Can you get freelance clients with social networking?

December 2, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

social networking and freelancersA few weeks ago, Allison Marquardt commented on the post When freelancing fails and asked some great questions:

I’m wondering about the role of the web and social networking in freelancing. I’m a working writer, but I’m curious about what you think about these things as a promotional tool for freelance writing.

Should I spend time with these things first, or should I just try to get some more work? Things like Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, creating my own blog, etc. I mean, I could spend hundreds of hours bringing these things up to par in an effort to get more clients. Or maybe they aren’t so important. Can I get clients without having 100 connections on LinkedIn, a big Facebook presence and my own daily blog? Do most clients expect to find you on LinkedIn and Facebook? Or don’t they really care, as long as you do good work and meet their deadlines?

Is a good electronic portfolio adequate these days, or is full participation in the social media game a necessity?

Here was my answer to her:

Wow. That’s a lot of questions. And all good ones. Maybe I should write a post on this to answer it.

The short answer is that you can promote your services and find clients in many different ways. It all depends on who your clients are and what works for you.

I still think my short answer was spot on, but let’s take a look at the long answer to fill in the details a little.

If you would have asked me a few years ago if social networking made any difference for freelancing, I would have said no. And to some extent, I think that’s still the case.

However, as social media has matured, it is becoming more obvious how it can help you network more broadly and effectively, especially with business tools such as LinkedIn. The caveat is that you need to take it seriously and do real networking, and not waste time sending links for funny cat videos and chatting about your personal life.

The key is this: who are your clients and where are they? If they’re on Twitter, that’s a good way to reach them. If they’re not, why waste the time?

In my view, Twitter and Facebook are not ideal ways to get clients. LinkedIn, however, is a business tool specifically created to network. This is the best place to start if you want to add social tools to your prospecting.

Adding a blog to your website is also a good idea, but it takes time for a payoff. A blog adds fresh content and keywords to your site, so you can rank higher in the search engines. But you must be prepared to devote time to it and be patient. My business blog ranks high for keywords such as direct mail copywriter, but remember that my website has been around for many, many years and has hundreds of pages of content.

Do clients expect to find you on particular social networks? Do they expect you to have a blog? No. Unless you’re going for clients whose business is social media marketing, most clients won’t care. They do expect you to have a website, but that’s all.

So back to my short answer: you can promote your services and find clients in many different ways. It all depends on who your clients are and what works for you.

For me, Facebook and Twitter have no benefit for my freelance business. I have an account with both, however I use Facebook exclusively to connect with personal friends and Twitter serves to bring traffic to my blogs. And for the most part, I have automated my Twitter posts with Google Feedburner. So I’m not spending much time with this.

If you’re looking to get more clients with social networking and online tools, I recommend the following:

  • Use LinkedIn to start making connections for real networking (not socializing). You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.
  • Use Jigsaw to help find contacts at specific companies.
  • Use the phone and email to start a conversation and get projects from people you’ve connected with .

And here are 7 other quick ways to get clients.

Chime in. Are you using social networking to get freelance clients? What works for you? What’s a waste of time?

Related posts:

  1. 7 freelance tricks to get new clients fast
  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

5 Comments on Can you get freelance clients with social networking?

  1. Andrew B on Dec 2nd, 2010 1:11 pm
  2. Hi Dean,

    Great post. I think Facebook is a total waste of time for stuff like this. That’s not to say it would NEVER work, but for the most part, Facebook is the fried food of the internet.

    LinkedIn is only marginally better. But not much.

    There seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of online connections/friends/fans someone has, and their actual ability to connect on a human level. How many people have 1000+ “friends” but couldn’t possibly get three of them together for a cocktail if their lives depended on it? Yeah, exactly — a lot.

    The whole thing is about matching need with capability, and social network sites don’t really do that (nor were they intended to). Your REAL social network is contained in the speed-dial numbers on your cell phone.

    If I was the client, would I EVER turn to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to find freelance help? Oh heavens no.

  3. Andrew B on Dec 2nd, 2010 2:07 pm
  4. Not to beleaguer the point, but I will anyway: :)

    Back in the late 80s, I had an excellent professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism. (Ivan Preston.) Here’s a guy who worked in big Chicago agencies in the 60s and 70s, received international acclaim for his books and research about advertising and communication, testified numerous times before the FTC, chaired the department, and taught tens of thousands of university students over a long career. He’s well-known amongst faculty members across many universities. More importantly, he’s a great guy who’s easy to talk to, always available, unpretentious, and someone you could go have a beer with. Think of the thousands of people–many at very high levels–he must know.

    Now go check out his LinkedIn profile. Number of connections: 13.

  5. carrie on Dec 2nd, 2010 2:22 pm
  6. Hi Dean, interesting points and lots of social media food for thought here. As a consultant, I find that social media is most effective in yes, getting more traffic and followers, but also enhancing relationships either with folks I just met, or even current or recent clients. Sometimes, people don’t want to subscribe to an e-news or even a blog, but they will use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch, and consultants can use them for “top of mind.” I have also been surprised that Linked In, even with its group functionality and q/a platform, has not been that effective, although I have had some extended discussions that make good blog content. The best thing about Linked In for me has been the addition of the Behance software so you can add your portfolio (great for writers) to your Profile, and I did a blog post on this recently because I was that excited about it.

    I have noticed recently that many people have their radar on for “automated” tweets and I personally don’t like them either, as it sends a message that the sender is not being interactive at the moment, or even social. So perhaps that is influencing your Twitter experience.

    Thanks for another great post!

  7. Dean Rieck on Dec 2nd, 2010 2:47 pm
  8. Andrew,
    LOL I think it’s a generation thing. But on the other hand, look at the people with 1,584 Facebook friends on their personal page. C’mon.

    I use LinkedIn to make an extra connection with people who contact me. I’ll admit I haven’t used it to the fullest extent, but you’re more likely to get a response when you send a LinkedIn message vs. email. And it’s a handy way to have an instant database of contacts. I would know, for example, when someone changes jobs or gets promoted.

    There’s value in it … you just have to learn how to use it.

  9. Alison on Dec 8th, 2010 8:43 am
  10. Hi Dean – Great article! I would like to offer that even though many jobs aren’t found through social networking, it does happen. I’ve found two via Twitter connections and was just offered a gig via Linked In after updating my profile. I would love to add you to my network on Linked In, but because I don’t “know” you the system refuses my invitation. How should I proceed?