Let me ask you something. Do you have an ideal client? Is there even such a thing as an ideal freelance client? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to land freelance clients that are the best fit for you and also try your best to avoid those really bad ones. To help you with this, let’s go through a few things that will help you get perfect freelance clients (and in the process avoid “red flags”). Hopefully, this will allow you to find clients that are a good fit for you and will pay well (and not $5 for a piece of content or web design).
Get Potential Clients to Your Website and Show Them the Value You Provide
There are only so many clients you can get to by looking around freelancing platforms like Upwork or Freelancer. In fact, by finding your clients this way, you immediately put yourself at a disadvantage and let them have the initiative when negotiating your rates. Instead, what you (and every other smart freelancer) do is make the clients go to you.
Unless you’re planning to work for pennies for the rest of your freelancing career (and you shouldn’t), you need to start making some waves online. The best way to do this is to create your own website. Not only will you be able to better showcase yourself to potential clients by using your site as a portfolio of your work, but you will also make it easier for clients to contact you and learn more about you (and why you would be a good fit for their business).
However, just having a website isn’t enough. You also need to make sure you are sending the right message through it. Your website should not only say what you do, but also how you do it. Think about this: when a potential client gets to your website, can he see what value you bring to the table? Is your process clear and concise or all over the place? And, above all, what makes you different (and yes, better) than the other freelancers this client could hire? By answering those questions you’ll make your website truly work for you in getting perfect freelance clients.
Narrow Your Focus and Start Specializing
If you want serious clients, you need to stop using the “spray and pray” tactic. It just doesn’t work. Being a generalist writer, for instance, is a great way to keep writing $5 articles for the rest of your freelancing career. Instead, what you need to do is narrow your focus and specialize on only a few markets. Once you do that, you will be able to offer a much better product than you could so far by casting a wide net.
Specializing in a narrower market will also allow you to better understand that market or industry and with it, be able to offer a much better value to the client. In the end, once the client sees that you understand his business much better than previous few freelancers, establishing a long-term cooperation with him will be much easier.
Naturally, you can go all the way and focus on only one market and one industry. However, I think this is too narrow and you can do with 3-5 niches. That will still allow you to be an expert in them, while at the same time giving you more options when looking for clients to work with.
Make it Easy to Work with You
Clients already have enough problems and they want to hire you to solve some of them. So don’t start adding more to the pile. That’s the recipe for a very short and unlucrative relationship.
Communication is one of the keys to a successful freelancer-client relationship. Any obstacles in communication between you two are also obstacles in building a stronger and longer relationship. If you’re only relying on one communication method, for example email, you’ll soon find that it won’t be enough and that you need to start adding more communication tools to the mix. For example, video chats on Skype can be a good way to build more trust between you and the client if you’re working one-on-one. On the other hand, if you are working in an agency, an app like Slack can allow every member of that team (including you) to bring his ideas and input to the project and run them with the rest of the team.
However, offering other channels of communication isn’t the only way to make it easier to work with you. There are other barriers that you need to think about removing as well. For instance, how do you share your documents with the client? Are you simply sending attachments in the email or have you gone a step above and beyond and are using the cloud to share files and folders? With Dropbox, for instance, you can choose to give someone a view-only access to your files or edit access to them.
Tools aren’t the only thing that can make it easier to work with you. Sometimes, the problem lies in the freelancer himself. Are you actually an easy to work with as a person? I hope I don’t have to tell you how important it is to meet deadlines and how fast your partnership with a client can end if you fail to meet them. This, right here, is where trust is gained or lost.
Put Yourself Out There
Freelancing is probably an ideal career choice for an introvert. You can stay in the home all day and never meet a single client face-to-face. In fact, that’s exactly what many freelancers do. But by staying in your little office, you are missing on so many opportunities. Even with a very strong online presence, there are still a lot of potential clients that you could never meet this way.
What you need to do is put yourself out there. Take a deep breath and leave the office. And if someone rejects you, resist the temptation to run back in your little cubby-hole. So what if they tell you your rates are too high? Let them find someone cheaper, you know your value, I hope. At first, you probably won’t be confident enough and it will show when you talk to the client. They may reject you for this, but don’t let this ruin your confidence, but use it to build it. Learn what mistakes you are making when going to an interview, whether it’s not being prepared enough or having the wrong body language and correct that for the next time.
The issue, of course, is where to find potential clients offline. Going door to door and asking “hey, do you need a content writer?” won’t do. You need to do some research first. You can try with local businesses. See which ones have no or very little web presence. Look at their content if they have any. Do you think you can do better? Then go ahead and let them know you are the person that can help them. Some may be reluctant, so be sure that your approach them with confidence.
Don’t throw away cold calling as an antiquated tactic. If it’s done well, it can be very effective. Before you do this, however, you need to do your homework. Find which local businesses could benefit from your services. Do a bit of research to learn more about their business. What products are they offering, who are their typical customers, what is their mission, what problems you can spot and so on. Once you see the areas you could help them improve upon, you’ll be in a much better position to successfully offer them your services, instead of having them hang up on you right away.
Weigh Every Client
You can judge clients simply based on how big or small they are. There are so many other factors that can tell you if the client is a good fit or a bad fit to work with. After all, if they measure you against other freelancers, what’s stopping you from qualifying them against other clients as well? What you can do is make a list of more or less general questions that will act as your sieve. Clients that pass through are the ones you want to work with.
Here are a few questions that you can ask a client:
- Is this your first time working with a freelancer?
- What is the project for this project?
- What does this project mean for you?
- Who will be my contact?
- What are the payment terms?
- How long do you expect the project to last?
- How often do you want to get updated on the project?
- Is the project a one-time thing or would it lead to more work in the future?
- Who will own the intellectual rights?
Each of these questions will bring you a step closer to understanding the client and the project. Even if you don’t get an answer, for example when asking about the budget, this will still tell you a lot about the client.
It’s Okay to be Picky
Don’t be afraid to say no from time to time. This is where many new freelancers make a mistake. In their desire to get more gigs, they accept clients left and right. But what really happens when you accept a project you are not entirely sold on is that you close the door on the one that you would like much better. This is why you need to stop saying “yes” to every client and start saying “no” from time to time. Control and value your own time.
What if a client approaches you with a project you would “die” to work on but you are too busy with other projects? Does this mean you’ve lost them for good? It doesn’t have to. Often they don’t need your services right away. Let the client know when you will be available for more work and ask them if they can wait until then. If they can, great, win-win for both of you. But, if they can’t and are in a hurry, refer them to someone you know could also help them with their project.
Ditch the “Freelancer Gimmick”
The word “freelancer” sounds off an alarm with some clients. Some heard bad things about freelancers, while others might have a bad experience with them. Unfortunately, their negative projection of freelancers will include you as well. But there’s a way to change their perception. Stop calling yourself a “freelancer”. For instance, you can start calling yourself a “content writing consultant” or a “strategic content advisor”. That sounds much better than “freelance writer”, doesn’t it?
For some clients, “freelancer” means “unprofessional”. When they hear that you’re a freelancer, they immediately label you in their heads as someone who is unable to bring quality and meet deadlines. But, by ditching the whole “working in your pajamas” schtick, you can quickly change their perception of you.
As a freelancer you have a lot more control in who you want to work with. If the client doesn’t seem like a good fit, there’s no reason to work with him. Don’t just think if you’re good enough for the project, but also if the project is good enough for you. Only this way can you ensure to land perfect freelance clients.
What do you do to land your perfect freelance clients? Leave a comment below!