Here’s a confession: getting new freelance work can be hard.
Super established freelancers often have this down pat.
But, if you’re new to the game, more often than not it’s this part of the process that’s going to give you the most frustration.
Which kinda sucks because, you know, it’s preeeeeetttty important!
Without clients, it’s really hard to make any money, unless you’ve got passive income in or a successful hobby hacking business up and running.
The advice can be kind of vague too. Believe me, I know, I’ve given it myself.
So in this post, I wanted to break it down. Below you’re going to find 12 ways to get more clients and freelance work. These are real deal, tried and true methods that have worked for me, Sean, and hundreds of other people in our Location Rebel community.
You might find a handful stand out to you, or hey, you might have a few other ways I haven’t mentioned (if that’s the case, feel free to share in the comments!).
Hopefully, with this post, you’re going to come away with some concrete approaches to getting new clients that you can put into action today.
1. Using Job Boards to Find More Clients
This is pretty obvious.
You hear a lot about the UpWork’s of the world, but there’s a whole world out there with lots of options. Some courses and groups will post job boards too, we have a mini board in Location Rebel Academy, for example.
There are lots of good job boards out there where you can snag some good clients. I’ve got two clients I’ve been working with for years off the ProBlogger job board.
Remember the main thing with job boards is that you’re competing against a lot of other people. That means if you send off a cut and paste generic email or cover letter you’re not going to stand out.
Here are a few things I like to do when applying for work off a job board that has helped me land some pretty good gigs:
- Read all the instructions: Yup, seriously. If someone tells you to put “I love mangoes” in your headline. Do it.
- Think of their needs first: Most of the time, the client doesn’t care about your hobbies or where you went to school, they want someone who can get the job done at a high level reliably. Prove you can do that.
- Keep it short and to the point: I applied for a job the other day where the request was to keep my entire ‘pitch’ to 5 sentences. I did that, got thanked for following directions and have moved on to the second round.
- Add value somewhere: Since I’m a writer, I usually pitch content ideas and sometimes just headlines to make them more intrigued. Take a good look at their site and come up with 2-3 ways you can help them right now that will make you stand out.
Work on a good pitch email and save it. You’re going to come back to it often. Tweak it and keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
Find the best job boards in your industry and schedule time in your calendar each week to browse them. If you’re a freelance writer, check out some of the boards in this post.
2. Friends and Family Often Have More Work Than You’d Expect
Congrats, you’re in business, so tell people!
Advertise to your friends and family that you’ve got your own business up and running and you’re looking for work. At the very start, you might be able to cut a deal with people where you’ll do a bit of work for a reduced rate. That’s one way to get going in your freelance career.
Don’t go crazy with this, keep it simple. Remember, outside of the online world bubble most ‘regular’ people have no idea what you do. So explain it to them simply in a way that makes it easy to understand.
Here’s an example, set up a Facebook post that says something like:
Hey everyone! For the last few months, I’ve been writing for law firms and have gotten really positive responses. I’d love to keep expanding my client base in this area. If you know anyone who has any law firm connections here, I’d love if you gave me a shoutout.
Lots of times there will be a friend of a friend who happens to be in need of what you’re offering. So don’t be shy putting yourself out there. Your friends and family are going to be great allies in helping you get the word out.
Get connecting. Hop on the phone, send a text, shoot out an email, post on Snapchat. Let your friends and family know that you’re looking for clients and would love if they could let people know.
3. Ask Your Network if They Know Anyone Who Needs Help
This is basically the same as above, but instead of asking friends and family ask your network. Let people who are in the online world know that you’re looking for work. Jump on forums, let people in your mastermind group know, post in your Facebook groups, don’t be shy.
This has worked well for me too. Sean has passed my name on for freelance writing gigs a couple of times (which I’m always thankful for!).
It’s also pretty common for me to get an email from someone in my network asking if I know someone who can do a small gig or if I know any new writers. So I’ve recommended people are super active in the LR forums and doing good work (hint, hint).
Don’t underplay the ability to find small projects from people. Not every job, especially to start, has to be a five-figure gig. I love taking smaller projects and over delivering, that puts me in great standing for either more follow up work from the same person, or I’m at the top of the list of potential referrals.
Start small, knock it out of the park, and you’ll have a much better standing to come back and ask for more work (more on that below).
Make a list of people in your immediate network who have some online experience or have a bigger network than you do. Work on building a relationship with them and then make the ask to see if they need help on any projects.
4. Ask Current Clients for Referrals
This is something I’m kinda shocked that people don’t do more often. If you have even one client right now who is paying you for your work then you should ask them if they can refer you to anyone else.
It doesn’t have to be a competitor or even in the same industry. If you’re a writer or a social media pro, SEO person, or web designer you can do work across a number of industries.
