Being a freelancer means you’ve always got to have an eye out for new business opportunities. How do you do it?
I’m quite lucky to be in the writing business, as it’s one of those places where there will always be someone in need of compelling content. As long as there are products to sell there will be work for copywriters, but just because there is a need doesn’t mean the clients are beating a path to my door. To ensure I can enjoy my fuzzy bunny slippers for another day, I make sure to invest time daily to prospect for new clients, and here are a few tips I’ve found that seem to make the process easier. Regardless of the type of freelancing you do, these tips will hopefully help you land more business.
Let the tools do their job
I’ve setup my Tweetdeck to alert me when the term “copywriter” is used in a tweet, and this has been one of the most effective ways for me to find new clients. As soon as something is tweeted I can follow the link to see where the person posted to learn a bit about their expectations, as well as gain some insight into the scope of their project. Often the tweets are retweets from various job boards, but sometimes they are from tweople looking for a freelancer, which is great because it gives you the opportunity to research them before you respond. A detailed response showing you know something about their business is much more impressive than a canned response of “I’m a copywriter – hire me!”
Another option is to setup a Google alert for a specific phrase, like “web developer needed” or “hiring graphic designer.” This is an easy way to get notified the moment Google finds a site with this phrase, allowing you to be one of the first to jump on it.
There are some people that can talk about themselves endlessly. This is not self-promotion. Telling your prospective clients how great you are is one thing; showing them is another. Talk about how you can help them with their business, how you can solve their specific problem, or how you were able to help a client just like them exceed their targets. The key is to talk about them and their needs. Just like sex – your needs aren’t really that important. Prove to the prospect that you know what they need, and why you’re the best person to do it.
Blogs, forums, and other online communities, including and especially LinkedIn, are a great space for you to engage in self-promotion. As you establish yourself as an expert, you’ll start to find new referrals coming in from these sources. There’s a ton of value when an established professional recommends your business to their clients, and this happens more frequently than you might think. Nobody wants to hand off good clients to bad freelancers, but there are going to be times in your freelance life that you’re just too busy to take on that new client, so it’s nice to have someone that has impressed you within your virtual community.
That being said – don’t be shy when someone asks about your business. Have a short description to share with them, but make it memorable by using examples that relate to their business.
Network: online, offline, often
While this is one of the easiest things you can do to build your business, it’s among the hardest for many freelancers, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Spend at least twice as much time listening as you do talking. It’s the best way to meet new people and build the referral component of your business. When clients are doing your promotion for you, you’re doing something right.
Find an event that interests you. It doesn’t need to be a chamber mixer or a business lunch, but if that’s what your into, I won’t judge. It can be a tweetup, a meetup, a facebook event, an afternoon at your local food shelter (anything we can do to help the Mustard Seed is time well spent) – the point is, it doesn’t really matter as long as there are other people there and you’re genuinely interested in being there. Networking is about making connections with other people. It’s not about finding customers or making a sale. It’s introductions, conversations, and experience, and that’s the key to building your business.
Opportunity Knocks, but why wait?
Your freelancing career – your business – needs to be nurtured in order to grow. If you aren’t doing it, nobody else will either. Take some time every day to build your network, increase your education, and give your business the effort it requires. Some people think being a freelancer means doing nothing: casually working from home, checking facebook all day, and not showering for weeks at a time. Real freelancers – successful freelancers – know that’s not true at all (except the showering part – sometimes that happens…)
Trading your 9am-5pm job for a life of 5am – 10pm freelancing is hard work, but it’s worth it!