Learning how to market your freelance business is key to a successful freelance career and finding consistent work. A freelance career has many advantages including a better work/life balance, the freedom to make your own schedule, and the ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world. In fact, having a freelance business is one of the best ways to live the digital nomad lifestyle.
But with all the advantages of a freelance career, many freelancers still struggle with how to market their businesses. New freelancers may not know how to begin thinking about their marketing strategy. There is a common misconception that if you start your business, clients will magically find you. That is far from the truth. Finding regular clients will take some hustle and know-how.
In order to grow your freelance career, you need to learn how to compete, succeed, and stay relevant amongst the crowd of 57 million freelance workers in the US. Developing a consistent, repeatable process to market your services and find clients is the most important component of securing a steady income. You also need to know how to effectively and efficiently use the time you set aside for marketing.
This article will walk you through the steps to set up an outreach system and marketing strategy to find consistent freelance jobs that will grow your business.
If you aren’t ready to work on marketing but want to learn more about starting a freelance business, bookmark this page for later and begin with this guide to starting a freelance business.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice. You should obtain professional advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. Deskless Nomad makes no representations, warranties, or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete, or up to date. Please see the full Deskless Nomad Disclaimer.
CREATE A SYSTEM TO TRACK POTENTIAL AND PAST CLIENTS
As a freelancer, you should expect to spend anywhere from 25 to 50% of your time marketing your services and looking for prospective clients. For the best chances of success, develop a repeatable system and schedule time for marketing on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Being consistent and organized in your outreach will help you develop a regular stream of work.
This next section will show you how to set up and build a repeatable outreach system. From day one you will be ready to track your cold pitch emails, networking, proposal submissions, and other tasks in your marketing plan.
Step 1: Determine your marketing goals
The first step is to figure out how many pitches and proposals you want to send each week. Start with a goal you think you can consistently accomplish and scale from there.
You’ll also want to think about how much time you want to spend each week or month on marketing. Reserve these blocks of time in your schedule and make sure you show up for yourself.
Step 2: Create a spreadsheet of potential clients or websites to target
One of your first marketing tasks should be researching prospective clients online. Start googling companies in your niche. Include both your dream clients and more realistic clients.
Keep these general questions in mind as you research and create your potential client list:
- Is this a dream client or a more realistic client?
- Would this client want to hire you?
- What challenges does this client face?
- What value can you offer them and would they benefit from hiring you?
- Can the client afford your rate? (Difficult to predict but think about the size of the company and its operating budget)
- Would this company be a good referral for you in the future? (Are they in your industry niche? Do they have a lot of contacts?)
Now start adding the following details to your potential client spreadsheet:
- Names of companies that you would love to do freelance work for
- Names of companies you think would be interested in hiring you as a freelancer
- The challenges you can help the company overcome (you will use this in your cold pitch!)
- The person who would be responsible for hiring you (and their contact info)
- Names of any referrals or contacts that led you to contact them
- Date you emailed your cold pitch or called them
- Date of email response(s) received
- Date of follow-up emails you send
As you continue your search for clients, think outside of the box. Don’t limit your search to just your geographic region. If your work is done primarily online, look at English-speaking countries other than the US like Canada, the UK, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. There are also many companies in Europe that have English language versions of their websites where you can find contacts to pitch your services.
Step 3: Create a spreadsheet for general marketing tasks
Make a list of tasks you want to accomplish for each block of time you scheduled for marketing. You can organize these in a spreadsheet or an app like Trello or Notion. There are also freelance business management platforms like Hectic that allow you to keep track of potential and past clients.
You’ll find plenty of outreach task ideas in this article to add to your list. Here are a few examples of marketing tasks for your list:
- Research 5 new companies to cold pitch and enter details into your client spreadsheet
- Check your email
- Send 20 cold outreach emails
- Send follow-up emails from last week’s pitches
- Apply for 5 jobs on job boards
- Add your latest project to your portfolio on LinkedIn and your business website
- Send new project ideas to current clients
- Send emails to clients after projects are complete to ask for reviews
Step 4: Prepare your outreach materials
You’ll want to have your outreach materials ready before you begin your marketing. Plus, you never know when or where you’ll meet someone who could become a client. When the opportunity arises you will have your marketing materials ready to share.
