Recently, how to get freelance and agency clients during the COVID-19 pandemic came up while on a group call. A dozen or so client service shop owners asked me:
How can I approach businesses and get new design clients right now without looking like an insensitive asshole?
This post is for you if you’ve ever said (or thought) the following:
- I hate marketing.
- I’m super introverted.
- Reaching out to prospects goes against all of my instincts.
Here’s an emotional, raw quote from a designer on the call:
The majority of my design career I’ve thought: “the only way I can get clients is if they magically come to me.”
I’ve read lots about how to do cold outreach but it is the opposite of what my introverted self wants to do.
And half the time it makes me debate if I’m even cut out for client work. I wish I could learn some extremely straightforward processes so my feelings didn’t even come into play anymore and stopped holding me back.
The good thing about a moment like this is it helps us realize that our feelings and mindset are the core reason we’re having difficulty.
Therefore we can finally address and change the true root cause.
The number one thing I’ve learned from helping thousands of freelancers make millions of dollars each year is:
You actually need to find clients that need your services and pitch them.
Without that, nothing in this post will help you.
Now we can get to some real specific recommendations.
First off, to Get Clients – You Have to Get Past Feeling “Awkward” About “Marketing”
Take another look at the phrases above:
I hate marketing. I’M introverted. It goes again MY instincts
What do you notice?
They’re all 100% inward-focused.
None of these thoughts mention the client’s needs or feelings in any way.
When put this way, it’s no wonder we as freelancers and agency owners feel selfish about marketing.
If you’re only taking your own needs into account, IT IS SELFISH to try to get a client.
That goes for any year.
Focusing on yourself isn’t an effective strategy.
In fact, it will make you feel even worse.
So what can you do instead?
Reframe the problem to focus on your client’s needs.
This is how you get past the awkwardness.
Second, You Need to Create Systems That Help You Get Clients Professionally
Yesterday I was listening to this Tim Ferriss podcast when Jerry Seinfeld said something that stopped me in my tracks.
You need to treat your brain like a dog you just got. The mind is infinite in wisdom, BUT the brain is a stupid little dog that is easily trained.
You just have to confine it with systemization.
I could not agree more. When it comes to getting clients, you need to have a system. A bag of tools and tricks that keep your stupid little dog brain confined.
What do I mean?
Let’s look at a real example.
One of my favorite systems for getting freelance clients are email templates.
Having a library of proven scripts for handling various client situations is guaranteed to help you get clients.
I’ve been collecting them for years. It’s infinitely helpful to have a template for virtually any complicated situation in my back pocket.
No longer do I have to write something from scratch, I simply reach into my email template swipe file and have a beautifully crafted high-converting starting point.
Below I’m going to share one email template that you can use in 2021 to get a freelance client.
But first let me be clear.
The point of this email template isn’t JUST to get you work.
Yes, that is a natural by-product of sending an email focused on your client, BUT the primary purpose of this email is to help you ACTUALLY PROVIDE MORE VALUE TO YOUR CLIENTS, AND HAVE IT FEEL AMAZING.
How do I know this email can make that happen?
Because it already has.
One of the people who used my email template got amazing results. Here’s the story in her own words:
I recently sent your email out to 100 people I had in my contacts list (personal email contacts & connections) telling them I was available for work as a full-time independent creative and the kind of work I could do for them.
That email led to 3 immediate leads, 1 of which turned into a real project I wanted, and 2 conversations/catching up chats that became work opportunities within the next 2 months.
It was very unlike my instinct to send a mass email like that, but it worked and helped boost me through my first few months as a full-time freelancer. – Catherine Sontag
Bravo. What I love about this quote is that this freelancer acknowledged their feelings by saying “it was very unlike their instinct” BUT THEN DID IT ANYWAY.
When you internalize this, all of the doors standing between you and success unlock.
But by doing this systematically, you actually take it a step further. You guarantee success for yourself. Because you bake it in from the start.
