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 52 ideas to help you get freelance clients fast. We also address some frequently asked questions at the end.
- How to Find More Clients Online
- 1. Search the Freelance Bidding Sites
- 2. Check the Job Boards
- 3. Consider Paid Job Search Sites
- 5. Pay for Lead Services
- 6. Use the search engines to find leads
- 7. Sell Goods AND Services Using Sites Like Esty
- 8. Check Out Industry Networking Sites
- 9. Focus on your Byline
- 10. Check out the Competition
- 11. Find Customers Using Business Directories
- Networking for New Clients
- 12. Carve Out a Specialist Niche
- 13. Send Out Sales Pitch Letters
- 14. Look at Meetup.com
- 15. Attend Local Business Group Meetings
- 16. Talk to Family and Friends
- 17. Seek Referrals from Coworkers and Clients
- 18. Consider Agency Partnerships
- 19. Get in Touch with Existing Contacts
- 20. Answer Quora Questions
- 21. Suggest Improvements to Potential Clients
- 22. Get Some Business Cards
- 23. Attend Trade Shows and Conferences
- 24. Volunteer your Work
- 25. Cross-Promote with Other Small Businesses
- 26. Sign Up to Official Referral and Partner Programs
- Ways to Find Clients Via Social Media
- 27. Create a LinkedIn Service Page
- 28. Join Facebook Freelance Groups
- 29. Find Professional Facebook Groups
- 30. Use Freelancing Hashtags
- 31. Search the Social Networks
- 32. Answer Twitter Questions or Join Organised Chat Events
- 33. Start a Facebook Group of your Own
- 34. Try promoted Pins on Pinterest
- 35. Run a Surveyor Contest
- 36. Post on Reddit
- How to Expand your Reach and Generate Your Own Leads
- 37. Build (or Enhance) your Website
- 38. Start a Blog
- 39. Run Some Advertising Campaigns
- 40. Do Some Guest Blogging
- 41. Offer a Course
- 42. Send Out Email Campaigns and Newsletters
- 43. Try Out Some Good “Old Fashioned” Marketing
- 44. Brave Some Cold Calling
- 45. Always do Amazing Work
- 46. Become an Expert and get Featured and Interviewed
- 47. Master your Admin
- 48. Hang Out on Professional forums
- 49. Gather Testimonials
- 50. Encourage Customers to Review your Services
- 51. Get Listed on Business Databases
- 52. Create Case Studies of Your Clients’ Success
- Frequently Asked Questions
- While You’re Here
How to Find More Clients Online
1. Search the Freelance Bidding Sites
Bidding sites are a popular way for freelancers to get started.
Sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour have a complete system where you can offer rates for specific projects, communicate with clients and get paid through the site. While Upwork is the largest bidding site around, there are plenty of Upwork alternatives to explore as well.
Freelance bidding sites are far from perfect. There can be a lot of job competition, and many clients offer meagre rates.
However, they can be a great place to find a steady flow of new work with clients who are prepared to pay your rates, especially if you join more than one site. We have some great ideas for succeeding on Upwork and the other freelance platforms to help you get started.
2. Check the Job Boards
Just because you work for yourself, don’t assume that traditional job sites are useless. Job boards can be one of the best ways to find new leads, especially if you can include testimonials from other happy clients in your portfolio.
Many prospective clients post to job sites, including major career sites and those explicitly geared towards freelancers. Some places to check out include:
- MediaBistro – for writing and journalism.
- Glassdoor – for work in all sectors.
- Indeed – for work in all industries.
- ProBlogger – for writers and bloggers.
- Reddit for Hire – for an eclectic range of opportunities!
- SimplyHired – all sectors, but the US only.
This is just a list to get you started. Some of these are general job boards. But you can search for your desired job and use terms like “independent contractor” or “freelance” within the search parameters. Check out our Upwork vs. Fiverr, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour article for heaps of information on successfully negotiating the most popular job boards.
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 let you apply to gigs and and enable clients to search for you, too.
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. Use the Search Engines to Find Leads
Google — along with the other search engines — can also help you out.
Use search terms like “freelance [your job],” “freelance [your job] needed,” “[your job] remote employee”, or any other iteration you can think of. Other great ideas include:
- Search for agencies who specialise in the same niche industry as you (B2B, graphic design, tech, agriculture etc.)
- Check out the companies who are spending money on paid advertisements (they’ll appear at the top of your search)
- If you’re looking for clients in a particular area, try using the Google Maps feature (i.e. healthcare clinics in London, UK)
These 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. You can sell a wide variety of services (as well as goods) through the site.
The platform is especially beneficial if you’re a graphic designer or do other creative work.
8. Check Out Industry Networking Sites
Every industry has its networking organisations, which are 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 freelance clients might feel a little cut-throat and competitive. Google the services you offer and check out the websites of those who’ve made it to the top of the search. You never know what ideas you might get for your own business.
