How To Get Clients Online: 11+ Proven Strategies (+ find BIG clients)

1. Search Industry-Specific Job Boards

If perusing job search meta sites like Indeed or SimplyHired for part-time contract work is not your thing, you might find more comfort with industry-specific job boards. 

MarketingHire for marketers, the PMI’s Career Center for project managers, and other industry-specific sites listing jobs can hopefully deliver more relevant jobs.

At some point or another,  a Google search on job boards or sites for a particular role will lead you to freelancer sites like Upwork or Fiverr.

These types of sites are good for those either completely new to freelancing or to offering a particular service (i.e., your day job is as a paralegal but you want to freelance as a fitness blogger).  

I love sites like Upwork and Fiverr, but only as a client.

2. Search X (formerly Twitter) To Find Clients In Need Of Your Services

Sure, you might find job postings tweeted out by job sites (follow the hashtag #jobs), but don’t just respond to those—go deeper.

Anyone who’s in the process of evaluating different products, including software, or perhaps gotten stuck using a product or software they already bought, will take to the interwebs to ask a question.

And if you have expertise in a particular product, there’s no reason why you can’t find these questions and answer them.

Of course, you won’t want to give the most complete answer. For one, it might not fit within 280 characters, and two, you want the person to follow up with you via direct or private message to discuss a potential project.

And who knows, one single answered tweet might help you land multiple customers.

3. Find Clients On Craigslist

Craigslist gets a bum rap and for a good reason. (Thank goodness they kept the Best of Craigslist so we can all have a good laugh every now and then.) 

However, client work is waiting for you if you can just demonstrate that you are 1,000 times better than your competition, which shouldn’t be hard to do. 

Don’t just peruse the Gigs postings, either. Go through the Jobs postings too because some of these might be part-time and remote. 

By taking the time to shortlist the right postings and craft a semi-thoughtful message, you can immediately separate yourself from the throngs (and bots) sending canned, boilerplate emails.

4. Attend Networking Events And Meetups

I know what you’re thinking: Networking events SUCK.

But that’s because people typically go to them looking for clients.

Instead of being that creeper, go to the event to find CONNECTORS. These are people who may not turn out to be a client but can potentially introduce you to some.

Whew, what a relief! Now instead of looking for leads or feeling you have to be constantly pitching your business, you can go to a networking or mixer event with the idea of connecting with connectors

Here’s an example of a good script to start a conversation with a connector: “Hey, if you know of anyone who’s looking for a video editor, let me know. Here’s my card. You can pass it along to them.”

Of course, you should mold the script to fit your individual situation and find subjects to talk about in a non-icky manner.

Be sure to check out event boards like Meetup, Eventbrite, and even Facebook for networking events in your area or industry.

5. Reach Out To Your Existing Network

Reaching out to your existing network might seem like a no-brainer. But after years of hearing this advice over and over, it’s time to take a closer look.

You may think you have a healthy existing network because you can see your  “500+ connections” every time you visit your LinkedIn profile. But this doesn’t mean that those 500+ people will be willing and ready to hire you.

They might be busy and have missed your messages. They might not know of any openings for someone with your expertise. 

And let’s face it, some people will never help you, no matter how many times you’ve helped them in the past.

That’s life.

So, sure, you can certainly reach out to your existing network, but proceed with caution. Take the time to shortlist those who know you and your work well, and craft a message that will resonate with them. Explain that you have become a freelance contractor, detail what services and deliverables you can provide, and ask if they know of any people or companies who are actively looking for someone with your expertise.

If you still feel uncomfortable about asking people for work, ask your network for something potentially equally valuable: a recommendation.

No, not just a recommendation on LinkedIn, but the type of longer recommendation that you needed when you applied to college or grad school. When you are applying or bidding on projects down the road, you can always forward these to a prospective client as proof of your past achievements.

Try this. You’ll be sure to stand out.

You should also read this blog post that teaches you how to grow a successful network.

6. Join Professional Organizations In Your Niche

This is yet another overused piece of career advice. 

However, as with #4 and #5 above, you need to find ways to set yourself apart from the crowd who are just using these to find clients. 

Just because the professional organization was built, does not mean that clients will come. 

Aside from finding connectors, a great way to leverage the power of a professional organization is to volunteer for them. Offer to do something for them for free: design a landing page, restructure a database; make your offer valuable to them.

Unfortunately, you won’t be the only person attempting this strategy. So you might need to do this a few times to raise your visibility before a staff member provides you with a contact who might hire you.

Of course, you would also want to learn something from this organization along the way. Professional and personal growth are often reasons people join these organizations, not just for new business. It could be a terrific unexpected benefit of getting involved.

7. Spend Time Where Your Clients Do

No, this doesn’t mean stalking potential clients and going to where they live (unless you want a restraining order).

Instead, you’re going to go online to the same places where potential clients might be spending time online.

It’s what Luisa Zhou, entrepreneur and writer for IWT, did to help her earn $1.1m in eleven months.

You can use Luisa’s exact same framework for your potential clients. 

For example:

  • Are you a graphic designer? Find a Facebook or subreddit group for small business owners who need your services.
  • Are you a writer for a niche industry? Start answering questions on Quora regarding your niche. (As you would do by answering interesting tweets, as explained above in #2)
  • Maybe you’re a video editor. Find online groups for bloggers looking to expand their content media.

No matter what you choose, you need to make sure you stay engaging and provide high-quality answers to your potential client. By doing this, you build your brand and make connections you would never have made otherwise.

It all goes back to the 80/20 rule. The little bit of effort you put in now will pay off in spades in the future.

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