First let me start by saying this is a nitty gritty guide to prospecting. This isn’t fluff and it probably won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
This guide was written to ensure your wallets and purses reach the appropriate thickness.
It was not written to help you find new friends to sit around with and talk about theories.
This guide will get you new clients if you use the outlined methods. Which brings us to one of the most important steps of prospecting.
In business and in life, you can get ahead by doing things others refuse to do. This has been proven time after time and it’s especially true for prospecting freelancers.
Many freelancers scoff at the idea of prospecting on Craigslist for example. But for many business owners, that’s the only way they know to hire new talent. I’m not saying searching through Craigslist is the best idea, but there’s nothing wrong with having a look.
Sure you’ll have to wade through the cheapskates, but there’s no doubt that people have landed high paying gigs there.
You’ve probably heard the term “guerilla marketing” before. Wikipedia defines it as a “low cost and unconventional” means of marketing.
As a freelancer, all your prospecting should have a touch of guerilla marketing. Figuring out new and creative ways to market your services will do more than level the playing field. It will make you stand out.
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Checking press releases is a great way to find information about companies that care about marketing.
The fact that they’re doing press releases tells you they care about their brand. It also tells you something new is happening within the company.
This basically pre-qualifies them for you. You don’t have to try to convince them, they already know they need help. Now all you need to do is convince them you’re the right person for the job.
Here’s how you do it.
Visit Press release sites like PRweb.com (there are lots more) PR sites allow you to conduct searches within the site. You can search by date, industry, and even specific business names.
To get started, find an industry you’re comfortable working with and do some research.
Look for companies that:
Basically, look for companies that are branching out in general. Let them know you noticed their new department (or whatever) and introduce yourself and your services.
The fact that you’ve done some research will make you stand out over the other freelancers contacting them.
Believe it or not, Redbox is a great way to reach potential clients. Simply sticking a business card in with your returned movie can get your name in front of people who otherwise, might have never known about you.
It might also bring out the crazies, so you may want to use a temporary number and/or an email.
This typically works better in big cities, but you want to try to stay as local as you can. If you have to drive a half hour, do it. It’s worth it to land local clients who will, no doubt praise you for your creativity.
This method also allows you to target the type of people you want to reach. For example, if you want to reach Women, stick to romance movies.
You can tell a lot about people by the movies they watch. Try to target as best as you can and make it count.
You may not land a gig with a Fortune 500 company using this method, but solo entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizers frequently visit Redbox.
This costs you $1 to reach potential clients.
Venture Capital Access Online is a great resource. Here you can find information about companies who are receiving funds from venture capital firms.
Often these are startups that just received their first big sum of money. They are desperate to spend it, especially on marketing and branding and they need to do it quickly so they can satisfy investors.
VCAOnline.com allows you to search the site for news, industries and upcoming events. Spend enough time here, and you’re likely to find enough clients to last you a lifetime.
Fiverr is another perfect example of doing what the other guys won’t. No, you will not get rich offering your services at five dollars a pop. But you will find people that need what you have to offer. And they are paying you to prospect.
The method is simple.
The idea of course, is that you can finish the job quickly and have a happy customer that will find you through your website or social media.
Do this, and you have just been paid for prospecting. There is no other way I know of to get paid to find new clients. It doesn’t work every time, but it does work. I’ve landed some really good clients using this method. Most of them call monthly with new work.
Is this against TOS? Let me ask my wallet.
Reddit has been around for a while and many thought its popularity had peaked. However, it seems to be gaining momentum again, making it the perfect place to find new work.
This sub-reddit is made up of companies and individuals looking for all kinds of freelancers. The best part is most are looking for web designers and developers. Sure, there is lots of other work being requested, but 8 out of 10 are looking for web designers and web developers.
Other freelancer’s will post there too.
They try to let everyone know of their current availability, but it seems to go largely unnoticed. It seems to be a better use of time simply replying to posts that fit your talents and needs.
