Sep 6 / Matt Saunders

How to Get Freelance Clients on LinkedIn

Learn how to leverage the power of LinkedIn to build a consistent stream of warm leads for your business.
One of the accepted "truths" about freelancing is that the so-called feast or famine cycle is inevitable.

The idea is that work comes in waves. Some months you experience an influx of opportunities where other months are dry as a desert.

But having built a six figure web design business I'm here to tell you that this accepted truth is not only untrue, but believing it is probably harming the way you do business.

I have used LinkedIn to generate 10s of thousands of pounds for my business. In this article I'm going to share a 3 step process for creating opportunities on LinkedIn that you can use right away.

The path that 95% of people take

As a business coach I've spoken to a LOT of freelancers (mostly web developers and copywriters) and I've identified a series of patterns in how they approach business.

What I've found is that most spend their time working on inbound marketing activities.

This means that they:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create social media content
  • Shoot videos

There is nothing wrong with this but it's important to understand that these are long-term, scale-up activities. Essentially, these are brand building exercises that will bring clients once your content reaches a tipping point where it has been around long enough to mature and proliferate to the right audiences.

This takes time. And if this is all you're doing, it can be very demoralising to not see results for your efforts.

If you want to get clients quickly you've got to start some smart outbound marketing. And LinkedIn is an amazing place to do this. Here's what that process looks like.
Related video: how to get freelance clients quickly using LinkedIn

Outbound marketing for freelancers

If you want to get more clients, and if you want to create a steady sales pipeline that brings you security and growth, you'll need to create an outbound marketing strategy.

My absolute favourite place to do this is LinkedIn. As a professional network LinkedIn is a global community of businesspeople building authority that positions them as the expert in their niche.

As a freelancer, this is the place to be for you to get clients and grow your business.
LinkedIn app on smartphone

How to get clients on LinkedIn

It is VERY easy to complicate outbound marketing. We tend to get in our own heads about it. But all you need to keep in mind is that you're on LinkedIn to:

  • Network
  • Solve people's problems.

This means you must see yourself as someone who can help rather than someone trying to sell (the sale comes after helping).

The reason you probably hate selling is because you're making it about yourself. What will they think of me? Will they reject me? I MUST get this sale! etc etc. But if you can get in the client's mind with an offer that you believe will genuinely help them, it makes the whole process smoother.

If you don't have a clear offer my irresistible offer workshop will help you.
Related video: 3 things to stop doing as a to get more freelance your sales.

My proven 3-step outreach process

Here's my LinkedIn outreach process in 3 simple steps:

  1. Connect
  2. Discover
  3. Pitch

This sounds simple so let me break it down.

Step 1 - Connect

Connecting with people on LinkedIn is about MUCH more than simply hitting the connect button. Social platforms have enabled us to scale our communication quickly but often, we forget about the human side of networking. It's called social networking for a reason, right?

In my experience, when you connect with somebody, you do not need to:

  • Write a note
  • Pay a gushing compliment
  • Send them a message right away

My personal approach is to look at one of their recent posts and make a comment. Then a few days later I will reach out (if you want to get smarter with this I suggest using a LinkedIn automation tool). This leads us to step 2.

Step 2 - Discover

When you do cold outreach on LinkedIn, you must keep in mind something I said earlier: it's not about you - it's about them.

Remember: at this point you're not here to sell. You are here to connect, build rapport and fact-find. If you want to get more clients as a web designer, copywriter, illustrator - whatever it is that you do - this discovery phase is critical. How can you sell if you know nothing about the client? This is the part where we find out what they're about. Here are some prompts to get the conversation started:

  • Comment on one of their posts then DM to talk more about it
  • Mention something on their profile, then ask a relevant question
  • Simply say "hello" and ask how things are going for them right now

If the person is up for a conversation, the gates will open. Exchange a few  messages and when it feels right invite them onto a call to talk more. If the DM chat has gone well and you feel you can help, simply say "I think I can help you with this, would you be open to a call to talk more about it?"

Having a call with somebody is part of this discovery phase. We are not pitching yet. It's important to slow things down to see if we can actually help. If we 100% believe that we can, the next step of this LinkedIn outreach strategy is Pitch.
Write your awesome label here.
Related video: see some real examples of successful cold outreach on LinkedIn from my own business.
Step 3 - Pitch

This article has been all about showing you how to get more clients quickly and consistently and without waiting around for people to come to you or wasting all your energy on fruitless inbound marketing.

Once you have mastered the connection and discovery phases, next comes your pitch. PRO tip: before you pitch get permission. Simply ask "would you like me to show you how I can help you with this?"

It's important to gain permission because this way a prospect is opting in for you to sell to them. You'll feel much better about it too.

I advocate arranging a separate call for this. Pitching in discovery (phase 2) - whilst it might sometimes make sense - rarely gets results. It can all feel a bit too fast. So during your discovery call, if you are sure you can help them, offer them another call to pitch. Most will say yes.

It is beyond the scope of this article to offer advice on successful pitching, but here are some top-level tips:

  • Do it live, not over email. It's much more powerful this way.
  • Include your pricing at the end. State it boldly and proudly.
  • Expect and handle hesitation/concerns/questions.

