Are you wondering how to land more freelance work? If so, you are not alone: the freelance landscape is a competitive one, with about 35% of the global workforce working freelance. That’s 1.1 billion freelancers.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t enough work, though. There is. You only need to learn to stand out from the crowd. And, it isn’t a tough nut to crack.
If you’re already skilled at what you do, you only need to brush up your soft skills, build relationships in your industry, and apply for projects you’re the best fit for.
Sounds like a lot of work? Let’s break it down into actionable takeaways to land more freelance clients:
1. Grow your network
Networking with fellow freelancers and others in your industry always reaps sweet fruit.
The freelance community is a supportive one, cheering each other up and sending work when they’re fully loaded. Similarly, networking with others in your industry can get you both direct clients and referrals.
But here’s the thing: you don’t just need to build a network. “Focus on growing a strategic online network,” points out Rachael Pilcher, Conversion Copywriter for B2B SaaS.
“Start with whichever platform your ideal clients are likely to spend the most time on. Build a network that’s a blend of other freelancers and your ideal clients (or people who work for your dream clients, e.g., CMOs, creative directors, content managers, and editors).
Then, start talking! People work with people they like. Suppose you’re consistently posting exciting and valuable things about who you are and what you do and leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s posts. In that case, people in your network will have you on their radar when they have new projects or referrals that might be a good fit for your specific freelancing talents.”
2. Niche down
If you already haven’t, I suggest you start right away. And, no, having a niche doesn’t mean you’re closing doors to potential clients. If anything, you’re going to open more doors to clients.
- A niche gives you a recognized name in your industry. Other freelancers can easily refer work to you if they know which niche(s) you cover.
- Folks in the industry you primarily work with will start seeing you as an expert. And people prefer working with experts, don’t they?
- Working on a niche also means your clients can refer you to other people in the industry who can use your help.
Dave Smyth, freelance website developer and designer, shares his experience: “Niching is a popular topic, but I put it off as I assumed it meant limiting myself to one particular type of client or sector.
Now I see niching as working out the types of projects you want to do. That might be clients in a specific sector, with a certain budget range or who have values that align with yours.”
Put simply, “narrowing down your offering can be a good way to find clients looking for a specific service and clients who are a good fit,” Smyth outlines.
But what makes an ideal niche? A profitable niche is one that’s in-demand, and you have knowledge of it.
For instance, the health industry is always on the lookout for copywriters, so the niche has lots of work. At the same time, if you’re interested in this field or have background information, you’re all set to select this niche for yourself.
3. Apply for jobs you’re the most suitable for
There is a boatload of job postings out there. Some of these are good, some not-so-good, and some aren’t a good fit for you.
The problem is, going through all these job postings can take between 2-7 hours of your precious time. And, as an analysis of 228 freelancers’ bid proposals learned, a common mistake that 8% of freelancers made was applying for the wrong job.
Similarly, about 60% of freelancers didn’t read the job description thoroughly, and 25% copy-pasted job proposals. You can easily blame lack of time and rush for applying as possible reasons for this.
That doesn’t mean you stop applying, though. It means you need to apply smart. How?
Use artificial intelligence to filter the best jobs for you. With Levity, share relevant examples of jobs that gel well with your expertise. Then, let the software do its thing by showing you the most suitable jobs.
This way, you won’t need to spend hours applying for freelance jobs. Besides, by applying for jobs that you’re the best fit for, you can increase your odds of getting that project.
4. Market your services
Marketing your business is essential – that’s how you spread the word and build yourself a funnel of qualified leads.
Health copywriter, Louise Shanahan, admits, “it can feel uncomfortable sometimes, but no one will know to hire you unless you make it obvious what you do and how people can work with you.”
But how do you market yourself? A couple of ways you can do so include:
- Develop a personal brand so that you’re memorable and stand out from the crowd.
- Join social channels where your ideal audience is and start sharing helpful tips, client testimonials, and more. However, freelance branding designer Grace Abell thinks LinkedIn is the best social network for landing high-quality clients. Abell writes, “Daily engagement with your feed will make you more likely to be found in search results. I've found that LinkedIn is the most effective tool for connecting with high-quality clients.”
- Write helpful, non-salesy blog content for your target audience and promote it too, so it reaches the right prospects and convinces them to work with you.
