How to Find Your First Client

Once you become better known in your profession, clients will constantly come to you instead of you looking for them. You’ll often be so busy with work and won’t need to market yourself as often.

But, what do you do when you’re just starting out or not well known? Before you begin getting clients, it can be tough to figure out what to do all day. That’s the perfect time to make yourself well known.

Finding clients is different for everyone and what works for some doesn’t always for others. However, I’d like to share several of the ways I got work in the beginning.

Don’t Focus on Bidding Sites

When you don’t have anything to do all day, it can be tempting to check out bidding sites like eLance, Guru or Freelancer. I mean, there are a ton of clients asking for work right there, right?

In reality, bidding sites can be a lot of trouble for freelancers, and so should be approached with caution. The hours you spend going through the site, making bids, and the low (sometimes criminal) pay you often receive is rarely worth it. You’re usually much better off spending that time marketing yourself.

Appear to Be Everywhere, All the Time

The reason that clients began finding me was because I seemed to be everywhere they were, all the time. I was commenting on blogs they commented on. Then I was writing for those blogs. I was tweeting useful articles and tips throughout the day and I started my own blog with unique articles.

Everyone always asks me how I stay online so much. The truth is, I’m often not online after business hours or on the weekend, but I continue to tweet. My Twitter is hooked up to Facebook, my website, LinkedIn and a few other social networks, so it looks like I’m always everywhere. By doing this, the client remembers who you are, considers you an expert and comes to you with work.

Optimize Your Portfolio

I have a lot of interests and hobbies. When I put up my first portfolio site, I included everything I made: print design, web design, logos, coding, photography and drawing. Even some crafts!

Funny thing is, I wasn’t getting any work, even though I had a lot of talents. This also ties into finding a specialty, but clients were confused as to what it was I did. Now I keep it simple and only include the best projects of the one service I offer–coding. And clients can tell exactly what it is I do.

Write, Write, Write, and Write Some More!

Clients want to know that they’re being taken care of by the best in the industry. If they’re trying to choose between one freelancer who they never heard of, and one who’s written on several popular blogs and has a published book, who do you think appears to be more of an expert?

You don’t have to write a book, but blogs are a fantastic way to get your name known. Most sites will even pay you to write articles, which ends up being a great way to earn some extra income.

Old-Fashioned Marketing

Social media won’t make you rich, nor does it solve all of your marketing problems. Sometimes some good old-fashioned marketing techniques can be the best source of new clients.

  • Job Boards–Job boards differ from bidding sites because they’re just short descriptions of the company and what it is they need done. These clients are often much more willing to pay fair rates than on bidding sites.
  • Cold Emails–The best source of clients I received in my early days was by cold emailing them. I simply googled the type of client I was after and sent them a pre-written pitch. I’m still getting work from this, even though I stopped doing it over a year ago.
  • In-Person–I know most of us freelancers are hermits, but going out to events are a great way to find local clients. Unconferences like Barcamp and Podcamp are even fun to attend and the networking with other freelancers is invaluable.

Finding Clients with RSS Feeds

Most social websites have feeds you can subscribe to and they can be super useful to use them for finding new clients.

For example, if you go to Twitter and search for “looking freelancer,” what posts show up? What other phrases could you use to find clients?

You’ll see an RSS button for each search you do on Twitter, so it’s good to subscribe to these so you can keep track of potential client posts.

Likewise, almost all job boards also have feeds. It will save you valuable time to subscribe to them, so you never miss a good posting or have to remember to keep up with each site every day.

Tell Everyone What You Do

When first starting out, let everyone you know what it is that you do. Chances are that someone knows someone who needs what it is that you do, so be sure you let everyone know you’re in business!

Put Your Info Everywhere You Can

There are literally thousands of sites that let you put your name and websites on there. Not only is this good practice for getting linkbacks to your site for SEO, it goes back to the idea of being everywhere. Here are some ideas:

Don’t Appear Desperate

It’s true that the more work you have (or appear to have), the more work that comes in. Desperation turns clients off quickly, so never act like you have no work to do.

For example, if you’re schedule is finally freed up after several months of back-to-back work, it’s ok to tweet that you’re got an opening. But, freelancers who tweet it weekly or monthly appear like they aren’t doing anything (so they look like they’re bad at what they do).

Your Thoughts

How did you find clients when you were first starting out?


Did you know it’s Client Week on FreelanceFolder? That’s right, in order to celebrate the upcoming launch of The Client Machine (our new client-getting product), we’re writing exclusively about getting clients all week long. Make sure you sign up to be notified about The Client Machine, and come back every day for more articles about finding clients!