I’ll preface this article by saying that there aren’t any unusual ways to find clients these days. Agencies and marketers sell themselves in the most creative ways I’ve ever seen. The things that I consider unconventional were probably standard ways of client acquisition for a lot of people before I started doing them. But nonetheless, I like being able to share the knowledge that tight-lipped services providers don’t want other people to know. I find this kind of scarcity mindset to be damaging to the entire freelance and gig economy. There’s room for all of us.
Each of these strategies has come in handy when I was out of leads and prospects, when a client randomly ghosts, or when I was looking to ramp up my output a bit.
1. Notice Which Companies Are Hiring for Marketing Roles
I do content marketing for a living. But before that, I worked as a marketing manager for a while. I know how intertwined all aspects of marketing are with each other, especially when you’re dealing with a small team.
I like to keep a spreadsheet of companies that I notice are actively hiring for marketing roles. I do this by doing a weekly scour of different remote job websites and finding trends and consistencies.
When a company is ramping up its marketing activity in one department, there’s a good chance that they’ll need some help in other areas. For example, if a company is hiring for Facebook ads, then they are likely also building content they can drive ads toward, such as blog posts and sales pages.
2. Stay Up to Date on Startups and New Businesses
Keep a finger on the pulse of new startups and companies that have recently received funding. If they don’t have a website or a blog, there is a huge opportunity for you to create something for them that will add massive amounts of value. If their brand is something you are a fan of, it’s worth reaching out and starting a relationship just to let them know you’re a fan.
3. Test Out Networking Apps
Apps like Shapr and Bumble Bizz are taking what we know about online dating and using that model to help people network and find job opportunities. It may take some digging and trial and error to find the right clients, but it’s never a bad idea to expand your network and help yourself get to know the types of people you want to work with. And just like with dating apps, you’ll probably get a good sense of who you should stay away from.
4. Create Opportunities for Yourself
Take inventory of all of the sites you go to regularly, all of the brands you enjoy, and all the businesses you follow. Do regular audits of their websites and look for opportunities for improvement. I got my first handful of clients doing cold email outreach to brands that I admired or whose industries I was interested in. I sent them thorough ideas of ways I knew I could help grow their blogs and improve their content strategy. This did take some upfront work, but at that time, I had no money and a lot of time on my hands. So, it was worth it to invest that time upfront and do whatever I could to make it pay off later.
Plus, once you do this for a handful of sites, it gets much easier to identify gaps in the company’s strategies. You can also use the same email outlines more than once.
5. Check-In With Everyone You’ve Ever Met
Keep a running list of everyone that you’ve interacted with in regards to your services. Every few months, check in to see what’s new in their business. Send a friendly check-in praising them on something new they’ve accomplished or a simple message showing that you still care.
You can use this opportunity to present them with a solution, or you can briefly bring up that you’re taking on new clients. Phrase it in a way that lets them know that you still care about their brand and are there to help should they need you. It also really helps to schedule a call to catch up. Creating that personal connection will keep you at the top of their mind once they need your services.
6. Create Alerts for Your Niche
I’ve found it really helpful to create an RSS feed that curates articles related to industries I’m interested in working with. I stay on top of current trends and events and get a sense of which companies are emerging as thought leaders. In addition to knowing which companies are coming out on top, I can start to look at those company’s competitors to see if they need help boosting their own strategy to help them compete better.
7. Have a Presence Where People Look to Find Professionals
Create a presence on Fiverr, TaskRabbit, or other sites where people look for services. It might seem weird, but small business owners who need a specific skill sometimes don’t know where else to look. Some people write off these sites as a waste of time, but it’s not uncommon to turn a quick gig on a site like Fiverr into a long-term opportunity. Companies don’t want to spend unnecessary time looking for talent. If you’ve presented yourself as good at what you do, then you’re saving them time by being able to add value long-term.
You can even use Craigslist for this. OK, now hear me out. Yes, Craigslist can be weird and spammy sometimes. But if you know what what you’re looking for and have the time to vet people, you can make a real impact on your business by using it to find people. You’ll have to weed through some nonsense, but if you create an alert for certain keywords on the site, you’ll get notified when someone posts a job opportunity for a writer in your niche. This can work very well if you’re interested in working with local businesses.
8. Reach Out to Agencies for White Label Opportunities
Most agencies need writing, regardless of what they pitch as their core offer. I’ve had success reaching out to SEO and digital marketing agencies who don’t have a strong content team and proposing a white-label partnership. One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of times you won’t be working directly with the client, so this involves ghostwriting or at least a few levels of approval being made on what you write.
White labeling can mean taking writing off of the agency team’s hands so they can focus on other clients, or helping them with overflow work. When doing white label writing, it’s important to be flexible because your role is to save the agency time on writing in whatever way they need. If you only want to write about very specific things, this might not be the right route for you. However, it’s a great way to have a steady flow of work.
9. Narrow Down Your Initial Offer and Then Upsell Later
Employers don’t want to spend more of their time looking for other people to do the job. If your job is to deliver them one item, like an article, then take the opportunity to show them how more content or a complete strategy can save them time in the future.
One example is with selling articles. Whenever someone needs an article, they also need ways to distribute that article. They might also want to promote that article on other sites or find ways to get backlinks to help that article rank better. If you can get a call with a potential client who wants an article and make it known that you can help them turn this one article into a pillar for their content strategy, then they’re more likely to see your value beyond just that article.
These strategies aren’t necessarily quick wins. But if you prioritize doing a few of these things on a regular basis, you’ll find that they pay off when you need them to the most.
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