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How to Get Your First Clients as a Freelancer

by Eva Hibnick

How to Get Your First Clients as a Freelancer

So you’ve quit your job and decided to go out on your own. You’re excited about the prospect of working for yourself and having more flexibility in your schedule. You sit at your desk and are ready to start working. There’s just one problem: you don’t have any work! Getting clients is the most fundamental step in becoming a successful freelancer. Here are some tips on how to develop a pipeline of clients so that you always have active projects on your plate.

1. Incorporate

Most freelancers choose to incorporate for the tax benefits and to reduce their liability. However, from a marketing perspective, incorporating also makes sense since it makes you seem like more than just a person working out of a coffee shop. Having “Inc.” or “LLC” attached to your name also enables you to go after larger clients that may be looking for someone whom they think is more professional or more established in the field.

2. Setup a website with a clear call to action

Your website is an extension of you and how you want to portray yourself. Spend some time thinking about your overall brand and how you want to be perceived. In the beginning, you will be heavily relying on your past work experience and the contacts you made in order to sign on new clients. It’s important that you display your experience on your website and also feature examples of any previous work you did at your old job. For example if you are a designer, you should have a few sample webpages or wireframes you did in the past. The call to action on your website should be your contact information so that visitors can easily get in touch with you.

Think about who your clients are following and what kinds of articles interest them. You want to get to a point where you are in front of your target audience and top of mind when they decide that they need someone with your background and skills.

I recommend setting up a WordPress site because it is easy to set up and is already configured for search engine optimization (SEO). If you can not find a template you like on WordPress or Themeforest (WordPress themes for purchase), you can choose to custom code your own website or hire someone to build a website for you. Another option to consider is Squarespace.

3. Set up all of your social channels

There is no harm in setting up all of your social media channels since they are free.  You should at least claim your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ accounts for your name and your agency name. Knowem.com is a great resource that automatically signs you up for all the channels and more. It may seem a tad expensive but the time you will save makes the cost well worth it.

4. Become active on social media and blog regularly

You should set aside about 3-4 hours a week to write blog posts about something that is relevant to your industry. The best way to come up with ideas on what to write about is to follow everyone in your field on Twitter and Quora. You should also be conscious of building up your presence on social media. Think about who your clients are following and what kinds of articles interest them. You want to get to a point where you are in front of your target audience and top of mind when they decide that they need someone with your background and skills.You should also look into guest blogging on high traffic sites (i.e., Huffington post, any industry specific blogs etc) in order to take advantage of their readership.

5. Actively reach out to your network

The first clients you retain will most likely come from your personal network. It is best to leave your current job on good terms and also be public about your next steps. Send out a departure email to everyone at your company letting them know what you are doing next and at what email address they can reach you. After you have left your job, change your Linkedin profile to reflect your change in careers. This will help notify your entire Linkedin network of the news and also may lead to some potential business. Another thing you can do is look through your Linkedin contacts and direct message any that you think may need your services.

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Remember, you should always be selling yourself and your skills. Everyone you meet is a potential client or at the very least someone that can refer you to a potential client.

Eva Hibnick is the founder and Chief Legal Innovation Officer at One400, a digital agency focusing on innovative marketing for law firms and legal tech startups. She was previously the Marketing Manager at General Assembly and before entering the startup world, she was an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and licensed to practice in New York.