• Advice

7 Places to find clients right now

Photo by Anthony Albright.

We talk a lot on this blog about how to slow build your brand and make meaningful connections in order to find great clients.

Slow growth and client referrals are tremendously powerful, but sometimes they can take many, many hours of networking, social media-ing, and product-building to get to a place where we’re getting good leads to actual project work.

And sometimes we don’t have the time.

If you’re short on patience and marketing dollars, here are some ways to get clients sooner rather than later:

1. Old clients

Skip the time you normally spend introducing yourself by going directly to clients you’ve already worked with in the past.

  • Send them a quick hello on social media.
  • Send them an email asking how they’re doing, sending along industry news, or letting them know you’ll be available soon if they have any projects.
  • Make a direct pitch on a new project (if you work in the kind of industry that operates that way).

Learn more strategies for getting repeat clients here.

2. Job boards

Job boards are really hit-or-miss. They take time to scan through, only a few people get back to you, and even then a lot of the gigs don’t pay that well.

We’ve reviewed how to find good-paying gigs online here.

3. LinkedIn

Perfecting your LinkedIn account with the right keywords and job terms can make a big difference in which clients can find you. This is also a great place to hunt down the people who work at a company you know, like, and you feel would benefit from your business. Try connecting with them this way rather than email.

Of course, there’s also LinkedIn job boards and groups with job boards, which from my experience, are more reliable than most.

Learn how to find gigs on LinkedIn here.

4. Local businesses

Have you ever tried to reach out to your local coffee shop to design their menu? Or your local bookshop who desperately needs a new website? This is where frequenting local businesses comes in handy; many of these small businesses are too busy to figure out how to hire someone (or even figure out that they need to hire one).

Trust me, this works.

I know a freelance web developer who frequented a local comic shop. One day he looked at their website. He saw that it was an eyesore and they were missing out on a big opportunity to list their high-value vintage comics online. He already knew the owner, so he walked right up to him and pitched his idea of creating a more full-featured website with an online store.

Turns out the business owner had been thinking about doing this for a while, but didn’t want to get “stiffed” by a freelancer found online. Although the price the store owner pitched was lower than what my friend frequently got per hour, my friend negotiated a big chunk of store credit to make up the difference.

5. Offer a discount for fewer services

I’m deeply skeptical about any reason to lower your prices, so this is not about cutting your prices to land cheaper clients.

However, you may be able to offer fewer services to a client who has a lower budget, so that you’re still getting what you deserve.

Try to break up what you do and pitch that to smaller potential clients -- including the type of small business listed above. Project manager? Offer that you’d be willing to consult with workers on best PM practices in a fixed number of meetings, rather than offering them project-based management.

Run a professional organizing business? Put up a sign at your library or in a local newspaper or blog that you’re able to offer X (limited) service for X price. Make sure people know the parameters of the deal and that you also offer a whole host of more intensive services for an additional cost.

6. Become your own client

Are you only thinking about selling your services to clients? What about selling information to other people who want to be like you? What about selling products to your Instagram followers?

Here are some common alternate revenue streams that freelancers often use:

  • Teaching online. We’ve outlined the best platforms for teaching what you know here. And if you want proof that this is a great business, just read about how this freelancer made $80,000 teaching online.
  • Selling merchandise. This is best for illustrators, graphic designers, and witty wordsmiths who are interested in putting their images and words on t-shirts, mugs, art prints, coasters, etc. We’ve outlined how to go about selling your products here.
  • Self-publishing. You don’t need to write 150,000 words. Try a great 30-page pamplet about how you started in your business or best practices that you sell for $1.99. Start small. Remember that this may involve a significant bit of promotion. We talked about tips for freelancers who want to self-publish here.

7. A networking event or launch party in your industry

You probably guessed that we were going to say this.

Get your face and business cards directly in front of people who hire freelancers like you. If you’re networking-averse, try these tips for introverts or these tips for meaningful connections.

If you want to think beyond the traditional networking event, try a more informal Meetup group based on a more “fun” hobby you have. However, understand that this will not give you the kind of direct-to-potential-client in promotion-friendly environment that a traditional networking event will have.

Any industry-insider tips to finding great clients in your industry?