Make virtual and physical business cards
It’s a good idea to have both virtual and physical business cards ready to share when someone expresses interest in your freelancing business. The world is becoming increasingly digital but there are still some people who prefer physical business cards.
You can create virtual business cards for free with HiHello or Adobe. Virtual business cards can be shared through QR codes, email, text, WhatsApp, social media, link sharing, email signatures, and more.
Create a digital media kit
A freelance digital media kit is a pdf that is an easy-to-read description and outline of your freelancing business. If you meet someone at a conference or through a contact you will have a ready-made pdf to send them detailing your services.
You can also make your digital media kit pdf available for download on your website or link to it on your social media accounts and virtual business card (via a hyperlink or QR code). Much of what you include in your digital media kit will be the same information you display on your website so preparing this will also give you a head start on your future website.
What to include in your media kit:
- Your business name and contact information
- A professional-looking headshot of you
- Your business logo (if you have one)
- An “about section” that describes what you do
- Links to your business social media accounts and website
- Your services and service packages
- Key benefits of your services and how they can improve your client’s life or business
- Identifiable logos of select clients who were happy with your work
- Testimonials or reviews from clients
- Any recent milestones or statistics for your business (i.e. customers served)
You can create a professional and attractive digital media kit for free in Canva or other graphic design software. Because it is digital, it is easy to update as you start new social media accounts, get more client reviews, or adjust your service offerings.
Create a freelancing resume
A freelancing resume is just like any job resume. Some freelance jobs you find on job boards will ask for a resume in addition to a portfolio so it is ideal to have this ready. You will also want to add your resume to your LinkedIn profile.
There are several key components to a good freelancer resume:
- Header with name and job title
- A short summary paragraph highlighting your niche and key skills that make you perfect for the job
- Education and certifications
- Relevant experience, listed in chronological order, with the most recent first
- Past clients and projects
- Awards or special recognition
WAYS TO MARKET YOUR SERVICES AND ADD POTENTIAL CLIENTS TO YOUR LIST
Now let’s get to the good stuff. There are numerous ways to advertise freelance services for free. Although most of the ways listed below are free they will still take a little hustle. You don’t have to do all of them but you should find a few that work for your niche and personality. And be consistent!
You will get the vast majority of clients your clients by reaching out directly to them. Your outreach process can include emails, phone calls, taking printed media kit pdfs to local businesses, and even old-fashioned word-of-mouth networking. Always keep in mind that potential clients may know one another so be polite and professional even when rejected.
Enter every lead you find into the spreadsheet you made in step 2 above. Track your pitches, follow-ups, and any responses you receive.
1. Harness your contacts
Let your friends and family know you are looking for clients. Ask for their assistance to spread the word and help you grow your client list. Give them copies of your digital media kit and/or virtual business card to share.
2. Create a profile on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network and career development platform on the internet. There are many reasons you will want to set up your LinkedIn profile and post your resume as soon as possible:
- Many potential clients will check out your LinkedIn profile and work history before deciding to work with you.
- You can use LinkedIn to reach out to past colleagues, friends, and family for referrals.
- You can find and apply for freelance jobs on the LinkedIn job board.
- Potential clients may also search for freelance services in your niche and find you through your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to use the keywords related to your services in your profile so you can be found.
- Your LinkedIn profile can suffice instead of a business website when you are first starting out.
- LinkedIn has more than 774 million members and is the best way to digitally source jobs through your network of contacts
- LinkedIn is better for getting new clients than other social platforms because it is focused almost entirely on business relationships
- You can use LinkedIn to do your potential client research and find who you should contact for your cold pitches
3. Start a freelance online portfolio
Clients will want proof that you are capable of performing and completing their projects. You can persuade them to hire you by collecting and displaying samples of your work in your freelance online portfolio.