Here’s a sample letter you can start with. As with any email templates in this post, make sure to tweak it to make it as personal as possible:
Hi Current Client,
I’ve enjoyed working with you the past few months on your email marketing campaigns. If you’ve been happy with the work I’ve done, I hope you’d be willing to pass my name along to anyone else you know who is in need of similar work. Do you have anyone in mind?
Plus, a referral is a warm lead. A potential new client is going to be much more receptive to you if they know you were referred by someone they already know and trust.
This week (today) ask your current clients for referrals. This post has some good tips you can use. Then, set a calendar reminder to do the same thing again next quarter. Repeat as necessary.
5. Ask Current Clients for More Freelance Work
Remember when I said how I love taking on small projects to start? That’s because it provides the perfect opportunity to ask for more work once the job is done.
I’ve been able to take a number of clients who hired me for one-off writing gigs and transform them into extended jobs with thousands of dollars of extra work.
For this to work well you need to have a strategy. Mine is to essentially remind clients of this:
I use a three-pronged approach to set the stage:
- The primary goal is to deliver what they want. If you can’t do this, they aren’t going to care about working with you again. I make sure I’m giving them something that they are going to be really happy with. First impressions matter here.
- I surprise and delight. This means I will do something special. That might be delivering the project a day early or adding something special to the content like a case study while keeping it the same price.
- I’m easy to work with. Everyone says this about themselves, but it’s not always true. That means I respond quickly to emails, communicate effectively, am open to suggestions and feedback, quickly make any necessary tweaks, and stay friendly and positive throughout.
Once I’ve done all that it pretty much ensures that the client is happy. Sometimes, they might offer you more work on the spot. If they don’t, that’s fine, I always follow up with an email citing all the other ways I can help them.
Something like this:
I know you hired me for one article a month. But, I wanted to also let you know that I can help you with copywriting, email campaigns, ebooks, whitepapers and long form guides too. I took a look at the opt-in on plumbing fixtures, and have a couple ideas on how it could be improved to really wow readers. Can I send over an outline?
Since I’ve already laid the groundwork during the first project, it’s basically like having a warm lead. A lot of times, this works for me. It might not be right away, but a month or so down the line they come back for more.
Make a list of your current skillset. Work on expanding on just one or two of them over time so you’re comfortable offering them since you know you can deliver. Use these extra skills to help showcase how much extra value you can add to your client beyond what they hired you for.
6. Keep in Touch with Past Clients
Some clients might work on a project basis. I have one that works this way. He might send a request for 3-4 things for me to write and call it a day. Sometimes, I’ll hear back from him a few weeks later with more work, other times it might be a few months.
When it gets to the two-month range and I haven’t heard from him, I send a super quick follow up email. It looks like this:
Hope all is well. I wanted to check in and touch base. I have some available time over the next few weeks, happy to get started on any writing work you might need.
Pretty much every single time I do this I get a response offering more work within a week. I really focus on keeping in touch with this client in particular because he’s great to work with, which makes the process really enjoyable.
You can also try a modified version of asking for more work for this too.
If they don’t have any work at this time, that’s ok (remember, stay friendly!), just repeat the process at a later date.
Make a list of all the clients you’ve worked with in the past. Send an email to each of them like the one above asking if they have more work for you. Once any project finishes set a future date on your calendar to follow up with that client.
7. Being Active on Social Media is a Great Way to Find Work
Let potential clients know you’re currently for hire on your social media channels too. I actually post it right in my Twitter bio.
If you do a quick search of ‘hire me” on Twitter and click people, you can see all sorts of bios with people who have that in there.
You can do the same, or set up an automated post that cycles through every few weeks letting people know you’re for hire and looking for work.
Also, use social media to search for jobs too.
I’ve come across a bunch of gigs on Twitter. Sometimes editors of sites will announce they are looking for pitches and to get in touch. Some I’ve applied to myself to varying degrees of success. I also try to re-Tweet anything I see that comes my way and then also post in the LRA forums.
I’ve also really gotten into LinkedIn lately as I’ve been focusing more on B2B brands. It’s a great place to both find work and build a network. As I’ve written more content on there I’ve had my connections grow and have been approached a handful of times about potential writing work.
There’s no rhyme or reason to this exactly, but keep your eyes peeled. And make sure you either follow or have created a list of people in your ideal niche. Lots of times they will share posts from others, so word can spread.
Go to search.twitter.com and do searches of all the hiring phrases you can think of. Try ‘we’re hiring’ or ‘work with us’ for general searches. Also get specific about what you’re looking for, i.e. editing, photoshop, translation, etc.
8. Go to Networking Events (Even if You Hate Networking)
Sean has always been a big proponent of this one. When he was first back from Asia and looking for freelance SEO work, he’d go to networking events for complementary industries. He’s told the story of how he went to one meetup for social media pros and got offered 3 freelance SEO gigs on the spot.
Think about it this way, if you’re a writer looking for a job, you might want to hit up a graphic design meetup. Chances are these people have clients who are looking for writers in addition to needing design work.
