5 ways to land your first client

So, you’ve decided to give freelancing a go. Or perhaps your sights are set on creating a larger business structure. But how are you going to land that first piece of paid work?

By this stage, I’m going to assume you’ve checked off the basics of getting your business started: pricing, services, finance system, perhaps a shiny new logo and website. Although at the time of writing I’m over 24 months into running my marketing agency and do I have a website? Obviously not.

So everything is ready, it’s the first day of your new life, you’re sat at your desk with your pen in your hand – wait, it’s 2019, you’re sat at your desk with you fingers hovering over your keyboard. But what are you going to work on?

After deciding to go full-time with my business after with just a couple of bits of freelance work and no retainers, I had to learn to pick up clients fast. Here are some of the ways in which I managed to work with over 30 clients in my first year.

1.Start with who you know.

My first ever ‘client’ was a friend I met through a baby group. She was running an online shop and asked for some advice about marketing on Facebook. I swooshed in and we arranged to meet so I could talk her through some marketing options. (We also then became best friends and started another business together but that’s a whoooole ‘nother story)

My first proper paying client was someone Dave knew. They had just branched out and started a new business so once again I swooshed in, added them on Facebook and sent them a message. It was pretty direct but it did the trick and I’m still working with them well over a year later.

A few weeks later, my (then) sister-in-law started a new job and the company was launching a new brand. They needed a website and marketing, so we arranged a meeting and they became my first ever retainer client.

You may not think you know many business owners in need of your services but just take a closer look at your immediate circles and the chances are that someone could do with your help.

2.Look on freelancing sites.

When I first started out, I was petrified of not having enough work to pay the mortgage so I’d spend all my free time looking on PeoplePerHour or UpWork and similar sites. I’d be up until 3am searching through posted jobs and submitting proposals – I actually became a bit obsessed with it. I picked up a few odd jobs and even had a chance at a huge contract with a national brand but I turned it down in the end as it was a little bit out of my depth. Looking back I should have followed that old phrase “say yes and learn how to later”.

The downside of using these sites is that the clients looking for work to be carried out are often not willing to pay more than about 50p for the work, and with hundreds of other freelancers bidding for the job, your price can really get driven down if you’re not careful. Then, the site take around 20% of your earnings leaving you with practically nothing for all your hard work.

So… I’ll share with you the method I perfected to avoid all of this. I’d start by trawling through the listings looking for anything that I could help with, but in particular I was looking for clues as to who the company was (The company name is usually left out of the listings). For example, someone might post “I run a small chocolate factory in Newport and need some help doing x, y, and z”. The site does usually show the initial and surname of the poster, so I’d then do a google search for “chocolate factories in newport” and then a LinkedIn search for the company names that came up and the surname of the poster. It was that easy. Then it was simply a case of approaching them on LinkedIn, or calling directly. Easy peasy.

Is there even a chocolate factory in Newport?

3.Join Facebook groups.

There are tonnes of Facebook groups supporting freelancers where people post questions and other people respond with advice. I wouldn’t recommend jumping in to advertise your services or spamming people with your links though. I always offer as much knowledge and help as I can to help the person out as much as possible and quite a few times, people have then private messaged me asking for more help which has led to paid jobs and even turned into retainer contracts.

4.Move from your sofa into a co-working space.

I started my business working from home but within a couple of weeks I decided to join Welsh ICE in Caerphilly. I met loads and loads of entrepreneurs and start up companies as well as a few established businesses. I tried to introduce myself to as many people as possible and made sure everyone knew who I was and what I did. After a while, I got to know a lot of the people there and picked up a few jobs. Now I know loads of the businesses located there and they regularly refer work to me.

5.Network

The number one way (but number 5 on my list to keep you all in suspense) I would suggest picking up new clients is by networking to get your name out there. Now if I was going to make a geeky comparison, I would say that networking is like the SEO of the sales world. It takes a while to build up your network and your links, but once you start putting the effort in, the ‘traffic’ will find you. It’s definitely not an immediate thing because people need to build up trust with you and you need to develop your reputation, but it really will pay off.

For me, I joined BNI and it works wonderfully. There is only one of each profession allowed in each chapter so by joining you lock out your competition. It’s then up to you to get to know everyone in the group on a personal and professional level, and find leads and work for other members in the group. And in return they will refer work to you from their contacts. BNI Networking may not be for everyone, but it’s worth popping along as a guest to a few local chapter meetings to understand how it works. It definitely works – but as I said, it’s not for everyone.

There are also always loads of local business networking events on wherever you are. Just do a quick google search and pop along and you’ll be making contacts in no time!

So that’s my top 5 ways to find clients as a new business or freelancer. Let me know how you get on.

Fran

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