio of potential clients. Therefore, you need to learn how to sell your skills and highlight your expertise as a specialist. Let's take a look at how you should do this.
Clearly identify your speciality
Preparation is a fundamental point to work on when applying for freelance assignments. So, even before you formalise your self-employed status, you need to be able to present your offer accurately, identify your target clients and prepare relevant selling points.
To begin with, make a thorough assessment of your skills. The purpose of this assessment is to be able to define your speciality. As a freelancer you need to have refined knowledge, experience and real know-how in your field of expertise. This is why you need to specialise.
Identify your target audience
Bearing in mind that you need to have expertise in a particular field, carry out market research. The aim here is to identify the problems and needs of your potential customers. As a result, you will know precisely the type of customer to whom you will be offering your services(your ideal customer). You will then be able to draw up a suitable service offer.
To do this, the first step is to put yourself in the mind of your prospects. Start by identifying people or companies who have used the services of freelancers with similar skills to yours. Then send them short emails asking for advice. The primary purpose of this is not to get hired, but rather to learn more about why these companies hire freelancers.
To identify these companies, you can use freelance platforms such as Malt (formerly Hopwork) for example. On their profile page, freelancers list their various references. These references are prospects for you. You can then take their address in order to ask them questions such as :
- what are the reasons why you use freelancers?
- what prompted you to hire a freelancer?
- for what reasons in particular did you recruit this freelancer?
- how did you find this freelancer?
Obviously, not all companies will respond to you. However, some companies will certainly give you feedback. From these responses, you will identify the issues that encourage companies to recruit freelancers.
Building your portfolio
Once you know your target audience, the problems they face and you have identified an offer that might be of interest to them, you will build your portfolio. The portfolio is like a skills portfolio, which allows you to collect in one place the work you have already done. Unlike a CV, in addition to listing your skills and experience, you can illustrate them in a concrete way. In this way, your potential clients will have a real idea of your skills through your past achievements. As a freelancer, you can present your portfolio through a website, a paper portfolio, a PDF portfolio, etc.
So, if you are for example a writer, you can put together the articles, newsletters, sales pages you have written. If you are a web developer, it would be appropriate to show the websites, applications you have already developed. If you are a graphic designer, your most beautiful illustrations will be perfect to enrich your portfolio.
Carrying out demonstration projects
If you do not yet have any experience related to the services you offer as a freelancer, do not panic. You can show your know-how and demonstrate your expertise through " showcase projects" . Be curious and creative and experiment with products that already exist:
- If you are a web designer, you can redesign a popular website for example. You will then explain why you made the changes you did;
- if you are a web developer, you can design a test software that you will present during your prospecting;
- If you are a digital marketer, why not create a landing page for your prospects?
So many ideas that will show your potential clients that you are passionate about your work. But also, and above all, that you care about their problems. They will see you as a dedicated freelancer who can help them achieve their goals. So you need to work hard on sample projects to present.
Learn how to approach and deal with new customers
As we have seen, it is imperative to adopt a good strategy to attract clients. You need to learn how to sell your skills to convince and entice companies to work with you. To do this, try to see your prospects as future partners. In doing so, target the right people, make the right offer at the right time and in the right way.
As a result, you will not be perceived by your potential customers as an intrusive salesperson. On the contrary, they will see you as a potential collaborator who provides a timely and excellent solution to an inconvenient problem.
How do I find clients as a freelancer?
Now that you know these basics, you have all the tools you need to prepare yourself properly to find clients. So let's look in detail at the different ways you can use them to find your customers.
Prospect on freelance platforms
When you are self-employed, freelancing websites are undoubtedly the first effective way to find clients. Indeed, thanks to these platforms, you can respond to calls for projects. You are probably familiar with some of them. These include platforms such as Codeur, Malt, Fiver, 5 euros, and many others. On these sites, you will find assignments to hone your skills and gain experience.
Better still, you will also gradually start to build up a network. Your portfolio will become more and more interesting. This will make it easier for you to attract more relevant clients.
In reality, there are a great number of freelance platforms. All you have to do is choose the ones that fit your profile the most. However, in order to get assignments on these freelance sites, you will have to sell yourself. So collect positive reviews from your previous clients, optimise your profile and respond convincingly and persuasively to calls for tender.
Use job boards to apply for freelance assignments
You may not think about it, but job boards are very effective in finding freelance clients. Indeed, on these platforms, many companies are looking for freelance contractors. But what is the real advantage of using these sites? You don't need to have a network or do any business prospecting before you can find assignments.
In addition, on job boards, potential clients express an immediate need, just like on freelancing sites. But the biggest advantage is that you can find your clients for free. Isn't that interesting? In order to keep up to date with all the online advertisements, subscribe to the alerts and monitor them regularly.
Create content on social networks
Social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram,...) are, as you know, formidable channels for freelancing and communication. By using these platforms properly, you can find clients (companies or individuals) who will be interested in your services.
