Over the past four years of building my freelance business, I’ve been asked about my strategy for getting new clients countless times. And I never feel like I have a great answer because I don’t do anything specifically to get them. I never have. At least not in the sense of traditional advertising or selling myself. Mostly I just hang out here on my blog or on social media, share what I know, chat with people, be friendly and interested in what they’re doing, and then the clients come to ME.
But I’m aware that you’d probably like a more concrete and actionable answer, so here are 7 ways to attract your ideal clients without going all used-car salesman on them and, yes, by generally being awesome online.
Think about your clients when creating blog content
This was a huge mistake I made when I moved from lifestyle blogging to writing a blog to support my business. I wrote a lot of design tutorials and posts about how I was running my freelance business, but those were drawing in other freelancers who obviously were not going to hire me to design and develop their websites. Consider what problems your clients are facing that go WITH your expertise. Don’t write for other freelance writers or other life coaches unless your services and products support them.
Though you can always pivot your business to match your blog instead of changing your blog content to support your business. Erin did a great job of this when she moved from designing for business owners to becoming a support system for other designers. She was able to fill a gap in her niche to help up-and-coming designers and those that could design but didn’t have the skills to code. Brilliant move!
Promote your own content
We’ve been talking about this a lot lately, but it can always be said again. My clientele has always found me through my blog, with most of my clients now coming from Pinterest and search engines. Making valuable content available for free is SO helpful in building consistent traffic, turning yourself into an expert in your niche, and building trust with your audience. But sharing your own posts is the first step in getting other people to share them for you. If I didn’t share my own posts, my traffic would likely be chopped in half.
Reach out to other designers for referrals
Now that I’m booked out six months in advance, I always have potential clients I turn down because their schedule doesn’t work with my availability, my fees are over their budget, or they just don’t seem like a good fit for my business. This means I send each one of them a list of designers they can contact instead.
Shooting a note to a few designers who might be booked out a little further than you is a great way to grow your client list. Just make sure you have similar design styles and rates. Don’t choose a designer who charges $10k when you charge $600 or a designer that does lots of illustrated details when you’re all about bold photography.
Share your availability on social media
You’re probably gaining new followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all the time and they may not be aware that you’re taking on new clients. Sharing that you’re now booking clients for January (yes, even if you’re just starting or are always available) is a great way to remind them to keep you in mind. Even if they don’t take you up on those January spots, they might know someone who will. Extra points for creating a graphic to go along with your post!
Make sure your portfolio includes testimonials
What do you do any time you’re going to buy something online? Read the reviews, right? And we do this for pretty much everything – new shoes, a blow dryer, restaurants. I read the reviews no matter if I’m planning to spend $5 or $500 – I want to know I’m getting the best of whatever I’m buying.
The same goes for your services – no matter how convincing your sales copy and how great your work looks, people still want to hear from someone else to make such it’s worth their money. Ask your past clients to share the best part of working with you or how it helped their business/life/etc. and add these to your portfolio with their photo and an image of their project.
Be outgoing and helpful on your blog and social media
Personally, this is one of the biggest benefits to my business. I do my best to be helpful and chat with anyone who sends me a message, comment, or email. This not only helps me get to know my people and understand how I can help them, it also shows that I’m approachable and easy to work with. If people know they can come to you for help with a small problem or a quick question, they’ll be thinking of you the next time they or someone they know needs help with something bigger.
Build communities to connect with potential clients
And lastly – an extension of being outgoing and helpful online – create a community around your business as a whole (maybe as an incentive to join your email list) or as part of a product to connect more deeply with your audience.
I didn’t actually build my two communities with the intention of finding clients, but as we’ve learned, people who have purchased from you in the past will be the most likely to buy your next product or want to work with you in the future. Four of my Badass Babes students have turned into web design clients and one of my design clients turned into a Badass Babe!