I believe you can do the same. Here are some free tools to help you get started.
An Email Template – One Way to Get Clients in 2021
Here’s the deal. No email template is going to fix a bad mindset.
You HAVE to address the underlying causes so you can take a different approach.
Unless you do that, clients will always see through your words. No matter what they are.
But how? Let’s do one more quick exercise. Take the thing that most stops you from reaching out to a new client.
I should be something you say regularly, like:
I feel weird doing marketing right now.
Now flip that around.
Add a big fat BUT to the end – and finish the sentence focusing solely on the well-being of your client:
I feel weird doing marketing right now BUT LOOK my clients NEED help right now, maybe more than ever … I can’t abandon them, I have to at least offer to help them.
Whoa. This is an example of relying on a system to change your mindset.
This system creates much healthier approach.
Let’s do some more common objections:
I’m introverted … BUT there are a lot of businesses out there that need my help, I shouldn’t expect them to magically find / come to me.
I haven’t gotten a response from those clients I emailed last week … BUT they’re busy. I’ll make their lives easier by following up.
Every time you do this, you hack your brain into being more successful at getting you client. Not only that, you actually become a more caring awesome person.
So internalize this lesson.
The best way to do this is to talk to more clients. Do this however you can: by email, phone, zoom call, whatever. It feels amazing to because it’s the opposite of selfish. It’s an act of service.
So reach out to all of your clients and make them an offer.
Offer to talk. Then get on a call and listen. Focus 100% on how you can provide value to them. THAT is a system for getting clients that will work.
Use this email template:
Hi Client Name,
How are you?
I wanted to reach out to thank you again for being an awesome client. Because of clients like you I’m able to be in business … and I want to give back.
To help out right now, I’m waving my normal hourly rate and giving past clients like you a free monthly strategy call to help with whatever you need through [Month].
We can discuss some fresh [design/development/writing/seo] ideas of course, or just chat about your business in general? However, you want to spend the time is fine with me.
Just send me a message and we can put you on my schedule.
That’s it. No pitch. No sales call. Just value-first.
But be careful. Fear will try to stop you from sending this email.
Don’t let it. Just hit send. Then deliver as much value as you can.
And if you do, I promise this email template will result in more opportunities for you than you thought possible. By the way, this is just one of the templates I included inside of my new training program, Endless Clients.
The course is currently closed, but it opens 2 times per year. Get notified the next time we do by signing up below.
Best Places to Find “Ready-to-Buy” Clients in 2021
Now that you have this template, it’s easy to tweak it and use the same approach to go after any client opportunity.
In fact, the framework and mindset that we just outlined for how to get clients above is way more important than the actual email template.
You can use this system to go after and get freelance clients:
- Via RFP, using a system to find great RFPs (Requests for Proposal) and systematically apply to them with client-focused proposals.
- Via Slack, using a system to find communities where your ideal clients are hanging out. (We include a full list of these communities inside Endless Clients.)
- Via Freelance Job Sites, using a system to find hundreds of freelance job posts that you can send your portfolio via email.
- Via LinkedIn, using a system to find freelance clients on LinkedIn and list the right freelance work on your LinkedIn profile.
Or you can get all of this included in Endless Clients, my training program for freelancers and agency owners on how to find an endless stream of $10,000 projects using simple tools.
It’s currently closed and we only open 2 times per year, but click the link above to get emailed the next time it opens.
Our customers have turned quick friendly messages in places like LinkedIn and Slack into real sales opportunities (without feeling or sounding scammy).
Plus, we cover how to delegate the whole system from start to finish to a VA or team member so you can finally separate your time from your income forever.
You can even get a free taste of the training program with this free bundle.
I cringe when I see the following advice on how to get consulting clients:
“Got some free time? Work on your positioning!”
Why? If you need to get consulting clients fast, “working on your precious delicate positioning” is procrastination. Period.
