As a social media and branding coach, I get asked the same question all the time: "How do I even find the right clients?" Unsurprisingly, one of the greatest fears amongst emerging freelancers is a lack of financial stability, paralyzing them from taking the necessary steps to succeed in their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Money is just one of the many concerns that freelancers face during this time - How do you find people who value your services and are willing to pay your rates? How do you discover brands whose products you believe in?
Although there are many ways to break down these insecurities and move past them in a productive way, I want to highlight the most important things that you can do today in order to attract the clients of your dreams.
1. Share Your Expertise For Free
If you look at today's most successful personal brands, you'll notice one prominent theme: they offer tons of free content. Whether it's online courses, blog posts, webinars, videos, or podcasts, freelance superstars build brand recognition by providing value-packed content available to everyone, no strings attached.
Why? For one simple reason: relationships. In today's world of internet overload, content availability and limited consumer attention spans, it's difficult to stand out when marketing your services. Think about it - when you're scrolling through your Facebook news feed, do you actually stop and click on ads? Rarely. Would you ever click on an ad for a product you've never heard of? Probably not. But, if you saw a blog post or video that spoke to an issue you're facing, would you click on it? Yeah, you probably would.
That's exactly what you need to be doing: creating content that speaks to the needs of your target audience and adds genuine value to their lives in some way. For example, if you were a personal fitness trainer and were looking to attract new clients, dig deeper into your target demographic to identify how you can help them. What are their fears, insecurities, motivations, personalities, and pleasures? And based on those insights, how can you bring free value to their lives through content? Maybe you would write a blog post titled "Ending The Frustration: 5 Ways To Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Today," or launch a podcast where you featured real fitness success stories. Whatever it is, you have to ask yourself: How am I being of service to my audience before they're ready to purchase what I'm selling?
So now you've created the content. But what's the point? Creating tailored content helps you in two important ways. First of all, it creates brand recognition and trust. According to Pam Moore, it takes five to seven impressions for someone to remember a brand, so this consistency is essential. If you regularly bring value to the table, your audience will trust that you know what you're talking about and are more likely to buy your services. And secondly, through SEO and different types of media, your content can easily be discovered at any time. This is the difference between Inbound versus Outbound Marketing - Inbound Marketing is the concept of customers discovering YOU instead of you having to go out and discover new customers. Any successful freelancer would agree that having an inbound marketing strategy is crucial to long-term and passive client acquisition.
I regularly receive emails from those who read my content in different publications, Facebook or my website who are interested in my services. Even if I wrote something six months ago and it's discovered by a new reader, that gives me the opportunity to expand my customer base and revenue without putting in any additional effort. This is a highly effective way to gather leads while maximizing your resources.
2. Brand yourself as a premium service
Freelance thought leader, Daniel DiPiazza, shares a great analogy that will help explain this powerful concept. As any car junkie knows, Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW. And although BMW is a high-end brand, Rolls Royce is even more exclusive. It's so expensive and rare that it can cost upwards of $300,000. But did you know that BMW and Rolls-Royce have almost identical engines? When you look under the hood, they're essentially the same car. So, why would a Rolls-Royce be so much more expensive than a BMW? It's all in the marketing. Rolls-Royce is branded as a premium automobile. Its underlying brand values are exclusivity, luxury, and rarity.
The key to finding your ideal clients is branding yourself as a premium service that provides an optimal customer experience. Even if you're not the "best" at whatever you're offering, Rolls-Royce has proven that it's not about what's under the engine. It's all about how you brand and differentiate yourself from the crowd. In other words: how you can build a personal brand that emulates the concept of high-quality? What can you change in order to alter the way your customers see you? Which leads me to...
3. Don't be afraid to invest in yourself
If you aren't willing to invest the time and money into your brand, you can't expect potential clients to take you seriously. If you don't think that having a clean website, an engaging social media presence, and a professional email address is important, for example, why would potential customers believe in what you're selling? Put the time into truly understanding who you are and how you want the world to see you as a brand.
I'm not suggesting that you invest $5,000 in Facebook ads and hire a professional designer for a website. You can create a beautiful, personalized sites on Squarepace, Wordpress or Rainmaker for as little as $10 a month. Establishing a solid visual brand for yourself is essential for acquiring your ideal clients, so invest the right time and resources to make it happen.
4. Don't forget about the relationships you already have
Forget about your ideal clients for a second and think about the relationships you already have. These are the people who already trust you, believe in you, and are willing to give you their attention. So why do so many emerging freelancers ignore this incredible opportunity? Your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, co-workers, and partners are all fantastic resources for amplifying your personal brand and connecting you to relevant people. Even your Facebook friends can be hugely valuable. According to Forbes, those who use social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers. Why? Because social media was built for relationships, and relationships are rooted in authenticity, communication, and value. You're already connected with so many people both online and offline, so why would you not take advantage of that?
For example, I was recently scrolling through Facebook and saw something that my high school had posted. I graduated a long time ago, but I still felt connected to the small private school that had given me so much value as a teenager. Since the relationship was already established, I naturally felt inclined to peek around and see what they were up to these days. It quickly became clear to me that their social media channels and blog were a mess, and if they improved certain aspects of their marketing strategy, they could potentially increase their application base for the coming year. I ended up reconnecting with the school and consulting them on their marketing. This was a brand that already knew me and trusted me, which is why they valued my expertise and were willing to pay for it.
The moral of the story is, don't forget to utilize the network you already have. You'd be surprised how far it can take you.
5. Just keep going
No matter what your goals are as a freelancer, I truly believe that what it all comes down to is resilience. You cannot be afraid to fail and you cannot rely on a plan B. Constantly seek to perfect your skills within your area expertise and continue to provide value even when you don't see the immediate results.
Regularly check in with yourself and identify where you can do better, and I promise that it will it will bring you closer to the clients of your dreams.