How to Choose Your Clients Instead of Taking Whatever Work Comes Along

High-paying clients aren’t going to magically find you. But there is a way for you to find these clients, and then attract them.

Working with steady, high-paying clients is the easiest way to build your freelance business. But these clients aren’t going to magically find you. And they don’t use freelance jobs sites or content mills like fiverr, Upwork, or

Freelance pay on freelance jobs sites and content mills is ridiculously low. Stiff competition from other freelancers means that you waste time applying for work you never get. And if you do get the work, the freelance jobs site or content mill will take a cut.

Upwork, the giant of freelance job sites, has fees ranging from 5%-20%. Giving Upwork 5% of your fee may not sound too bad—but to reach the 5% level, you need to do more than $10,000 worth of business—with each client.

LinkedIn ProFinder, as part of the number one social network for business, should be a great way for freelancers to connect with clients. It’s not.

ProFinder rarely matches freelancers with relevant freelance opportunities. And it only matches freelancers with local opportunities. Location doesn’t matter because we’re freelancers. Also, most clients using ProFinder to find freelancers are small businesses. And most small business can’t afford to pay us what we’re worth and don’t need steady freelance help.

Choose Steady, High-Paying Clients

There’s a better way: Choose the steady, high-paying clients you want to work with (your prospects) and then attract them with client-focused marketing. This is a 4-step process:

  1. Choose your moneymaking specialty
  2. Make a list(s) of the right prospective clients (clients), the focus of this post
  3. Attract the right clients with targeted direct emails
  4. Create a client-focused LinkedIn profile and website to impress clients who check you out after reading your direct email.

 A Moneymaking Specialty

A strong specialty is important—because clients want to work with experts—and freelancers who specialize become experts. Also, a strong specialty is a moneymaking specialty that:

  • Offers lots of opportunities for freelancers like you, even in a recession
  • Has clients who can afford to pay you well
  • Makes it easy for you to find and reach prospective clients.

If you don’t already have a strong specialty, don’t worry. You can expand or change it.

Learn More About Freelance Specialties 

Blog post:  The Easy Way to Get Bigger, Better Clients

Focus on Steady, High-Paying Clients

When you develop your prospect list(s), you can’t be sure that a client is high-paying and uses freelancers regularly. But the proven freelance marketing process I’m about to share helps you find companies and other organizations that are most likely to be steady, high-paying clients.

Clients that are most likely to be steady, high-paying clients are usually large businesses, especially businesses that sell products or services to other businesses (B2B) rather than to consumers (B2C). In general, large businesses make the best clients because they often work with multiple freelancers, understand the value we bring them, and can pay us what we’re worth.

But there are other types of high-paying clients too, such as some foundations, some non-profit organizations, and some universities. Some smaller companies and organizations are great clients too.

Choose the Steady, High-Paying Clients Most Likely to Hire You

Choose clients in your industry(ies) and target markets. Target markets are groups of clients within an industry. Look for target markets where it’s easy to find clients.

For example, my industry is medical writing. But that’s very broad. My target markets are:

  • Hospitals/health systems
  • Medical practices
  • Disease-focused health organizations.

it’s easy to find prospects in each of these target markets. I also work with other types of clients, nearly all of whom are steady, high-paying clients. But it’s harder to find enough of those types of clients to make prospect lists.

Start with Your Best Prospects

In making your list(s), focus first on the prospects that are most likely to hire you based on your background, experience, and skills. New freelancers, for example, aren’t likely to land Apple or Mayo Clinic as clients. When I started out, I focused on smaller hospitals. As I gained more experience, I began to target—and get—larger, more prestigious hospitals, like Johns Hopkins Medicine. Expand your prospect list to bigger, better clients as you gain experience.

Developing your prospect list(s) is a lot of work—but it’s worth it because you’re choosing the clients you want to work with instead of taking whatever work comes along. The work that comes along, or that you get through freelance jobs sites or content mills, is usually low-paying work for clients who don’t value how you help them.

And you only need a few steady, high-paying clients to make more money and begin to build a stable, successful freelance business.

Eventually, you’ll want to develop prospect lists of about 200-400 companies and other organizations you’d like to work with. Do a separate list for each target market. Choose about 30-40 prospects for now so you learn the process, and add more later.

5 Ways to Find Steady, High-Paying Clients

Here are 5 ways to find steady, high-paying clients for your prospect lists:

  1. Professional associations
  2. Dun & Bradstreet
  3. Leading company lists
  4. Online industry directories
  5. LinkedIn.

Using the member directories of professional associations is the easiest way to develop prospect lists. Most of the companies in Dun & Bradstreet, leading company lists, and online directories are likely to be high-paying clients. Many will also have a steady need for freelancers

Dun & Bradstreet is a great tool for finding high-quality business prospects. The number of results you can get for free is limited. But it’s an easy way to find some high-quality prospects.

Leading company lists like Inc. 5000 and Fortune 500 list the top companies in general or in a target market (e.g., best hospitals in the U.S.).  Online industry directories list companies in a specific industry. For example, for my hospital prospect list, I used U.S. News & World Report’s list of top hospitals and top children’s hospitals.

How to Find the Right Contact Person

LinkedIn is best for finding the right contact person in each company/organization. Look for the types of people who usually hire freelancers or manage the people who hire freelancers. These are usually vice presidents, managers, directors, associate directors, and editors.

The right contact person usually works in departments like communications, content marketing, digital marketing, marketing, new business development, sales, or web content. The titles and departments vary in different companies and different target markets. As you learn more about your target markets, you’ll learn the best search terms.

Search results are also based on your connections, so the larger your network, the more results you’ll get. This is another reason to have a large, relevant LinkedIn network (at least 500 relevant connections), along with appearing higher in search results when clients are looking for a freelancer. Relevant connections are people in your industry(ies) and target markets and other freelancers.

How to Find Email Addresses

Email addresses are difficult to find unless you’re using a professional association member directory. These directories usually have email addresses for members. On LinkedIn, many contacts at client companies don’t include their email address under contact info.

I’ve found a trick for finding email addresses that usually works. Find the format for email addresses on the company’s website and then apply it to your contact’s name. Try the Newsroom, which always lists media contacts, usually by name and with an actual email address. I’ve nearly always been able to find email addresses either in member directories or on the company’s website.

Other ways to find email addresses include, an extension for Google Chrome, and the ZoomInfo plugin to Outlook.

How to Attract Steady, High-Paying Clients

Once you have your prospect lists, you’ll use direct email to reach out to and attract steady, high-paying clients. In your direct emails, LinkedIn profile, and website, you’ll focus on the needs of these clients and how you meet their needs.

By doing this, you’ll make yourself irresistible to the steady, high-paying clients you want to work with.

Learn how 4 freelancers develop their prospect lists and use direct email.
Why You Need to Use Direct Email: What 4 Freelancers Say

Your Client-Focused LinkedIn Profile and Website

When a client is interested in working with you, he/she will want to check you out on LinkedIn and/or your website before contacting you.

That’s why your LinkedIn profile must have a compelling, client-focused headline and About section, and use the keywords that matter to clients.

Your website must also be compelling, client-focused, with an awesome Home page that clearly describe what you do and who you do it for.  Compelling web content is conversational, concise, and scannable. Key marketing messages focus on client needs.

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