5 Dynamic Strategies To Become A Superstar Freelancer In 2020
This is a 17-minute read.
Do you ever ask yourself why all these multi-billion-dollar industries disappear, especially when you start looking for freelance clients?
Rather ... where have the companies that were (certainly) standing in line to hire you once you declare you were open for business gone?
At some point in time, I did.
In fact, I kept asking for a very long time.
I learned the answers the hard way. After borrowing and spending money I didn't have on a lot of advanced courses, I got my answers. I didn't get the solution from these courses, though. The only thing they taught me is that no course on earth can help you generate freelance clients.
Every individual freelancer absolutely must put in the work to get prominent clients.
It doesn't matter if you are a genius freelancer or belong to an elite group, you must take action.
You need to burn the calories.
If you decide to wait for clients to come to you, I guarantee you'll wait for a very long.
Don't lose hope. Patience is good. But couple it with action, and you're bulletproof.
With time, freelance clients will come knocking your door
But the problem is in getting there in the first place - where clients choose you individually by name. Without a doubt, getting there take a lot of work to prove yourself as an expert freelancer with the ability to get quantifiable results for your clients.
Only time can tell whether you'll get it or not.
You might get your first referral after completing your first project. You might get it after you complete 50 projects.
It rests on many unknowable variables.
The bottom line is:
To stop worrying about generating freelance clients and futureproof your business, you must do the legwork and lay a strong foundation first.
So, the aim of this guide is to fill the gaps and cement your position as a freelancer.
It's a "how to generate freelance clients" guide revealing five time-tested strategies to guarantee a flowing stream of work. Furthermore, it contains all the ready-made software, templates, and instructions about how to fit all the pieces together for optimal results.
These plans to get freelance clients are powerful, but there's a catch
The majority of people fail to use this educational content and reap the benefits. For one simple reason, they don't execute.
The best information in the world is useless if you don't take action. Painful and exhausting action that involves a lot of rejection.
But if more business is what you want, then taking action and keeping taking action is all you really have to do.
Whether you like ultimatums or not, here's one: finish reading this post and daydream about all the clients you'd get if you applied this knowledge, or grab your strategy notebook and start documenting a solid action plan based on the information contained here.
Choose to be the freelancer who takes action, and enjoy the business growth you deserve.
Without further ado .... read, learn, and apply the five dynamic strategies to generate loads of freelance clients than you can possibly serve.
1- 3 Steps to Master Cold Pitching
Many freelancers refuse to consider cold pitching as a viable tactic to generate clients.
Freelance specialists would even argue against it.
They view it as intrusive and rude.
Cold emailing helped me generate some of my high-profile clients to date.
That's why I'd recommend this method to beginner freelancers with a clear conscious.
For good luck with cold emails, a behavioral change is not wrong. Think of cold emails as a way to put yourself in front of the right people, explaining how your products and services will make their lives better instead of something you absolutely must do to convince others of your worth.
You have to experience it for yourself to believe. I was full of the doubt until I tried. So, maybe give it a shot before dismissing it?
Follow these exact steps to enjoy the benefits of cold emailing:
Define Your Ideal Client
Experiential evidence from the cream of the crop email marketers concluded that filling your list with the laser-focused type of individuals and companies is the key to cold pitching success. Target the people who are more likely to require your products and services.
A little math here.
If you target 100 people with a 20% open rate. You sold 10 of them. If your average service costs $100, that means you earned $1000 from a basic email campaign. These numbers are the lowest common denominator. If you played your cards right, you can literally make thousands of dollars out of thin air.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves and start from the beginning. Imagine your best client.
Let's people who qualify as clients for your freelance business must meet a bunch of criteria:
It must be a USA-based small business.
Into solar energy products, sports equipment, or health and fitness.
Have a minimum $1.2 to 1.8 million annual revenue.
Have 8 to 16 employees.
Have been in business for at least 10 years.
Similarly, establish who will benefit the most from your products and services.
Whenever I'm building a company profile for myself, I make sure they also subscribe to the same business values I follow. That way, I'm confident we can work with each other.
Additionally, it's good to know whether they're freelance-friendly.
