Project or client acquisition is an annoying prospect for many freelancers. Data from freelancermap’s market studies proves this, year after year. The search for new projects is one of the most significant challenges for freelancers, which is why it is important to optimise the client acquisition process accordingly.
As a freelancer, it’s important to expand your client base. This article will show you how to acquire and convert clients!
- Client acquisition: A challenge for freelancers
- How to find and acquire clients as freelancer
- How to define your client acquisition strategy
Client acquisition: A challenge for freelancers
So what does client acquisition mean exactly for freelancers? Simply put, it’s the process of attracting clients and convincing them to hire you.
This process starts with the client knowing about you (brand awareness) and ends with the client hiring you (purchase decision).
In our annual freelancer market study, we ask participants about all aspects of self-employment, including challenges and downsides. The study makes it clear that client and project acquisition is one of the biggest obstacles that many freelancers face.
This is understandable because the time freelancers spend looking for and acquiring new projects cannot be offset. So the longer it takes them to find new projects, the longer they don’t earn anything.
Also, it’s important to understand the cost of acquiring a new client. The client acquisition cost (CAC) is the total cost of sales and marketing efforts for different channels needed to convince the client to hire you or buy your product.
As you improve your customer acquisition processes, your client acquisition cost will ideally be lower.
Client acquisition for freelancers: How to acquire clients
Acquiring clients is part of your job as a freelancer. Some days it will feel like client acquisition is actually your job instead of, say, developing a new app for a client, fixing some issues on a WordPress site or whatever it is that you really offer.
The good news is that there are different options you can use for your client acquisition strategy. You can explore these options and try out any medium available depending on your ideal client and budget.
What are the ways to acquire clients as a freelancer? We differentiate between active and passive acquisition.
Active acquisition (Cold acquisition):
These are channels and approaches where the freelancer starts the conversation with new clients. It usually takes time to gain the trust of these contacts because they don’t know about you yet.
Examples of active client acquisition: cold emails, cold calls, applications to open jobs, social media interactions offering your services, etc.
Passive acquisition (Warm acquisition):
These are clients or projects that come up automatically. The client approaches you because they already know you or someone referred you for the job.
Examples of passive client acquisition: recurring clients, follow-up projects, referrals, subcontracts, work via an agency, etc.
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According to our study, 64% of freelancers rely on passive acquisition.
These are freelancers who have probably worked on their client acquisition strategy and personal brand and so they get work through their website (clients find them on Google), through freelance platforms (clients reach out with new opportunities), referrals from fellow freelancers, or client recommendations.
This is an ideal scenario since, in all the ways described above, the cost of acquiring a new client is basically €0. 36% of freelancers still use methods such as cold pitching and actively applying for projects to get clients.
Let’s take a look at the options freelancer have to get clients:
#1 Personal website
Having a personal website shows clients that you are truly committed to your work and that this isn’t just a side job for you.
Your website also serves as a hub where potential clients can learn everything they need to know about you – your services, experience, past clients, etc. – and reach out to you if they are interested.
Ideally, you’ll need to give your website a goal: Are you looking to generate leads? Is your website a content hub where you educate potential clients? Are you looking to stop quality leads?
Not everybody will be your ideal client, so qualifying leads through your website could be useful for you.
You’ll also need to invest in SEO so that people can organically find you when they type something in Google or through other sources (other sites linking to your own site). SEO can be tricky if you don’t have an online presence and experience but can really pay out.
You can consider hiring a freelance SEO to help you with this.
Remember: Your website is part of your marketing and should speak the same language as the rest of your marketing.
#2 Freelancer profile on freelance sites
Another way to get clients as a freelancer is having a well-rounded and detailed freelancer profile on freelance sites (like this one!).
Your profile is a gateway to potential clients and gives them a chance to get in touch with you proactively instead of you having to search for projects yourself.
Having an in-depth freelance profile that includes all relevant information will give clients the information they need to find you and a reason to trust you.
💡 freelancermap focuses on bringing IT talent and companies worldwide together, so if you have a technical profile, listing your experience and skills on our site can bring you closer to new exciting tech projects. > Create a free account
#3 Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to client acquisition. Being active on one or more platforms allows you to get your message across and your personal brand known.
One of the best things you can do when utilising social media to get clients is to join groups. There are loads of groups on LinkedIn or Facebook where freelancers from the same field can gather and share opinions on different subjects and thought processes.
Freelancers can also use Twitter to find clients. Now although, it may not be the same as LinkedIn, where you have a lot of space to present yourself and what you do, the good thing about Twitter is that people talk a lot on this social media platform – giving you plenty of opportunities to expand your reach and acquire new clients.
