Freelancing is great. You’re the boss. You get the make the decisions. You don’t have to share the profits. Who wouldn’t want to freelance? Especially in industries like ours, freelancing is a particularly attractive option because you need little more than your web design and development skills to have a business.
But not all that glitters is gold. With all that freedom comes a certain level of instability. According to a study conducted by Edelman Berland, major barriers to freelancing include finding work and subsequent income insecurity. In spite of those barriers, however, 34% of our national workforce is made up of freelancers. So, if you’re seriously considering trying your hand at self-employment, how exactly do you find clients and make money?
To help answer that question, author John Stevens for Web Design Ledger offered seven tips for getting more clients to hire you. Some of his suggestions—like posting to freelance job boards and cold pitching—aren’t at the top of my list but can certainly be helpful. Below are some of John’s tips with an added suggestion or two of my own.
1. Partner with Other Freelancers
As Stevens points out, a client’s website needs don’t usually end after a design is finalized or the site is coded. They might need help creating graphics for the site or writing content for their blog. If you don’t offer those services, you can refer the client to another of your freelancing friends, thereby satisfying your client and building a little goodwill with your friend so they can return the favor at a later date.
This idea is well-known and used in practice every day. There are even organized groups known as business referral networks that pop up for exactly this purpose. Join a local referral network or build your own to increase your reach to clients and that of your network.
2. Show Clients that You Know Your Stuff
Blogging is a great way to build credibility with your clients and convey that you are knowledgable and the right fit for their project. In fact, Hubspot research suggests that businesses who blog experience 126% more lead (customer interest) growth per month than businesses who don’t. Stevens offers several tips in his post for leveraging your blog to reach clients.
3. Create a Waiting List
There will be times during your freelance career that you will have so many clients wanting your services that there is no way you can accommodate them all. It seems like a good problem to have, except that there will also be periods when work is slow. It is during these times that you’ll wish you didn’t turn away so many clients when you were busier.
Instead of turning clients away, when you’re too busy to take on their project immediately, start a waiting list, and ask clients to add their names and contact information. Let them know you’ll contact them as soon as you can give their project the attention it deserves. Some clients won’t be willing to wait, but, in my experience, many are okay with delaying the project and will appreciate your effort to focus your full attention on their project.
4. Leverage Word of Mouth
Right now, my freelance business is mostly a side job for extra cash and experience. I don’t do much marketing or self-promotion. So how is it that I keep finding clients? The answer is, I don’t. My clients find me. Through working with just a few clients to start out, my name has since been spread to new clients through word of mouth.
As a freelancer, especially just starting out, the best thing that can happen is your clients talking about you and your work (positively, of course). It may be slow at first, but new clients will begin knocking at your door, increasing steadily with each project you complete. Of course, this depends on the quality of service you provide your clients. Your work must be prompt, professional, satisfactory, and at a fair price. A happy client is your best advertising tool.
Word of mouth will happen without your intervention. But, to help speed the process along, ask your clients at the end of each project if they’re satisfied with your work. If they are, ask if they wouldn’t mind recommending you to their friends and family. Give them a small stack of business cards to hand out. You’d be surprised how willing a satisfied customer is to tell others how great you are.
With nearly one-third of freelancers reporting an increase in demand for their services, the life of a freelancer is looking more attractive than ever. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, or even if you’re only freelancing as a secondary source of income, remember these tips to keep the clients coming and your wallet growing.