There are a lot of questions about “how to get clients” as a copywriter, freelancer and small businessperson of all types.
Here’s a harsh truth: nobody is going to reveal the exact system they use, and even if they do, the chances of it working for you also are slim. The reason for this is that most people will find success by filling a niche that suits their personality.
An example; I have a friend who is pirate-like and turns up in new countries, goes to digital nomad meetups and secures business by taking them out, drinking with them and it’s all a “be my buddy, let’s handshake on it” exercise that requires a type of charisma and personal confidence that wouldn’t suit many freelancer. Myself included. If I tried that strategy, I’d end up with no clients and I’d be real grumpy the next morning.
On the other hand, cold emailing works for some people and won’t for others. Traditional networking, building funnel systems, all of those things can be the right choice for you.
Nobody is going to give you the exact details because then you’re more competition, and even if you aren’t… it takes a lot of time, effort and money to build these systems and so they’re not given away for free.
First Lesson of this article: Anyone who claims to give you the whole fool-proof system either 1) knows you can’t replicate it (and so compete) or 2) is selling you a dream-carrot and the “system” is the stick.
Let’s get into some principles though that’ll help you.
Make Your Own System
In a moment, you’ll be reading about ways to flip the script and differentiate yourself from other cold-emailers, network marketers and cheap Indian freelancers.
Before that though, let’s talk about the elephant in introduction. You are going to need to build your own system for getting clients. There’s no way around this, no magic bullet you can buy, no short cut you can take and nobody that’s going to magically take you from earning nothing to landing seven figure clients.
Your system will be unique to you and you should know your own strengths before you start to build it. If you’re among the many people who aren’t blessed with charisma and don’t like person-to-person sales, then that’s fine, but you’re going to have to work around that. If you’re terrible at cold emails (you send a thousand emails and don’t convert) then you either need to change your strategy entirely or seriously look at your skills. Ditto building website funnels or attending network meetings.
With that said… let’s talk about flipping the script.
Flip The Script
Most freelancers are horrible at getting clients. Every time you go to an entrepreneur website, there are a million questions that are all variations on “How do I get customers?”
When you read “flip the script” you might think I’m referring to “flipping the script” on a potential client, making them want your service more than you want to get hired. That’s a great idea, but I’m referring to the fact you basically have to do the opposite of what other freelancers are doing.
Most Freelancers Don’t Know What They’re Doing
You can read guru sites that tell you to hop on Upwork, write some proposals and wait for the money to come flying in.
Here’s a quick exercise: Register on Upwork, Freelancer or wherever and post as though you’re seeking a freelancer. It can be simple. Just say you need five articles about dog training or something.
What you’ll get back will enlighten you. People won’t have read your posting. They’ll give you portfolios that are irrelevant. Broken English will probably be there. Entitlement, weird qualifying statements and all sorts of other things.
In general… you don’t want to do any of that.
Moreover, there’s no point in bidding for low-end jobs for low-end clients; and those are the only ones you’d ever write a spam approach for.
So all of your pitches need to be tailored, and you should only bid for jobs that make doing that worth your while. Here are some more tips.
How To Flip The Script On Other Freelancers
Don’t introduce yourself in the wackiest way possible. “Hi, I’m Jamie. I’ve got a top degree from a top University and I’ve written about a million articles on my mildly successful blog. I’ve done this, that and the other and my Mum thinks I’m the most eligible bachelor in the whole world. Oh, and I write copy too. Great copy in fact. If you want to hire me, then…”
Plenty of people do this. It’s never a good idea. A simple, “Hi, I’m Jamie” does the job fine. Say you’re a copywriter. Say you can do the job. A pitch is about your client though. It’s all about your client, and they’ll ask for that info if they want it.
If you’re working in a jaded niche, then feel free to call out other competitors. It’s dog-eat-dog.
For instance, if you work in content writing for blogging, then it’s stupid not to point out that most of the pitches your client receives will be utter drivel.
“You’ve probably got a ton of replies that don’t mention your article and people sending stuff that has nothing to do with your job. Here’s a sample which proves I can do X and here are my results Y, Z, etc. that show I’m different from them.”
No tricks needed.
Simply be where other freelancers aren’t. This requires a bit of social savvy; I’ve seen people begging on Twitter, Facebook and the like for freelance work. Those options won’t ever work because nobody goes on Twitter looking to hire someone and begging doesn’t work either.
But in a more general sense, every single day there’s a new topic on Reddit’s freelance section about how terrible Upwork is. There are a million freelancers there who’ll do your job for pennies and so on.
Upwork is not the only freelance site in the world, and even if it was, you don’t have to get business on freelance websites.
Inevitably, people are going to assume I mean “go to networking events” here but I don’t. I mean think of stuff that other business owners do when they’re working and intercept them as they’re doing it.
You might go to a networking event but the above could also mean “write a blog post about a specific topic and then close that with a call to action.”
Think of all the different industries that hire freelancers and do that. It doesn’t have to be a blog post, a website or anything. I’ll give you an example in tomorrow’s article where I talk more about flipping the script on potential clients, but for now, understand that most freelancers don’t do this.
Today, I’ve talked a little about how to differentiate yourself from other freelance competition.
Notice how I haven’t suggested anything that is impossible, technically demanding or requires you to have any particular advantages. Most articles about this will have stupid generic comments like “Be better than your competition,” “use adwords to outspend them!” and “try an entirely new business” (as well as the obvious “buy my course on networking because I totally make money freelancing and not just selling stuff to people who don’t know how to freelance.”
Most freelancers don’t even have a strategy for getting clients, let alone have an effective one. So doing the opposite to them is rarely a bad decision and it’ll put you light years ahead of them in short order.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about flipping the script on potential clients, making them want your service more than you appear to want their business.
If the above seems counter-productive or unrealistic, check back tomorrow!