One of the challenges as a freelancer is maintaining a full client load, especially if your work lends itself to short-term projects. Most freelancers are not experienced in sales, and finding new clients can feel hopeless and frustrating — particularly when you’re having a slow month or struggling to build a steady income.
Regardless of sales experience, this challenge is not insurmountable. In fact, there are simple ways any freelancer can win more clients.
1. Expand your service offerings
As a content marketer, I have always offered consulting, strategy and writing services, but an entrepreneur friend asked me one day if I do coaching. The thought had never crossed my mind to coach other entrepreneurs on how to do what I do for small- and medium-sized businesses. However, the thought quickly spun into a new service offering, bringing a new set of clients with it.
Expanding to coaching can be a valuable way to reach a new audience and bring in new clients. What’s more, you already have the knowledge — you just need to package it into a coaching experience that can be sold to a specific group of people.
The first step to winning more clients with coaching is simple: update your website. However, this sales page might need to be a bit different than your others.
“Your sales page is the space where you expand on your approach and gain your customer’s trust. The more familiar they are with your approach, the more likely coaching clients are to buy your service,” explains ecommerce platform company Selz in Selling Coaching: 5 Life-Changing Tips for Your Online Business, To do this, Selz suggests going back to the problem you’re solving for them — be solutions-oriented, rather than “feature-oriented.”
Take this new service seriously because when you do win a new client, these coaching sessions can lead to that client spreading your name in their network.
2. Focus on referrals
Referrals are the most effective way to land a new client, according to Hubstaff’s 2017 Freelancing Trends Report, with 30% of freelancers saying this method was the greatest indicator for landing a new client. Not only do you get a warm introduction, but you likely don’t need to pitch this potential client on your skills and experience because your current or previous client already did that.
While asking for referrals can feel intrusive, it doesn’t have to be. Build it into your client management process. Send a simple email at the end of the project, or after a certain period of time spent working together, and make your request clear and tactful. Even if they don’t have an immediate referral, they might have one later.
3. Make time for manual outreach
Sending cold emails or making cold calls can be unproductive. Oftentimes, you don’t even get a response because there’s no connection between you and the person you’re trying to connect with. Instead of blasting generic emails to people you don’t know, make your outreach more strategic:
- Reach out based on projects. Sites like Upwork make it easy to see the details of a project before ever talking to someone. Using these details, make your outreach more strategic by including information about how your experience is relevant and what makes you excited about the project. Be specific about previous successes that make you a great candidate and include a testimonial from a previous client if possible.
- Do a reverse-referral request. Instead of asking for a referral, search for potential clients on LinkedIn that are connected with a current or previous client. When you find a good match, ask your client if you can reference your work together in the outreach email to this person. When asked, they may even reach out personally as well, increasing your chances of landing this new client.
- Create a connection. Instead of spending time researching the person or company and referencing random details that you find, create a true connection between the two of you. For example, use filters on LinkedIn to find people who live in your city or went to the same college. This connection provides an immediate sense of camaraderie and rapport, especially if you live in a city different than your alma mater.
This type of outreach does take time, but using these strategic tactics means it will also be more successful.
Jessica Thiefels is CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, which help brands use on-site and off-site content to boost SEO, traffic, sales and brand impressions.