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December 6, 2021

Long term goals: how to gain more clients as a freelancer

Written by Olivia Bufton

We’re back to our series of strategic freelance goals – where we take an in-depth look at how to make your freelance business dreams happen. In the spotlight this week are clients – specifically, how to make sure you have lots and lots of them. 

Beside the obvious point that more clients = more work = more money, we think there’s real value in having a wide and varied client base.  

How to gain more clients as a freelancer 

Having lots of clients protects you by spreading the risk. If a client ends your relationship or doesn’t have work for you at a particular time, there’s plenty more for you to turn to. Having lots of clients also stops you from being bored, giving you lots of variety in your work schedule. Working on different projects can also widen your experience and expertise as you get to know different sectors and face new challenges. Here are our top tips for how you can gain more clients as a freelancer. 

Choose your clients carefully 

It’s worth saying that not all clients are created equal, and sometimes it’s better to aim for quality over quantity. When targeting clients and deciding who to work with, try to identify clients that: 

  • Pay you well and on time. 
  • Are easy to work with and responsive to communications. 
  • Don’t try and push the brief and demand more work than was agreed without discussing extra payment. 

It will always be better – and ultimately cost less of your time – to work with more clients like this. If you’re working with lots of new clients, here are some red flags to look out for: 

  • Brushing off mentions of or being vague about fees and payment. 
  • Being overly nitpicky or micromanaging. 
  • Adding new things into the scope of the project at the last minute. 

Additionally, it’s a good idea to require a deposit or half payment upfront when working with a new client, especially if it’s a large project. 

With those warnings out the way, it’s time to really get thinking about how you can widen your client base. This is an exciting activity for any freelancer, to meet new people and think about how your business can grow with them.  

Get to know your clients 

Our first tip for getting more clients is actually to work to better understand the ones you already have. Making sure you understand their businesses and their needs is real relationship-building work, and can help you identify more areas where you can collaborate with existing clients. If freelance growth is your ultimate goal, it’s much easier to win more work off a current client than it is to gain new ones. 

Making sure you understand your current clients can also help you attract new ones. You can understand the “type” of client that you’re attracting – and why. If you’re feeling brave, you could ask your current clients how they found out about you and why they selected you, to give you a deeper understanding of how you and your brand appear to outsiders. This will help you understand what drew clients to you and what makes them stick around and continue to offer you work – elements that you can then play up in your marketing and your conversations with potential new clients. 

Define your freelancer brand 

Before you go out trying to sell yourself and your skills to new clients, you need to have a good understanding of what it is you’re trying to sell. Some work here on defining your freelance brand can make this process a lot easier. Make sure you’re highlighting your key skills and services, and your unique selling point in your branding – this means on your website, your LinkedIn, and any social media feeds you have. We’ve put together a handy guide on how to brand yourself as a freelancer if you want further advice on this step. 

Make connections on social media 

It’s worth saying upfront that social media can be a bit of a time drain for small businesses, and frequent algorithm changes can make it difficult to use effectively. The key message here is that you don’t need to be on everything. Think strategically about your social media use, and focus on the platforms where you get the most engagement and make the most useful connections. Tailor to your clients and where they’re at – if most of your clients use LinkedIn for networking, there’s no point in you labouring over TikTok videos. Some social media platforms will also just naturally be a better fit for the type of freelance work you do: a graphic designer might use visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, whereas a copywriter might be better off using Twitter where words are the focus and you can share links to your recently published pieces. 

Try to win back old freelancing clients 

Reviving an old connection will take less energy and time than seeking out and winning business from scratch. If you lost freelance clients because of lockdown last year but ended things on good terms, now might be a good time to reconnect to see if they have any extra projects that you could help with. We’ve put together a guide to winning back old clients on the blog if you think this strategy might be useful for you. 

Gather and share customer testimonials 

Even if your old clients don’t have any work for you right now, you could ask them if they could provide a testimonial. Offering reviews of your work from real clients can be a vital marketing tool, giving new clients the confidence to take the plunge and try you out. Once you’ve gathered these testimonials you can use them everywhere – on your website, on social media, on LinkedIn, in your email signature. Never miss a chance to tell everyone how great people think you are! 

Have a portfolio ready to go 

If you’re offering any kind of specialist or creative skill, it’s a good idea to have a live portfolio that you update regularly that you can show to potential clients. This should be something that shows off your best work – preferably in context. Make sure it’s relevant to the area that you’re seeking work in. It’s no use seeking illustration jobs with a portfolio full of corporate graphic design, or SEO copywriting gigs with a portfolio full of creative writing pieces. You might want to have separate portfolios for different types of work you do. Just like a testimonial, a quality portfolio is going to be a vital tool in giving new clients a reason to hire you – so make sure you have one on hand that represents the very best of what you can do. 

Go and find them 

If you’re really looking to expand your client base, it’s not enough to sit there waiting for clients to come to you: you have to go out and find them. This could be physically going out to chat to other small to medium businesses in your area (local chamber of commerce or business networking groups are great for this) or you could do this remotely by seeking out potential clients online. Look for businesses with similar profiles to your current clients or working in areas that you have expertise in. You could then get in touch with them with your portfolio and pitch your services. 

Make sure your freelance business is insured 

Before you go hunting down new clients, make sure you have proper freelance business insurance cover in place. Clients like the reassurance of knowing that any freelancer they engage is properly protected and it demonstrates the professionalism of your operation. All Dinghy clients get a specialist landing page on our website that you can share with clients to provide proof of your cover – which is useful as many freelance contracts specify particular insurances that clients require you to hold.  

Our policies also come with our unique Freelancer Assist package, including a dedicated invoice-chasing service in the event that one of your new clients flakes out on your payment. Getting signed up only takes a few minutes on our website, and our cover is fully-flexible so you can turn it off when you’re between jobs or taking a break. Now – go get ‘em! 

About Olivia Bufton

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