Winning new clients

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guide for freelancers
Chapter 3

Finding the right leads

Now that you’re ready to hit hard, you can find the best people to target. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you have two groups of people to choose from: previous clients and prospects.

Reaching out to previous clients

Jobs end for a lot of reasons. Even if your previous clients loved your work, they might not remember to contact you when they have a new project.

At the same time, many of your past clients, particularly those you worked for at the beginning of your career, won’t be the right fit for you now. As you create a list of contacts, consider these questions:

  • Who do I want more work from? The clients you loved should be at the top of your list.
  • Why did I stop working for them? If there were any red flags or problems (late/non-payment, scope creep, unprofessionalism, etc.) with that client, you will likely deal with the same problems. Only choose people who will benefit and grow your business.
  • What kind of work did they need? Make sure your client has a need for the services you offer now before approaching them.
  • Have my prices changed? Many clients are open to pricing changes, but it’s good to prepare for that discussion going into the conversation.

These past relationships are the best source of new work, so do your best to leave a positive, lasting impression for every job you complete.

Finding new prospective clients

Though it’s often easier to reconnect with past clients, there are millions of potential new clients just waiting for you to reach out. Finding the right client is just as important as gaining new work, so you should always choose prospects that are most likely to fit your requirements. You want to build long-term relationships with these clients, so do the work upfront for a better return.

Before looking for businesses to target, consider these questions:

  • What kind of work/niche are you pursuing? Thousands of companies may need a social media manager, but only a handful of restaurants in your area may have the same need. Use your experience and skills to narrow your target audience to the people most likely to respond to your specific offer.

    Not sure where to start? Use
    this checklist to narrow down your niche.
  • Does the company fit your needs? From your research, does it look like they have a need for your services? Does the company’s values align with yours? Don’t spend time pursuing a business that already seems like a bad fit.

When you know who you want to contact, then you can find the best ways to turn cold outreach into conversations.

Checklist: How to narrow your niche

Consider your experience

Whether you have been freelancing for years or you just graduated from school, you have gained some kind of experience in previous jobs, hobbies, or even schoolwork. Make a list of the types of work you’ve done and the industries you’ve worked in.

Evaluate your skills

Now that you have a broad picture of your experience, think about the skills you have. This list should include the skills you have developed for your work, any additional knowledge you’ve learned along the way, and any abilities you can use for work, even if you haven’t used them yet.

Narrow your options

Evaluate your experience for common threads and/or jobs you enjoyed. Ask yourself:

  • Did a majority of my work involve a certain type of work (writing blogs vs social media management), industry, or type of client (small business owners vs enterprise marketing teams)?
  • What kind of work have I done/enjoyed the most?
  • Am I really passionate about any of these options?
  • Is there any kind of work I don’t want to do again?

Next, do the same for your list of skills. Consider:

  • Which skills do I use the most?
  • Which ones am I most confident in and/or passionate about?
  • Are there any skills that I want to continue developing?
  • What kinds of skills have clients looked for?

There aren’t any right answers to these questions. Be honest with yourself and your priorities. The best way to find the right niche is to align what you want to do with what you want to achieve.

Research your potential niches

At this point, you should have a good idea of the kind of work you want to pursue and how you can use your skills to do it. Before jumping into your new niche, we recommend doing a bit of research to see how you can position yourself most successfully.

If you are a food photographer who only wants to work with privately-owned coffee shops, for example, you may not find enough clients to meet your needs. Expanding your niche to include all kinds of small food businesses in your area may be the better option. By exploring your local market, you can adjust your plan to build a more sustainable business.

Stay flexible in your niche

Just because a specialty makes sense today doesn’t mean it will always be the right option. If you aren’t happy with your niche or it doesn’t offer the opportunities you need, re-evaluate. As you, your skills, and your experience grow, come back to this checklist to find the niche that fits this season of life.

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