• Advice

Winning Clients: How to Land the Client of Your Dreams

We all know that finding great clients is part science and part luck. Sometimes you finally hook up with that client you’ve been diligently stalking for months, and at other times someone says something to somebody and a “Hey, are you available?” email miraculously drops into your inbox.

But most of the time, vetting, prospecting, and opening a channel of communication with your ideal clients is hard work. So you certainly don’t want to waste your effort by not being prepared when you start to have conversations with a prospective client. There will always be projects that fall away between the “send me more information” and the contract phase, but veteran freelancers know what to do to increase their chances of landing that ideal client.

Luckily, Sara Horowitz has picked the brains of hundreds of freelancers to discover these tips for landing the clients you want. Read on! (And if you want more where this came from, check out The Freelancer’s Bible.)

Don’t go in blind. Learn about your prospect as much as you possibly can. This is where that little thing called the internet comes in handy. Study their About page. Breathe it in. Roll around in it. Look up key decision makers on LinkedIn. Follow them on Twitter. Retweet something the organization says. This shows that you’re already their advocate.

Come insured. Some clients, especially big companies, require that general contractors and freelancers have liability insurance. If you want to land those clients, you have to insure yourself first. Liability insurance protects you from mistakes and accidents, too. (Freelancers Union has teamed up with Hiscox to offer liability insurance just for freelancers – check it out.)

Do great work. This seems obvious, but if you come to a meeting where your prospect has already heard great things about you or seen some of the impressive work that you’ve done, you’re already halfway there. A reputation for honesty and great work is your best sell.

Show value. Don’t be afraid to explain what you do. It’s quite possible that the person hiring you is doing so because they have no idea how to do what you do – and worse, she/he assumes what you do is quick and easy. So before you share cost, break down exactly what you’ll be doing. Focus on your value.

Don’t be boring. No really. Your first meeting should involve you listening a lot. Nothing hurts your chances more than you going on and on about how great you are rather than focusing on the client’s needs. Look interested. Lean forward in your chair.

Set expectations about money early. Sometimes even veteran freelancers have trouble bringing up fees and payment. But the truth is, your prospect might be relieved that they didn’t have to bring it up! Try soft questions like “Do you have a project budget?” “Do you have a range in mind?” Think about it before the meeting and don’t wait until the contract phase to start talking about it – you both benefit from setting up expectations early.

Break the project into pieces. Sometimes clients can feel skittish about going all in with somebody new. So say, “For X amount, I can do A, B, and C. We can talk about what it would mean to do D and E.”

Stay in touch. Sometimes you have a great meeting, and then crickets. It’s possible that the prospect doesn’t hate you, they just sort of forgot about you. You don’t have to email them with “Hey, get back to me.” Maybe leave it for a bit and continue to follow what they do – and if they get good press or something newsworthy happens, send them a quick congratulations email. Something nice but not creepy. Respect their time.

What are some of your strategies for landing clients? Have any good stories of interesting first meetings?

Did you hear the great news? We teamed up with Hiscox USA to help our members find professional liability insurance. In honor of that, this is the first post in an ongoing series about successfully managing risk and liability as a freelancer, which can help with everything from landing clients to protecting you from mistakes on the job.