Freelancing: How to Get Clients & Work

As I’m eight months into unemployment and the job search is moving slow, I’m considering doing some freelancing work to supplement my income and expose myself to more experience.

I’ve actually been freelancing for 14 years. However, the work I’ve performed for several small businesses work for my portfolio, but not my experience in freelancing (trust me on this).

So, to better understand the best practices in obtaining new clients and work, I decided recently to post this question to the social network at LinkedIn. First point I’d like to make is if you’re not engaged on LinkedIn, become engaged. It is a powerful network of folks looking for jobs, looking for business. I have found it to be extremely powerful, as well as helpful.

I posted the following question to the network. Below, I provide the best answers in order of presumed value and impact. Many thanks to all who responded to my question.

Question: Web Freelancers, what methods do you use to generate business? Cold call? Mass-mailing? Blast Email? How do you get businesses to look for you? To realize they need your services? And how does it differ per small to medium to corporate businesses?

  1. Network, Network, Network: Talk to friends, family, business contacts, associations, user group meetings. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and get engaged. Networking is probably the #1 method of getting quality work.
  2. Partner with Other Web Design & Development Firms: Many web design firms have too much business, or too much of the wrong kind of business (static, brochureware, etc., not exciting Flash/Ajax development). Many firms would be happy to pass that kind of work to their “partners.”
  3. Solve Problems, Don’t Push Services: I’ve already made this mistake, not making myself beneficial, instead of an irritant. If the customer has an actual problem, and you can suggest a reasonable solution, you’re likely to get the work. Don’t waste your time pushing solutions to people/businesses that don’t have the problem.
  4. Provide Service that Exceeds Expectation and People Will Talk: Once you get some work, exceed the client’s expectations. Doing so will not only turn them into repeat business, but turn them into a marketer for your business. Viral marketing is so powerful, yet many people haven’t a clue how to kick it off.
  5. Don’t Poach, Undercut: Especially early in business or when business is lean, it may be tempting to steal work from others or price your services under to get the business. Doing so will say something about your business practices and ethics, and ensure to ruin your brand.
  6. Cold Calling Only for the Skilled: Cold calling is hard. Rejection is difficult for some emotionally. However, if trained, cold calling can be an effective business generator. If you’re not trained, get the training, or look to services which can handle this for you.
  7. Think of Yourself as a Brand and Build It: A brand is a representation of who you are and what you represent. Make sure your actions and interaction support it every moment of every day. And make sure to promote it too.
  8. Leverage Services for Business: Use services like Craigslist, Guru, Sologig and many others to locate new business.

Have other effective methods to generating freelance work? Submit it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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