How to find clients for your creative business
Find clients as a freelancer or service-based business
I thought it was about time to answer every new business owner or freelancer’s biggest question: How do you find clients?
The answer: Anywhere and everywhere. You never know when an opportunity might arise!
Okay, okay. I’ll be more specific. I’ve been at this for a while and I think I found a sweet spot that works. I’ve never used freelancing platforms, never worked for free, and I’m busy (I mean this confidently, not to brag!). Sure, everyone rides the waves of self-employment, but the big-picture verdict is that work is good and I’m working on making my work even better.
The mental shift: Employee to entrepreneur
The first step to finding clients is making the mental shift in your head. You are not an employee trolling job boards. You are a business seeking mutually beneficial partnerships. You don’t apply for a job; you pitch your services to meet a client’s needs. Your clients do not dictate your hours, terms and conditions, processes, packages, etc. Instead, they see value in your work and purchase your services, which includes all the nitty gritty details you’ve taken time to outline within your business.
Are you there yet? Keep reading to learn where I find new clients for my copywriting and consulting business…
In the beginning, cold pitching was my bread and butter because I didn’t have a website for my first two years in business. I landed my first paid writing gig by emailing a publication that wasn’t hiring.
That’s actually how I landed a lot of my freelance clients. I had a running list of businesses or publications I would like to work for and I would email them as I gained experience, using better samples for bigger names, slowly working up the list.
I wrote about the beginnings of my journey a while ago if you want to learn more.
I love referrals! I think this comes from the quality of your work and the quality of your service as a service-based business. It’s one thing to have a satisfied client, but if a past client is so happy with your work that they refer a new client to you without any gain to them—that’s winning.
Referrals can also come from people who have not worked with you yet or others in your industry. Maybe someone recognizes your expertise through the content you create, and they tell their colleagues about you. Or maybe someone you’ve met (and impressed) in person refers another because of your meeting.
Referrals can come from anywhere, so it’s important to maintain professionalism within all interactions.
Networking—I know. It’s that icky word that no one likes to use because of the images it conjures. I’ve met a few of my best clients at (real life!) networking events. Just like those of us searching for new clients go to these events, people who need help often attend too—either to seek help or to fuel their own business’ growth. As awkward as it feels sometimes, people truly do call when they get to the office the next day.
The best part about attending networking events is that you can choose ones that are meant for business owners, so you know that anyone you talk to is likely the decision maker. Freelancers quickly learn the importance of communicating directly with decision makers (hint: it’s more efficient for everyone!).
Starting my blog has been one of the smartest business decisions. Blogging is a long game, though. One or two posts isn’t enough to see a return on your time invested creating the content. You also need to pay attention to social media as a means to share your new blog posts with your audience.
Through consistent messaging, a strong strategy, and quality content, inbound sales will become more common over time.
Take your pick: Instagram or Facebook.
A consistent Facebook page looks professional and may help you connect with your target audience (if that’s where your audience likes to hang out!). Facebook groups are a great place for like-minded individuals to chat, learn, and refer others.
Instagram is my favourite way to network! I’ve found plenty of clients or strategic alliances through the app and I enjoy creating content that connects with my audience. Through strong content and thoughtful hashtag and engagement strategies, Instagram is the place to be for service-based businesses, freelancers, and personal brands.
However, although I appreciate the conversations in these communities, I wouldn’t say that trolling groups and hashtags for hours is a valuable use of my time when searching for new leads. I’d rather spend those hours researching my latest dream client before reaching out personally. Any social media leads for me are typically inbound.
Play the long game
In this business, we’re playing a long game. Referrals and a good content marketing strategy takes time, but building strong foundations is the key to creating a sustainable business. Above all, I appreciate transparency and hope to offer you valuable information, especially if you’re new to this lifestyle.
Through all these methods, the trick is consistency. Figure out what makes you unique in your industry and run with it! Download my brand message template to learn how to set yourself apart from the crowd. If you still need help, book a Brand Strategy Session. Please reach out with any questions!