I try to focus on the GOOD stuff that comes of being a freelancer.
The extra hours at home with family. The flexibility to go on vacation, work at a coffee shop or take a day off at the last minute.
But, there are downsides too. Self-employment tax, health insurance and the big-daddy of them all – finding new clients.
We all have those weeks – when you go from rapid transitions between five simultaneous projects to all your old contracts dry up and you find yourself with empty days and bills on the horizon.
At first, it’s exciting. Free time at last! Time to update your blog, work on your website and spruce up your portfolio, but after 2-3 days of silence, stress sets in.
It’s time to find work.

A Note on “New” Clients

Before showing you 7 of the methods I use to find new clients on short notice, make sure you’ve done the rounds contacting your existing and past clients. It is MUCH easier to start a new contract with an existing client than to find a new contract with a NEW client.
If you aren’t already, start tracking your clients, when you last emailed them, what they usually need and then offer suggestions for how you can help them, even if they haven’t asked for it. Work those existing connections.
Of course, sometimes nothing happens. Maybe there is work on the horizon but it’s weeks away. Maybe you just don’t hear back from anyone because of vacations or holidays.
Whatever the case, you need new clients and fast. Here are 7 ways to make it happen:

  1. Bid on Freelancing Sites – One of the easiest ways to get work is on sites like Elance, Odesk and Freelancer. It’s time consuming, often deflating and the work may not be what you enjoy, but if you put enough bids out there and spend enough time working those leads, you’ll get a handful of projects. I tend to get between 5-15% of the projects I bid on – put out 50 bids and that means 2-6 projects.
  2. Go to a Networking Event – Go to a business mixer in your area. Meet other business owners, ask them what they do and offer advice related to your field. Don’t be one of those “sell, sell, sell” networkers though. Be nice, personable and eager to help – the work will come in due course.
  3. Advertise Your Services – I don’t advertise a lot, but there are ways to do it. You can pay for ads on LinkedIn (I don’t like Facebook or Twitter for professional ads), or you can buy leads through DoNanza or LinkedIn. A great strategy that netted me a lot of work in my early days (when your rates are lower) is posting a For Hire listing on the WarriorForum or DigitalPoint forum. It costs $40 and you’ll get instant exposure to thousands of possible clients.
  4. Give Away a Freebie in a High Traffic Avenue – Do something awesome and give it away for free where your target clients are likely to be. Write an eBook, record a video, make a free logo or template – whatever fits your skill set and allows you to show off how good you are.
  5. Ask About Referrals – Even if your existing or past clients aren’t ready to reorder, work them for referrals. Don’t pester or beg, but kindly remind them how awesome you are, what you did for them in the past and how you’d very much appreciate a referral on their behalf.
  6. Lower Your Rates – Not the best option in the world and probably should be at the bottom of your list, but it’s there. I haven’t done this in some years, but if things ever got dire, it would be an option. Never take something off the table if the difference is paying your bills and feeding your family.
  7. Gather and Contact Your Ideal Leads – Who is your ideal, target customer? Go out, find leads that match that lead and put them into your funnel. If you don’t yet have a funnel, send them an email or give them a call and ask if they need anything. You’ll be surprised how often you get a yes.

Does this always work?
Probably not as fast as you want it to, but ideally you never reach the point of “need money tomorrow” as a freelancer.
Make sure you create a plan – how much time you’ll invest each day on these tasks. Remember that the portfolio, website and brand building stuff you do with the rest of your time is also very important – especially when it comes to having a steady flow of leads coming in long-term.
What is your single biggest obstacle in finding new clients? Are you afraid of trying new sites? Calling leads? Putting your name or face on the Internet? Let’s hear about it in the comments (trust me – I’ve been there on all of these):