Here’s a reality for you: When you’re freelancing, or running any business of your own, working out how to get clients is a continual challenge.
With that in mind, below we cover 50 ideas to help you get clients fast. At the end, we also address some frequently asked questions.
How to Find More Clients Online
1. Search the Freelance Bidding Sites
Bidding sites are a popular way for freelancers to get started. They offer a complete system where you can offer rates for certain projects, communicate with clients and get paid through the site. They’re far from perfect, but there is always a steady flow of new work available. Check out sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, and find some tips for working on these sites here.
2. Check the Job Boards
Just because you work for yourself, don’t assume that traditional job sites are useless. Job boards are still a worthwhile inclusion on any list of how to get new clients. Many prospective clients post to job sites, including major career sites and those geared specifically towards freelancers. Some places to check out include:
- MediaBistro – for writing and journalism.
- GitHub – for programmers and developers.
- Glassdoor – for work in all sectors.
- Indeed – for work in all sectors.
- ProBlogger – for writers and bloggers.
- Reddit for Hire – for an eclectic range of opportunities!
- SimplyHired – all sectors, but US only.
This is just a list to get you started. Many of these, like Indeed, are general job boards. But you can search for your desired job and use terms like “independent contractor” or “freelance” within the search parameters.
3. Consider Paid Job Search Sites
Some job sites require a subscription fee. They won’t necessarily find you jobs that aren’t listed elsewhere online, but you may think it worth paying for the convenience of having lots of opportunities listed in one place.
The two most popular sites that work like this are:
4. Get Set Up on Profile Sites
Another strategy is to establish yourself on one or more profile sites. These allow you to set up a profile within an online system so that clients can find you. Some allow you to apply to gigs and for clients to search for you.
Sites in this category include Contently, for writers, and CloudPeeps, a popular profile site covering many different types of gigs. You can also learn how to make a business-generating portfolio here.
5. Pay for Lead Services
Creating your own database of potential sales prospects is obviously very time consuming. Services like these deliver a database of up-to-date business leads – perfect for emailing or cold calling. See below for more on this.
6. Fish Around in Google
Google, as always, can also help you out. Simply search terms like “freelance [your job],” “freelance [your job]needed,” “[your job]remote employee” or any other iteration you can think of. This could well lead you to companies looking for contractors in your industry.
7. Sell Goods AND Services Using Sites Like Esty
Etsy isn’t just for knitters and upcyclers. If you want to know how to get clients, it’s worth knowing that Etsy is a platform for all sorts of business activities, and that you can sell a wide variety of services (as well as goods) through the site. Etsy is especially helpful if you do anything creative, like graphic design.
8. Check Out Industry Networking Sites
Every industry has its own networking organisations, and they’re easy to find online. Some even post jobs and have forums – so fish around and look for some.
A quick Google search for “[your industry]professional organisation” pulls these right up. There are organisations for everyone from interior designers to IT professionals. It’s worth being a bit creative when you search, too. For example, if you do a lot of writing on environmentalism, look up environmentalist associations.
9. Focus on your Byline
If you write or post anywhere, make sure your byline leads people to the services you offer as a freelancer. For instance, you can give a short few sentences detailing your expertise, and then link to your portfolio page.
10. Check out the Competition
On the surface, this particular idea for how to get new clients might feel a little cut-throat and competitive. But you never know what ideas you might get for your own business.
The idea isn’t to flat-out rip off other people’s business ideas. However, if you can get an idea of how other people in your industry are presenting themselves to clients, you can ensure you look equally professional. Google the services you offer and check out the websites of those who’ve made it to the top of the search.
11. Find Customers Using Business Directories
If you are time rich but cash poor, you can put together your own lead database. Simply look through directory sites – such as The Yellow Pages or Google’s own “MyBusiness” listings – for the types of businesses that could use your services. For instance, if you write press releases, check out the local PR firms.
Networking for New Clients
12. Carve Out a Specialist Niche
Everyone has the option of pitching for general freelance work or working hard to carve out a precise niche. Both approaches have their pros and cons, but when it comes to networking, becoming known for a specific professional niche can bring you lots of leads.
Working to be THAT person everyone thinks of in relation to a certain topic is a slow process, but can really pay off in the long term.
13. Send Out Sales Pitch Letters
A sales pitch letter is a way to introduce yourself to potential clients and get a conversation started. You can learn more about writing them here.
14. Look at Meetup.com
Meetup.com is a great site for finding groups of people who share specific interests. You may well find people who have already formed a group around your industry. Alternatively, there are always groups specifically aimed at small business owners and other professionals.