We’re not advocating that you rip off other people’s business ideas. However, if you understand how other people in your industry are presenting themselves to clients, you can ensure you look equally professional.
Equally valuable, you’ll also see what’s NOT being offered in your sector. For example, suppose no one else is offering a free service trial. In that case, you could consider including that in your digital marketing.
Checking out your competition’s lead pages is the logical next step. What are they offering to get people on their email list? What’s the best way you could provide something better?
11. Find Customers Using Business Directories
If you are time-rich but cash poor, you can create 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, check out the local PR firms if you write press releases.
This YouTube video includes an interesting demonstration of using different directories to find clients.
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 pros and cons, but becoming known for a specific professional niche can bring you lots of leads when it comes to networking.
For example, if you’re a web designer, you could work on any kind of website. Or, you could niche down and become an expert in websites for freelance accountants and bookkeepers.
Although it might seem counterintuitive to narrow your target market, being a specialist can help you build a strong relationship with your ideal clients. Working to be THAT person everyone thinks of concerning a particular topic is a slow process but could really pay off in the long run.
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.
Writing a cold email can seem daunting, but it can open up many new doors when done right. Send sales pitch emails when you find the right people on the search engines and business directories.
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 is at a local chamber of commerce meeting, where many people go to network. These are great places to build good relationships within your local business community.
Offering help, support, and advice can lead to people thinking of you when jobs come up. It can also be an excellent first step to making locals aware of your freelance services or new products.
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 results in wasted time when people try to “pick your brains” for some free info!
However, chance meetings through family and friends truly can change your career trajectory. 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
Why not check in with agencies that handle the type of work you do? They might have work they could send your way if they don’t have the 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 can take on new work. Invite people to contact you to discuss their needs.
Sometimes you will find that people you haven’t worked with for a while know of a new project. Or that an ex-client has moved on to a new company with its own requirements.
20. Answer Quora Questions
Answering Quora questions can be an effective way to market your business.
Quora describes itself as “a place where you can ask questions that matter to you and get answers from people who have been there and done that.” People post thousands of new questions on Quora every day, which can be overwhelming at first.
Searching for your target audience’s primary keywords and questions is a simple way to find ones you can answer.
Excellent answers can build a lot of traction and help to establish you as a thought leader and expert in your field. Creating a consistent habit of answering questions into your marketing strategy can lead your ideal clients straight to your profile.
This article about lead generation on Quora has some excellent tips on attracting potential new business.
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 ones that aren’t compliant or mobile-friendly is a valuable 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.
23. Attend Trade Shows and Conferences
It’s well worth investigating regular trade shows and conferences 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
Think about volunteering your work to a non-profit organisation if you’re just starting as a freelancer. You can get experience that way, contact 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 to 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
Many referral programs help bring business to your door or give people an incentive to recommend you.
You have partner programs at one end of the scale, such as those with FreshBooks and Microsoft. Becoming a partner there means that you’re listed in the company’s official directories, which could lead to new customers finding you.
You could also consider programs like ReferralCandy, an eCommerce store plug-in that rewards customers for referring their friends and family to your business.
There’s also nothing to stop you from doing deals “manually” and informally along these lines. You can offer discounts or incentives if existing clients, friends or family members refer new clients directly to you.
Ways to Find Clients Via Social Media
27. Create a LinkedIn Service Page
LinkedIn Service Pages are an alternative to LinkedIn ProFinder, which no longer accepts new applicants. Your page won’t cost you anything to set up or maintain. Instead, it will be a free, dedicated landing page that showcases your services and links to your LinkedIn profile.
People can find you more easily through LinkedIn when you have a service page. And it’ll add to your discoverability on search engines like Google and Bing.
Another plus, anyone on LinkedIn can message you for free about your services. Making it easy to contact you is one of the essentials of finding new clients. No one will bother to message you if they have to jump through too many hoops.
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 in Facebook groups.
People in these groups can give leads on jobs, offer resources, and provide a host of other helpful information. Find a group that focuses on freelancing in your specific industry for maximum benefits—for example, a group for freelance writers or one for 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 specific 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. To connect with others, answer questions and offer your expertise before asking anything yourself.
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 specific topics and market sectors that you can get involved in.
As alluded 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 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.
Starting a group is, without doubt, a more involved way to get clients on Facebook, but it could prove to be worth it. Having a group is an excellent reason to do Facebook Lives, too. Live streams are a powerful way to connect with your audience. You can then upload your Live video to other video hosting sites like YouTube and even put it onto LinkedIn.
34. Try promoted Pins on Pinterest
Pinterest is an increasingly popular social network, 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 appear on people’s pages, formatted like regular posts.
Obviously, there’s a cost attached to this marketing method. Still, 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, The Pinterest Traffic Avalanche Course could be very helpful.
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.
