Raise your hand if you’re ready to start freelancing or want to take your business to the next level, but it seems like you can’t find new clients.
No matter how vast the internet is, you can’t seem to find clients online.
When you check your email, no one is inquiring about your services.
It seems like, despite the statistics, every other freelancer is having success except you.
Finding new clients as a freelancer is a common conundrum. However, we’re here today to show you how you can find new clients using your local network.
If you’ve been pulling your hair out or you’re frustrated about landing new gigs, we’ll help you get to a place where you have to raise your rates and reduce your workload.
Getting more clients as a freelancer shouldn’t be a dream. It should be your reality – and this is what you can do about it.
Bonus: Get the step-by-step checklist to land your first local client!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more details.
The main problem is that there are so many clients out there. However, they don’t necessarily know that they need your help. They don’t see themselves as clients yet.
Think about it: the owner of the neighborhood coffee shop you buy coffee from every morning may be struggling with getting more customers, but he isn’t sure what he needs help with.
And it’s hard to look for a solution when you don’t know what the root cause of your problem is.
At the same time, there are a lot of freelancers out there – from graphic designers to web designers to web developers.
And what do most of us do?
We wait for our clients to come to us.
We wait for that coffee shop owner to realize that he needs a website and to get in touch with us as web developers.
We wait for a hairdresser down the block to realize she needs a social media manager to boost her revenue and get more clients.
Most of our clients don’t understand what they need. They don’t know they need our services. And by waiting for them to come to us, we’re losing out on revenue.
You should start by looking for clients in your own backyard.
Instead of waiting for business owners to realize they need your services and making them go through directories to find you, be proactive and reach out to them.
In this article, we’ll show you 10 different ways you can use to find clients near you. Even if they don’t know they need you.
The first thing to do is conduct market research. Or, to put it simply: understand what your future clients need. Understand what kind of businesses need your services.
Let’s say you’re a web designer. Maybe you’re even enrolled in one of our courses.
Snoop around and see how many people around you need web design services. Are there business owners in your area that have malfunctioning websites, or no websites at all?
Think about the reasons stopping your prospects from having a great website:
Understanding your prospects’ needs goes a long way towards successfully offering them your services, and taking them on as clients.
When you understand what their individual needs are, you can approach them from their point of view.
Let’s say you’re reaching out to a bakery owner without a website (and you’re a website developer).
If you’ve researched their needs, you may understand that they’re elderly and not fully aware of how a website can help them get more customers.
In this case, you can avoid the fancy lingo and be straightforward when you tell them that a lot of people in your area are looking for a bakery, and they’re using the internet to do it. You can design a website that will show people how great their cakes look.
A lot of freelancers make one grave mistake when they’re pitching their services to prospects: they don’t show the value of their work.
Now you’re asking: but I’m telling them I design websites. How’s that not showing value?
It’s actually very simple. You’re not telling them how they can profit from spending money on your services.
It’s incredibly important to show your clients how you can make them money.
This is especially true if your clients aren’t aware that that they even need you.
If you approach a car dealership with a website design pitch, do they even know they could earn upwards of $2,000 extra each month just by having online presence that’ll direct people to their dealership?
Or do they just know that you’re designing websites?
This is where good market research comes in hand, too.
Understanding your market and your clients’ market will help you structure a value proposal that will immediately show clients how they’re profiting by spending money on your services.
We already talked about how important it is to tailor your pitch to your prospects’ needs. So when you’re talking to your friends and family, don’t be mystical.
Don’t use industry lingo only you understand. Clients want a website, and most of them don’t know the difference between Joomla and WordPress.
If you’re a website developer, explain what you do (“I make great websites that attract new clients, even for small businesses.”). Show the immediate benefits, and get to talking with your friends and family.
Chances are, they’ve been talking about your freelance role in vague terms if they don’t understand how your clients profit from your services.
But if you tell them: Hey, I make awesome websites/logos that make new customers stop and buy, they’ll be more willing to give you a referral.
And always – always – follow up with a verbal call to action such as:
Friends and family can help you get more clients just by knowing more people than you. You don’t have to be salesy – just start spreading the word that you’re a reliable person.