15. Attend Local Business Group Meetings
You can also look into business networking groups. The usual place to start out is at a local chamber of commerce meeting, where many people go to network.
16. Talk to Family and Friends
Simply telling your family and friends that you’re a freelancer and explaining what you do can turn up some surprising leads. You never know who might “know a guy who knows a guy.” The next thing you know, you have a new client by the following week.
This is, of course, a best-case scenario. Sometimes talking about your work yields nothing, or only results in some wasted time when people try to “pick your brains” for some free info!
However, chance meetings through family and friends truly can change the trajectory of your career. A LOT of people find their first clients this way. Networking with people you know is also way less intimidating than pitching to strangers when you’re starting out.
17. Seek Referrals from Coworkers and Clients
It’s always worth politely asking past and current coworkers and clients if they know of anyone else who could use your services. I’ve personally found several good leads this way. If someone is active in a particular business sector, the chances are that they move in circles where other people could use the same services.
18. Consider Agency Partnerships
Check in with agencies that handle the type of work you do. They might have work that they could send your way if they don’t have budget, staff, time or interest to handle a particular project themselves.
19. Get in Touch with Existing Contacts
It’s always worth checking in with previous clients, and your wider professional network. Simply state that you have some time available and that you are open to taking on new work. Invite people to contact you to discuss their needs.
Sometimes you will find that people you haven’t worked with in a while know of a new project, or that an ex-client has moved on to a new company with requirements of its own.
20. Answer Quora Questions
Nowadays, it seems that you can hardly Google anything without seeing some links to answers on Quora.
This question-and-answer site frequently generates thousands of views for each answer you provide. As such, it has become a prime breeding ground for marketers. You do have to engage with the community by offering helpful, detailed answers. But, if you have the time, you can establish yourself as an expert in a niche and link back to your current blog posts or websites. In time, this can turn into a way to generate clients.
21. Suggest Improvements to Potential Clients
A very direct idea for how to get clients is to find someone who could definitely use your services.
Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a web developer. Finding poorly designed websites, or those that aren’t compliant or mobile friendly, is a great opening. You can send an email briefly introducing yourself and your services, and then politely list specific ways you would improve their website.
This method of finding clients is time-consuming, but it proves to clients, right off the bat, that you can help them.
22. Get Some Business Cards
They may seem a bit old fashioned nowadays, but you should always have business cards if you work for yourself. You never know when you might bump into someone who could turn into a potential client. Having a business card could make the difference between them getting in touch or never being seen again.
Business cards are really affordable at places like VistaPrint.
23. Attend Trade Shows
It’s well worth investigating regular trade shows relating to your business sector. Simply attending and networking with the people there will establish you as someone who is serious about your industry.
24. Volunteer your Work
If you’re just starting out, think about volunteering your work to a non-profit organisation. You can get experience that way, make contact with people you can impress with your work, and maybe get some examples for your portfolio. Check in with local non-profits that support your favourite causes and see what help they could use.
It’s worth noting that this kind of work can often lead onto paid gigs – sometimes the people you impress may be involved with (or move on to) other organisations happy to pay for your services.
25. Cross-Promote with Other Small Businesses
It’s wise for freelancers to consider cross-promotion when working out how to get clients. For example, you might fix computers, and recommend somebody else’s web design services in return for them sending clients in your direction too.
Similarly, you could use your blog to feature a webinar someone else in your niche is doing, and they might feature a promotion of yours in return. Your competitors don’t always have to be your bitter rivals!
26. Sign Up to Official Referral and Partner Programs
There are all sorts of referral programs that help bring business to your door, or give people an incentive to recommend you.
At one end of the scale you have partner programs, such as those with the likes of FreshBooks and Microsoft, where becoming a partner means you’re listed in the company’s official directories, which could lead to new customers finding you. There are also referral programs like ReferralCandy. This is an eCommerce store plug-in that rewards customers for referring their friends and family to your business.
There’s also nothing to stop you doing deals along these lines “manually” and informally. You can offer discounts or incentives if any existing clients, friends or family members refer new clients directly to you.
Ways to Find Clients Via Social Media
27. Try LinkedIn ProFinder
LinkedIn ProFinder is LinkedIn’s official lead service for freelance professionals. You have to apply to it, but if you’re approved, you can potentially get leads straight to your inbox. These will come from people who require services that match up with your skills. LinkedIn ProFinder is US-only at the time of writing.
28. Join Facebook Freelance Groups
Facebook groups are a wonderful thing for networking. If you want to learn how to get clients on Facebook, you need to get used to hanging out and interacting on Facebook groups.
