• Advice

How to Generate Winning Leads as a Freelancer

Moving from the security of a full-time job to the world of freelancing might seem a slightly daunting and unpredictable step to make. For many aspiring freelancers with a passion and talent for providing a service that benefits their clients, making that switch is one of the most enriching and fulfilling steps you can take.

For some, however, reassurance and peace of mind are key, especially in times when competition is high and fierce, and where budgets are invariably tight. Freelancers want to feel assured that they can have a steady stream of high-quality client work keeping them busy. Yet, to stand out and attract the right types of clients in today’s market, freelancers need to be methodical and strategic in their lead-generation efforts.

While it may be ambitious to expect prospective clients to wait in line for your services on day one, sometimes it’s a case of risk versus reward. A recent report found that 39% of Americans balance a side hustle with their full-time job to pay their bills. 

However, for those who are stretched in terms of time and resources, generating winning leads regularly isn’t always possible. Whatever your current constraints, by leveraging the right digital marketing and lead generation strategies, you can position yourself as an expert in your field and one who is ‘in demand’. Over time, you can consistently fill your pipeline with promising opportunities. This guide will explore a range of proven digital marketing techniques that can help you generate winning leads as a freelancer.

Optimize your website and online platforms

Your website and social media platforms are the foundation of your lead-generation efforts in the predominantly digital marketplace of today. Ensuring that you have a stable, fast, mobile-responsive and optimized website is the first step, as this is your proverbial digital ‘business card’, where you can inform, educate and inspire your audience while showcasing your skills, portfolio and experience. 

While you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands on a website, you should consider optimizing it for organic search terms by incorporating relevant keywords, engaging content and clear calls-to-action (CTAs) to give your site some SEO gravitas. It’s a case of quality over quantity when it comes to your website, especially considering the evolving search engine landscape. Whatever your freelance service, whether it’s photography, graphic design, eCommerce SEO advice, accounting, or anything in between, creating a user-friendly and engaging site that entices your prospective clients will be your first crucial step.

The next step is to maintain an active presence on LinkedIn, a prime space to connect with business professionals in your sector. Create an engaging LinkedIn profile showcasing your expertise and make a conscious effort to engage and contribute to your profile regularly, through engaging thought leadership posts, relevant industry news comments and opinions, and more. Through regular LinkedIn activity and engagement, you can begin connecting and building relationships with prospective clients as well as referral partners and find new lead revenue streams.

Deliver regular content

Creating and distributing high-quality, informative content can be a powerful lead-generation tool, and it just so happens that Google (and other search engines) values relevant, engaging content in equal measure as your clients inevitably will. A well-thought-out content strategy goes hand in hand with your website strategy, where you can attract the attention of your ideal clients and establish trust with online content that positions you as an expert freelancer. 

Content can come in many forms, whether in the form of blogs, articles, case studies, e-books, webinars, videos, infographics, and many other deliverables that can be digested on your website and, by extension, promoted on social media and other digital channels. However, as mentioned earlier, it’s a case of quality over quantity; creating and promoting content that identifies the pain points, challenges and interests of your target audience will be more beneficial than higher numbers of low-value content that serves little purpose. 

Adopt the same strategy when writing and optimizing your blogs and supporting content as that for your website service pages. Incorporate and use strategic, high-value keywords and bear Google’s evolving ranking factors in mind. It might be that this type of content is what you’re offering your clients as a service, so it’s a case of creating those deliverables that exemplify the standard you hold yourself to while satisfying your clients’ pain points.

Collect referrals and testimonials

Tapping into your existing network and satisfied clients can be an effective way to generate new leads. Ask your current clients, colleagues, and connections to refer potential clients to you and write testimonials that you can use on your website and social media profiles. Word of mouth carries immense weight in the business world, and a positive recommendation from a valued business owner is incredibly powerful at fostering greater trust and credibility among future clients. 

Try to avoid offering free work in return for any positive referrals or recommendations to preserve your time and resources. Instead, incentivize referrals or testimonials by offering discounted services to existing clients too, as a way to bolster your chances of securing referrals. The more meaningful positive reviews you garner, the better chances you have at securing success and positive ratings among your audience base and community.

Conduct selective outreach 

Proactive outreach can also be a valuable lead-generation strategy, allowing you to connect with potential clients directly. 

Crafting compelling emails and LinkedIn messages can be an effective way to begin meaningful dialogue with specific people of interest, and start cultivating mutually-beneficial business relationships. There is a risk that overdoing outreach can be considered spammy, as not every prospect will be as receptive as the next, which is why it’s prudent to avoid writing generic, cliched prose, overloading inboxes, and making false promises. Instead, consider crafting compelling emails that highlight your expertise and how you can solve your client’s specific challenges. 

You never know, you may find that emails and messages open more doors to potential other clients, as well as industry peers and referral partners. Similarly, consider attending virtual and in-person networking events, trade shows, and industry conferences to promote yourself and your new venture to potential leads. The more meaningful conversations you can open, the better your chances of securing a steady stream of leads and referrals.

Run paid advertising campaigns when relevant

While organic lead generation is essential, strategic use of paid advertising can significantly broaden your reach and attract qualified leads. While using social media platforms like LinkedIn, and others like Facebook or Instagram, consider leveraging their built-in paid social media advertising platforms. 

You can also take advantage of Google Ads and other advertising tools built into search engines to create search and display ads that appear when clients are actively searching for services. Provided you have done sufficient audience research and targeting, you can reap incredible lead-generation results with paid ad campaigns. 

Be sure to create specific CTAs and landing pages, where relevant, for PPC audiences, as well as take advantage of retargeting ads to re-engage with prospects who have interacted with, but not converted. You’ll be surprised at how effective retargeting campaigns can be at pushing prospects over the line.

Remember to nurture each lead that comes through. Generating leads is only half the battle; successful and considerate nurturing of each lead that comes through. With the right approach from the outset, you can start your freelancing career on the right foot and find a plethora of leads in no time, while enjoying the new-found freedom and flexibility that comes with being a full-time freelancer.

Freelancers Union is funded by hard-working freelancers like yourself, helping us advocate and provide resources to like-minded freelancers across the US. Consider donating to the union today to help us support and create a safer, more secure space for all freelancers

Annie Button Annie is a freelance writer based in the UK, specializing in business development, branding, digital marketing and HR. An English Lit grad, Annie has written for various online and print publications.