3 ways to find new clients as a freelance marketer or creative

3 ways to find new clients as a freelance marketer or creative

Forget filing self-employment taxes or chasing overdue invoice payments. Finding new clients is one of the biggest challenges freelancers face. 

And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it. Whether you took the leap into freelancing 10 days or 10 years ago, you know that the grind never ends! It’s important to always have a strong pipeline of new client leads, especially if the services you provide are often one-off projects, or otherwise not well suited for a retainer.

And unlike with a traditional job search, clients looking for a freelancer or consultant are unlikely to write up a job description and post their opening on a job board. Most of the time, these conversations are behind closed doors, and — particularly with smaller clients — there is no formal RFP process. That means exploring many avenues at once to find new clients before you need them.

Here are the most effective ways to find new clients:

1. Build relationships with other freelancers and agencies who offer complementary services. 

You know that saying, “your network is your net worth”? That applies to no group more than freelancers. Tapping your existing connections is one of the most effective ways to find new clients.

Of course, not everyone you know is likely to refer business your way. The most profitable connections you have are likely other freelancers, consultants and agencies offering services that complement – but don’t compete with – yours.

The clients of email marketing and CRM strategists probably also need email designers and developers to bring to life their customer outreach plans. Paid media agencies need conversion-minded creatives. Web designers and developers should have both copywriters and SEO/SEM consultants to call on. Clients hiring PR consultants often also need social media strategists, who may need designers, photographers, animators and copywriters.

And fractional CMOs may need all of the above (and more) at some point!

So instead of chasing cold leads, cozy up to your connections working in complementary fields. Let them know you have capacity to take on new clients, and ask them to keep you in mind if any of their clients need what you offer. 

And make it a win-win: Offer to reciprocate if the opportunity arises.

2. Get out there! Expand your network by attending in-person conferences and networking events. 

As a freelancer, it’s probably not possible to have too many professional contacts. So while you strengthen those existing relationships, remember: The more, the merrier!

One of the most effective ways to meet new people is through in-person events. (Remember those?)

Search for conferences attended by the kinds of people who might refer business to you, or who work in verticals you’d like more clients in. For example, if PR freelancers refer a lot of business to you, attend a local PRSA event. If you’d like more clients in healthcare, seek industry-specific conferences for physicians or healthcare communications professionals.

If the idea of “networking” in a room full of strangers makes you nearly break out in hives, consider that you might be more comfortable at events attended by people who aren’t your competitor, and desperately need your services. You might even find that you’re the most popular person in the room!

That’s nearly guaranteed if you also offer to speak at these events. This is the introvert’s secret strategy – because everyone already knows you and what you do, the conversations that follow are far less stilted, with less need for small talk.

But in any case, be ready to talk about yourself! Make sure you have a strong elevator pitch, and can point your new contacts to a portfolio site with case studies and recent samples – or at minimum, a stellar LinkedIn profile. For extra credit, have ready an “entry-level” service like a one-hour strategy call or a website audit for those who might be ready to engage your services soon. To sweeten the deal, consider offering a small, limited-time discount to those you meet at the conference.

3. Get on a Freeman+Leonard recruiter’s radar. 

Yes, you read that right! Even though you’re not looking for a j-o-b, talent acquisition agencies like Freeman+Leonard offer far more than traditional employment options. We often need freelancers to take on project work for our clients, and demand for freelance talent is rising. 

We even build project teams for our clients by assembling a rockstar crew of freelancers and training them on the client’s brand standards, and having them ready when the client needs them.

This is a great way to get repeat work AND feel like you’re part of a team (and we all know how isolating freelancing can feel!) — without being beholden to a single employer.

Who’s in your corner?

Whether you’ve been freelancing for a while or you’re still undecided about taking the leap, don’t hesitate to reach out to our recruiters. We work with freelancers like you all the time, and know the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of your path. We’d be happy to talk with you about your options and provide insight into the market. Contact our team on LinkedIn anytime or submit your portfolio at jobs.freemanleonard.com.

How to start marketing yourself as a freelancer

How to start marketing yourself as a freelancer

As a marketing, advertising or creative professional, you already know how to market other people’s products and services. You’ve got the best practices down. But marketing yourself? That’s another story.

It’s too common for marketers and creatives to neglect their own marketing and personal branding as they move mountains for their clients. But as a freelancer or consultant, you can’t afford to do this – because you need every bit of visibility you can get, and because how you market yourself indicates your skills. 

If the idiom “The cobbler’s sons have no shoes” hits too close to home, or you feel creatively blocked when you think about how to market yourself and your services, it’s time to change that. No more excuses! 

Here’s what to do to start marketing yourself as a freelancer.

1. Write your elevator pitch.

“It starts with treating yourself like a client,” said Brittani Kroog, Freeman+Leonard recruiter and a former art director and creative freelancer. “Identify your ideal client – not just their industry, but also company size and job title. Review your own skills and talents, and the results you’ve achieved for past clients. What types of problems do you like to solve?” 