Intentionally curating your online portfolio can attract your ideal clients. As you complete new projects, make sure to keep your portfolio up to date and add the latest projects.
If you haven’t had any work yet, create samples and mock-ups for the kind of work you want to do. Try putting together projects for different brands or clients as if you had been hired by them. Of course, you want to be clear these are samples so you don’t mislead people about your past clients.
There are several places to host your online portfolio. Your business website is the best location but there are other options too. LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your portfolio, especially if you don’t have a business website yet. You can also include links to your portfolio hosted on other platforms.
Depending on your niche and freelance services, there are plenty of platforms to host your portfolio. Google your type of niche freelance services and “host portfolio” to find online platforms.
You can also check out these places to host your portfolio (suitability will depend on your services):
- Adobe Portfolio
- Journo Portfolio
4. Boost your online portfolio with non-paid projects when you are first starting out
In the beginning, you can expand your portfolio and networking opportunities with non-paid projects. Open source projects, volunteer work, side projects, and others can often lead to referrals and paying clients later on.
Consider offering your services for free to local organizations where you know people you might want to help. Approach local charities, church groups, sports groups, or small businesses. Ask them to write a review in exchange for your work. These projects will fill out your portfolio and provide initial reviews for your website and media kit. No one will know they weren’t paying clients and the reviews can give a real boost to your credibility.
5. Start cold pitching to the potential clients on your spreadsheet you made in step 2 above
Now that you have your portfolio and LinkedIn profiles set up, it is time to start pitching clients. One of the hard truths about finding freelance clients is that cold email outreach only works at scale.
You have to send a lot of cold emails to get a single client.
For your cold pitch strategy, you are going to use your spreadsheet of potential clients and start working down the list. The process requires patience but with enough emails and enough time, you will start to see the rewards.
For the best results on your cold emails:
- Keep your cold emails brief
- Start out by introducing yourself
- Personalize each cold email (how did you find out about the company? have you been a customer?)
- Highlight your key freelance skills and what makes your services unique
- Mention a challenge the client may have and how you can help them
- Create a unique pitch for each client
- State how they can get in touch with you
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. Even if a client isn’t ready to hire you at the moment, they may consider your services in the future. You never know who may be keeping your contact information or passing it on to a colleague.
Don’t attach your digital media kit to your initial cold outreach emails. Many companies will have email spam filters. Any emails from unknown senders with attachments may never reach your intended recipient. Instead, wait until you get a positive response from your cold emails to attach your digital media kit.
6. Try a “tear-down” cold pitch
“Tear-downs” are a critique of a company’s blog, product funnel, or another aspect of a business related to your freelance niche. Your critique should be followed by a discussion of the services you offer and how you could help the company improve. For example, if you are a web designer you could critique their website. If you are a video editor, you could critique their youtube videos.
It is important to do tear-downs in the most positive and sensitive way in order to avoid turning off potential clients. If you are a new freelancer, you may want to wait to use this tactic until you have more experience with traditional cold pitches.
7. Set up your business website or hire a freelancer to set one up for you
Your business website is the primary place where clients are going to learn about you, the kind of work you do, and how your services can help them. This is also the best place to showcase your portfolio. Above all, make sure your website looks professional and doesn’t deter potential clients.
An astounding 46% of small businesses in the US don’t have a website. You can stand out from the competition and appear more legitimate by having a website.
It is easy to set up your own website through Bluehost, Wix, or Squarespace. Or you can hire another freelancer to do it for you. Your business website should contain the following elements:
- About me page (with professional-looking photo of you)
- A page describing your services (you can add prices if you feel comfortable)
- Your portfolio with work samples, client logos, links to clients
- Client reviews or testimonials
- Contact page (social media links, email, Skype ID, contact form, and/or WhatsApp for international clients)
8. Add a blog to your professional website
A search-engine-optimized blog on industry-related content can bring thousands of people (and potential clients) to your site each month. If done correctly for a specific target audience, you can get lots of work from a blog. While your blog may not be the primary way someone finds you, your blog may still be a major consideration for clients thinking about hiring you.