And that's it! As freelancers we get so in our own way with this stuff. We create stories where we tell ourselves we're "not salespeople" and we worry so much about rejection that we don't even try.

But if you can make this 3 step cold outreach process a part of your business - and do every week with discipline - you will create a freelance life full of opportunity and abundance. Give it a shot!

Outreach tips from freelancers

I reached out to my awesome network to ask their views on how to do cold sales outreach on LinkedIn. Here's what they said:
Quality over quantity. Spend the time and effort on researching and personalising every email. And don’t ask for anything other than a conversation.

Also, don’t use cliched phrases that are overused now like “would it make sense for us to put 20 minutes in the diary to discuss”

I use this template successfully:

“Hi Matt,

I’m a website consultant. I help businesses improve their websites to get more quality enquiries.

I have taken some time to review your site and I have some ideas that I think might be useful.

(Three - four quality ideas)

I’ve contacted you because I really like the look of your business and it feels like one that I’d love to work for.

Feel free to say no, but would you be open to a conversation?"

Thanks to Tom Garfield for this awesome template
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Never, ever throw sh!t at the wall hoping it sticks. Personalise everything, and do your research beforehand. Not only for your outreach, but to actually make sure you can see yourself working with them.

Make sure the business you're prospecting is the right size/has the budget required for your fees. It's pointless trying to work with someone if your service doesn't align with their marketing budget.

Also, make sure the company's values align with yours as a business owner/freelancer, whatever. You could land your highest paying client, but if they're a nightmare to work with it's rarely worth it. If ever.

Thanks to Rebecca Beardmore for this great reminder
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The first/opening sentence is the most important. Treat it like a headline. It's that important. If your recipient isn't engaged by the first line, you will lose them. And everything that comes after will suffer.

To get their attention, you have to be hyper-targeted to really get your readers.

None of this "I'm writing to you today..." rubbish that's all about you. Stop the throat clearing and tell them something that matters to them.

Focus on immediately showing them a result you achieved for a similar business in their exact industry. This is really important. I see cold emails which talk about how they can help me get Oracle as a client or mention companies I've never heard of.

Relevancy and specificity are the most important. Exactly how much did you make, exactly how long did it take?

Keep it to a single sentence and make sure it's enough to pique your reader's attention.

The whole first email needs to be short. 3 lines max.
You want to stoke their interest so they respond. They don't care what awards you've won or even what your company is called. They want to hear about that amazing result you got one of their competitors.

Thanks to Jody Raynsford for this detailed advice
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I asked my network "what are your cold outreach tips for beginners?"

Above is just a small sample of their excellent replies. You can find many more comments and tips here.

Frequently asked questions

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it for freelancers?

To answer this question it is worth first exploring what you are using LinkedIn for. Most LinkedIn users are passive, in that they scroll the feed but don't proactively connect or engage with their network.

If you do use LinkedIn to get clients, here is why LinkedIn premium could be a good investment for you:

  • You can add more connections per month using premium - great for those who actively grow their network
  • You have more "InMail" credits with premium, so you can send messages to people you're not directly connected to
  • Being a premium user adds a small gold badge to your profile, which signals to other users that you're a serious user of the platform. This can add credence to your personal brand.
  • Premium users can see who has viewed their profile (this is limited on the free version of LinkedIn)
  • You can access LinkedIn Learning, a suite of training resources

Ultimately, the best way to see if LinkedIn Premium is worth it for you is to give the 1 month trial a go. Really lean into this, and if you find it makes a tangible difference to your business, consider the investment.

Should I put freelance work on my LinkedIn profile?

Adding freelance projects to your work history on LinkedIn is a great way to demonstrate your experience. Moreover, it's a way to show potential clients how busy you are. If your online resume shows an active turnover of consultant-based projects, this builds credibility and trust in you as a service provider. 

Along with curating an active work history, I also recommend collecting testimonials from your clients and keeping this as up to date as possible. Again, this sends out a signal that you are actively taking on work and delivering the goods. Below is a screen grab of mine.
LinkedIn recommendations

How do you pitch on LinkedIn?

Having tested cold pitching on LinkedIn, I now adopt an "anti-pitch" mentality. Instead of trying to "get" clients on LinkedIn, my approach is to source meaningful conversations that may or may not translate to paid work down the line. 

Begin by commenting on a person's posts. Then, if it makes sense, reach out to them in the DMs. Then, it it make sense, invite them onto a call. As you can see - we are gaining permission and being respectful. 

The best pitches aren't done on LinkedIn. Pitches are the result of nurturing a relationship to a point where the person asks you to help them out.

How can you find high paying clients on LinkedIn?

Generally speaking, the more highly paid the project, the longer the lead time to conversion. In other words you need to see LinkedIn as a long game. Resist the urge to pitch too early and do not get roped into a conversation about price too soon either. To find high paying clients on LinkedIn, follow my connect, discover, pitch method outlined in this article, but do not rush it. Aim to work on this consistently each and every day and you will begin to see results within weeks.

How many LinkedIn messages should I send per day?

My personal goal is to send 30 connection requests and 5 personalised messages per day. This is a great way to continually build my network and start meaningful conversations. Sooner or later, these conversations will turn into paid projects. Commit to this, trust yourself and try to genuinely help others, and you will transform your business.
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