5 Tips for Freelance Client Acquisition
The following applies to all freelancers: You can only make money if you have work. Despite this obvious fact, client acquisition is often the point at which many freelancers fail. In this article, we have put together some tips to help you find work and clients - as well as the risks you should be aware of as a freelancer.
The first reality faced by many freelancers is probably this: The world has not been waiting for your business. This means that you have to show your potential clients that you exist. Therefore, the first two questions you should ask yourself are:
1. Who is my target audience?
2. Where am I most likely to meet my target audience?
It is important that you really answer these two questions, as they will inform your subsequent actions: For example, those working in online marketing, IT and technology, graphic design, online retail or coaching will tend to focus on digital. If you are a freelance fitness trainer, craftsman or expert, you may want to use analogue as well as digital methods, such as flyers or newspaper adverts. In addition to your own target audience, it is also a good idea to know your competitors and define your unique selling points - that is, what makes your offer different from those of your competitors.
Once you have defined your target audience and analysed your competition, there are several ways to get in touch with potential clients. One of the most crucial for freelancers in all sectors is being found online. Getting your own website is the first and most important step - if you want to sell goods online, you also need a web shop.
How extensive your own website should be depends very much on the sector you are in. For freelancers working in web design, video production or graphic design, having your own website is obviously a way of promoting your skills and services. IT freelancers, on the other hand, may prefer to keep the design simple and focus on the essentials.
These are the 5 basics you should know as a freelancer when creating your own website.
Basics of Building Your Own Website
No matter how extensive your website is, you should always keep the following basics in mind when creating your website:
One of the most important things to consider when creating a domain is the name. To be easy for potential clients to understand, freelancers are advised to use either their own name (e.g. daniel-lukoschek.pl or jesper-andersson.se) or a combination of their name and what they do (e.g. daniel-lukoschek-webdesign.pl or andersson-webdesign.se). If you have a local offer, you can also add the location - this is particularly useful if your offer is not only digital (e.g. trening-personalny-warszawa.pl or personaltraining-lisboa.pt).
Good navigation is the foundation of any website: So you should think about it beforehand:
- How do you want to address your visitors? What do you want them to see first on your site?
- What information is particularly important and should be highlighted?
- How do you want people to contact (for example, by phone, email, form or online appointment)?
This article will show you how to use good navigation to get more conversions and more orders: The perfect website navigation
Creating your own Website
If you have little or no experience of creating websites, you should generally consider whether it makes sense to get professional help. For those who have at least some experience with CMS or modular systems, systems such as Jimdo or Wordpress are recommended. A big advantage of Wordpress is that the menu is relatively intuitive and the CMS is compatible with various plug-ins.
However, we recommend that complete novices work with a web designer and have the CMS and its features explained to them.
Legally compliant website
Since the introduction of GDPR, there are a number of requirements that your website must meet:
- Technical requirements such as the SSL certificate, as well as data collection according to the principles of „Privacy by Design“ (no more than necessary) and „Privacy by Default“ (privacy-friendly default settings).
- GDPR compliant imprint
- Contact options: If you offer contact forms or online appointment services, these must also comply with the requirements of the GDPR.
- Contract processing under the GDPR – if you use third parties (such as external service providers) to process personal data.
Search Engine Optimisation
Having your own website is a good start, now you just need to be found. If you don't want to spend money on advertising right away, you should at least consider the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO):
- Keyword research: What keywords are relevant to your business? Use the Google Search Konsole to research the most important terms related to your offer and incorporate them into your text, especially your headlines.
- Structure: The absolute minimum in SEO is a correct structure of your texts with main headings (H1), subheadings (H2 - H4), paragraphs and cross references (links) to other pages of your website. For example, you can link directly to projects from your portfolio in your CV.
- Images with image descriptions and alt titles: Use alt titles (alternative descriptions) and image descriptions for all images you embed on your website.
- Videos: Google likes websites that use a combination of images, text and video.
- Backlinks: These are links from external sites to your site. Google rates links in blogs or professional articles much higher than just a logo link in the footer.
Portfolio or Client References
A strong and complete CV is a good start - but you can really score points by including a portfolio (especially for creative professions such as designers, copywriters or video producers) or references from past projects (more likely for IT freelancers or consultants) on your website. Case studies or quotes from satisfied clients also build trust and credibility.
But be careful: never use past work or projects without your clients' permission - even if you are the author of the work, the rights of use belong to your clients. The following article explains what you need to consider when publishing client testimonials: Publishing client testimonials - what you need to know legally!
Whether it is your own website, social networks or project work, as a freelancer you are exposed to a number of risks that can lead to high claims for damages. We know from experience that even a little carelessness can be expensive, such as a programming error, a wrongly placed tick in an advertisement, a faulty analysis and so on.
