It’s the one question everyone asks and few have the answer to: how do you actually find more freelance clients?
Where are they? How do you contact them? What do you say? If you’re reading this you probably know that the process of “finding” or actively pursuing new clients is a long, cumbersome, and unrewarding process.
Any client getting a cold call or email won’t be mentally or financially prepared to hire you for a project. There are some platforms such as Crew and Upwork where freelancers can apply to projects, but many clients don’t know they exist or don’t want to pay for a new service. Most clients simply start at Google.
If you’re just starting out, you won’t have past clients or a big network to reach out to either. So if pursuing new freelance clients isn’t effective, what else can you do?
Ask a Different Question
Do you want to be in a position where you’re constantly pursuing work? Do you see other successful businesses actively pursuing their clients? Do you want to compete with others on a freelancing platform?
Probably not. That’s not a sustainable way to run a business.
Wouldn’t you rather have clients contacting you? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you got consistent project leads hitting your inbox from clients with exciting projects and large budgets?
If so, then the question you’re asking is all backwards.
If you want different results than everyone else, start by asking a different question than everyone else. Instead of “How do I find more freelance clients?” ask yourself, “How can I help more clients find me?”
The Key Difference
The difference between these two questions becomes clear when you consider the possible answers:
“How do I find more freelance clients?”
- Offer Your Take on an Existing Product
- Utilize Job Boards
- Use Your Existing Contacts
- Talk to Other Freelancers in Your Field
- Find out Where the People You Want to Work for Spend Their Time
- Create Diverse Content and Make Yourself Known
- Start for Free
These are all classic answers to this common question and each one is a time-intensive external pursuit. Instead, you should be focusing on making yourself more visible to the clients who are already looking for you – clients who are mentally and financially prepared to hire you. Notice the contrast in the answers to our alternative question:
“How can I help more clients find me?”
- Create Your Own Website
- Write Better Copy for Your Existing Website
- Showcase Your Portfolio
- Optimize Your SEO
- Have More Social Profiles and Portfolio Accounts
- Update and Optimize Your Social Profiles
- Do Personal Projects and Show Them in Your Portfolio
- Recreate Older Projects and Show Them in Your Portfolio
- Identify Your Ideal Client & Market Yourself Toward Them
- Keep All Your Content, Links, and Accounts Updated
These are all internal tasks that you can do right now to make yourself and your brand more visible and trustworthy. The key is realizing that clients are already looking for people like you every day. All you have to do is make it easier for them to find you online.
Understand Client Behavior
If you can begin to understand what clients think about when making the decision to hire a freelancer, you can more strategically market yourself towards them.
So let’s take a step back and think about the mindset of a client when they decide to start a project.
When they’re ready to start a project, most clients will Google for whatever they think they need. Phrases like freelance web designer new york or mobile app development are frequently used.
In fact, clients commonly search for a combination of four key things:
- The skill they think they need (design, development, copywriting)
- The type of people they think they want (freelancer or agency)
- The title of the person they think they need (ui designer)
- The geographic location they’re located in (i.e. new york)
Notice how I said they think they need. Clients search in their own words. You can’t assume everyone types “UI/UX Designer” verbatim into Google.
Clients usually don’t know or understand industry-specific terms such as “UI”, “UX”, “Front-End”, or “Back-End” either. Instead, they search more broadly for “freelance web designer” or “mobile app developer”.
From there, they might click through the first few pages of results in search of websites that look trustworthy and have a good portfolio of work. Then, they’ll contact a few people or companies they think might be a good fit based on their needs. This is a common process clients go through when looking for help on a new project, especially for the first time.
With this basic formula in mind, you can tailor your website to match what your ideal client is searching for and become easier for them to find.
Understand Your Competition
You might be thinking, “How can I compete? Not everyone can be on the first few pages of Google!” Well, that’s not quite true.
You can work towards appearing at the top of Google results for specific search queries. For example, clients often want to work with someone in their geographic region. That means your target audience shouldn’t be all of North America. Living in upstate New York, I don’t get contacted by many people on the west coast.
If you focus on your specific city or state, then you’ll be more likely to be found by more clients in your area based on what they’re searching.
Leverage Your Location
As a general rule, if you live in a smaller city like Rochester, NY where there are fewer potential clients, target your entire state (i.e. New York) to cast a wider net.
If you already live in a big city such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, or Austin then you can target your city by name as clients in those areas are likely searching for someone in that specific city.
For example, clients in New York City might specifically search freelance web designer new york. However, clients in Boston are probably searching freelance web designer boston instead of “freelance designer massachusetts.” Similarly, clients in San Francisco might search freelance web designer SF instead of “freelance web designer california”and so on.
[testimonial author=”Nizar M” title=”Full-Stack Web & App Developer”]I took Matt’s advice and designed a website I thought prospective clients would appreciate without sacrificing my own design preferences. With the same audience and visibility, I went from almost zero hits to 50+ each week, which I’m hopeful will result in more paid client projects this year.[/testimonial]
This process takes time. Everyone wants more clients knocking on their door tomorrow, but it takes a lot of time and effort to put yourself in a position where clients are regularly contacting you through your website and not the other way around.
There is no secret sauce or magic formula to getting more clients. You have to improve and expand your online presence diligently until you see results.
That’s why I recommend freelancing part-time or freelancing in addition to your day job until you start getting contacted by clients more frequently. It could take months to start seeing more work inquiries hit your inbox and years until you have enough consistent work to support yourself full-time.
The timeline will vary for everyone, but when clients are contacting you, you’re in the driver’s seat of your own business.You can choose which projects to take on instead of desperately applying to jobs you might not even want.
You’re also far more likely to get a project when the client reaches out to you directly. If your website is doing its job correctly, potential clients will already be prepared and ready to hire you.
For specific details on how to put these ideas into practice, check out this extensive article on what you can do to get more clients from your website:
Finding Immediate Work
Working hard for months or years before getting consistent high-quality leads seems… unrealistic. What if you hate your job and want freelance projects right now? What if you already quit your job and are struggling to pay the bills?
If you need to find more work quickly, you can try looking for projects on websites like UpWork, Freelancer, and Crew. However, you risk filling your scheduling with work you may not want to do more of in the future. You’re also back to where we started in this article – endlessly pursuing projects instead of making yourself more visible.
If you already quit your job and are struggling to find projects, don’t be afraid to pick up a temporary job to pay the bills while you figure out how to get more clients. It’s not a step backward if it’s going to help you move forward toward what you really want.
If you’re starting your freelance career as a student, Boonle is a fantastic platform that pairs U.S. based students with exciting paid projects for beginners.
If you have a network built-up already, you can reach out to past clients, agencies, project managers, LinkedIn connections, or even other freelancers for opportunities to work on bigger, better projects.
Finally, if you’re serious about being a full-time freelancer and creating the dream lifestyle you want, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort while being patient with the results. When you do, the result will be worth it and you’ll have a freelancing career built on a foundation for long-term growth and success.
Don’t forget to check out this extensive article on all the practical ways you can put this advice into action on your own website right now.