For freelancing roles like writing, copy, SEO, email marketing, conversion optimization, web design and development, you can hit up pretty much any sort of meetup and encounter a few people who are likely going to need your services at some point.
Scour sites like meetup.com for local events. Starting in your hometown is a great way to get your feet wet. If you live in or near a big city there will be tons of opportunities. Also, tap into your chamber of commerce and see what they’ve got cooking. Any members are all active businesses who are invested in connecting with other local brands.
9. Special Interest Groups Can Be a Goldmine for Freelance Jobs
It seems counterintuitive, but you can get a lot of freelance job opportunities by joining groups of people who do what you do. Rather than thinking that you’re always going to be competing against each other, it’s actually the opposite, especially with more successful freelancers.
I’m in two groups for writers.
One is paid, so you get a higher caliber of freelancer, everyone in there is a professional writer who has been doing it for years. Many of them will post up the information of new people who reached out to them that they can’t take, or old clients that they are moving on from as they get paid more.
The other is only for women freelance writers. A huge portion of this group is just posting jobs, some because they are the contact person, others that they happen to see online. I was able to get on a contributors list for a pretty big name site through a posting in this group.
Facebook is a great place to start for this. I typed in “Freelance writer” and searched groups and came across dozens of groups to join.
Do a search for your niche and you’re likely to come at least one group you can join.
Look for groups in your niche. If they are paid, that can even be better because people in there are serious about it. Be active in the forums, and helpful. Make yourself seen and potential work can come your way. If you want to learn more about building a following through Facebook groups, check out this post.
10. Create a Partnership Network
Referrals aren’t just for clients, you can also create your own network around people with different skillsets. I learned this idea from Peter Bowerman of the Well Fed Writer, check out this podcast he did on the concept.
If you’re in a mastermind group with a writer, web designer, copywriter, and social media manager (find more common Location Rebel jobs here), then you’ve got the makings of the perfect team right there.
Use your group to pass along the referrals of the clients you work with. If you’re a writer and your client needs a designer, mention you have the perfect person and so on. You can work out a fee structure if you want, say 15% for referrals to make sure everyone is getting something out of it.
Make a list of people in your current circle with complementary skills that you can get one of these networks up and running with. Get in touch and work out an agreement that is fair to both parties.
11. Cold Pitching
Yuck. No one likes this one, right?
The mere thought of having cold pitching next up on my to-do list after lunch used to have me shaking like…
The truth is, cold pitching is a pretty solid part of any marketing plan. As much as everyone hates to do this, it’s part of the business. If you feel a lot of stress at even the thought of cold pitching, the worst thing you can do is avoid it.
I really feel like this is like building muscle. You start small, maybe it’s one a day, and build up your confidence (plus your ability to accept rejection) and build from there.
I like to do this by starting locally. At the very least, you have the connection of living in the same area, that tends to hold more weight to a potential client than a cold pitch from across the country.
Plus, I’m a big fan of getting in touch with those ‘unsexy’ local brands that can actually end up being quite lucrative. If you want some advice on your cold pitches, take a look at our ultimate cold email checklist.
Start making a list of local companies to pitch. A great place to get information is by checking out the website of your local chamber of commerce. Look at sites like Manta and LimeLeads too. Oh, and we have a guide specifically created to help you connect with influencers via email.
12. Apprenticeships or Remote Work
Personally, I’m a big fan of the apprenticeship model (it’s how I got this job!). I think by working with someone who knows what they are doing as an apprentice you can actually learn a ton, build a huge network, and get paid at the same time.
Sounds like a winning proposition, right?
So keep your eyes peeled for these because there are a ton of opportunities out there.
Lots of entrepreneurs today actually advertise for these. A site like Get Apprenticeship has a newsletter with available listings. You can also build up a really good relationship with someone whose work you admire and go for the ask too.
Much the same can be said for remote work. Sometimes, these situations are the best of both worlds. You can find a steady job but have the freedom to work from home. These are becoming more and more popular, so don’t discount them as a viable option!
Look for the people who are doing what you’d like to be doing in the future. Don’t aim for the big shots, but the people who are a few steps ahead of you. Reach out and start building a relationship so you can ask about being an apprentice. For remote jobs, pay attention to job boards and social media to start.
Time to Start Searching for More Freelance Jobs!
Hopefully, you now have some good ideas of where to look for clients and some solid action steps to help you find more freelance work.
The hardest part of doing this is sending out those first few requests. But it’s a lot like building a muscle, the more you do it, the more second nature it will become.
Make a weekly (yes, weekly) plan to hunt for work. You don’t want to let up on this, especially at the start, or you’re going to run into dry spells. As you get more experienced and grab some really good clients, you need to always be looking for work can dramatically decrease.
If you want more hand holding and step by step help building your freelancing career and finding clients, check out our Location Rebel Academy community.