7 freelance tricks to get new clients fast

October 9, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

Freelancing is a great option for many copywriters. I went this way years ago and I’ve never regretted it.

Good money. Control over working hours. Choice of work. No suits or ties. (I’m more of a jeans and untucked shirt kind of guy.) I simply can’t imagine re-entering the rat race to earn a living.

But there is one little problem: You must have clients to keep your freelance business running. And whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been around the block a few times, every freelancer has to spend a little time being the rainmaker.

Does that mean you have to turn into a hardball sales person. No. Most copywriters aren’t good at that. And it’s not necessary. All you need are a few tricks of the trade to find new clients and get those projects rolling in again.

Here are 7 that are proven to produce results:

  • Work your referrals. It’s great to have people send business your way, but this takes time to work. To speed things up, simply ask people you know for names of potential clients. Contact these people and ask for more names. You keep working this chain of referrals until you find someone who needs your expertise. This won’t be to everyone’s taste. But if you’re persistent, it can work.
  • Contact your “wish list.” Come up with a list of businesses you would like to work with and start making phone calls. You will probably need to talk to a few people within an organization before you find the right contact. Be pleasant and brief. Most people are willing to help direct your call if they know what you want. Don’t try to sell yourself to everyone, just ask for the person who hires freelancers. Once you reach the right person, confirm that they hire freelancers, very briefly introduce yourself, and offer to send information about your services. Later you can follow up to answer questions, set up a meeting, or schedule future contacts.
  • Set up “power meetings.” This is a technique that works when you’re looking for a job, but it can also work for your freelance business. Find a few people who are big shots in your industry and set up a personal meeting or a phone meeting. Your goal is not to ask for work, but to ask for advice about where you can find work. A little flattery here goes a long way, so express your admiration and gratitude. Briefly explain that you’re a freelance copywriter seeking expert guidance. You’ll probably get good advice and a few good referrals.
  • Write letters. So many people rely on e-mail these days, it’s easy to forget about sending a simple letter. Your letter can be a brief introduction to who you are and the services you provide. Or better, it can be an offer for free information, such as samples, a brochure, an article you’ve written, etc. If you’re targeting specific businesses, send the information then follow up with a call. If you’re mass mailing, encourage people to request your information so you can tell who is most interested.
  • Mass mail postcards. Postcards are not as effective as letters, but they’re faster and cheaper, so you can contact more people. I’m not talking about vacation type postcards, but a special postcard that you write and design specifically to promote your services. Like any good advertisement, it should have a strong headline and benefits. It should also provide a clear “call to action” by offering additional information and an easy means of reaching you, preferably a phone number. Don’t just send people to your website because that gives you no way to know who responds to your card.
  • Do spec work. I don’t like spec work. But if you’re looking for a fast way to land a client, this could work. People have two major hurdles when they’re considering hiring you: they don’t know you and they don’t want to risk paying you. Offering to work on “spec,” short for speculative and which means working without committing to payment, helps potential clients leap these hurdles. However, you should make it clear that this is a special arrangement because you want to prove your skill and find paying clients.
  • Do something dramatic. If you’re looking for work locally, and if you’re the dramatic type, you might pull a stunt to get attention. I read about a writer who set up a desk and a typewriter near a busy intersection and offered to write things, such as cover letters or resumes, for business people passing by. He notified the local media and received so much press coverage, his phone was ringing off the hook for weeks.

By the way, it’s also a good idea to contact past clients if you’re looking for quick projects. But no matter how loyal your clients are, you still need a flow of new clients to keep your business healthy.

Everyone has a favorite way to get clients. What’s yours?

Related posts:

  1. Can you get freelance clients with social networking?
  2. 15 little secrets your freelance clients won’t tell you
  3. The freelance guide to working with clients that SUCK
  4. Dazzle Your Clients and Double Your Income
  5. 3 ways to attract higher paying clients and avoid the $10 content mills

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Smart Comments

7 Comments on 7 freelance tricks to get new clients fast

  1. Gail Cooper on Feb 24th, 2011 5:58 pm
  2. Great blog.
    Another idea — this boosted my response rate to 20% (yep!). First, get a list of qualified leads. Second, send them a pitch letter. Third, INCLUDE a self-addressed BRC, with several checkboxes: “I have a project in mind; call me”; “Nothing now, but contact me in [blank] days/weeks”; “Thanks, but I don’t need anything just now.”
    No stamp: getting the prospect to add a stamp “sets the hook” and weeds out those who are just killing time on a coffee break.
    Add a few blank lines for their title, company, and address. This is their spot to correct any out of date info you might have had.
    I couldn’t believe how well this worked. I did a similar mailing without the BRC, and got a 2% response rate. The BRCs were dead simple, too: just card stock, printed at the neighborhood xerox store. I used a rubber stamp with my name and address to stamp the front. It was such a novelty for my prospects that they liked it.

    Gail Cooper, copywriter & script doctor

  3. Sarah Kean-Price on Jan 6th, 2012 4:14 pm
  4. Gail, I love this idea. Will definitely be giving it a go!

  5. Tim Bradley, Writer on Jan 10th, 2012 11:37 pm
  6. Those mouse-over “Text-Ehance” ads are REALLY annoying and misleading. Can’t believe you allow them.

  7. Dean Rieck on Jan 11th, 2012 10:42 am
  8. Tim, what ads are you talking about? I have no ads set up on this blog.

  9. Tim Bradley, Writer on Jan 11th, 2012 12:34 pm
  10. Thanks for the “direct response”! When I try to click on the underlined blue words–money, freelance copywriter, mail, start–an ad from “Text Enhance” for various products comes up.

  11. Tim Bradley, Writer on Jan 11th, 2012 1:12 pm
  12. I think I accidentally “disappeared” my reply. What it said was that when I try to click on or roll my mouse over some of the underlined blue words–money, start, mail–an ad from “Text Enhance” for various products pops up.

  13. Dean Rieck on Jan 11th, 2012 1:26 pm
  14. Tim, that must be something on your browser. I don’t have any text ad application installed. And I’m not seeing this anywhere in Firefox or Explorer. Maybe check your browser ad-ons to see if something got installed by mistake. My understanding is that “Text-Enhance” is malware. See this: http://wafflesatnoon.com/2011/10/05/seeing-unwanted-text-enhance-ads/