Don't Want to Cold Pitch? Ask Your Network for Clients
Looking for a job today is fairly simple. Once you decide on the role, location and salary you want, you apply, (hopefully) interview for the position and (hopefully) get the job. But much like finding job openings, finding clients depends on where you look and who you know. And as I’ve mentioned before, some freelancers (including me) have had mixed results when using platforms like Upwork and LinkedIn ProFinder.
This begs the question: how can new freelancers find good clients? The answer to that question depends on who you ask and what your specialty. I’m sure the answer will vary a bit depending on whether you do multimedia, SEO, or some other niche. And some freelancers say cold pitching CEOs or content/marketing directors via LinkedIn is effective.
As a very introverted person, I don’t have the desire to pitch and be ghosted by strangers. So, instead, I opt to tap into my network for leads. Here’s who to ask and how to do it:
Do you have former bosses who you left on good terms? Reach out and ask about possibly freelance work or whether they know someone who’s seeking extra help. I did this recently and am in the process of acquiring another client. This strategy is great, because your former bosses are the ones who can provide you with a solid, honest recommendation. If your bosses are looking for freelancers, your existing relationship and internal knowledge of the company gives you a leg up over competitors. The only catch here is that you’ll need to like the boss in question. If not, look elsewhere. You don’t want a client to treat you like you’re still an employee.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gotten multiple leads on social media, which is why I include listings from there and elsewhere in my newsletter. My bylines at Pacific Standard, Vice and Atlas Obscura all came from Twitter. Of course, readers of your own blog, newsletter, or social feeds are also possible leads. Don’t ever stop marketing your work. Even when you don’t realize it, someone’s always paying attention.
Friends of friends, college and high school alumni, former co-workers—any one of them could work at a prospect company that you’d like to pitch. Like your former boss, your casual connections will know who to talk to inside the company and can put in a good word on your behalf.
If you’ve successfully pitched a publication or client in the past, it never hurts to follow-up with them and see if they need steady help. With former one-off clients, you pitch steady services to them, effectively turning them into an anchor client. Check in with prior clients to see what’s going on with the company. Ask them out to lunch or send them a kind email.
When you’re starting out or looking to boost your business prospects, tapping into your existing network cuts down on a lot of hurdles—time wasted searching for the right contacts, building trust between you and a potential client, time waiting to close the deal… Using your contacts to get your foot in the door isn’t just for full-time job seekers. Take the skills you’ve been building up in the job market and use them to scale up your business.
Where do you find client leads within your network? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.