5 Easy Tips to Help You Gain Clients

What’s on the iPod: Life by The Avett Brothers

Some happy news in the writing community: Ashley Festa and her husband are now parents! Little Delia Jane was born February 8th and is a beauty to behold. Congratulations, Ashley and family! Send her some Twitter love today. (@ashley_festa)

Thanks to everyone who contributed to (and continue to contribute to) the 101 Resources list I posted on Friday. I’ll see what I can do about bringing it to a central location here to make it easier to find in the future.

Rounding out this month’s promotion and client generation focus is this post on how freelance writers can gain clients. You responded to the recent poll I had up, and I’ve heard you. The problem with writers promoting themselves is often twofold, as you’ve indicated by your answers. How do you get started and how do you continue?

For us freelancers, the toughest part, especially when you’re starting your freelance career, is getting the clients. Here are five ways that can help you:

Plot a course. Right now, say to yourself “I want to meet five new potential clients this week.” Obviously, “meet” is a figurative term, for unless you live in the center of a large city or you run a cafeteria at an office complex, clients won’t necessarily walk in front of you. So plan right now to introduce yourself to these new clients. How many you want to meet is up to you, but write it down. Now post it on your monitor or somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

Set a goal for those business cards. Here’s a way to circulate your card while contacting new clients: Put a stack of 10 cards on your desk Monday morning. The goal is to deplete them by Friday. How you do it is up to you, but you can give them to people you meet on your errands or at parties, or mail them to prospective clients. Set aside ten minutes per day to decide where (and how) they’ll find new homes.

Ask a potential client a question on social media. Just don’t make that question “Do you want to hire me?” Instead, ask them something about themselves or their business. Gain their attention not by talking about yourself, but by showing an interest in who they are or what they do. What business challenges are they facing in this economy? Where is their business growing that’s exciting for them? How do they see their personalities reflected in what they offer their customers? Get curious and keep the conversation flowing.

Choose one specific person each month to meet. You know you want to write for that new editor at your favorite magazine, or for that theater management company. Research a little about the person/publication/company you’ve targeted. Now get in touch. Send them a note on LinkedIn or an email. Say hello. Introduce yourself.

Follow one new person on social media each day. Make it count; choose someone in an area you’ve written in or are interested in. Follow them and then follow up immediately with an introductory note. The goal isn’t to sell, but to grow your network. You’re just saying hello and getting acquainted.

The goal of your client interactions should always be on building a relationship. While there’s a good chance your letter of introduction or your business card distribution may net you some business, remember to keep the focus on creating something more long term. If you focus on sales, you’ll have to work harder — clients know when it’s not about them.

How do you gain clients?

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  • Devon Ellington February 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    All excellent ideas — thank you. Reminds me — I need to make up some more Fearless Ink cards — I'm all out after the writers' dinner last week!

  • Jenn Mattern February 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Great post Lori. And great point about differentiating networking and selling through social media. That's something I wish clients understood a bit better when they have me manage their accounts. Some of them think every post or tweet needs a call to action to push a product or service.

  • Lori February 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Get those cards, Devon!

    Jenn, it's the biggest mistake people make. "HERE I AM! RETWEET ME! I'M FABULOUS!" Yet they're talking to themselves. No one cares if you don't bother to care about them, even just a little.

    It's like social media has created this atmosphere of narcissists. It's NOT all about you — it's about how you and another person relate to each other.

    Drives me nuts. 🙂

  • Sharon Hurley Hall February 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Totally agree about social media – I've had the same experience as Jenn and have had to say to clients; "It's not all about you." 🙂

  • Paula February 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    You said it, Sharon!

    Just think about how much more business someone can do when they stop self-promoting (or pushing the hard sell) and focus a little more on their customers or clients.

  • Lori February 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I knew many of you would have the same feelings–Sharon, you and Paula get it.. Social media isn't a big mystery. If you just relate to people the same way you like to be related to, you'll do fine. In other words, don't be the one at the party who won't shut up. Be the one who asks questions and keeps the conversation going.

  • Cathy Miller February 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    There was an interesting discussion on LinkedIn about the "select" few(?) who were in the top 1% for profile views on LI. One member was saying he didn't care if it was LI's not so subtle way of getting more people writing about them. He figured it brought more traffic to his site and that was great. Personally, I'd rather build relationships than traffic.

    But then my father had a saying that could apply to gobs of traffic – Even a blind groundhog picks up an acorn every now and then." 🙂

  • Lori February 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Your dad said it all, Cathy. 🙂 I love it. I'm the same — quantity may be great at the outset, but nothing beats quality.