People in these groups can give leads on where jobs are, offer resources, and provide a host of other useful information. For maximum benefit, find a group that focuses on freelancing in your specific industry, such as one for freelance writers or freelance developers.
(Note also that you can request to join HomeWorkingClub’s own private Facebook group here).
29. Find Professional Facebook Groups
Along similar lines, Facebook also has groups for people in certain industries. Becoming familiar with these groups is another way to learn how to get clients on Facebook.
You can use these groups to connect with people who might need work completed. In order to connect with others, answer questions and offer your expertise. It’s important to note that it never goes down well if you join these groups just to blatantly pitch for work – prove your worth to the community first.
30. Use Freelancing Hashtags
You can also search through social media sites by looking for popular hashtags related to the type of work you do. For instance, search for #hiring #freelance [your job]. The more time you spend on social media, the more you’ll also get an eye for the popular hashtags for your industry. This is a popular and direct way to hunt down potential leads on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.
31. Search the Social Networks
With tons of content being added every second, it’s well worth using advanced search functions on Twitter and other social media sites to find people posting about your industry. These searches could uncover actual jobs or other pertinent information. If you see a recent post, don’t forget to answer questions and offer your expertise, in order to connect with others.
32. Answer Twitter Questions or Join Organised Chat Events
Using social media is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in a niche. People often ask questions via social media and you can join in by helping them out. There are also often organised chat events for certain topics and market sectors that you can get involved in.
As eluded to above, mentioning your services can be tricky on social media. People hate feeling like they’re just a marketing target. However, listing your experience and job title on your profile will help to establish credibility and ensure people see you in a favourable light.
33. Start a Facebook Group of your Own
Annoyed because there doesn’t seem to be a decent active group devoted to the type of work you do? Why not start your own? That way, you can establish yourself as THE go-to contact in your niche.
This is, without doubt, a more involved way to get clients on Facebook, but it could prove to be worth it.
34. Try promoted Pins on Pinterest
Pinterest is an increasingly popular social network, and with many people searching it for all kinds of information. Pinterest definitely isn’t just for posting about your latest craft project. You can pay to use promoted pins on Pinterest, which show up on people’s pages, formatted like regular posts.
Obviously there’s a cost attached to this marketing method, but if you have a business that fits in well with Pinterest’s demographics, it could pay off for you.
If you’d like to become a master of Pinterest, this course will definitely be of interest to you.
35. Run a Survey or Contest
Running a survey or contest is a great way to put yourself in contact with lots of potential customers, especially if there’s a giveaway or incentive.
There are loads of options, from self-hosted surveys to Instagram contests. It’s worth ensuring you target such promotions at genuine potential customers, rather than anyone and everyone, or the leads you obtain may not be particularly worthwhile (or, more precisely, likely to buy anything from you.)
How to Expand your Reach and Generate Your Own Leads
36. Build (or Enhance) your Own Website
For most businesses, having a website is a given. If you’ve not yet set one up, it can prove a good way to raise your business’ profile and attract more clients. You’ll need to purchase your domain and invest in some good hosting.
Alternatively, you could give your existing site a good overhaul, perhaps working on some SEO in order to try to attract more customers via Google search.
Don’t forget the basics: Your website should perfectly illustrate your skills by featuring past work and demonstrating professional presentation. Prominent contact details should make it super-easy for people to get in touch with you. If you can nail your website, and your SEO, you have a passive source of lead generation.
37. Start a Blog
A blog is a solid way to establish credibility within a niche. A well-run blog should include advice and news from your industry, and compelling content people wouldn’t easily find elsewhere.
With each blog post, you can link to or mention the services you offer, turning the blog into an effective “shop front” for your business. For some valuable advice on profiting from a blog, check out this detailed guide.
38. Run Some Advertising Campaigns
If you’d investigated how to get clients 20 years ago, advertising would have been near the top of the list. This particular list proves just how much the internet now allows you to do – by putting in effort instead of spending money.
That said, there’s still a place for advertising. As well as all the traditional offline methods, every major social media site and search engine has its own ad service. Running ad campaigns is particularly popular on Facebook. Campaigns like this require a marketing budget, and there’s quite a science to ensuring they pay for themselves – so proceed with caution.
39. Do Some Guest Blogging
Doing some guest writing is a good way to get some exposure. You can reach out to sites you admire in your niche, or use platforms like LinkedIn and Medium.
You may be able to promote your services in your author bio, and if you have a blog of your own, you have the added benefit of being able to link back to that.
40. Offer a Course
Another way to establish yourself as an expert in a niche is to offer a course. This can be done through your own website if you have enough traffic, or you can offer the course through sites like Udemy.
It’s not at all unusual for people to use these courses to put across a subtle sales message for products and services of their own.