A blog boosts your credibility, establishes you as an expert by showcasing your knowledge on particular topics, acts as constant advertising for your services, and keeps you researching trends and topics in your industry. To help your blog grow, you’ll also want to learn how to market your blog posts on social media platforms to expand your audience reach.
As your experience grows, you can highlight the skills you acquire from blogging on your resume. These can include things like WordPress management, blog pageviews, search engine optimization, social media experience, and followers.
The downside of blogging is that it is challenging. It takes a lot of time to do it well, especially if you are new to blogging. To be successful, you need some writing skills and an understanding of SEO. If you are a freelance writer then starting a blog is a great way to showcase your talent. For all other freelance industries, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons.
9. Start an email list
Starting an email list through your website is a fantastic way to market your services. There are several services that make email marketing easy including CovertKit, Mailchimp, SendinBlue, and ConstantContact. The key is to provide value in your emails and not just use them to spam people.
If you can offer tutorials, how-to’s, advice, product discounts you have found, and other value, an email marketing list can serve as a great platform to broadcast your services and gain new clients. You can also ask your current clients if they want to join to help keep your name in their minds.
10. Guest blogging
Even if you don’t start your own blog, guest blogging on someone else’s blog is an intriguing way to market your services. You can guest post on a friend’s blog or anyone in your industry. Find a way you can provide value to that blog’s readers. Contact the blog’s owner and propose a valuable guest post in exchange for a link to your professional website. Backlinks like this can improve the SEO of your site and move you up in the google search ranks.
Another way to guest blog is to take a look at the LinkedIn pages for companies in your industry and see if there is an opportunity to offer a guest blog on their LinkedIn page. Appearing on blogs in your industry spreads your name and increases your credibility.
11. Create a freebie download or lead magnet related to your services for your website
Is there a useful how-to, resource list, or short guide related to your industry and services that you could create? Offering a free download or lead magnet on your website is a great way to attract more traffic. This can also be an incentive you use in exchange for people signing up for your email list.
Marketing your freebie download on your social media pages can drive even more traffic to your website. Don’t forget to mention your freebie on your About Me page, LinkedIn profile, resume, and even your cold emails. Freebie downloads also have the power to improve search engine rankings for your website.
The best lead magnets for freelancers are ones that potential clients would be interested in and searching for online. Harnessing search engine optimization best practices can help prospective clients find your lead magnet. A lead magnet showcasing your knowledge may convince prospective clients that you are the very expert they need.
12. Engage on social media sites
Depending on the services you offer, different social media sites will be better for marketing your freelance business. Social media can become time-consuming and overwhelming so it is ok to concentrate on just one platform in the beginning. But in today’s world, you should have some sort of active social media presence.
Instagram and Pinterest work especially well for visual fields like graphic and interior design. With Instagram, you can geotag your posts to attract clients from a specific area.
On Twitter, you can attract other professionals to network with by being strategic about your hashtags. You can also comment (politely and professionally) on the tweets of potential clients and start conversations.
If you work with multimedia that fits well with Youtube, Flickr, or TikTok, you can share your work there too.
TikTok can be harnessed for all kinds of freelancers by sharing content about your industry that is helpful and engaging for viewers. While it can take time to expand your audience, the TikTok platform has the power to reach massive untapped audiences.
Stay engaged on your social media platform(s) by sharing industry-adjacent content. If you start a blog for your professional website make sure to share your blog posts on your social media accounts.
When you have accomplished something in your business or started offering new services, post the news to your accounts to let your contacts know. Keep your social media profiles professional and updated so they can become a great source of potential clients.
13. Join online forums, communities, and Facebook groups
Establishing an online presence in Facebook groups and forums like Reddit and Quora related to your niche can be a useful way to network and get freelance jobs. It does take some time and consistency to network and get jobs from these tools but the process can be very rewarding.
