Finding clients can be tough on freelancers, we have a lot to do running a business and are generally a 1 person show, so marketing usually gets pushed aside in favor of doing actual work for clients.
But if you keep pushing aside your marketing efforts you eventually end up in a dry spell or even worse and often coupled with a dry spell — you have no presence at all in your industry and community.
The majority of my own business relies on some marketing I do like reaching out to potential clients directly (often not local) and also inbound leads from my website(s) which are almost never local.
Those are my two big lead generators, but I also have a decent amount of referrals that come in from current and past clients. I don’t tap into that too much but it’s something I’m exploring soon and you’ll see some posts to come on getting more referrals because it’s definitely a powerful way to get leads.
I’ve worked with clients all around the world, which is cool, but it’s also smart to have a strong presence for your local city too. Currently I live in a small beach town mostly overrun with tourist, so it’s a bit hard to do that here, but more than likely you won’t have that problem.
Where to find local clients?
As usual my first go-to is Google if you’re reaching out directly to them. If you’re a web worker (developer/designer/UX/marketing), you probably want to find local agencies and approach them.
This is the easiest in my opinion because they probably know they need overflow work, just don’t often think about sourcing it out.
Another avenue is to reach out directly to local businesses. One way I think about this is to think about the places I visit often.. like local coffee shops.
For the most part small businesses usually fall into two categories: no website at all, or a really bad one the owner or an employee slapped together
Selling them can be hard, but I’ll talk about that later in this post. One thing you can and should be doing is…
Building Presence in Your Local Community
Everyone I know hates networking and rightfully so, it kind of sucks and there’s usually little pay off.
You’re probably better off doing cold sales to local companies to sell them. But there’s more than just networking in your local community, I’m sure of it, and that’s where you want to ingrain yourself.
I’m a big fan of Meetup’s, it’s a great way for like minded people in niche areas and industries to get together. Just search “web design” in your city on meetup.com and I’m sure you’ll get a bunch of related results.
People who generally attend these aren’t looking for web designers, more likely they ARE web designers. And that’s what you really want in order to create presence in your local community, is to be known among your peers.
This can lead to a few great things:
- Other freelancers like your work and send you overflow or leads
- Opportunities to speak or present at get togethers
- You gain friends in your community that can help you / and you them
- Learn about new opportunities to promote yourself and others
When I lived in Baltimore, I didn’t found out about some great local tech directories until some people at meet ups had mentioned them, like baltimoretech.net & madewithloveinbaltimore.com
These are sites where you can list yourself and what you do, or just a listing of local tech people. You might have something in your city and not even know about it.
I’ve used these sites to find local freelancers to work with in the past several times, and I’ve seen others use it in the same manner.
Other Local Events
A lot of times local professional organizations may have their own events that aren’t listed on meetup — but solely ran by the organization and the info is only available to their immediate audience or on their website.
Even if you’re not interested in becoming a member (perhaps joining the Baltimore Real Estate Agents doesn’t exactly fit for a web designer) you might still be able to leverage these events.
Maybe you approach them and ask if you can present a quick talk about how responsive web design can help real estate agents get more leads?
It needs to be informative of course and not one big pitch. But if you provide real value people will seek you out the learn more and that’s what you really want, not to get in front of people to pitch, but to show your expertise.
Most cities have business journals or some type of local business related news site, it’s best to keep an eye on these sites to learn more about events that are outside of what you do.
Two starting points:
- BizJournals – Directories and Local Business News
- Meetup.com – Events and Groups related to specific topics or interests
Direct to Business
There’s another possibility which involves a bit more work though, which is directly approaching businesses that you think could benefit from your service.
Realize that you’re initiating a cold conversation here. They may not realize they need a website or even value what it could do, so you have to pitch why, then pitch the cost to them. That’s usually where the shock comes in for small businesses.
It’s hard for them to quantify how much something like that should cost if they aren’t actively thinking about it and talking with other companies or freelancers.
So here you come out of nowhere with a big (to them) price tag – and they don’t know you or if you’re charging them the right price.
It’s a hard sell but it’s still doable. I haven’t done this in a long time unless I have an in where I know someone who works there or visit often enough to bring it up in conversation first. That’s truly the best way to propose and sell something like that, having a connection and trust first.
What you can do is try to get in front of a decision maker. Maybe the owner or whoever handles marketing. Try to book an appointment with them or seek them out somehow and ask them if you can go over why they might need or want what you do.
As always, provide value and show your expertise. Let them know things could be better and help them achieve any goals they have or solve problems.
Do you use or have tried any of these to find local clients? How has it worked for you? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!