Do flesh out your company profile with as much details as you like
The only rule is to remain focused on your target companies and ignore all others.
With your ideal client profile in hand, move to the next step to identify contacts.
Build Your Contact List
There are countless places to find prospects online to target with your cold emails. One of the best is business directories. These directories usually contain additional information that can be useful, like the company's annual revenue, number of employees, and contact information.
Some business directories even focus on a given industry, so it's easy for you to spot the ones more likely to work with you.
Take Manta as an example. It's a directory for small businesses in America. If you were a freelance graphic designer serving restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you'd find 3,067 results.
You can generate thousands and thousands of clients by browsing more business directories. Yes, it may be troublesome to research them and extract the real potential clients, but surely, you can get yourself a list of solid potential clients in a matter of days.
You can generate thousands and thousands of clients by browsing more business directories. Yes, it may be troublesome to do the research and manually extract the real potential clients, but clearly, you can get yourself tons of trustworthy potential clients in a matter of days.
At this stage, tracking your progress is very important. Your actual list might be a simple Google spreadsheet that contains essential information like:
Name of company
Email of decision maker (or contact us page URL)
Status (researching/sent email/potential/etc.)
Social media accounts (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn)
Date of first contact
Reply date (because you want to remind yourself to follow up, half the business is in the follow up email)
Follow up email date
Collect relevant information so you can personalize your emails.
Launch Your Cold Email Marketing Campaign
At the third stage, you’ll begin to establish connection with your chosen prospects.
It’s simple. All you need to do is write and send email messages.
Try to get your foot in the door instead of selling yourself on the dot. First, introduce yourself and aim to start a conversation.
Look at the following example:
I'm a huge foodie who happens to be a freelance [your industry]. May I offer to create social media content for [company name]? My focus is on [your specialty], but I work with [target industry] in general.
If you're interested, take a look at few of my previous work [related to their niche]:
Link to samples 1
Link to sample 2
Link to sample 3
Here’s some of the kind words previous clients said about me:
Let me know if you need any help with your social media content. I can help you get things done. Are you available for a quick conversation to discuss how we can work together?
The one cold email marketing mistake you must avoid at all costs:
During my early days in cold email marketing, I used to offer a free consultation in the first email. I based my advice on what I saw on the company's website.
Unfortunately, it actually wasted a lot of valuable time.
Consequently, I thought I better hold my advice until I've established some level of trust with the prospect.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for personalization. But personalizing five cold emails every day can take a lot of your time.
My point is that you don't need to overly personalize your first cold emails beyond your contact's name and company name.
It's not set in stone, though. Use your judgment to make exceptions when you see it may pull a higher response if you didn't.
In a perfect world, we aim to connect with 3-4 people every day. You might also try to contact 20-25 people every week. There's no magic number. There's a lot of room for improvisation to find what works for you because every industry has its rules.
I can almost hear you...
And I know:
Cold emailing isn't for the faint of heart.
However, it's a sure-fire method to get a lot of work without spending a dime. Furthermore, it will help you get samples, testimonials, and clients, leading to more high-quality opportunities.
Whether you were a freelancer but lost it all for whatever reason, or a beginner freelancer without experience, cold emails are your ticket to success. If you don't have time to carry out all the five tactics in this article, cold emailing is your best option.
Furthermore, this is something you'll be doing for a while. So, stay sharp and look for ways to improve your tactics. For starters, commit to adding new prospects to your list and contacting them daily or weekly.
Put Your Cold Email Marketing on High Gear with These Two Email Marketing Automation Tools
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like the HubSpot Free CRM: So now that you have your populated spreadsheet, you can start shooting your emails or upload your spreadsheet to a CRM first.
The purpose of the CRM is to put and organize your outreach program in one place. These tools also come with a few bells and whistles that actually lessen the pressure and make the process more or less tolerable. Anyways, it's certainly more functional than a rough spreadsheet that gets messy quickly.
You don't need a super advanced CRM when you're beginning. The one I recommend is the free CRM from HubSpot, which is more enough to ace a basic outreach program.
A Tool for Automating Email: The secret to cold email marketing success is the under-rated follow-up email, which makes you familiar. An email automation tool like Mailshake can help in this department.
