Thursday, September 22, 2011

Freelance Series: Finding Clients

If you have been following my freelance series you may be all set and ready to go. You've picked a field or two to work in, you've set your prices. Now you are just sitting around waiting for the orders to come in. Where are they? Where are your clients? Well, they aren't just going to materialize out of thin air. They don't even know you are out there! Part of freelancing is getting out there and finding your clients. Once you have an established name word of mouth clients may start to roll in, but it is still a good idea to keep marketing yourself. Below is a list of resources for finding clients. Unless they can also lead to clients for product sale, I am not including channels for creating passive income, because I think this deserves a post in itself.

Web Advertising:
Craigslist: Yes, the ubiquitious web clearinghouse for everything and anything is a good place to find clients for your freelancing. Look around to see the types of posts otheres with similar products/services make. This will give you an idea of the information you need to include. Make sure to post often, as there are so many posts in a day your post can get buried under a mountain of other posts. Also post in every categroy that is relevant to you.

Once you are done posting, don't forget to look at listings of people seeking services. If one matches your business, reply. I find craiglist is best for people in service industries, although people selling product can include links to websites and try to attract shoppers.

Tips: Make sure to respond to email promptly. When working with CraigsList clients for the first time I require half payment upfront and I do not take check. Paypal is the way to go, or cash. Never give out personal information like your personal phone number or address. Instead have a specific business email you use to communicate with. Also never meet anyone anywhere other than a very public place in broad daylight. I recommend not meeting at all if your service can be entirely virtual, or meeting in a Starbucks.

Your Own Blog or Website: Having a web presence can really help you out. If you are selling product you may want to post up sample photos using a service like flickr etc. The key is to not only post products, but to also post relevent informatina and intersting articles to atract viewers. I will post more on atracting viewers, setting up a website and e-commerce in another post. I am still working on getting this started for myself. There is a lot to learn but it is worth it. Blogging is another great way to atract business. A friend of mine runs a college dmissions consulting business. She blogs  about education and her experiences on her own blog, as well as on user-contributed content sites like about.com. This has lead to many clients for her. Post interesting content relevent to you target audience. They will see you are intelligent and know what you are talking about and be more likely to hire you.

Facebook and Twitter: I will admit to not being great about this. I finally creating the Budget and bargain facebook page, but I have not yet made a twitter account. Other bloggers and freelancers tell me they get tons of page hits and clients from interacting with others on facebook. It is something I should get better at.

Forum Websites: Websites where other freelancers network, like wahm.com can lead to great tips as well as clients. They also often contain information about finding clients specific to your field. Other websites you shuld be checking out are websites for your target group. For instance if you are looking to sell hand woven baskets made from recycled organic straw you might want to start posting in forums about green living. If you design custom scrubs you should get involved in medical and nursing forums. Do not just spam posts with links to your site or about your business. Become a valid contributor, participate and add meaningful material to the site. This is the only way people will trust you and want to order from you.

Elance, Freelancer and ODesk: These websites are like craigslist for freelancers. While each comes with a limited free account option, to get really good jobs you want to have a paid subscription. You need to analyze whether this purchase is worth it for you. You have to weed through jobs that pay peanuts and are clearly looking for overseas labor. The best jobs are those that use the website escrow system, so you know your money is ready and waiting for you and you will not be stiffed.

Flickr, Etsy, Squidoo: If you sell products, or are in a photography and/or design field the best way to market your work is to show photos of it. Flickr is possibly the most famous example of this. It can really help drive clients to your personal website. Etsy and related websites like artfire allow you to post handmade and vintage goods as well as supplies. People come to these sites specifically looking for unique pieces and small businesses. The forums are also chock full of marketing tips and ideas. Each site has a slightly different clientele and fee structure. Some will charge per item listing, other per sale etc. They are more narrow focused than sites like ebay and can lead to a more loyal client base for you. They also let you post links to your personal website. Some people post on several such sites. Others find that most of their clients come from one such site and stick with that website only. Squidoo will be discussed more in the upcoming "passive income" post. However it can also be used to drive traffick to your personal website or business. By posting relevant, informative articles on Squidoo you can atract clients.

The Old Fashioned Way:

Tell your friends and family! This does not have to be intrusive, but you can mention your new business casually and tell them if they know of anyone looking for xyz, then you are there to supply it. You need to let your social circle know about your new business. These are people you trust, who trust you. They will lead to high quality clients.


Work with other local retailers: If you know several other retailers who work in related, but different fields, you can get together and promote each other. For instance someone who does bridal hair can team up with someone who does bridal makeup. When a new client books one of you and does not have someone yet for the other service, you each reccomend the other. This helps both of you. You don't have to arrange an exclusive deal, but you can generate positive referrals  You can also arrange trunk shows and attend trade fairs. The best way to hear about these and learn about setting up a booth is from other retailers in the same industry.

Cold Call/e-mail: This requires a bit of initiative and agressively marketting yourself. If there is a company you'd like to work with or a publicatin you'd like to see yourself published in, pitch them an idea. Most magazines include a submissions contact and a professinal, interesting query letter might land you a job. Calling a local children's buotique and speaking with the manager or head of purchasing might get your cute knitted hats onto their shelves.

Follow Up:

Once you have established a contact or worked with a client, be sure to keep their contact info including an email address. In this way you can send information about new products, special offers and services. Give every client a business card so that they can contact you again in the future. Make sure your business card includes your title or a description of your business. A card labelled "Mrs. Freelancer" with a phone number is not going to cut it. When someone digs that card up in a month they will have no idea who you are or what you do.

1 comments:

Kira Kasper said...

Hi, and thank you for a useful post!
I can share a useful website with you in responce: https://www.xplace.com/ XPlace. It's a freelance job board with a variety of projects, higher hourly rates than on the majority of other similar platforms, and absence of a commission. Hope you'll find it of some help!

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