You likely already work too damn much on your positioning! Newsflash: if you made less than $100,000 last year, you don’t need to work on your positioning. You need to take action.
But how? There’s a world of options right? Well here’s a list of 5 high-performing steps to take to get consulting clients fast.
Each one is pulled from real examples taken from businesses who have taken my new course, Endless Clients. Info at the bottom of this post on how to get in to Endless Clients (I only open twice a year.)
1. Email All Your Past Clients This Email:
If you say you want work and you don’t do this, you’re not really serious.
The number one way to land a client quickly is to email people you’ve worked for in the past. Yes, those clients you wish would email you to give you gobs and gobs of money… YOU can actually email THEM too. 🤯
Nobody does this, and honestly it’s moronic. Instead they spend hours trying to come up with an amazing Instagram post that non one will ever see.
Then truth is that the likelihood one of your past clients needs your help right now, is high! It’s on you to be a good service provider and email them the following:
Hi [Bob]! Happy Wednesday. How’s everything at Widget Co.? Anything I can do to help?
Bob will absolutely love receiving this email from you if there’s something he needs help with. If not, he will still appreciate you reaching out.
There’s no downside, and it’s the absolute fastest way to win a client, period. It’s always faster and easier to sell to someone who’s bought from you before.
2. Join a Slack Community and DM Someone:
There are ton of great Slack communities out there. Find some that have your ideal clients, and join.
A quick Google search will turn up a ton of great ones.
They likely already have a channel specifically for sharing referrals. So when you see an interesting project pop up, DM the them.
Hey Bill, saw your message looking for X. I’m a web designer and have worked on a couple similar projects. Happy to point you in the right direction, wanna chat?
That’s it. Build real relationships with people by providing value in a human way. It goes a long way.
This is a quick way to book 3-5 sales calls this week. Here are some Slack communities I’d start with:
3. Follow Up on Old Forgotten Job Posts:
Most people want to be the first to reply to a job post, but very few companies decide to hire quickly. Often it takes months.
That makes specialty web design job boards a gold mine of opportunity. Look for jobs that are about a month old and reach out with:
Hey [Bob], I saw you were looking for a remote UI designer to redesign you app about a month ago. Are you the right person to talk to about this?
It’s likely you’re emailing them at time when they’re much less busy, and yet in a better position to actually hire someone. Bonus: Here’s a video on how to automate it:
4. Ask for a Referral (and Send One Today):
As you go about implementing idea #3, you’ll come across projects and jobs that are perfect for someone you know. Offer to share them with that person!
Hi Steve, I came across a client that might be a fit for the type of work you do. Are you currently looking for work? Happy to send an intro.
This is how to get consulting clients fast via referral. If he says yes, email both the client and the freelancer the following:
Hi John, I saw you’re looking to hire X. Meet Steve, he’s an awesome freelancer that I thought might be a fit for what you need. Let me know if I can help further!
Then let Steve know you’re also looking for work and to let you know if any referrals come in.
When you do something awesome for someone else without them asking, they tend to do it back.
5. Find an RFP on LinkedIn:
Tons of companies and clients are looking for websites and posting RFPs (requests for proposals) online right now. These are great gigs to go after.
My favorite place to find these is Linkedin.
My favorite part about LinkedIn is that you can message the people who post the RFP (and often times wrote it!) directly on the platform.
This is exactly what Joey Kirk, owner of Made by Munsters, did recently (here’s a full case study where he even shared his templates with me).
What to do next
Do one of these every day for the next 5 days and you will have a great chance at getting a consulting client fast. You can even do all 5 today.
But don’t stop there. Each week I give numerous tips like this away to my mailing list. I’m working on a follow up post to this one about the best Slack communities for freelancers.
Get that article sent to you once it’s live by signing up below.
You will also lock in a spot on my Endless Clients waiting list. It’s my new course on how to find 10+ $10,000 projects in less than 30 minutes whenever you want. By signing up below you’ll get an email once we open the course back up.