The ability to schedule emails is one thing, but designing custom emails and sending them at the right time is the whole point.
For instance, you can send a second email if your first email didn't work. Secondly, if the prospect opened your first email, sending a second follow up email can help guide them further in the sales process.
You can find these functions, and more, in a decent CRM tool. So, an email automation tool might be nice to have but not a must-have.
Remember that these tools are supposed to help you not impede your progress. Use what works for you. Even a simple spreadsheet with a pen and notebook can do wonders. The key is to keep tracking and optimizing your campaign.
2- Join Freelance Job Boards
Every day, clients post freelance gigs on job boards. These job boards are fertile lands to look for freelance clients.
Many freelancers miss this opportunity because they believe that all the great clients are taken. Moreover, they think the competition is too high.
Thousands of qualified freelancers apply for the highest paying jobs.
But that's actually a reason for you to jump in, not shy away from participating in job boards.
Look, if the queue is too long, it doesn't mean you should give up! Keep applying until you get a yes.
Time is on your side.
I've had my fair share of rejection on these job boards, but I also got a few great jobs from them. The contacts I generated were certainly worth the effort.
These contacts would come through after a month or two with a job offer since they already knew me.
It's a lot like planting a seed so you can reap the benefits in the future.
It's a brutal race, I feel you. But it boils down to a simple math formula. If you persist long enough, eventually, you'll get your turn. There's also a basic 3-step tactic to make it work.
Create a new bookmarks folder in your browser and name it something like "Best Freelance Platforms."
Start searching Google for freelance boards to populate the bookmarks folder. Add these 10 boards to your collection:
(These are general freelance job boards with many listings over a wide range of skills. You'll find jobs for you, but it might be better to focus on job boards in your specialty.)
You'll enjoy better results if you focus on one or two of these platforms. But if you want to cast a wider net, you might also add social media networks to your repertoire. People regularly express their needs for products and services in these places.
Prepare a Basic Cover Letter
Write a basic letter that you can tweak when applying for different jobs.
I have a few applications that I submit, depending on the job. I'm sharing one of them so you can get an idea.
My name is [your first name] and I'm a freelancer who specialize in [your position].
I was searching for new job entries when I found yours - it sounds like something that appeals to me.
Take a few minutes to check out my samples:
My standard rate is [your rate], but it's negotiable.
What do you think? I'm interested in your opinion so I can improve regardless if you choose me or not.
Depending on your situation, you can send a separate rate card instead of giving a fixed rate.
Near the end of your cover letter, instead of mentioning your rate, you might ask for permission to send a list of questions.
It will help you understand the job requirement better, something like: I have some questions for you, do you have a few minutes to look through them?
The example cover letter above isn't too pushy or superficial. I stripped away any element that would confuse my potential client, leaving only the vital information. The right thing to do is to apply for jobs you can actually do perfectly.
When you apply for the right fit, it's less likely you'll want too much time convincing the potential client of your worth.
So have patience. Experiment with different cover letters and focus on finding the right fit.
Dedicate a portion of your day to applying to new jobs
The crux of getting any serious work through job boards is showing up every day. If you want to enjoy more work, you better add applying to jobs to your daily activities. Except maybe during weekends when you want to recharge your batteries.
With your bookmarked freelance platforms and ready-made cover letters, dedicating 30 minutes a day is more than enough to apply for several jobs. You can even set up alerts and filters to get notifications of jobs that fit your experience and skill.
The benefit of showing up every day and applying for jobs doesn't only increase your chances of getting hired but also keep you top of mind where clients may contact you for future work. So, don't underestimate the power of showing up even for a few minutes every day.
3- Build a Website
I highly recommend that you build yourself a freelance website. It'll be instrumental in generating a lot of freelance clients.
I remember when I was entering the freelance game. I had a free blog that I used to promote my products and services. I did enjoy modest success, but it all changed when I got my first 'real' website.
Back then, I focused on using my website to provide the most value to my target niche. I poured all my energy into packaging my experience in eBooks, podcasts, and free courses.
When I offered my first eBook, I got many potential clients to subscribe to my email list. A few of them became paying clients.
I think having a website changed everything for me.
