Being a freelancer or entrepreneur can provide you with the freedom from the 9 – 5 grind that you've been hoping for but it's up to you to make your business a success. Getting started and finding your dream clients can be the road or roadblock to your success. I'd like to share ten essential strategies to find your dream clients and with a lot of hard work and passion, you can make a living as an entrepreneur.
Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.– Farrah Gray Click To Tweet
Step 1 Who is your dream client?
After you've created your business plan, knowing who you want to work with is step one. You need to decide who your ideal client is and how you can help them by creating your ideal client persona.
Broad ideas like “I just want clients” aren't going to make it easy for them to find you or for you to try to market to them. You don't want to try to be everything to everyone – creating your dream client persona will help attract the right clients to you. Taking the time to attract your ideal clients will save you time and effort down the road.
Ask yourself the following:
- What age is my ideal client?
- Are my clients other entrepreneurs? CEOs? Middle managers?
- Do they control a large budget? Or are they bootstrapping?
Hubspot designed a fantastic template Creating Buyer Personas for your Business – use this and create something valuable. If you market with buyer personas, you are marketing smarter.
With this template, you can learn best practices for persona research and create beautiful, well-formatted buyer personas that you can share with your entire company.
This offer includes tips and tricks for:
- Asking the right questions during your buyer persona interviews and surveys
- Formatting your buyer persona research in a compelling way
- Presenting your new, finalized buyer personas to your company
- Using your buyer personas for segmentation, content mapping, and lead nurturing”
Step 2 Set the stage
You'll need to create a home base for your business: your blog. Thankfully today it's as easy as building a WordPress blog. I recommend a self-hosted blog built on the Genesis framework.
My blog is a customized StudioPress Theme for WordPress.
Setting the stage on your new digital home will take time and every second that it takes to prepare is work the effort. If you don't have any skills or interest in building your own blog, this is a great place to work a professional. The beauty of a WordPress blog is that you can update your blog pages and add your own blog content independently.Creating your dream client persona will help attract the right clients. Click To Tweet
Step 3 Build your visual brand
You'll need to have a great name for your company, a logo, and a brand style guide as part of your new venture.
A solid visual brand ties all of your content together across social media platforms and helps people recognize your brand. You can work on a designer to create a brand, logo, and style guide for you. Working with a pro is great but your brand needs to capture the essence and spirit of your project.
Everything you do will be branded with your logo and brand colors which include on and offline assets such as marketing materials, invoices, and business cards.
This is a good step to get a series of professional headshots done. Yes, this seems scary but you can do it!
Step 4 Set your services and prices
Working with clients is hard work and working with jerky clients is frankly not fun at all. While you need to be prepared to handle the challenges and demands of your client work, being clear in your initial goals will help everyone be on the same page from the beginning. Creating a list of your services and what you'll charge as a baseline for negotiations is key.
Some people like having everything out there on their website and others like to create proposals for their prospective clients after they've had an initial call. Prepare contracts for services you'll offer and customize them after you've nailed down your offerings.
Being 100% clear on what you're going to do and how much it costs is very important. The boundaries and expectations are set in the contract and it's your job to fulfill them as well as stick to them when people ask for more changes that weren't included or decide to change everything and start from scratch. People change their minds but a complete re-do might be a whole new proposal. Entrepreneurs like to change their minds and rethink their plans, but you already knew that, right?
Step 5 Build thought leadership
Since you've already established your web presence, keeping it up-to-date with fresh articles is essential for attracting your ideal clients. Quality will trump quantity every time so write content that will add value to your field and that will help build your expertise. Continue building on your main themes and in time you'll be asked to be a guest on podcasts and other interviews as people seek your opinion.
There's no shortcut here. Roll up your sleeves and dig in. You want to be independent, right? That means hard work is in order.
