I'm the owner and creative mind behind One6Creative – a conversion-led creative studio that is passionate about helping creative businesses and inspiring entrepreneurs elevate their business through the power of brand & strategy. Through our blog and resources, we aim to educate fellow creative entrepreneurs on how to grow their business with purpose and intention. Welcome!
I get asked a lot about how to book more clients. As a freelancer, you always want to have work to do. If you’re not able to successfully book clients, you run the risk of not having enough money to pay your bills or invest in growing your business.
I’m going to share how you can find your first clients, and keep your work schedule full.
Getting started with a brand new business can be a huge challenge. How do you find your first paying client without much professional experience?
I started my freelance journey using websites like UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelancer. These sites are popular for freelancers and people looking to hire you.
I used these sites for around 6 months before moving on, and they taught me a lot!
What I didn’t love about these freelancer sites is the competition and lower pay. To be successful on there, you will need to pitch a lot of people, which will help you figure out how to stand out from the crowd. You probably won’t get rich there, but you can gain valuable experiences.
Since I had to pitch a lot of people, I learned how to improve my pitches, how to manage a project, and how to properly communicate with people.
When I decided to leave my corporate day job and become a full time freelance designer, I didn’t want to make it public. I didn’t feel like I was super qualified, so I never posted on my social media profiles.
After a few months of freelancing, I shared on Facebook that I was a freelancer, and I was so glad I did!
I had two friends who needed some design work reach out to me and that’s how I signed on my first two “real” clients!
You’re likely already connected to people who need what you’re offering or know someone that does. Don’t be afraid to share your work and the value you can offer them a few times.
Some of you may be tired of hearing about Facebook groups, but they can be awesome!
The key here is to find the Facebook groups where your ideal clients are hanging out. You can join Facebook groups with a few hundred or thousands of people who can be potential clients.
Now, you don’t want to join a group and start pitching your services. No one likes that and you may be quickly kicked out of the group.
Your opportunity is to answer questions and provide value to the group. Group members will see that you’re knowledgeable and interested in helping them.
You can become a subject matter expert and start developing relationships with people online. This can also lead to referrals and send more traffic to your website as people check out your profile.
Answering people’s questions is not limited to Facebook groups. There are groups of people all over the internet. You just need to find out who your ideal client is, and where they’re spending time.
Reddit and Quora are great forum websites with plenty of people asking questions about an endless range of topics.
Remember, this is an opportunity to show what you know and provide your expertise for free.
Most forums don’t want people advertising their business, because it doesn’t provide value. Sometimes it may be appropriate to share a blog you’ve written, or a podcast episode if it answers someone’s question.
I consider myself more of an introvert, so this was a difficult one for me. I don’t love big loud groups of people, so I tend to avoid networking events.
I remember being excited to go to a freelancer Christmas party, because we didn’t have a company party. I bought a ticket, thinking I would be able to develop relationships and meet new people. It turned out to be in a loud club and I left within 30 minutes!
I’ve also been to some great networking events, like a female business owner luncheon.
You just need to find the right events, and make sure your clients will be there. This can be a great way to develop friendships and connect with like-minded people.
At networking events I will usually connect with people on social media, interact with them, and then reach out to see how I can help a few days later.
You might be surprised to hear that big agencies often hire freelancers. This actually made up around 30% of my revenue in 2019.
Big agencies are tasked with big projects and don’t have the resources to do everything. You can receive a good amount of work by connecting with agencies.
It’s best to look for agencies that offer a complementary service, and reach out to see if they can use your help.
Your past clients can be some of your best future clients! Return customers are proven to be much less expensive compared to new ones, and they usually spend more.
You previous clients already know you, and have seen the work you’ve done first hand. As long as it was a positive experience for them, you should reach out.
It’s unlikely that they’re sitting around thinking about emailing you, so reaching out can bring it to their memory. Reaching out can make them realize that you’re the perfect person for the project they’re starting next month.
I have always had a positive experience doing this. Plus your past clients are usually the people who offer referrals, which is the next tip!
I do a few things to make it as easy and simple as possible for clients to refer me to the people they know.
Your clients have first hand experience, which is one of the best sales tools. Plenty of people can get a task done, but knowing someone who is enjoyable to work with from start to finish is essential!
I provide all of my clients with a template so they can give me a testimonial. Most people won’t take the time to leave you a review, so I make it even easier for them.
It’s also a great idea to offer a referral bonus and incentive for your clients to refer all of their friends and colleagues to your business.
The next two strategies are focused more on building your long term business. Becoming an expert in your area of work may not get you immediate results like some other strategies, but they will set you up for long term business growth.
If you don’t have a big audience, you can connect with other people’s audience. This is one of the best ways to reach a new audience that’s interested in hearing from you.
If you can find blogs and podcasts where your potential clients already are, you can show them your value, and increase your know, love, trust factor.
Start reaching out to blogs and podcast hosts that are in a similar or complementary niche.
You should always approach them from a position of service, explaining how you can bring value to their listeners and readers.
You should also check out this podcast interview I did with my friend Mai-Kee about being a guest on podcasts.
You can also decide to create content yourself. Starting a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel is one great way to share your expertise.
There are a ton of great resources to help you out on this journey. Starting my podcast in 2019 was one of the best decisions I made! Before that I tried making YouTube videos, but it wasn’t for me.
Figure out what platform you enjoy the most and start sharing. The value you provide will develop strong relationships with followers and expand your reach all over the world.
If you want to start with something simple, you can do a weekly live Q & A on social media. Anything that provides value to your audience will strengthen relationships and prove that you know what you’re talking about.
I left this one for last, but it still works!
I didn’t do a ton of cold pitches, because I focused more on the other strategies. I got two leads through this method in 2019.
This is best to do if there is a specific client that you would love to work with.
Cold pitching is when you reach out to potential clients without having much of a relationship, but it doesn’t need to be completely cold.
I start out by interacting with the potential clients on their social media. I make an effort to be more personal and comment more than a simple “Cool” “Nice” or emoji. The goal here is to start having real conversations that are more than a few words.
After doing this, when you reach out to them with your pitch, they will hopefully recognize you and will be less likely to ignore you. Congratulate them on their wins, and find small ways to make your pitch more personal. This will show that you really care and have a genuine interest in working with them.
I know that there are a ton of different strategies here. Don’t worry- you shouldn’t try all of them at the same time.
Choose 3 or 4 of them to focus on and go all in. The main key is to be consistent. You want to be consistently reaching out, providing value, and expanding your relationships. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with more work than you can handle, and you don’t want to be scrambling to find work to do.
Figure out which strategies work best with your personality and business, and focus on the long term growth of your business.
Let me know which of these strategies is working the best for you!
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