The more value I provided through my content; the more people would subscribe to my email list. Steadily, the email list grew, and I attracted more clients.
Here I was, starting from scratch and generating more freelance clients than I can handle.
My website didn't only attract a lot of targeted traffic, but it also converted that traffic into cash. I even used my eBook to demonstrate my expertise to potential clients while cold emailing.
The website fulfills other purposes.
For example, I had a special-made section on my website called 'portfolio,' which contained most of my recent completed projects and samples of my work.
The portfolio is the first thing potential clients look at when considering a freelancer to do their bidding.
I also published blog posts on my website. The blog was a great place to share my knowledge and establish myself as a thought leader. Whenever a client asks me a question, I'd write and publish a blog post with the answer.
Eventually, my blog became a spokesperson for me. And after that, the website pulled more traffic from search engines.
How to attract traffic to your brand-new freelance website:
Many freelancers suppose that building a website is enough to attract clients. It's somewhat true because you have to draw people to your site.
Many freelancers believe that building a website is enough to attract clients. It's partially true because you still have to invite people to your website.
Publishing high-quality content will attract search engines, and then the client. But this process will take a few months to show results. For freelancers looking for clients, they may not have the luxury of time.
Paid advertising is out of the question at this stage as well. So, how can you drive traffic to your brand-new website?
Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You can use the same company profile you created for cold emailing in creating social media content. Engaging with your target audience on social media is bound to pique their interest.
Liking, sharing, and commenting on their content will definitely help you become visible. And once you make your approach, you're already familiar.
Make it your goal to use these social media engagement strategies to invite people back to your website.
For example, try tweeting an excerpt from a recent blog post that addresses a common problem while mentioning your potential client in the tweet.
Follow hashtags on Instagram that are related to your target audience. And engage inside these hashtags by offering value through your comments.
These small actions will compound over a short time, and make people want to visit your website.
Once they're on your website, aim to get them to subscribe to your email list by offering an eBook or an exclusive video.
It's always better to go to your clients where they are. If they're B2B, you're more likely to find them on LinkedIn. If that's the case, maybe you'd want to craft your content strategy around that social network.
If they're a fashion brand, they're more likely to be active on Instagram.
You see, it's all common sense actually.
A common avoidable mistake that beginner freelancers will make:
When you're doing these outreach activities, make sure to steer clear from attracting the wrong people.
Your company profile is your north star. So, no matter what, don't deviate from serving the right people.
It means that you'll find yourself exploring new topics. These topics might be irrelevant or boring to you, but you've to know about them nonetheless.
I'm not particularly fond of rock music. But I found a potential client like it so much. I had to listen to rock music, so I can appear relatable to the potential client. Another client was interested in astronomy, so I used to share content related to zodiac signs and whatnot. Even though I don't believe in that stuff.
Did it work 100% of the time?
But it worked enough times to land me a few good-paying jobs. So, I recommend you try them as low-key tactics to grab attention from your target audience.
Rapport building skills can get you far, especially in a digital environment where people perceive you as a stranger.
However, if you were a freelance developer, don't engage in freelance developer hashtags! As a beginner, it's more likely to backfire.
Because most people using those hashtags are freelance developers themselves, so you'll end up preaching to the choir at best, giving away your secrets at worst.
Dig deep. Do your research.
If you found the decision-maker in your target company is interested in fishing, then this is the content you want to share and promote. They'll certainly associate you with good feelings since you appear like them. Like attracts like.
4- Establish Partnerships
Large numbers of freelancers, when offered the opportunity, decline to work with freelance agencies or established freelancers who offer similar services. Thinking the pay isn't worth the efforts, they miss a great chance to grow their own freelance business.
They fail to see how they can participate in a dynamic market with people selling thousands of services and people buying these services every day. Furthermore, established freelancers are fully booked, and they don't charge little for their services. Agencies don't mind hiring smaller freelancers if they provide excellent service quickly.
For the beginner freelancer, this is an excellent opportunity to gain experience and make money. You can get a lot of steady work or even sign a partnership contract.
The process is similar to what you learned from cold email marketing:
Create a list of established agencies and freelancers in your industry
A few simple Google searches can help you generate a lot of contacts. Start locally by searching for freelance opportunities near you.