Professional Indemnity Insurance through exali protects your business - both in the event of professional errors and in the event of written warnings (e.g. due to a breach of the law) or data protection breaches. Through the combination of Financial Loss Insurance as well as a General Liability Insurance, your business is optimally covered for purely financial losses as well as property damage and personal injury. exali offers tailor-made insurance solutions for freelancers in a wide range of sectors, such as:
- IT and Tech
- Media and Creative
- Service providers (e.g. fitness trainers, virtual assistants, appraisers)
Do you have any questions about Professional Indemnity? Then please contact our customer advisors on +49 (0) 821 80 99 46-0 (available Monday to Friday 09:00 to 18:00 CET) or use our contact form to send us an enquiry.
Freelance portals are a great way to find clients and projects. Especially in the IT and tech sector, there are a number of providers. The process is usually quite simple:
1. Register with the portal.
2. Create a profile with the most important information about your company (CV, skills profile, references, availability, etc.).
3. With your profile, you are now visible to potential clients and can receive requests for collaboration.
4. Alternatively, some portals also offer marketplaces where you can receive information about advertised offers or make an offer yourself.
On some portals, the operators also make a pre-selection from the project applications.
Nick Oestreich from the freelancer network Uplink talked to us about what really matters when applying for projects: Tips for Freelancers - How to Convince in Project Applications
Networking can make a huge difference to the success of your business! On the one hand, it gives you the opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded people - because other freelancers face similar challenges to you - and on the other hand, work often comes through contacts in your network. How you build and expand your network depends on the type of person you are. Some people find it easy to talk to others at an event, for example, while others feel more comfortable exchanging ideas on business platforms, forums or social networks.
There are numerous networking opportunities online and offline.
The following opportunities are great for expanding and building your own network:
- Freelancer meet-ups: Some networks and associations organise regular meet-ups, and business platforms such as LinkedIn and Xing also host occasional events.
- Events: Industry events are a great way to meet other freelancers and potential clients.
- Social media: Social networks can not only increase the visibility of your business online, but also give you the opportunity to exchange ideas with others. Which networks are appropriate depends on what you have to offer.
- Coworking: Coworking spaces are a great way for freelancers to save money and resources, as well as meet other freelancers.
Besides registering with freelance portals and project exchanges, one of the most important networks is actually the business platform LinkedIn. As well as a marketplace for freelancers, there are numerous opportunities to network with other freelancers and get in touch with potential clients. LinkedIn also offers various groups for freelancers - some of them general, but also divided by industry or country.
We have summarised how to get the most out of LinkedIn as a freelancer in the following article: Get more jobs with LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers several ways for potential clients to find you, such as the Marketplace, which launched in October 2021.
Have you ever heard of the "mere exposure effect"? This term comes from psychology and describes the effect that people become more and more positive about things that are initially neutral if they are exposed to them more often. In terms of your business, this means that the more often potential customers or partners see you and your business, the more likely it is that they will do business with you. There are several ways to get noticed.
Advertising - whether digital or analogue - has always used the "mere exposure effect". In reality, however, you should consider which channels are best for you. Because: Every business is different and, as mentioned at the beginning, for some freelancers advertising via Google Ads, Meta or LinkedIn makes sense, while others should rather rely on "classic" analogue advertising in newspapers or flyers. Of course, advertising is always a question of money and may not be the best choice for freelancers starting out.
This article summarises how Google Ads works and what to look out for when placing ads: Google Ads - all you need to know to run successful ads
Content is King
By creating content about your own area of expertise, you can not only increase your visibility on search engines like Google, but you can also showcase your own knowledge and skills to potential clients. The type of content you create is up to you, but some options include:
- Your own blog, where you regularly publish content on topics related to your field.
- YouTube: This is another place where you can focus on topics related to your field, such as creating tutorials or showcasing projects (always in consultation with your clients).
- Podcasts: The boom in creating your own radio shows shows no sign of stopping. In an interview, expert Paula Thum explains how your own podcast can benefit your business and what you need to watch out for: Tips for your own podcast
- Reels und shorts: Short video clips have long since gone beyond dance videos or voice-overs. TikTok and Instagram are now full of content creators and bloggers who use short videos to share tips, showcase their business or comment on industry-related topics.
- Professional posts in other media: Instead of using your own platforms, you can also look for guest posts in industry-related magazines or other topic-related blogs or podcasts. The advantage here: Backlinks for your own website.
Eine Hand wäscht die andere – das ist das Prinzip von Content-Kooperationen. Die Vorteile und Risiken einer solchen Kollaboration haben wir in folgendem Artikel für Sie zusammengestellt: Content Collaborations: Opportunities and risks for your business
Another great way to get noticed by other freelancers and potential clients is to speak at industry events. Whether physical or digital, presentations are always a great way to introduce your business - including your services - and get into conversation with others.
Daniela has been working in the areas of (online) editing, social media and online marketing since 2008. At exali, she is particularly concerned with the following topics: Risks through digital platforms and social media, cyber dangers for freelancers and IT risk coverage.
In addition to her work as an online editor at exali, she works as a freelance editor and therefore knows the challenges of self-employment from her own experience.