3 Easy Ways to Get the Freelance Clients You Deserve
What works best in marketing a freelance business?
Getting steady, high-paying clients is really hard for most freelancers. But if you do what works best in freelance marketing, you can build a stable, successful freelance business with less work and without the agony of trying to figure out what to do on your own.
Read time: 9 minutes
Steady, high-paying clients need the help of talented freelancers. But finding and getting those clients is really hard for most freelancers.
That’s why 93% of freelancers said marketing was a challenge in my 2023 survey. More than half of these freelancers—55%—said that marketing was either the “biggest challenge” or “One of the major challenges.”
You Don’t Have to Struggle
Here’s the problem. If you’re like most freelancers, you’re a great writer, editor, etc. But you never had a chance to learn about marketing.
As a result, when you launched your freelance business, you didn’t know what to do, or how important marketing is to your success. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by all of the ways you could market your freelance business. Or what you’ve tried didn’t work.
So you end up taking whatever work comes along, and struggling to make a living.
This is heartbreaking to me. Because not knowing how to market you freelance business shouldn’t be holding you back from freelance success. And you shouldn’t be wasting your time on marketing that doesn’t work.
You Can Get the Freelance Clients You Deserve
The solution is simple: Do what works best in marketing a freelance business.
And I’m going to tell you what works best:
- Direct email.
These are the top sources of the best clients from How Freelancers Market their Services: 2023 Survey
Also, these are the best ways for new and experienced freelancers to get the clients they deserve, based on my work with hundreds of freelancers. I’ve taught and coached freelance writers, editors, and other freelancers in my own course, Finding the Freelance Clients you Deserve, and also in a course on freelancing for the University of Chicago Medical Writing and Editing Certificate Program.
The 3 Best Marketing Methods for Freelancers
Networking and LinkedIn were ranked much higher in my survey than direct email or other sources. More freelancers said networking was a top source of their best clients in 2023 than in 2021 or 2019. LinkedIn was slightly less of a top source in 2023 than in 2021 but much more of a top source than in 2019.
Practical Networking, LinkedIn, and Direct Email Strategies
So now you know what works best in getting the freelance clients you deserve.
Let me walk you through how to use networking, LinkedIn, and direct email. The practical strategies and tips I’m going to give you are part of my proven process for building a stable, successful freelance business.
Also, I’ll give you links to more content on how to use networking, LinkedIn, and direct email.
How to Get Freelance Clients with Networking
Who you know—your network—can be more important than anything else in getting high-paying freelance clients.
That’s because clients want to do business with freelancers they know and trust—or freelancers that someone they know and trust referred to them. And it’s not as easy as you probably think it is for them to find competent, dependable freelancers.
Building a trusting, strategic network will help you:
- Get more referrals
- Meet more clients
- Get practical advice and support from other freelancers.
Make Networking Fun, Not Stressful or Scary
If you’re like most freelancers, networking is stressful—even scary. Many of us are shy. We like to work alone and usually dread leaving the safe cocoon of our offices to go to a networking event.
But you need a strong, strategic network because clients use networking to find freelancers they can trust. If you’re not in their network or the network of someone they know, they can’t find you.
With the right networking attitude and some knowledge about what works best, networking will be easier and less stressful. It can even be fun. And like other marketing, the more you practice, the easier it will be.
Develop the Right Networking Attitude
Most freelancers, including me when I was starting out, don’t understand networking. So we have a bad attitude about it. And this makes networking harder for us. Once you understand networking, you’ll become more comfortable doing it. And you’ll get better at it.
Here’s the truth. Networking isn’t about “selling yourself.” It’s about getting to know people. Trying to sell your services—what we think we’re supposed to do—doesn’t work. And it’s very stressful.
But when you focus on getting to know people, networking is so much easier! You’re listening to the other person/people and asking questions. The pressure is off.
5 Networking Tips
Here are 5 tips on networking. Learn more about each of these in The Ultimate Guide to Networking for Freelancers.
1. Give More than You Take
When you focus on getting to know other people and helping them without expecting anything in return, networking is so much easier.
By giving, we build trust and establish our credibility. The result, over time, is more referrals and more new clients. Ways to give include sharing resources, connecting people, and giving referrals
2. Join and Be Active in Professional Associations
Professional associations are the easiest way to get referrals because they’re full of people who are working in your specialty(ies). You’ll meet colleagues and other freelancers who can refer work to you—and prospective clients too. When clients need freelancers they can trust, they often ask colleagues in their professional associations for recommendations.
Volunteering for your professional associations is the quickest way to build the trusting relationships that lead to referrals, and to impress the prospective clients you meet. And if you’re like most freelancers, volunteering is much easier than other types of networking.
Ask your freelance friends and your clients which professional associations they belong to and would recommend. Use the Directory of Associations to search for professional associations.
3. Network with Other Freelancers
Having a network of freelance friends will help you grow your business, especially through referrals. Other freelancers are the best source of referrals for work that they’re too busy to do and work they hear about but don’t do.
Your freelance friends can also provide support and advice. Focus on building trusting relationships with other freelancers.
4. Be Strategic
Be nice to everyone you meet, but be strategic about how—and where—you spend most of your networking time. Focus on the people and places that will be most useful to you—and you to them.
Go to places where people are likely to look for your type of freelancer, especially professional associations. You can do some strategic networking online through LinkedIn, social networks of professional associations, and other online forums for freelancers. But online networking will never be as helpful as in-person networking.
5. Master Networking Events
Meeting people in person is the best way to begin to build strong, trusting relationships. And people won’t hire you or refer work to you unless they trust you.