Some agencies agreed to hire me just because I was in the same area. I could show up and say hi when I had the time.
They appreciated it.
That's why I recommend you start local and expand.
top design firms in [city]
list of graphic design companies [city]
[city] freelance graphic designers
You get the idea.
Don't contact anyone. At this stage, you want to gather as many quality contact information as you can.
Build and categorize your list.
Introduce yourself with a brief email
Now that you have built your contact list, it's time to send those emails.
Read the following example, and see how you can adapt it to your situation:
I've been following your work for some time, and I really like what you do! I'm sending to inform you about my services, I think our values align perfectly and I can create something you'll also like. I'm a new freelancer who's determined to make this work.
Of course, you can inspect some samples here [link].
I'm available if you need extra hands for a big project.
Like with cold emails, make sure you have a target of contacts you must make daily or weekly. Remember to refresh your list by adding and removing prospects as your progress. It's a commitment you must make if you want to generate the freelance clients you want.
Also, the money is in the follow-up. If you get the "maybe later" response, try again at a later time with something like:
Hey [client's name],
I sent you earlier about a possible partnership...Maybe you didn't see my last emails, but I'm reaching out one more last time to offer my partnership!
I'm a freelancer working in the [your industry]. My goal is to [a brief mission statement]. I'd love to be part of your team.
If you're interested, you may want to check out some of my previous work:
I'll be available on a moment's notice once you require my services.
I think this would be an awesome partnership and would love the opportunity to work together.
PS. if you'd like to start the partnership please reply to this email and let me know - I'll reply back with more information.
[your name], [job title]
5- Attend Industry Event
Business events attract some of the most active clients in the industry. So, print a few business cards and attend any public event related to your business.
It's also vital to do some research about the people who're attending. Take notes of the sponsors, speakers, and audience. It'll help you introduce yourself in a much more relatable way. But more importantly, it'll help you understand how to present your service to fit their needs.
Some events would even allow you to become a speaker.
It's the best way to position yourself as an expert and attract clients at the same time.
Do this one thing and you'll never run out of clients:
Make it a rule to ask every client you meet for a referral. But only after you do a great job and the client is happy with your services.
In essence, your happy clients are the best to do your marketing for you.
All that it takes is politely asking your client to endorse your services to their contacts.
Check out this example:
Hello [client name],
It was great working with you, I'm available for more work. If I may ask you to spread the word about my service that would be nice of you.
Since you're busy, you can just do it when you're sure that someone you know needs my service. You don't have to announce it to the world, although that would be great.
Thanks in advance.
Feel free to tweak it to your needs. You don't have to add tons of information. Since the clients already know and work with you, you don't have to prove anything. You earned it.
You'll find that most clients have no reason to deny you.
To make it easier for the client, name a few of their contacts that you think would be a great fit for you.
Your Next Move
At first, give freelance platforms a go, then try cold email marketing, and move on to establishing partnerships.
Dedicate 15-20 minutes every day to hunt for jobs on freelance platforms.
Afterward, dedicate a few minutes to find and add a new potential client to your cold email list every day. At the end of the week, dedicate 1-2 hours to email the collected potential clients.
After, start building your potential partners list by dedicating 10-15 minutes every day to this goal. Like cold emailing, fire your email at the end of the week.
Then pay attention to your advanced strategies like building your website and attending business events.
To keep your morale, set SMART goals:
For example, think in the terms of "contacting 31 potential clients in July" instead of "Completing 5 projects before the month-end."
It may sound counterintuitive, but your goal is to establish a routine for approaching potential clients instead of getting hired!
We've talked about cold email marketing, freelance platforms, establishing partnerships, building a website, and attending industry events. Five ways to attract all the freelance clients you'll ever need and then some.
Remember there are hundreds and hundreds of ways to generate freelance clients, but I shared the top five. Let's talk about these other strategies in a different post.
But for now, you'll have to test the strategies that worked for one freelancer who speaks English as a third language.
I wrote this post for educational and entertainment value, but I really hope you put these strategies to work. If not for anything else but working with interesting people from all corners of the earth.