In 2009, I started a personal blog. I wrote every evening after work about the things I was learning in the marketing world. Things I was learning in the catalog and footwear world. I wrote about books I was reading and all kinds of things. I did that for well over a year. One post every day.
You learn a lot by doing something every day for a year. That’s 365 pieces of content. Most probably not good at all, but a few gems.
Sometime in 2009, something interesting happened. A small business owner reached out and asked if I would write one blog post every week for their website. I offered to do it for $50 per post. They instantly said yes. For a 25-year old that extra $200 per month was pretty nice.
Shortly after that I saw someone asking about a blog writer on Twitter. I reached out and got that gig. Another $200 per month.
Being a freelancer can be a good gig. But part of the deal is usually scheduling time to find clients. It’s always a difficult thing. Even more so if you’re just starting out.
But here are a few ways to bring in some quick clients while you also invest in longer term efforts, like blogging and social media.
1. Ask All Contacts, Connections, Etc.
Bring up your contacts on your phone and email. Bring up your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’re on other networks think about who you’re connected with there.
Start going through and messaging them with a basic message:
Do you know anyone that is looking for [fill in the blank]?
The blank is what you do as a freelancer. You can leave out people you think might not know anyone, but don’t be too choosy. You never know who might know someone that knows someone.
And when you’re a freelancer you’re not always looking for that many initial clients to get things started. Especially if you’re starting out just on the side like I was back in 2010. I remember I got to about 5 clients within 6 months or something. I was making about $1,000 a month after work, but that was getting to be a little too much so I really stopped looking for clients at that point.
If you message 100 contacts you may get 1-2 clients. That’s not a bad start.
And you’re really not offending people. You’re asking a question. Most will say no. That’s fine. Thank them and move on. They’ll go on with their lives and that will be the end of it.
2. Reach Out To Large Competitors
This one might seem weird, but many of your competitors don’t want to accept every client that comes their way. They may also be struggling to bring employees on to meet demand. Again, you’re not necessarily looking for a ton of clients. Reaching out to a few competitors and asking if they have any inquiries they could refer or if you could take on any of their extra or unwanted work can lead to some good opportunities.
A competitor could be another freelancer that has been doing it longer than you. It could be a small agency that is doing what you do. It could be a larger company. They are likely getting inquiries because they’ve been doing it awhile and have brand recognition. They have more choices than you, but they have an incentive to possibly refer people to you because it’s a better to refer an inquiry than to simply tell them no.
3. Job Boards
I think I got a handful of my initial clients by looking at blogging job boards every day for a few months. As soon as an interesting one popped up I would reach out. I didn’t get most of them. For some I offered a free trial. Some turned into ongoing clients.
You may find boards that list specifically for what you do. But also look at roles that are larger than what you do, but that encompass what you do.
For example, I used to look at roles like Marketing Coordinator back in 2010. Or Digital Marketing Coordinator. Usually in the list of tasks it would say “blogging”. So I’d reply with an offer to possibly handle the blogging part of that role while they looked for someone more full-time.
While I was reaching out for new clients I was also continuing to write blog posts on a personal blog. And on the homepage of that blog I had a little note that I was a freelance blogger looking for new opportunities. But in those early days not many people were visiting my blog. But over the next year or three it did gain more readers. And I started getting clients via my own blog.
I think it’s good to do both as a freelancer. Reach out in more direct ways both short-term and long-term. But also focus on the more organic forms of marketing. Things that can help build organic leads in the future.