And speaking of reliability…
A great place to start finding local clients are businesses you often visit. Corner stores, bakeries, coffee shops…
These people already know you. And if you’ve left a good impression, they’ll always be more likely to take your advice and ultimately, work with you.
Get to talking with the owners. Listen to what they’re saying and what their needs are. If their needs fit your area of expertise, offer your services.
A good way to get started with finding new clients using your local network is by checking out businesses’ websites (if you’re a web developer) and finding things that could be improved.
Just because they have a website already doesn’t mean that their website can’t be even better.
Local communities often rely on trust. And just like you should be likable and chatty with the business owners whose locales you frequent, you should do the same PR-wise.
Because word spreads fast in communities. And no matter what outbound marketing tactics you use, there’s nothing like word of mouth to generate new business.
You can stimulate that by becoming a local resource in ways such as:
When it comes to giving your services away for free, be careful. There’s a big difference between doing some web development or graphic design work for non-profits, and not charging the services you provide to for-profit businesses.
Your goal here is to become synonymous with your industry so people naturally refer each other when they have a need for your services.
When it comes to finding new clients using your local network, there’s nothing like partnership.
Partnerships with other businesses can be as simple as cross-advertising: they leave their cards at your business, and you leave your card at theirs.
However, you can also organize a promotion.
For example, let’s say you partnered with a dentist’s office. If someone pays you to make a website for them, they can receive a discount at the dentist’s office, and vice versa.
Partnerships are also beneficial when you strategically choose your partners. For example, partnering with real estate agents is almost always a good idea – especially if they often show business spaces to business owners.
Even though partnerships work best when they’re strategically selected, people in local communities talk to each other. If you’ve designed a great website for a hair salon owner, they’ll talk to a spa salon owner and refer you.
Taking part in local events is a great way to get more clients. Depending on your industry, it may be easy to set up a booth and advertise your services.
However, if you’re a website developer looking to earn more money, you may have to get more creative.
A lot of local events have sweepstakes where they offer discounted local business services. You can offer your services at a discounted rate to the winner.
You can also offer to improve/make a website for the event itself, and ask them to list you as a sponsor.
Pretty much everyone is online today, so don’t forgo digital completely.
You can join local Facebook groups to reach new freelance clients. Be careful about being too salesy if/when pitching, though. Start by offering value, answering people’s questions and being a likable member of the community.
Hearing more about what’s troubling and delighting your community can help you improve your pitch, as well.
You can also join Meetup groups in your area – especially if there are some for business owners.
Finally, geo-targeted ads are always a better idea than just general ads. They’ll help you reach a narrower audience, which generates more referrals than general ads who reach people across the country who aren’t connected to one another. One way to advertise locally is by using Facebook Marketplace.
You should optimize your Google My Business listing to show up whenever someone looks for “web development in [your area].”
By making the most out of both digital and local, you’ll have a great client-generating strategy.
Like we already talked about, some clients don’t even know they need your services. This is especially true if you’re working with older small business owners.
That’s why it pays off to create educative content that will both give them additional value, and help them understand why they need your services.
You can make a pamphlet or a brochure explaining how a website helps them earn more, and publish it online or print it and distribute it locally.
Once they understand that they need a website, they’re readier to talk to you about your services.
Just because you’ve made a website for a local client doesn’t mean that your work is done.
Depending on their technological proficiency, they may need help keeping the site up and improving it to get even more customers.
And that’s where your services come in.
You can always offer them extra services after your work is done, or negotiate them at the beginning. It all depends on what your clients need, and what you can offer them.
The digital landscape means that websites are absolutely necessary for business owners.
However, a lot of them either don’t understand what they need.
While we’ve showed you plenty of strategies you can use to land your first local client today, there are more ways to earn as a web developer.
Our Invent With Code courses are designed to help you make a lot of money developing websites, even if you only know HTML and CSS.
If you want to go from $0 to $10K and beyond with your freelance or agency business, schedule a free consultation today.
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As seen on Fox Business News, Entrepreneur, and other national media outlets, Hahna Kane Latonick has founded Invent With Code to help web developers go from $0 to $10K with their freelance developer business over 90 days, so that they have more time, money, and freedom to live life on their own terms.
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Step-By-Step Local Client Checklist