It is also important that you do not spread yourself too thin. So stay focused by really positioning yourself on only one or two social networks. To do this, depending on your sector of activity, determine the ones on which the professionals in the trade and your target clientele can be found. This will also save you time. So, to find customers via social networks, you need to create quality content on your pages. In doing so :
- you work on your ¨personal branding¨ (your personal brand). To this end, make sure you optimise your profile or your professional page and implement a good content strategy ;
- you interact with your prospects, but also with influencers;
- you are monitoring. It is a way to monitor the ads that your potential customers post;
- you can launch campaigns and advertisements.
Search the freelance project forums
Although social networks are overshadowing them somewhat, forums remain privileged places for exchange and sharing. In addition to being isolated from the media tumult, forums are much less competitive. You can therefore use them to find freelance clients.
To do this, identify one or two forums that are frequented by influencers and particularly your target audience. Register in these forums and then optimise your freelancer profile. When prospects have concerns, answer their questions professionally and courteously. There's no better way to demonstrate your expertise as a specialist, to engage in meaningful conversations with prospects and, most importantly, to get your name out there. The result? Your prospects will notice you and be more likely to call you.
Apart from freelance project forums, you can try to identify places that people or companies you want to work with frequent. These could be networking events, for example. Go to these events to meet potential clients. However, when you go, do not be pretentious. Instead, be humble and make sure that you are seen as someone who can help, not as a salesperson. Focus heavily on providing value.
Make yourself known as a freelancer through partnerships
Many freelancers do not always have the resources to develop a content strategy to attract clients. If you lack the technical skills, financial means or time to set up a newsletter, a YouTube channel, etc., don't panic.
Content strategies are not the only way to attract customers. Partnerships can also help you showcase your expertise and increase your visibility. And that's without building a community on the media. You can also expand your professional network and reach a wider audience.
To do this, collaborate with influencers, freelancers or companies that share your values and audience, but are not direct competitors. For example, you can produce infographics or articles for the blog of a company that operates in your sector. You can also give expert advice in a podcast or interview with a peer. These are the kinds of collaborations that will make you known to more people.
Contact your professional and personal network to get freelance contracts
Whether you are an experienced freelancer or just starting out, it is always useful to use your network to find clients. The power of recommendation should not be underestimated. Indeed, word-of-mouth is a simple, friendly and effective way to find clients quickly and for free.
As soon as you start freelancing, contact your personal and professional network. Contact your former comrades, colleagues, friends, clients, and even peers (anyone who can help you). Let them know what you do as a freelancer and what your field and skills are. You can even send them short personalised emails. Describe the kind of client you are looking for. And why not offer them a commission if their help proves successful?
Collaborate with your freelance peers on projects
To find clients and get assignments, you can team up with other freelancers in your field to work together on projects. You know, freelancers in the same field as you are not enemies. You should not think that you are in competition with each other. On the contrary, you are in fact a community. In fact, freelancers are friendly and supportive of each other.
So, if you have friendship to spare and you are not very effective at prospecting, there are three main options. The first is to team up with a freelancer whose job is complementary to yours. This will allow you to join forces to find clients more efficiently (a graphic designer or a web editor can cooperate with a webmaster, for example).
The second option is to join a freelance community, to work with other talents on various assignments. The third option is to connect with a peer who has more experience and skills than you. To find other freelancers, use social networks, Google, trade shows and freelancing platforms.
Prospect by e-mail
As a freelancer, email is a great way to find and retain clients. Emailing generally allows you to implement two strategies:
- cold emailing: which allows you to offer your services to professionals by sending them messages by e-mail;
- lead nurturing, the objective of which is to get your prospects excited and convert them into customers in the long term.
Work for free at first in the worst case
You certainly don't agree on this point! And you should. But if you are just starting out, your main objective should be to gain experience and develop your skills. But also to build up a comprehensive portfolio. It is true that working for free is not very motivating. However, if you do it, your chances of getting paid assignments will increase considerably.
However, before you commit to this, be sure that your client is hiring you for your person and expertise. It would not be fair to hire you just because you are working for free. On the other hand, you need to be clear whether your clients are willing to recommend you if they are satisfied with your work. Otherwise it would be a waste of time.
Also read: How to become a freelancer: the guide
Make a list of all the companies you want to work with
When you have a well-defined target, you will find it easier to find potential customers. So, if you want to work with a specific clientele, at the beginning, search daily for companies that match your target. Make a list of these companies and send them e-mails. In these messages, you should introduce yourself and describe your services explicitly.
Even if they do not hire you immediately, they will remember your name. Some may also put your name on a list of freelancers to contact if they need to. So, in order to identify these companies, you can ask yourself a few questions:
- what sectors of activity use freelancers with your skills?
- which sectors are you personally interested in?
- Which companies would you like to include in your professional network and which ones would you like to work with?
How to find freelance clients: in brief
Ultimately, finding clients when you are a freelancer can be difficult. However, when you prepare yourself in advance and have clearly defined your target audience, with the right techniques you will succeed. Also, remember that when you talk to your clients, you have to convince them and show them how your services can really help them. You also need to ask them relevant questions to understand their problem and make a personalised offer.
So, what means do you plan to use to find your freelance clients? Have you already tried other ways that have worked? We'd love to read your answers in the comments.