When you first start freelancing, you’re confronted with an abundance of questions. And there’s no doubt that one of the biggest questions is around finding clients.
How do you find clients? How do I find my first clients?
And if you ask around, small business owners will tell you to try social media, networking events, or even cold email. All of them can work—but I want to let you in on an insider secret.
The majority of the freelancers that I’ve talked to (including myself), we found our very first clients through personal networks and referrals. And for many of us still, that is where we continue to source our highest paying clients. So, here are a few tips for finding your first freelance clients in this way.
Power of referred clients
Having people vouch for you is a powerful thing. Because people are more likely to trust you if they’ve been given the reassurance to do so.
When you provide a freelance service, you’re making an exchange. You’re exchanging your services in exchange for money—and money is replaceable but precious to people. And many people aren’t inclined to part with money too quickly.
Because so, an extra layer of trust goes a long way in making this process smoother. It can also speed up the process. When people have a higher reason to trust you, they’re more likely to buy from you. And you’re more likely to win a client.
So, this is why referred clients are a great method to close projects quicker and increase your freelance cash flow. Because you’ve come from a trusting source, they’re more open to the idea of listening to your pitch.
This is the power of referred clients.
How to find your first freelance clients
Now, here’s how to find those clients. This method isn’t just for the freelancer in their first year.
It’s important to tap into your network consistently and keep up connections. Because as we all know, secondary connections are a known method to find new opportunities, jobs, friends, and connections. Secondary contacts are powerful.
First, you’re going to grab yourself a pen and paper. Sit at your desk and brainstorm everyone that you’ve ever met and that you have a personal relationship with. That could be your family, friends, university friends, past professors, people you’ve networked with, old colleagues, and childhood friends. Write their names on a piece of paper. These are your first and secondary contact opportunities.
Next, you’re going to draft a message to send to them. It can say something like the examples below.
The key to drafting the emails is to customize and personalize. You’re more likely to receive a warm response if you connect the beginning of the email to a recent, relevant conversation, or you make the connection at the beginning of how they know you. Customize and personalize your emails.
Lastly, make your plan and act on it as to when you’ll send these emails to your list. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Success comes from a steady strategy execution. Can you commit to ten emails a week? Great!
When I did this in my first six months of freelancing, I was able to close two new clients with this method. In the early days of freelancing, it’s important to exhaust your network, and even if you’ve been freelancing for five years, referrals are still a very powerful tool to find new clients.