One tip you’ll no doubt have heard as a freelancer is to continuously market yourself to maintain a steady stream of clients. In short, this boils down to having an active pipeline that clients come through.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. Trying to maintain an active promotion schedule when you’re in the middle of a project can be hard, and you may worry about how to get clients to work around your schedule.
This guide is designed to help you get a grasp on your biz dev activities, learn how to balance your time, and negotiate customer relationships as they move down your pipeline.
The first question many freelancers have is how they should go about finding new clients. There are hundreds of channels and approaches you can choose, and the most important thing is finding what works for you.
One of the four following areas is likely to encompass pretty much any biz dev activity you can do. Try and include activities in your marketing time that span all these categories, as they will produce different results at different speeds.
This is where most freelancers start when it comes to marketing themselves. It is one of the easiest ways to find new clients, although it doesn’t have the highest conversion rate.
Outreach includes activities such as responding to job adverts on freelancer job boards or emailing past or existing clients you think might have another need for your services. It’s one of the easiest forms of biz dev because you already know the person you’re talking to has an established need.
This makes it easier to begin the conversation, but also means you’re likely to be competing against a large pool of people.
Promotion is the opposite of outreach. In this scenario, rather than a client advertising a job, you advertise your skills and services and hope they approach you.
This is no different from more traditional marketing such as TV advertisements or magazine ads. Most freelancers use social media for a large amount of their promotion, as it’s free and provides access to a huge audience.
You may also consider paid advertising on search engines, social platforms or other websites.
For so many freelancers, networking is a word they dread. But it’s undeniable that this is a great way to find work.
Going to local and relevant industry events and getting chatting is a great way of meeting potential clients, expanding your presence and also meeting freelancers in a similar position.
The better and bigger your network, the more likely you are to receive referrals, be passed work from overrun fellow freelancers and be front of mind when your connections are in need.
Networking doesn’t just mean attending events and hunting down likely looking new contacts. Take time to nurture the contacts you already have as well.
Reaching out regularly to clients you’ve worked for in the past or have a good connection with will mean they’ll think about you next time an opportunity comes up.
Thought leadership can be a fantastic way to take your freelancing to the next level, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
When you think of a particular service or product in your industry, there’s a good chance a name or two will spring to mind. It may be that there’s a blog you regularly follow or a name that keeps cropping up on your social media.
Becoming a thought leader in your space is about making yourself that person that springs to mind and making sure you are the go-to expert in your niche.
Although it takes a long time to build up this level of trust and recognition, it can prove to be the most lucrative lead generating method, as interested clients will actively seek you out to work with you.
Managing your time
Of course, all these marketing strategies sound great, but when you’re two weeks behind on a project, halfway through your tax returns and already working 18 hours a day it’s not much of a surprise that they’re often the first things to go.
It’s natural that you’ll spend more time searching for new clients during quieter work periods, but here are some of our top tips to keep a steady flow of marketing activity going even when you’re snowed under in work.
Automate emails and reminders
Technology has given us so many options for automating our workflows and getting things done more quickly.
Consider setting up email drip campaigns that nurture leads automatically, or use a reminder system to let you know when you should reach out to specific contacts.
Schedule content and social posts
In times when you are quieter, why not create some extra content that can be scheduled for your busy periods.
Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite let you plan and manage all your social channels easily, and in the back-end of a website like WordPress you can schedule blogs to go out on a regular basis.
News aggregation tools
Another great way to get content out quickly is to use a news aggregation tool like Feedly or Google Alerts.
These are particularly great ways to get content at your fingertips that you can talk about on social media without having to spend hours crawling the web.
Try a new productivity hack
Check out our recent blog on top productivity hacks to see if a new tactic could help you get more done in your day.
When you’re at your busiest and most stressed you’re more likely than ever to slip back into bad habits, so it’s always worth taking a pause to see if you could be working more effectively.
Another big concern for freelancers is how to manage relationships with clients who have come through the sales funnel when you’re not free to work on a new project.
The fear that a dream client may approach you with a pressing need when you have no availability can be daunting.
It may be tempting to take on the extra work and commit to working more hours to try and meet deadlines, but in reality, this won’t end well for either you or the client.
Overstretching yourself will have a negative impact on your own wellbeing as well as the quality of your work, and you could jeopardise the chances of doing any work for them in the future.
Here are three ways you can handle this situation to keep yourself and the client happy.
Get on a call (or meet face to face) and be up-front
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you should do is try and schedule a call with the client.
Talking face to face will give you a much better chance of getting all the correct information around deadlines and flexibility. It will also give you the chance to convince them of your worth.
That way, when you explain your schedule and availability to them, they will hopefully have already bought into you as an expert. This might make them more likely to adjust their timeframes in order to work with you.
You may also find through speaking to the client that the project can be separated out or broken down further. If there are multiple distinct sections to the project, you may be able to convince the client that it’s better to split the work out between freelancers.
Similarly, you might be able to advise them about any preparation or research that would need to be done before you could start. This might buy more time to fit into other projects you’re currently working on.
Even if the client really isn’t flexible, getting on a call will give you the chance to build a better relationship, which can help you reach out to them in the future.
Sub-contract the work
Some freelancers find that outsourcing the project, or aspects of the project, is a way around this issue.
There are risks that come with this. You’ll have to make sure your contract is fool proof and allows you to take this action.
You’ll also have to be certain that anyone you subcontract work out to is going to complete it to a high standard, as it’s your reputation that’s on the line.
It may be that your margins are low or almost non-existent on a project like this, but if it gets you in with a repeat or high profile client it could still be worth it in the long run.
Refer a friend
If there’s really no way for you to carry out the project yourself, referring the client to a fellow freelancer is a great way to still get value from the opportunity.
If your recommendation pays off, it may still be easier to approach the client in the future.
It will also strengthen your relationship with your contact, and you may find that they are able to return the favour down the line.
What would you say is your most valuable tactic for finding new clients? If you’re looking for new networking opportunities, we’d be happy to talk to you about getting in touch with our coworking network. Give us a call on 023 8112 5014 to find out more.