Most posts will have direct contact info. Using this information allows you to contact them where they are and build a rapport with them quickly.
This is one of the first places people think of when they’re need of work. Often job boards are a waste of time. The time you spend searching these boards is better spent cold calling.
There are a few exceptions to this rule.
Other than that, don’t waste your time.
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If you don’t yet understand the importance of a follow up, then you probably haven’t tried it. Sending follow up messages will help you grow your client base much faster.
Most agencies only communicate with their clients once a year, if at all. As a freelancer you’ve built a more personal relationship, so use that to your advantage.
Each time you complete a job, set a date on your calendar to follow up with that client. How long you wait is up to you, but try to stay within 30 days. Give them time to settle in with the work, but not so long that they’ve forgotten your name.
The message needs to be directly related to the work you’ve already done.
Ask them if they have any questions or concerns about the final product now that they’ve had some time to sit with it. Ask them if they have any feedback for you or if there’s anything they would change if they could.
This shows that you care about your work. It also shows that you care about them and that’s what wins you repeat business.
More importantly, it lets the client know they can trust you because you asked for their feedback. In many cases that can be like standing in in the middle of a firing range and they know that.
Your client will appreciate this and respect you for doing it.
The fact that you took that chance, makes it easy for them to recommend you when a friend says, “Hey, do you know anyone who…”
Emailing previous clients just to say “Hi” is perfectly acceptable. But don’t make it look like some desperate attempt to drum up more work.
It’s common to receive messages from people you’ve worked with, especially on Holidays and Birthdays. In fact most clients expect it and will think badly of you if you don’t send at least one message to them within 12 months of completing the work.
Another good way to follow up is to talk about a common idea or passion.
For example, if you talked about football, follow up with them before the big game. If you can make the message humorous, go for it, but don’t get carried away and always be tasteful.
How you choose to send that message is up to you. Email, phone, text, tweet it doesn’t matter, but its best to use whatever means of communication you already had with the client.
Email seems to be widely accepted, chances are that’s how you communicated anyway. Try to start a conversation with them. Make it easy for them to reply and be quick in your responses.
Before the conversation is over, if they haven’t mentioned having any new work, ask them about the work you did before. This opens the door again in a professional manner. It’s an elegant way of saying, “I want to talk about the game, but I’m still a professional.”
You probably worked for another company or agency before you went out on your own.
Agencies don’t build the rapport with their clients, you do. Since you were the one performing the work, the client probably spoke directly with you. These clients are fair game.
If the agency was concerned about you “stealing” their clients they would have tried harder to keep you around or at least built a relationship with the client.
Reach out to these clients.
Let them know you’re on your own now, away from confinement and politics involved with agencies. Every client understands this means lower prices and quicker turnaround times. But be sure to let them know that anyway.
When you talk to them, phrases like, “less red tape” “hands on” and “low overhead” will pique their interest. This is a great way to land some long term contracts.
Ask any freelancer and they will all say the same thing. “If you want to reduce the amount of time you spend looking for new clients, do great work for the clients you have now.”
No matter where you find clients, the work you do for them must be great. When the job is over, your client should be raving about you. They should be telling you what their friends said about your work and who they plan to tell next.
Word of Mouth
It hasn’t gone away, even with all the technology we have. Nope, instead word of mouth spreads faster than ever. So satisfying a client can be the best thing you can do to help you find new clients.
Remember this; word of mouth has always been the best form of advertising and that will never change. When a job is done to client satisfaction, the word will spread. But a client that is left unsatisfied can ruin your career.
Sometimes tasks go beyond the scope of which you had originally planned. Some clients are pickier than others and you will have to work harder to please them. This is what separates the pros from the Joe’s.
Simply not finishing a task because the client was pushy or “asked for too much” is not an option. Those are the times when you have to really dig in, work longer than you thought and get the job done.
One client can ruin your name.
Do your best to please each one of them and the amount of time and effort you put in to prospecting will diminish greatly.
What is your favorite way to find new clients?
Share your questions and comments below.
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