41. Send Out Email Campaigns and Newsletters
If you have a mailing list, you can send out email offers and newsletters, both to generate business and to keep you visible to potential customers. In some sectors and markets you can send out “cold” emails, but usually only on a “business to business” basis. Proceed with a lot of caution around this area because there’s a fine line between email marketing and spamming, complete with the potential for legal issues.
There’s plenty of great email marketing software out there. At HomeWorkingClub we’re are fans of (and use) Aweber. Sign up with this link and grab a free trial.
42. Try Out Some Good “Old Fashioned” Marketing
It’s easy to get taken up with all the modern options when looking at how to get clients, but there are more traditional methods that still work.
For example, far fewer companies put flyers through peoples’ doors, or send out “snail mail” anymore. As such, recipients are now much more likely to notice and remember such communications. Similarly, people do still look at the cards put up in newsagents and supermarkets.
“Old school” techniques like these aren’t right for every business, but they’re worth giving some thought. They often cost very little too.
43. Brave Some Cold Calling
The most dreaded of marketing tactics is often cold calling. This is literally calling businesses that could use your services and pitching how you could help them. It always involves lots of persistence and lots of rudeness and rejection!
However, if you’re good on the phone, you might want to consider this approach. This method works best if you have a list of good leads first (see tips 5 and 11, above).
44. Always do Amazing Work
This one might seem like a no-brainer. But seriously, always go above and beyond for your clients. They’ll be far more likely to refer you to other people.
45. Become an Expert and get Featured and Interviewed
If you have particularly strong knowledge on a specific topic or industry, you could try to get yourself interviewed by a local news program or other media outlet. You could also check out Help a Reporter Out, a website that connects reporters to experts for interviews, insights and quotes.
46. Master your Admin
Ensuring your record-keeping and organisation is on-point ensures you make the most of your clients. The last thing you want to do is neglect to follow up on leads, leave emails unanswered, or alienate potential clients by forgetting who they are.
There’s endless choice when it comes to software and services to help you master your admin. However, we’d always say the best starting point is buying the industry-standard Microsoft Office suite and learning to use it to its full capability.
47. Hang Out on Professional forums
It’s well worth becoming known on the leading professional forums for your business sector. Offer advice and get involved in conversations. You will often find you can list your business within your profile or signature. (Note that sometimes this privilege is only introduced after you’ve been active on a forum for a certain amount of time).
48. Gather Testimonials
Whenever someone likes your work, ask them if they’ll provide a testimonial. You can publish these on your website or other marketing materials. This “social proof” is hugely important in ensuring people trust your business.
49. Encourage Customers to Review your Services
Apparently, 91% of people check online reviews. People can leave such reviews on all kinds of platforms, from Google and Facebook to specialist sites like G2 and TripAdvisor.
As such, encourage happy customers to leave reviews. It’s quite possible that someone looking for the best “xxxxxxx” in your area could find you, simply due to your positive reviews.
50. Get Listed on Business Databases
Get your name out there by making sure you’re listed on every possible business database. Ensure they all have as many details as possible. The real essentials are:
Most directories are completely free, it’s just a case of taking the time to make sure you’ve provided all the necessary details.
As you can see, there’s no simple answer to the question of how to get clients. However, what there definitely is is a TON of options. Which are you going to concentrate on next?
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you attract clients?
Attracting clients can involve a wide variety of marketing and networking tactics. If you’re a freelancer, some of those tactics resemble the methods you’d use to find full-time work, such as hunting and pitching for gigs on job boards. Other tactics veer more into “traditional” sales and marketing, and include things like cold calling and running ad campaigns.
How can I get clients fast?
If you want to grow your business quickly and get clients fast, you’ll need to combine several marketing and networking techniques.
For instance, you should set up a website advertising your services, making sure you do good keyword research and SEO. Meanwhile you’ll need to ensure that you stick to a solid networking strategy, and continually pitch for new gigs – to ensure you constantly generate new leads for your business.
How do I find high paying clients?
The easiest way to find high paying clients is to focus your work on a niche you are an expert in. Rates tend to be higher for specialised fields, such as tech, business, legal or medical.
Think about what industries you have worked in in the past, and the projects you have completed. If you are new to freelancing, a niche may take some time to build. You may have to start by working for lower rates, in order to establish yourself as experienced and knowledgeable in your niche. Once you are seen as experienced, you can command higher rates.
If you enjoyed this, you’re sure to enjoy our bumper article containing 50 freelance tips.
Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer who has written features for a number of consumer and industry print magazines, as well as stories for niche websites, digital lifestyle magazines and general news sites.