Start out by joining forums related to your niche and answering questions that are relevant to your freelance services. Provide value in your posts and work on building a reputation as an expert. You can mention the services you sell in your answer but don’t be too pushy. If you start talking about your freelance business too soon people can be turned off.
You can also search online forums for potential leads by doing searches for phrases like “looking for freelance [insert your niche].” Networking with other freelancers who offer the same services can also lead to jobs since sometimes people will have too much work but still want to help out clients by giving referrals.
Check out these Facebook groups to start connecting with other freelancers:
14. Comment on blog posts of potential clients
Another way to network with potential clients is to comment on their blogs. This works best with smaller companies. You can start up a conversation and in some cases even create backlinks to your professional website.
15. Ask previous clients for reviews
Strive to keep your name in the forefront of your clients’ minds after you have completed a job. Start by asking for feedback on your work. Formal reviews can also be posted on your professional website and/or social media pages. You can also ask your clients to submit reviews to LinkedIn, Yelp, or the freelancer platform where you were hired.
Besides asking for reviews, keep in touch by reminding your clients you are there for them if they encounter new challenges or need assistance with new projects. Let them know you are available and motivated to help.
Focus on cultivating relationships with all of your clients, not just the ones you do the most work for. Clients are more likely to hire you again if you create a relationship with them. Clients who hire you for regular, steady work are gold in the freelance business.
16. Stay in contact with previous clients and ask for referrals
Another great way to get new jobs is to encourage previous clients to refer you to their connections. Your clients will likely know many people in your field. Getting a referral from someone who used your services is the ultimate source of new clients. According to Harvard Business Review, peer recommendations influence more than 90% of B2B buying decisions.
Motivate your clients to give referrals by offering discounts on future work or other incentives. You can decide if you want to offer discounts to your referring clients and also new clients.
17. Distribute your digital media kit locally
There are several ways to distribute your digital media kit to try and drum up interest in your services. You can easily modify your media kit to display information appropriate for the places you plan to post it. Start with your neighborhood and some old-fashioned advertising.
- Take your printed digital media kit PDFs to local businesses in your neighborhood.
- Display them on local community notice boards at libraries, community centers, and shopping centers.
- Post them to your online neighborhood forums like NextDoor, Facebook, or Craigslist.
18. Attend meetups
Try attending meetups for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives. Meetup.com is a great way to find these in your city. Let people know what you do and they may ask for your services.
19. Connect with other freelancers
As much as possible, try to network with other freelancers when you are first starting out. Find them online and at in-person events. Letting them know you are just starting out can be a way of finding mentorship, advice, and even jobs. Sometimes freelancers have to turn down jobs when their schedule is too full. If you have established a relationship, they may refer this work to you.
If you are further along in the development of your business, try to reciprocate and find out what services they offer and the kind of clients they are looking for. By helping out others you may one day find them referring work to you as well. Freelancers Union says 81% of freelancers refer work to fellow freelancers.
To find other freelancers:
- Attend meetup groups
- Join professional organizations for freelancers or professionals in your industry
- Join Facebook groups in the industry of your niche
- Attend digital nomad conferences
- Start your own Meetup or NextDoor get-together for freelancers
You may also be interested in my article: Easy Ways to Meet Other Digital Nomads While Traveling
20. Organize marketing and service partnerships
A unique and powerful way to get more work is to partner with another freelancer who sells a different but complementary service to your same audience. Think about how you can collaborate on a service package that would benefit your clients.
You can also partner with other freelancers on content for your websites or blogs, lead magnets, or just about anything you are using to attract more clients.
21. Attend events in your general industry
There is a reason that people attend business events and conferences. They are the number one way to network with people in your industry. In the beginning, it can be very fruitful to attend as many as you can.
22. Get a domain-based email address or google address
A domain-based email will make you look more professional. While not exactly a marketing tool, it still sets you apart as a professional brand.
