As a freelancer we eat when we have clients and we go hungry when we don't. Clients are the lifeblood of our business and the business of our lives.
Finding new clients is exciting and inspires our confidence. It means money in the bank, food on the table, a roof over our heads and spare cash for fun stuff like holidays, new Apple products or whatever your vice is.
Landing new clients can also make a huge difference to our personal lives, our moods and our overall well being. Not having any new clients in the pipeline sucks bad.
Yet almost every conversation I have with freelancers (and I have a lot) comes back to the struggle with finding clients. It seems freelance web designers are particularly bad at finding new clients and a lot of us prefer to service agencies and let them do the hard work of developing business relationships and selling.
I have heard the same story so many times it pains me. Freelancers going off to find a job because they couldn't sustain themselves because they had no way knowing how to find new clients. Or the lucky ones who have no idea where their clients come from but always seem to land one just in time.
Well it doesn't have to be this way and you don't have to be a sales guru to find new clients. In fact clients are looking for you right now and finding someone else who is better positioned than you to receive the work. oh and you don't have to do any cold calling. In fact if anybody suggests you do cold calling, turn and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction immediately.
Cold calling sucks. It always has and it always will. It is a short term act of desperation and is not a viable model for building a sustainable, long-term profitable business. I know because I have done it A LOT.
So what can you do instead of old school traditional sales techniques to find new clients? Well here are 5 ways I know work. Now before you poo-poo them and say "that won't work" or "that's not original" ask yourself this: "have I tried that and proven it can not work?" Only once you have tried something and failed miserably can you dismiss an idea as worthless. So try each of these with as much gusto and commitment as you can possibly muster and let me know how you fare.
The 5 Ways
Start blogging about ideas that can help your audience. Blog about why blogging is important for accountants or why a website is useless without lead capture forms (without talking about MailChimp or any plugins). Blog consistently and offer as much good quality, free advice as you can to those you want to serve. The more you help those you are best suited to help, the more money you will make. Period.
And if you think you don't have time, here's a tip: if you can't find 1 hour a week to blog as a way of attracting your ideal client to you, you should start browsing the employment websites. Blogging is marketing and if you're not marketing, what are you doing in business?
Now you're blogging it's time to share. Send your blog posts to industry associations or bodies who represent those you want to serve. EG: I love accountants and WordPress freelancers, so I send blog posts to the CPA (Certified Practising Accountants of Australia) and offer my free advice to their members and I share my blog ideas via Twitter to partners in the WordPress space like WooThemes and ManageWP who are always looking for good content to add value to their audience. Much better to get exposed to hundreds of potential clients through partner channels than trying to find individual clients one at a time.
Sounds simple I know. Are you deliberately and strategically sharing your content with the right people?
Every opportunity you get you should be educating your audience about how they can get what it is they want. You can do this through blogging, running free seminars (old school I know - about as old school as I get), a free email course or even a complimentary consulting session. "What?" I hear you scream. Are you suggesting I meet with a client for free? Well chances are you already are but it's called a sales meeting or presentation where you end up telling your potential new client how good WordPress is and how much you know about it. In other words your prospect is interviewing you for the job.
What you should be doing instead is allocating a few slots a week where you will accept a potential new client for a complimentary evaluation of their current online strategy and make some recommendations as to how they can improve their results. This is much better positioning as it gives you an opportunity to "prescribe" your medicine which of course should include engaging your services. Now you're interviewing them!
The point is the more you educate the more you will position yourself as a trusted source of high quality information. A specialist so to speak. And we all know how expensive specialists are. Right?
One of the biggest traps I see freelancers fall into is getting stuck in the freelancer bubble. Sitting behind their computer screen pumping out good work and convincing themselves the world will come discover them. I got bad news kids. It doesn't happen like that. You have to get out of the building and go and meet people in real life.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the best place to go and network to find potential new clients is NOT WordPress MeetUps or WordCamps! There is value in attending these events but chances are your new clients are not going to be there. Unless of course you want to build your profile as a developer who services agencies, but I have higher hopes for you than that. The best place to go and meet people is events where lots of your favourite clients are hanging out. I managed to get myself invited to the national CPA conference in three states of Australia this year where I mingled with over 500 accountants in the span of 2 weeks. That's networking on steroids.
So find out where large pools of your ideal clients are and go meet them.
Now don't panic, speaking in front of people is actually not that difficult if you have a good structure to guide you through. You don't need a fancy slidedeck (although they can be fun and helpful). All you need is to understand the problem they are trying to solve and then teach them three tips or techniques that will help them solve that problem.
For example (you can have this one): most websites are poor performers because they don't capture email addresses. So the three ways you can fix that are:
- Create something of value you can give away for free
- Setup a lead capture form on your website
- Send some visitors to your website who might be interested in the free thing you're giving away
You could build a short 20 minute talk about that and then offer yourself to give the talk at the next function where your ideal clients will be.
Here's a power tip: search MeetUp for a local MeetUp in your area where your potential clients are hanging out and contact the organiser to offer your free talk.
Here's one I found that is perfect for me: http://www.meetup.com/Network-of-Accounting-Finance-Professionals-in-Melbourne/
You can convince yourself that the world will eventually wake up to your genius and throw boatloads of cash at you for your expertise while you sit behind your computer, (which is kind of okay because that leaves more opportunity for those of us who are prepared to be proactive) or you can get off your butt and try implementing just one of these ideas until you bleed it dry.
If you try everyone of these ideas and fail to secure one new client, email me and I will give you a free coaching session on Skype.
Leave me a comment and tell me how you go about finding new clients or tell me if you think I'm full of it.
Top image credit: wpvalladolid