Join LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, or other communities in your area of expertise. Make sure that you're spending time building relationships with future clients or referrals – not wasting time. If you decide to start a community or group, understand that it will be a very big time commitment to manage it. I like to say it's like getting a puppy, it's cute and you love it but there's a ton of feeding and clean up.
Step 6 Cast your net
Once you have you're general plan mapped out, you'll need to update your professional and social media bios to reflect the fact that you're looking for clients.
Keeping in mind that some people are on social media for purely social reasons and some for purely business, share your new business venture but don't only share this. You don't want to be that guy or girl that only talks about their services or tries to sell something to you. You don't like that, right? Neither does anyone else.
A few places you can cast the net:
- Your email signature
- LinkedIn profile
- Blog posts
- Guest blogging
- Guest on podcasts and Twitter chats
- Social media posts
If there's a possibility to offer your services to someone, take the time to connect thoughtfully on LinkedIn and send them a nice note. Send a personalized email that says hey, I do XYZ and if you ever have the need for my services, I'd love to talk with you about it. This effort can go a long way. Don't be pushy but be available. They might not need you now but in three months they might.
Building your network takes a long time and helping people grow through your connections can also help.
How to Promote Yourself Without Being a Jerk
Step 7 Write a press release
Creating a press release for your announcement for your official launch gets the ball rolling. Press releases are different than a blog post so it's important to do your research. If you have money in your budget, hiring a PR pro to write and execute your press release can get it in the hands of the right people. PR pros have connections and follow up on them.
Here's an example, Post Planner launched a press release when they brought on Rebekah Radice. You can post on PR Web or PR Log. It will cost a few hundred well-spent dollars to get more coverage.
Step 8 Send out personal communication
Do not, I repeat, do not send out a generic email blast to your whole contact list. This is the worst possible way to get the message out to your important contacts.
There's an art to writing an email and you're going to need to master it. The subject line is the most crucial part of your email. I learned a lot of valuable tips in Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki for how to send email to get results. I highly recommend Enchantment for all entrepreneurs.
- Use a smart, compelling subject line
- Keep your email short
- Don't send an email asking if you can ask someone something. Duh.
- Be clear
If you're going to offer consulting calls or intro calls to explain your services, try an online company like Calend.ly to help stay organized and cut down on the back and forth email.
Step 9 Help people for free
Yes, you read that correctly. If you're just starting out, you may need to do some pro bono work to get experience and figure out the steps for working with your ideal clients.
I worked on many projects without compensation that helped build my reputation and learn more about my job. Don't listen to people who say you need to charge for every single thing – building relationships takes time and trust. These are built with sweat equity.
I'm not advocating saying yes to every request to pick your brain but when you're just getting started don't let arrogance be the end of your new career before it starts.
You can qualify this as a one-time project that you'd be happy to assist with but let them know that all future projects will be under contract.
Step 10 Ask for referrals
You'll need to have a referral list to nudge people along in their decision to hire you. Ask for referrals for LinkedIn for former bosses, clients, co-workers, and some of the people that you helped for free. Use these quotes on your About Page on your website and keep it current.
After you've finished a project with a new client, asking them for a referral will help you get more clients down the line. If I work with a contractor that did a great job, I'm more than happy to refer them and add a reference on LinkedIn. If you screw me over in some way, whether it's over-charging, not completing the job, or something else, I won't give a reference when asked. Referrals are your bread and butter and they can go both ways.
Giving a referral is giving your word that you've worked with this person and that you'd recommend them. Only ask for referrals from people you've actually worked with so they can accurately describe your work.
Building a squad of entrepreneurs that provide complementary services or do the same thing as you but at different price points can also help build your referrals. Nurture relationships with other entrepreneurs to grow your referral network.
I hope that these ten steps have helped to outline the ways that you can leverage your connections and find clients for your new company. I'd love to hear how you've found clients for your company or things that didn't work for you too.