Conferences let you make lots of key contacts in a few days and deepen relationships with current key contacts. And, of course, the conference content helps you stay updated with your industry or field and learn things to better manage your freelance business.
Networking events don’t have to be scary. If you give more than you take instead of trying to “sell” your services, prepare before the event, and do the right things during the event, it will be much easier—and more effective.
Learn more about Networking
How to Get Freelance Clients on LinkedIn
More and more clients are searching for freelancers on LinkedIn. And when clients meet or hear about you, they want to check you out, usually on LinkedIn, before contacting you about freelance work. Colleagues also want to check you out before they refer work to you.
To get steady, high-paying freelance clients on LinkedIn, you need to:
- Develop a complete, compelling, client-focused profile
- Build a big relevant network (500+)
- Be active.
Because LinkedIn’s search algorithm shows results by:
- Profile completeness and relevant keywords in the headline
- Common connections with the person who is doing the search
- Connections by degree
- Your activity.
Once you’ve developed your complete, client-focused profile and started building your network, you only need to spend about 10 minutes a day (Monday through Friday) on LinkedIn to help grow your freelance business.
6 LinkedIn Tips
Here are 6 tips on LinkedIn for freelancers. Learn more about each of these in The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Freelancers.
1. PROFILE: Write a Compelling, Client-Focused Headline
Clearly describe what you do and how you help your clients. You can use up to 220 characters with spaces, but a shorter headline is better.
Use the right keywords:
- “Freelance writer” (or “editor” or whatever type of freelancer you are)
- Other relevant keywords
2. PROFILE: Complete Your Profile
LinkedIn prioritizes complete profiles in search results. A complete profile includes your:
- Industry and location
- Current position (under Experience)
- Two past positions
- At least three skills.
You also need at least 50 connections (which isn’t part of your profile but LinkedIn counts this as part of a complete profile).
3. PROFILE: Write a Compelling, Client-Focused About Section
The first 220-270 characters count most (102-167 in mobile). Make sure they flow with your headline and offer a clear, concise message. Briefly cover your relevant experience and background and your education.
In writing your profile, be conversational and interesting. Your profile is a marketing tool, not a resume. Use:
- Short, action-oriented sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Subheads (in all caps)
- Bulleted lists.
4. NETWORK: Connect with the Right People
Be strategic when you invite people to join your network and when you accept connection requests from other LinkedIn members. Relevant connections are:
- Other freelancers you know
- Freelancers and other colleagues from your professional associations
- Other people working in your industry(ies).
If you don’t know a lot of people yet, don’t worry. By being active (covered next), you’ll meet relevant people you can invite to connect with you.
5. NETWORK: Always Send Personal Invitations
People are much more likely to connect with you if you add a personal note when you invite someone to connect with you. Mention what you have in common or why you want to connect.
6. ACTIVITY: Increase Your Visibility by Being Active
Engage with other people on their content, share your own content, and engage with people who comment on your content.
Comment on relevant posts by relevant people. Read the post and write a meaningful comment. Look for relevant posts by relevant people, like potential clients and other freelancers, to comment on.
Once you’re comfortable on LinkedIn, share relevant content in posts twice a week, such as:
- Advice and tips about relevant topics and industries
- News and updates about your industry or specialty(ies)
- Comments and opinions on newsworthy topics or industry news.
Prompt LinkedIn to share your posts more widely and increase engagement by responding to every comment people make on them.
Learn more about LinkedIn
How to Get Freelance Clients Using Direct Email
Direct email frees you from low-paying, high-competition freelance jobs sites and content mills and taking whatever work comes along.
When you use direct email well, you make yourself irresistible to steady, high-paying clients. You do this by carefully customizing each email to the client and focusing on how you can help the client.
Also, you learn more about your ideal clients. This will help you become the expert that clients are looking for when they hire a freelancer.
5 Direct Email Tips
Here are 5 tips on direct email for freelancers. Learn more about each of these in the Direct Email Swipe file.
1. Visit the Client’s Website to Learn About their Needs
Make yourself irresistible to steady, high-paying clients by focusing on their needs and how you meet those needs. Learn about client needs by visiting the client’s website. Use the client’s language in your email.
2. Make Your Direct Emails Short, Easy to Read, and Personal
Write no more than six sentences. Make the sentences, and paragraphs, short and easy-to-read. Use a subhead for a key client-focused message. Address the prospect by name and include the client’s name.
Include the company’s name in the subject line and again in the email. Greet the person by name.
3. Focus on What Clients Want to Know About You
Focus on how you help your clients meet their needs. Briefly mention your relevant experience and background.
4. Give Clients a Reason to Contact You and Make this Easy
Includes a call to action that clearly says what will happen next (e.g.. “Should we schedule a call next week to discuss this?”). Make it easy for the client to contact you by including an email signature with your phone number and email address.
5. Increase Responses by Following Up
Most of your responses won’t come from your original email. Instead, they’ll come from your follow-up emails. If you don’t hear back from a prospect in about a week, follow up. Write a short, polite follow-up email about 7-10 days after your original email.
Learn more about Direct Email
3 Ways to Get Freelance Clients
Now you know how to use networking, LinkedIn, and direct email to get the freelance clients you deserve. And you have some practical strategies and tips to try.
You will have to work hard—but you won’t be wasting your time. Because you’ll be doing what works best in building a stable, successful freelance business.
Learn More About Getting the Freelance Clients You Deserve
Finding the Freelance Clients you Deserve, a 7-week online course offered every Winter, Spring, and Summer
Learn more about Networking
Learn more about LinkedIn
Learn more about direct email