Sep 6

How to Get Freelance Clients (Quickly and Consistently)

Learn how to use LinkedIn to avoid the feast and famine cycle of freelancing and develop a consistent stream of warm leads for your business
One of the accepted "truths" about freelancing and self-employment in the creative sector is that the so-called feast & famine cycle - where you experience an influx of work (the feast) followed by a period of drought (the famine) is inevitable. 

Having built a six-figure web design business (during a global pandemic) I'm here to tell you that this belief is not only untrue, it's also probably harming the way you do business. There is a better way.

So if you want to learn how to get freelance clients, quickly and with consistency, read on...

The route that 95% of people take

As a freelance coach I've spoken to a LOT of freelancers - web designers, web developers, graphic designers, copywriters and more - which has enabled me to identify a series of patterns in how they approach business.

What I've found is that many freelancers spend much of their time engaged in inbound marketing activities.

This means that they:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create social media content
  • Tweak their website

And whilst there is nothing specifically wrong with this, it won't get clients quickly. Inbound marketing - where prospects come to you - is the long game. I'm not saying you shouldn't have an inbound marketing strategy, I'm just saying that if you want to turnaround a freelance client at speed, this is not the best approach (at least in the early days).

But that's what I see almost everyone doing. And the problem is that it can be very demoralising to not see results for your effort. This is why I challenge my freelance clients to engage in an outbound marketing strategy. One where they go out there and drum up business. Here's what that looks like.

[watch] How to get freelance clients easily

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 sharing content that builds authority and positions them as the expert in their niche. As a creative professional, this is the place to be for you to get clients and grow your business.

Heads up: you can watch my free tutorial on how to do cold sales outreach on LinkedIn. Drop your email below for instant access.
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How to get clients on LinkedIn: a 3 step process

It is VERY easy to complicate outbound marketing. We tend to get in our own heads about it. All you need to keep in mind is that you're on LinkedIn to network and potentially 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

If you can get in the client's mind with an offer that you believe will genuinely help them, it makes the whole process much smoother.

(If you don't have a clear offer my Foundations Intensive will help you)

Here's the 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. 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. 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 conversation, the gates will open. Exchange a few interesting 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.

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 call for this. Pitching in discovery (phase 2) - whilst it might sometimes make sense - rarely gets results. 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 over 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!

Watch a related video on getting freelance clients

Tips from the front line

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:
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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.
Learn how to get more clients by enrolling on The Freelance Business Builder
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