Finding new clients, as well as maintaining the clients you’ve already secured, is one of the most difficult and stressful aspects of life as a freelancer. To help our community with these challenges, we’ve provided a few tips and pieces of advice below.
How Do I Find New Clients?
Finding new clients, whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or are just making the transition into independent work, can be daunting. Just a simple Google search on the topic will lead you down a rabbit-hole of articles, videos, lists, tips, and tricks that are sure to overwhelm just about anyone.
As both current and former freelancers ourselves (more on us below), we’ve taken the liberty of compiling what we believe to be the most effective and useful pieces of advice all here in one place.
Tip #1: Become a Savvy Marketer
Marketing yourself can be challenging, and quite frankly awkward, but it’s an absolutely necessary skill for any freelancer who is looking to expand their client base. Just like with any service, people need to know about it!
Marketing is by no means a one-size fits all piece of work. Your marketing efforts will need to be specifically tailored toward the type of work you do, how much you charge, where you’re located, and similar factors.
For designers your biggest piece of marketing is your portfolio. Make sure that you keep it up-to-date and discoverable. When discussing new gig opportunities with potential clients, make sure that you’re directing them to your portfolio.
If you have a particular niche or are an expert in a particular field, consider creating and maintaining a blog about that specific expertise. By creating interesting and targeted content, you will not only be able to demonstrate your knowledge but will also be able to connect with others who are interested in your field.
Tip #2: Network, Network, Network!
We know, we know - networking can be a pain. But it’s tremendously important. You never know where your next big gig opportunity might come from. Spread your net as far and wide as you can so you don’t miss out! Just like with marketing, there’s no one way to network.
A quick and easy way to start is to make sure that you’re using your professional social media accounts as networking tools. Join relevant groups. Be bold! Reach out to potential clients and collaborators.
While networking online is absolutely imperative, you will need to round out your marketing efforts with good old-fashioned in-person interactions. Consider joining a co-working space. Even if you don’t need a dedicated office, ask about “hot-desking.” There are tons of industry-specific spaces, or you can find one that’s meant for professionals of all kinds. Research meet-up groups and local events that are specific to your particular field.
Tip #3: Pitch Perfect
As a freelancer, at the end of the day, you need to be able to pitch your services clearly, articulately, and succinctly - all without sounding too sales-y. Total breeze, right?!
Pitching to prospective clients is like telling a story. What’s yours? Why should this client hire you, instead of someone else?
Do your homework. Understand who you’re pitching to. What sort of problems or pain point does this potential client have? Spend some time diving into those problems, so that your pitch can contain the specific ways that you can help.
Often times, you might be pitching over email. If you have testimonials from past clients, this is often a great time to highlight the nice things that others have said about your work.
How Do I Keep The Clients I Have?
Getting new clients is only half the battle. Keeping and maintaining the clients that you’re already working with is equally important. Let’s dive in.
Tip #1: Alignment of Expectations
In order to keep the clients you have, you need to start the relationship off on the right track. The best way to do so is to make sure that both your, and the client’s, expectations are aligned.
This means starting with a clear and fair contract. You’ll want your contract to be crystal clear regarding deliverables, timing, pricing, and all other aspects of your engagement with the client.
We get it. Contracts are boring and can take time. But, without the clarity of what each party expects of the other over the course of the relationship, you run the risk of things like scope creep and similar misunderstandings.
Tip #2: Honest Communication
Similar to the above, maintaining a healthy client relationship requires open, honest communication.
Are you worried about an upcoming deadline? Voice your concern early, so that you can work with your client to come to a mutually agreeable solution.
Ask questions, but use your best judgment. Often times, when working on a project, you’ll encounter something that simply requires the client’s input or decision. Be clear about what you need and why you need it. That being said, make sure that you’ve taken the time to ensure that you don’t already have the answer (or could have found the answer through research).
Tip #3: Keep Your Rates Competitive & Reasonable
Clients are people. They’re cost conscious - just like you and me. One way to lose clients, or to risk not being hired on for further projects, is by charging rates that are unnecessarily higher than those providing similar services in your area.
Do your research. What are people in my industry charging? What factors go into their pricing? Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network and ask them.