Melissa Teng, a freelance photographer at Wit and Folly, adds to this last point: “Spend time creating a blog and learn how to do content marketing. For example, with your blog, you can create written content based on topics that your potential client base would search for.
As you establish yourself over time, these articles may rank on the first page when a potential client is researching the topic, and they will find you and your website. The big advantage of creating a blog is that it will work 24/7 for you as a marketing tool once it becomes more established.”
But remember, “it takes time to make an impact, so just keep doing it. and you will reach the customers you want to work with,” advises Matthew of Indelible Think.
“There’s no quick fix. It takes time. And there’s no magic formula that’s going to make you mega rich overnight (so ignore people who tell you that you can make a 6-figure sum in 2-weeks). Do your thing. Keep doing it, and it will pay off down the line.”
5. Ask for referrals
“As cheesy as it sounds, the answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask,” comments Kat Ambrose, B2B Writer for SaaS and eCommerce brands.
“Don’t be afraid to ask your current clients for referrals!” Not only that, but you can ask other freelancers you’ve worked with and people in your industry to refer you to other clients who need freelance help.
And while you’re at it, ask your clients to give you “Google reviews, ask them for testimonials,” suggests Mary Whitehouse, Copywriter at WordService.
Testimonials, Google reviews, and LinkedIn recommendations amount for social proof – others’ words that market for you.
6. Retain existing clients
This means clients will give you more work if you offer them an excellent experience.
The question now is: what makes a client’s experience a good one? While the answer to this is subjective, a good experience is generally about doing the following:
- Set the right expectations from the get-go. Communicate the deliverables and your work process and understand what the client wants.
- Deliver on time. Here’s some insider news: several freelancers don’t abide by the set deadline. So, you can leave a remarkable impression by being careful about delivering the project on time.
- Update your client throughout the work process. Tell them where the project is at, what you’ve covered, and what still needs work. This reflects your professionalism, and clients can be comfortable investing in your services.
Also, once a project wraps up, feel free to “ask your current clients if there’s anything additional you can help them with. That kind of forward-thinking shows you care about the relationship, and it could lead to more work!” notes Ambrose.
7. Upsell or cross-sell your services
Are you already working with some great clients? Get them to work with you on other projects as well.
For instance, if you’re a copywriter working on your client’s blog, you can pitch their email marketing copy too.
Co-founder of Peak Freelance, Michael Keenan, advises, “Ditch the rat race to find new work all the time. It’s easier (and cheaper) to upsell or cross-sell into your existing client base.
For example, if your client has a big blog with outdated content, offer to refresh one or two articles per month. Since you already have a working relationship with them, they’ll likely be open to your suggestions and recommendations.
Start with a pilot project, track the results (make sure they’re amazing), then continue upselling your client into different services. If you can show a client, you can attribute to their goals and revenue, and you’ll never be out of work in 2021, 2030, or any year in the future.”
8. Guest post more
Guest posting works in two ways.
One: guest posting gives you bylines. Having such niche-relevant bylines means you can get more work by offering relevant samples. Often, readers on the guest site directly reach out to freelancers to work with them after reading their work. So that’s also a possibility.
And, two: guest posting helps you build relationships with the target site. If the target site is looking for freelancers to work with, they’ll have you in mind. I’ve landed several clients this, and the process isn’t all that tough too.
9. Reactive lapsed clients
Forgot to ask a client if they’d like to work on more projects? Or the client didn’t have any work back when you asked?
Don’t worry, you can ask them later on.
This one’s a hat tip to Emma, freelance copywriter at Jot Jot Boom, who shares, “it’s easier to heat a warm lead than ignite a cold one! Go back through your bookkeeping to identify clients who haven’t hired you in two months or more and drop them an email.
Ask how things are, let them know that you’d love to reconnect, and invite them to reach out if they need a hand in the future. “
But that’s not all. Always make sure you personalize the work-together-again request. Here’s Emma’s tip for that: “stalk their company blog, portfolio, and social media feed to see what they’ve been working on. Use the intel to enrich your email, so they know you’re still engaged with their work. A little compliment here and there can get you a long way!”
Stand out from the crowd. Personal branding, applying for the right jobs, consistently marketing your services, and asking for referrals are some ways that can help.
Don’t forget, growing a strategic network, guest posting, keeping in touch with clients, and upselling work wonders too. So here’s to a profitable freelance business for you! 🎉