#4 Automation through alerts
Automation through alerts is another great way to get more clients as a freelancer. On freelancermap, you can use our ‘project agent’ feature to automate the search for projects and, thanks to precisely tailored filters and keywords, receive interesting project offers straight to your email inbox.
How to set up your project alert on freelancermap:
As soon as you are registered and logged in, you can start using the project agent. You can find the configurator under “My Account” ➡️ “Project Alerts“.
The project agent will send you new project offers from the specified categories directly to you by email. You will never miss new project opportunities!
To set up your project agent, follow these steps:
1. Enter the name of your project agent.
2. You can then restrict the locations from which offers come in. The filters can be set here from “Worldwide” to a specific region and/or country.
3. Next, specify the desired type of contract. Do you only want to receive remote project offers? No problem, just tick the box.
4. Then define the main category from which you want project offers. These are divided into “Development”, “Graphics, Content, Media”, “IT Infrastructure”, “Consulting & Management”, “SAP” and “Engineering”.
5. Use positive and negative keywords to ensure that the offers match your skills and requirements as closely as possible.
6. If you do not want to receive offers from certain project providers, you can exclude them in the next step. In the last block there is also the option to tick “only end customer projects” – this ensures that you only receive project offers from end customers and companies (premium feature).
7. Select the sending time (immediately or once a day)
8. Finally select the desired email format (text or HTML) and if you would like to receive only projects in English or also in German.
Save your preferences. The configuration of the project agent is done. From now on you will simply receive suitable offers by email.
💡 For our premium members there is an option of creating several project agents in order to search even more accurately.
#5 Engage with like-minded people
Engaging with fellow freelancers and self-employed individuals allows you to build up connections that can be extremely valuable when you are looking for work in the future. Remember, freelancers are not your enemies but friends!
Oftentimes, referrals will come naturally but another thing that you can do to help fellow freelancers refer you to clients is by setting up a referral fee system in place.
Tip: Join networking events such as the Freelancer Business Month that runs during the whole month of October.
#6 Invest in building real connections
Once you attend events, you will connect and meet new people (hopefully many of them clients!). Once you do that, you’ll need to take steps to build long-lasting relationships.
Building strong relationships with clients that give you regular work can help you attain a stable income and gives you a safety net that is invaluable when you are a freelancer.
#7 Take care of happy clients
This is in direct continuation of the previous tip but taking the time to ensure that your clients are happy and satisfied with your work goes a long way in your client and project acquisition strategy.
If you do a good job, you can ask your clients for any future projects that they might be interested in collaborating with you or to even start a retainer contract with you. Remember, by upselling yourself and your services, you can create relationships that will last you a lifetime!
💡 It’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t pressurise your clients to do anything! Rather, keep their needs and goals in mind and offer them services that will further help their goals and business.
A happy client can also offer you testimonials which can help you attract more clients. You can also use these reviews to promote your services online and in print materials.
Another option for client acquisition is through regular advertising. Advertising allows you to increase client reach and build customer awareness. You’ll need a budget for this but you can also easily advertise on Facebook (Facebook Ads) or Google (Google Ads).
You can also try influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is basically a form of advertising that involves finding an influencer – someone with an existing audience base that fits your target profile, and paying or incentivizing them to promote your personal brand or product.
#9 Share your knowledge and build your brand
If you have the skills, you’ve got to show them. Showcasing your skills allows you to find new clients mostly because if people can see that you know what you’re doing, they’ll be more likely to hire you to help them solve a problem.
You could share pieces of advice on blogs or go a step further and start a Youtube channel to attract clients.
You can also keep an eye on social media where a lot of people go to ask questions hoping for answers. If you are the first one who gets back to them, they will be extremely thankful and will remember you the next time they need help with something.
Another great option is using Quora – a question and answer website – to help people with their questions.
How to define your client acquisition strategy
As a freelancer who’s running their own business, it’s important to use data to your advantage. This is why it’s important to learn where your current clients come from.
Some invoicing apps like Freshbooks, will help you with this and automatically tell you where the majority of your work comes from. Is it through organic reach? Networking? Referrals? Analysing your data will give you all the answers.
Knowing exactly which channel the majority of your clients came from will allow you to invest more time and energy into those channels.
If you don’t use an invoicing app that tells you this, there are still two ways that you can do this – first by reaching out to clients (new and old) and asking them where and how did they hear about you.
Secondly, by making use of data analysis. Analytics (be it from Google or your website) will tell you exactly where your clients are coming from.
Keep in mind that acquiring new clients is mostly a game of trial and error. After a period of time, you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t. This is especially true if you’re just starting out. Focus on active client acquisition first and once you’ve made a name for yourself, you can automate your process to focus on other things.
Do you have any client acquisition tips that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!