Make sure that you target such promotions at genuine potential customers rather than anyone and everyone. Otherwise, the leads you obtain may not be particularly worthwhile (or, more precisely, likely to buy anything from you.)
36. Post on Reddit
Post engaging text, images and links relevant to your business on Reddit.
You can create your own posts or comment on subreddits (forums on specific topics within the main platform.)
Reddit doesn’t encourage overt marketing. Instead, you should aim to create compelling content that other users will love and upvote.
Make sure that you do your share of reading and upvoting of other people’s useful content too. Add helpful comments wherever you can to show your expertise and worth. To find out more on how to use Reddit for your business, check out this guide to marketing on Reddit from Social Media Examiner.
How to Expand your Reach and Generate Your Own Leads
37. Build (or Enhance) your Website
For most businesses, having a website is a given. If you haven’t set one up yet, consider starting now. It can prove an excellent 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 search engine optimisation 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. You’ll then have a passive lead generation source to bring in new clients if you can nail your website and SEO.
38. Start a Blog
A blog is a reliable 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. Check out this detailed guide for valuable advice on profiting from a blog.
39. Run Some Advertising Campaigns
If you’d investigated how to get freelance 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 some 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. There’s quite a science to ensuring they pay for themselves – so proceed with caution.
40. Do Some Guest Blogging
Doing some guest writing is a positive 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.
Guest blogging is also a great way to network with others in your field. As you become known, people will reach out to you for quotes. They can also ask you to contribute to their round-ups or listicles.
Contributing to other bloggers’ articles is another opportunity to mention your services and include that all-important link to your website or portfolio.
41. Offer a Course
Another way to establish yourself as an expert in a niche is to offer an online course. You can do this through your website if you have enough traffic. Or 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.
42. Send Out Email Campaigns and Newsletters
You can send out email offers and newsletters to generate business and keep you visible to potential customers if you have a mailing list.
However, don’t send newsletters or sales pitches to people who haven’t signed up to your list.
It’s one thing to send cold pitches to a business in your niche. But increasingly-strict privacy laws in many countries mean there’s the potential for legal issues if you’re found to be spamming.
43. 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 more traditional methods still work.
For example, 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 suitable for every business, but they’re worth giving some thought to. They often cost very little too.
44. Brave Some Cold Calling
Cold calling is one of the most dreaded marketing tactics around. It means calling businesses that don’t know you but 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).
45. 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.
46. Become an Expert and get Featured and Interviewed
If you have a solid knowledge of 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.
Guest interviewing on relevant podcasts (like our own HWC podcast) and YouTube channels is another excellent way of getting noticed. Working with micro-influencers in your niche is one of the best ways to get your name and business out there.
47. 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 an endless choice of 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.
48. 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).
49. Gather Testimonials
Ask clients if they’ll provide a testimonial whenever someone likes your work. You can publish these on your website or other marketing materials. This “social proof” is hugely important in ensuring people trust your business.
50. 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 entirely possible for people looking for that service in your area to find you simply by reading your positive thoughts.
51. Get Listed on Business Databases
Get your name out, thereby making sure you’re listed on every possible business database. Ensure they all have as many details as possible. The absolute essentials are:
Most directories are entirely free; it’s just a case of taking the time to make sure you’ve provided all the necessary details.
52. Create Case Studies of Your Clients’ Successes
Demonstrating how you helped some of your other clients succeed is a win-win all round. Not only does it please your client by highlighting their business, but it’s also one of the best ways to show prospective clients how you work.
Case studies can become blog posts on your website and help generate leads. You can ask the featured business or individual to link to it from their websites and social media platforms.
Getting backlinks from reputable websites and businesses shows the search engines that you are a credible expert. So when people are looking for experts to hire, your name and website are more likely to pop up near the top of their search.
As you can see, there’s no one simple answer to the question of how to get freelance clients. However, there are a TON of options. Which are you going to concentrate on next?
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Can I Find an Online Job?
The most obvious places to look are the online job boards. These can be a great way to see which online jobs are in demand. When you’re new to working from home the job boards can be confusing and you may wonder which one to use. We have a comprehensive article on Upwork and Fiverr vs. Freelancer and PeoplePerHour that should help to cut through the confusion.
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?
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, ensuring you do good keyword research and SEO. Meanwhile, you’ll need to 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. A niche may take some time to build if you are new to freelancing. You may have to start by working for lower rates to establish yourself as experienced and knowledgeable in your niche. Then you can command higher rates.
While You’re Here
We also offer constructive suggestions on how to become more productive while you’re working from home and take a realistic look at some of the pros and cons of freelancing.
Finally, if you’re entirely new to freelancing, check out the HWC podcast episode 10 on How to Get Your First Freelance Gigs. Then, sign up for our Freelance Kickstarter Course, where you’ll learn a TON of essential info to help you set up your freelancing business and find your first freelance clients.
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.