Customer acquisition is surely a loaded topic for any solopreneur. It’s often the first meaty question I wind up fielding when meeting others of self-employed ilk.
Just how is it possible to find new clients, and beyond that, those of the caliber you’d actually like to keep around for a while? The kind that can help you take your business from an occasional drip of income to a steady (if not roaring) revenue stream?
When you’re working from home, finding new clients isn’t necessarily a straightforward process. And while the local coworking space staff may try to persuade you that renting an office will equal “if-you-build-it-they-will-come,” you likely won’t be harvesting a Field of Dreams with eager prospects popping out of the proverbial woodwork. No, everybody else is onsite to work or have meetings, and often too busy to entertain another professional’s pitch.
Looking to strike out on your own, or are among those who already have? Here are some time-tested insights for landing new clients as a freelancer:
Identify solid prospects through social media.
That’s right; you can do your prospecting in your PJs. Before shelling out for a pricey coworking membership or carting yourself all over town and country to networking events or conferences, know that you could instead be making the right connections online. For the purposes of this post, I’ll dive into my two favorites: Twitter and LinkedIn.
Twitter is an amazingly helpful platform for discovering and interacting with people you don’t know; I’ve used it to find and pitch editors seeking content producers, to spark dialogues that turn into podcast interviews, and to land sources for forthcoming articles or focus group members for app releases. The microblogging channel is another way to signal your professional interests and expertise to others based on what you share. Checking out what the influencers in your field are following as well as staying attuned to relevant hashtags are two strategies for building your knowledge base and your sphere of contacts.
LinkedIn is the OG (yes, that’s Original Gangster) of professional social media networking. I can recall rolling my eyes just a little when signing up for it in the throes of grad school circa 2006. Since then, it’s come to serve as an impressive digital Rolodex of past colleagues, acquaintances, and professionals I’d like to meet in person one day. Asking mutual connections for introductions is one way to secure a warm lead; liking and commenting on prospects’ posts or articles is another. “Stalking” company pages and lurking in forums sound like more nefarious activities than they actually are; both approaches can yield valuable intel regarding areas they are focused on, who’s hiring, and what problems they’re trying to solve.
Establish mutually beneficial relationships.
The sales process isn’t meant to be some long-winded, one-sided pitch that bowls over an audience who suddenly shouts, “PLEASE, take all my money!” Instead, it’s built over time, through thoughtful interactions that don’t simultaneously reek of desperation.
You might contact someone to briefly ask for advice in an area of their expertise; you could reach out to thank them for insights they’ve provided publicly in an interview you listened to or read; you might find ways to indirectly help them or compliment their work by sharing it with others. You could offer to introduce them to a fantastic job candidate, or someone who could assist them with a recent query they’ve posted. You’ll find that the most genuine and successful approach to building business relationships is one that doesn’t immediately emphasize your skills-for-hire, but instead focuses on creating value from the very beginning. Once they or their contacts have a need for the kind of work you do, it’s likely that you’ll be top of mind.
Track your interactions.
Whether you use customized software or an old-school spreadsheet, you’ll want to keep a record of top prospects. It should include their contact info along with why they’re relevant for you, and the dates when you last reached out to or met with them, including any outcomes or follow-up reminders.
I say this without being big on CRM (customer resource management) systems, although I’d encourage you to explore a variety of platforms, as there are many freemium options. Not maintaining a list is like opting to skip stones into water instead of building a dam; you might make a few ripples here and there, but creating long-term momentum and real progress requires a more concerted upfront effort.
Grab others’ attention (and commitment).
This is the selling without selling part. If that sounds confusing, I’ll explain. Once you’ve established a rapport with a prospect, you’ve hopefully done some homework to learn what space their business is in, who their competitors might be, and specific ways in which you’re uniquely positioned to support them in meeting their business goals. (Think copywriting, app development, website design, marketing strategy, digital ad campaigns, online course creation, animated explainer videos, financial projections…you get the idea.)
The easiest contracts I’ve ever closed were those where my team was clearly an excellent fit to get a niche project or ongoing support accomplished on schedule, within budget, tailored according to specifications, and delivered in a way that exceeded expectations. (And if I can do it, you can, too!)
Ready to start looking for freelance clients? Browse open remote freelance jobs.
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