If you choose a google address for your business, make sure it is professional-sounding.
You’ll also want to consider creating an email signature that includes your links to your professional social media accounts, LinkedIn page, and your website. Use this email signature on every cold pitch email to easily share your website URL and social media profiles without being too pushy.
Check out this great article from Zapier with templates for an email signature in Gmail.
23. Build your brand
Create a logo on Canva or hire a freelancer on Fiverr to make one for you. Use your logo, brand colors, and select fonts consistently through your website, email signature, digital media kit, and virtual business card. Your branding is a subliminal message that you are professional and organized.
24. Attend networking events in your industry
Conferences, trade shows, expos, and other events in your industry are always a good way to network. Make sure to take your business cards and be prepared to share your digital business cards and media kit.
25. Offer to speak at a relevant event
You could also offer to speak at conferences, trade shows expos or other events. Choose a topic you feel very confident in and pitch the idea to one of the event organizers. Make sure to (casually) mention your freelance services during your talk.
26. Set up a Google My Business Account
You may think a Google My Business Account is only for brick-and-mortar businesses, but freelance businesses can benefit as well. This is a free way to promote your business and help you get found on google. It is also another location clients can leave reviews for you.
27. Get listed on Yelp
Register your business on yelp and help clients find you. By the time clients get to Yelp, they are at the end of their decision-making process so it is a great time to have your name in front of them.
Click here to learn how to create a yelp page for your business.
28. Get your business on other business listings
There are plenty of online business listing services to choose from. You can start out listing your freelance business with the free ones already mentioned like:
- Google My Business
Other free listing services to consider include:
- Apple Maps
- Super Pages
29. Offer your advice and expertise on Haro
HARO, or help a reporter, connects reporters to experts in any field. Offer your advice and expertise on HARO to increase your name recognition, gain backlinks to your website, and advertise your services for free.
30. Get interviewed on podcasts
Getting interviewed on a podcast in your industry is yet another way to increase your name recognition, establish you as an authority, and market your services. Consider pitching an interview topic to the host that provides value to or piques the interest of that podcast’s audience.
31. Use social media ads on Google, Facebook, or Pinterest
While you do have to pay for Google ads, Facebook ads, or Pinterest Ads, you can get your name in front of thousands of people without a huge advertising budget. Spend some time learning how Google, Pinterest, and Facebook price ads to see if this strategy is right for you.
32. Get your business listed in industry newsletters
Industry newsletters are a key place to get your name listed in the “for hire” sections. These are focused publications where the audience is narrow and primarily people who would benefit from and are looking for your services. To increase your name recognition and get more free advertising you could consider pitching an article in an area of your expertise to the editor.
33. Create your profiles on freelancing platforms and job boards
Last, but not least, you will find plenty of jobs listed on freelancing platforms and job boards. These are crowded markets and the competition can be fierce. Often times freelancers from around the world are using the same marketplace. They may have better skills than you and accept lower pay.
The clients on some of these platforms may not know what the actual market rate is and offer very low pay for your work. You can still consider applying for low-offer postings and show the client why you are the best for that job and worth what you charge. You may convince them to offer more.
To help you succeed on these platforms, make sure your first projects are impeccable. Exceed the clients’ expectations so you get 5-star ratings that will attract future clients and prove you are worth what you charge.
Here are some freelance job boards to begin looking for your next project:
- Dice (primarily tech)
- Hire My Mom
- People per hour
- 99 designs (primarily graphic design)
- LinkedIn Profinder
- Editorial freelance association
And don’t forget to check out my article on How to Find a Work From Anywhere Remote Job.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post on how to easily and affordably market your freelance business and find freelance jobs. I know that being a freelancer can be difficult, especially in the beginning, and it’s not always easy to get consistent work. I highlighted the many steps you can take to set up your marketing system and the numerous options you have to market your freelance services. By following some of the marketing steps I provided you’ll be in a better position to find consistent, profitable client contracts for your freelance business.