It’s a process.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not an expert. Just a person who has tried a lot of different techniques to try and find people willing to pay me money for my services.
Some worked. Most of them didn’t.
Throughout this process, even whenI’m not necessarily landing these clients for reasons out of my control (budget, organizational issues, mostly budget), the feedback and conversations I’ve had with them have reaffirmed that I’m finally looking in the right places and talking to the right people. Once I identified these things, it ultimately became a numbers game and a matter of consistency, determination and staying on top of my shit until I saw the results I was looking for.
When I first decided to start working for myself, I was stuck in the “Who on earth would hire me?” mindset. This was two-fold.
Who would hire ME? (a confidence issue that I worked through with the help of numerous TED talks and the help from my friends)
WHO would hire me? (where do I even begin to look for clients?)
Where are these people and how do I find them? It’s very cliche that you just have to start somewhere, but you just have to start somewhere. In the three years that I’ve attempted to create a freelance career, I’ve tried so many strategies that I started noticing patterns. And even when I wasn’t getting hired necessarily, I was taking diligent notes on what gained me traction, got brands to notice me and respond to my (mostly cold) emails. Here are a few strategies for finding potential clients that have been the most successful for me.
I always start with a brain dump of every brand and industry I like. This is just to get started and to get your brain warmed up. Now that I have the list, I erase the brands or companies whose industries I know nothing about. I don’t rule them out entirely, because I know I can always research them and learn more, but for now, I want to have an initial list of potential clients I know about and that I know I can confidently pitch to.
After a while, I became more confident in my pitching and was able to do research on new industries and learn more about them in order to pitch, but to start, it’s more efficient and will make you feel better to pitch clients you can speak knowledgeably about on the spot.
The next thing I do is pick two or three ideal clients that I would want to work with. A lot of times these seem completely out of reach, so I like to list five of their competitors or up and comers in the industry. If there’s not one specific client you have in mind, do a quick Google search of the top dogs in that industry. Suddenly you have a list of companies to at least begin researching. And you’re going to find so many more companies just by researching these companies that you identified.
Research companies with actual budgets
I’ve wasted so much time pitching to potential clients that just do not have the budget to pay me, even if they understand the importance of my skills. There’s nothing you can do about this. I started using the site owler.com to find out a companies revenue to try and determine if they have enough of a budget to pay me my worth. The site has a nice feature that also gives you other top competitors for that company. So you every time you search company you automatically have ten more right there to look at that could become potential clients to pitch to. Sometimes Owler can be a little bit outdated so I always to do a quick Googles search to cross-reference the information. Sometimes the site will report $1 million in revenue, but a Google will reveal they just received $49 million in funding. If they’re a start-up this with a growth mindset, this is a perfect opportunity to step in as a freelancer, especially if you’re in an industry like marketing or web development, where you can add value and show how your services will create more growth and awareness for their brand.
If you don’t know, Google does
If you’re coming up short with ideas on what industries you’re interested in, just look at your social media channels. As creepy as it may be, Google knows what you’re into, sometimes even more than you do. They see brands that you’re interested in, and what industries are trying to target you as a consumer. I’m sure you noticed that one time you talked about cider and then an ad for Angry Orchard magically appeared on your feed. Use the creepiness to your advantage as a freelancer. Your news feed knows you like cider. Maybe that means you can think of a few creative ideas to contribute to a cidery’s website or blog. You do a little bit of research on other cider manufacturers, and all of the sudden there’s a whole new industry is open to you.
Every company needs services and the only way that you’re going find clients is to pitch and ask them if they want to work with you and to create that initial relationship.
Here’s the thing you don’t already be a brand ambassador or a cheerleader for this company. You don’t have to be obsessed with the brand or even the industry, and that’s fine. Just show genuine interest in advancing a companies mission and add always pitch to add value, not to land a job. Be authentic, and companies will take notice