Julie Connor, Ed.D. says
This is one of the best posts I’ve seen yet about entrepreneurs can find dream clients. I particularly like all of the links and resources provided that seamlessly walk readers through each step of the journey. Thanks, Peg!
Peg Fitzpatrick (@PegFitzpatrick) says
Thank you so much for letting me know that you enjoy them. I appreciate it!
Steven Dale says
It used to be I could just buy ads and the phone rang. Now I have to blog, write articials, build back links, beg for reviews, build citations, beg big G for map presence, make countless videos, waste time on social media, test, test and test just a little bit more and pray it all works. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I make my competition cry!
Peg Fitzpatrick ( says
My how things have changed. 🙂
Great post Peg. It´s more than great, it´s extremely useful and I mean it.
I wish I would have known some of the tips you give here when I launched in blogging two and half year ago. Why? Because I would have “grown up” faster.
Same goes for launching in freelancing.
Except for one, I found all my clients through referrals from connections made via social media. Looking back I know it seems unbelievable, but is true.
When I posted on FB seven months ago that I was going on a full-time solo adventure as a freelance writer and social media manager, one of my connection sent me a client. Then I guest posted for a blog I read constantly and from there came another client. I joined a mastermind group of fellow freelancers and we started working together.
What it doesn´t work for me well (because I don´t like it) is looking for prospects on freelance job sites. If there is one thing I hate, it is this.
Thank you so much for this post. I have a few things to work on and thanks to you I found the resources.
Peg Fitzpatrick (@PegFitzpatrick) says
That’s fantastic that you’ve found all your clients through social media! All my connections and clients, except for my Director of Digital Media position, have also been made online so I totally believe it but it is a surprise.
I haven’t tried any of the freelance sites so I didn’t include them. I guess I could look into it for research purposes.
I’m really happy that you’ve found this useful. That makes me happy. 🙂
All your posts are useful and I learned a ton from you Peg. So, thank you for what you´re doing!
Catherine Steele says
This is such a great post! Straight forward and right on the money. Very helpful. My clients and followers will really benefit from your rich content. Thank you very much.
Peg Fitzpatrick (@PegFitzpatrick) says
I’m happy you found it helpful. I’d love to hear how you find your client and what works for you.
I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog! I think from … Instagram maybe? I can’t remember! lol! But great list! I think I’m gonna spend the morning stalking your site now. 😛
Awesome article, but found a few editorial errors. As a new entrepreneur this will be very useful, thank you for sharing.
oh, Peg – I have my work cut out for me! 🙂 Thank you, thank you for this great post.
Peg Fitzpatrick says
Thanks for reading – good luck!
Great post, it’s rare to see an article that is so helpful and thought through! Loved the bit on creating your perfect buyer persona. I find few people/businesses actually do this and it seems like the are swimming in the dark! If you have clients already you can also use them as the basis of some of the personas and help you define what you don’t want!
Peg Fitzpatrick says
Thanks – I’m happy that you liked it. 🙂
I super love this post! I’ve gotta say, helping people for free has been huge for me. So many great ideas here, thanks for sharing!
Neil Ferree says
Excellent article Peg. Its a cliche, but you walk your talk and it shows. Bookmarked this one!
Peg Fitzpatrick says
I appreciate the kind words – thank you Neil!
Chioma Anozie says
Insightful article and really thought-provoking. For me, #9 was the deal-breaker and showed your expertise. Much as we hate to admit it, without experience it is hard to get good-paying clients. And the best and fastest way to get experience, and build an impressive portfolio is through sweat equity, which normally starts by doing free work.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Peg
It’s such an impressive post Peg. Your insights are really valuable.
I still remember when I started my business 3 years ago I started with free projects. I did a lot of word-of-mouth marketing and I got few clients from my friend circle. I also did a lot of marketing through “Meetup”.
Initially I started my business with Hostgator web Hosting and Elegant Themes membership. But yes one thing I missed was building my business presence on social networks.
Thanks Peg for taking time and sharing this information.