When I started my business several years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about finding new clients. I read articles and books, sought advice from experts, and did everything I could to grow my business. Now, I do zero traditional marketing (really!) and have no trouble finding clients because they come to me. Here are fifteen tips I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully they can help you, too.
1. Set up shop: website, business cards, e-mail signature.
Create a compelling website, business cards, and e-mail signature. Remember that your website essentially is you to prospective clients. Business cards and an e-mail signature can add “wow” while establishing credibility.
2. Set goals.
Write down how many new clients you’d like to have and your income goals for the year. Specify what types of clients and projects you’re interested in. Studies show that people are more successful when they write their goals down.
3. Check sites like Craigslist.org.
When I first started freelancing, I checked the jobs and gigs section of Craiglist.org daily. Ninety percent of what you see will probably be useless, but you just may find a wonderful opportunity amidst the muck.
4. Join groups and organizations.
Local writers’ guilds usually maintain a list of editors to refer members to. Attend author groups or other organizations targeting aspiring authors.
5. Introduce yourself to local and regional publishers.
Small publishers usually maintain a list of freelance editors. Call or send an introductory e-mail, and then check in with them every couple of months to see if they need help.
6. Network genuinely.
Don’t just attend events and hand out your business card—make an effort to meet people and form relationships. Avoid seeing contacts as potential business, though. If you strive to make genuine connections, the work will come.
7. Do great work.
Don’t underestimate the power of a job well done. Great work naturally inspires referrals.
8. Ask for testimonials.
Be sure to ask all previous clients for a testimonial. Highlight these testimonials on your website and in other materials you distribute. These are critical for helping win potential new clients.
9. Act the part.
Some people think creative entrepreneurs like writers, editors, and artists get a professional pass when it comes to appearance. This just isn’t true. If you want clients to treat you like a professional, dress and act like one.
10. Be genuinely helpful.
Give all new clients a free phone consultation. Offer at least one or two useful pieces of advice during the call. Mentor others. Be giving of your time. It always comes back around.
11. Own your awesomeness.
Don’t downplay your accomplishments when you talk with potential clients. Speak with confidence about your experience, even if it is limited. (For some useful tips on communication, check out the article “Strong Words for Women” by Nancy Buffington.)
12. Connect with others doing what you do.
Some freelancers have too much work. Others receive a project now and then that they just don’t have the expertise for. Don’t be afraid to let others in your industry know you’re glad for their referral projects.
13. Tap your social media network.
Don’t flood Facebook or Twitter with requests for new clients, but do post every now and then, letting your network know that you’re accepting new work. Writing a blog about a previous client (with permission, of course) is also a great way to make new contacts.
14. Make the “ask” to happy clients.
Let your previous clients know how much you enjoyed working with them, and that you’d love to serve their friends or colleagues if the need arises. If you send a note by mail, include at least two business cards (so the client can pass one along).
15. Reach out to one person/organization per day.
If this list feels overwhelming, set a goal to make one call, send one e-mail, or write one card each day. Keep a spreadsheet or use my less organized (but still effective!) approach of downloading a list of clients from Quickbooks every few months. I like to send individual notes to clients I haven’t connected with in a while.
And one more: Keep at it.
Avoid the this-project’s-almost-over-and-I-need-new-work panic. Make it a point to practice many of the tips on this list year round, and hopefully you’ll never need to panic again! If you’re looking for additional practical, step-by-step advice, check out Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Writer. Most of his suggestions apply to editors, too.
What tips would you add? What strategies have been the most successful in getting new clients? Where have you struggled with marketing yourself?
Thank you for this. These are actually tips that I can start using today. I appreciate it!
My pleasure, Candace!
Your ideas are remarkable and I love them. I’ll try them as soon as possible. Thanks.
Absolutely fantastic. I’ve been having a hard time getting my name out there as a freelance editor. This list has been so helpful! I’m super excited to get up early tomorrow and get to work on your list! <3
Wonderful! I’d love to hear how it goes. Best of luck!
Thanks for the advice. I already do most of these, but not necessarily to the extent that I could or perhaps should. I know that my goals need to be more concrete and I need to reach out more regularly. One additional tip, especially for those targeting specific industries: attend trade shows and industry conferences. Talk to the speakers afterward and exchange business cards, and visit the booths. But, related your tip 6, express interest in people’s work rather than just trying to promote your own.
Excellent tip, Julia. It’s funny how quickly people at conferences will gravitate toward a creative entrepreneur. I’ve been at conferences where a line formed in front of me, for no other reason than I was there and they needed someone with my expertise. Thanks for this thoughtful addition!
Thanks for the great article! So many great tips are here, and none of them are particularly difficult. The hardest for me personally is asking for testimonials, but I’ll face that with determination to do everything the best I can.
Thanks so much for the nice words, Carol! I agree that asking for testimonials can feel difficult. It’s helpful if you have a reason when you ask. For example, you could let a client know you’re redesigning your website, refreshing your testimonials, or want to feature their testimonial on your site. I have to say, too, that reading testimonials can be quite enjoyable. 🙂
Glad to have found your article. I am an editor who is looking for freelance work. I found a few clients, but it was somewhat one shot. I had done it just for some fun. But as a career option, I am a bit scared. Those I have worked with are probably not returning again.
I have joined a lot of Facebook groups, but mostly people just don’t allow promotions. I still try to be genuine and start a good conversation. Other than Facebook, I have not tried much. Hopefully your article will be helpful in finding clients.
I hope it is helpful! The biggest advice I can give you is to go for it with everything you’ve got. Too often, new freelancers assume success should come quickly, but the reality is it takes time to build a successful business. Now more than thirteen years in, I can say with confidence that discipline and hard work are differentiators.
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This is an encouraging article. I have published 130 research articles in national and international scientific journal on plant ecology and environmental pollution voluntarily. Now I desire to start my freelance services in terms of review of research articles, theses and books and unable to find the proper forum.
Thanks for sharing, Muhammad! Starting with such a strong base is a great way to kick off a freelance career. When I started my business 13 years, I didn’t have much published. I hope this article supports your success as you build your business.