“Figure out what makes you unique as a freelancer or consultant, and how that overlaps with the problems your ideal client has and the results they need to achieve,” Brittani said.

With this clarity, write a strong bio and elevator pitch. In 30 seconds, you should be able to describe what you do and who you help, plus what you’ve accomplished and what you want to do next. 

And make sure your bio makes its way onto your LinkedIn profile summary.

2. Showcase your results.

If you haven’t already, create a simple website and include samples of your work and case studies. (You can password-protect it if you like.) Include testimonials if you have them, and show as much evidence of your abilities as possible. 

“We hear it from clients all the time – case studies, work samples and creative portfolios are critical to helping them decide which freelancer is the right fit for their company and their project,” said Ashley Allen, Director of Talent Solutions at Freeman+Leonard. “Don’t leave them hanging!”

This is especially important if you’re new to freelancing. “Your first few clients won’t want to feel like guinea pigs – they will want to see success stories and work samples to inspire confidence in their decision to hire you,” Ashley said.

3. Show up where it matters.

Next, develop a plan for how you’ll stay top-of-mind with those clients. B2B marketing is all about playing the long game. Find out where your ideal client gets their information or hangs out online, and focus there. 

“If you have a particular marketing or creative specialty, use that to your advantage,” said Freeman+Leonard recruiter Jordan Goodwin. “Every social media strategist should have a stellar social media presence, every writer should be blogging, and so on.” 

Whatever the format and channel you choose, let your own marketing – both its quality and the results it generates – serve as a proof of concept for your own talents.

Don’t get overwhelmed! 

As with other aspects of freelancing, you’ve probably learned that once you’ve “taken the leap,” the rest of the journey actually comes just one step at a time. You didn’t have to have it all figured out on day one to start your freelancing business, and you don’t need a perfect marketing plan to start increasing your visibility.

So don’t let perfectionism (or overwhelm) stop you from hitting “send” on that LinkedIn post. 

4. Work your connections.

Once you’re ready to get out there, don’t forget to leverage your professional network. Collaborating with freelancers and agencies who offer complementary (not competing) services can be a highly effective way to land new clients.

And that includes Freeman+Leonard! Whether you’re champing at the bit for your next project or just want an extra set of eyes on your elevator pitch or portfolio, send them our way. Our recruiters are always happy to advise you along your freelance journey. 

Don’t forget that a talent acquisition agency like Freeman+Leonard can help you find new clients, too. (That’s right – we don’t just deal in the traditional 9-5!) Demand for freelance talent is rising, and we’d love to meet you if we’re not already acquainted. And if we are, we’d love to hear how you’re doing! Reach out to our team on LinkedIn anytime or submit your portfolio at jobs.freemanleonard.com.

How to get the most ROI from your recruiting partner

How to get the most ROI from your recruiting partner

Emily, VP of marketing for a fast-growing tech startup, was in a bind. Her CEO had called her into his office just an hour before to deliver the news: Her marketing budget would be slashed by nearly 30%, and more cuts might be coming.

As Emily walked back to her office, a familiar sense of dread settled over her. A fresh-faced new manager during the 2008 recession, she’d seen challenging times. But with a bigger team, the pressure felt different. Their next big product launch was right around the corner, and it couldn’t fail. And just last week, she’d interviewed candidates for several roles she was desperate to fill. Would there even be a team for them to join?

Emily spent the next two days poring over performance metrics and expenses, looking for fat to trim and creative ways to stretch her budget. 

But then she remembered she wasn’t alone in her seemingly sisyphean task. She had her trusted advisors at Freeman+Leonard, who she’d recently enlisted to help her fill those open roles. Her experience as a candidate just 18 months prior was enough for her to know they were no ordinary talent acquisition partner. So even though she didn't know if she'd continue to have much of a budget to work with, she decided to at least reach out for advice.

“If I have to cut a senior-level team member, could two junior-level backfills work?” she asked. “Can I even still hire that automation expert when I also still need a copywriter?”

“Not so fast,” said Lisa Foster, her Freeman+Leonard consultant. “It doesn’t have to be either-or. Let’s consider a different approach.”

Together they assembled a team of top-tier creative contractors to cinch those launch communications and an automation specialist to set up their campaigns for the coming quarter. 

Emily may have had to change her hiring plans for the near term, but this new approach allowed her to prove marketing’s value (and her leadership skills) even under incredible constraints. Perhaps most important, it gave her an on-demand team of freelancers already trained on her brand – a team she could turn to down the line for other pressing and quick-turn projects.

A truly strategic and innovative recruiting partner like Freeman+Leonard will see beyond budget limitations and provide solutions you may not have even realized were an option. Solutions that save you money in the short term, but also set you up for long-term success.

But most hiring managers underestimate what a recruiting partner like Freeman+Leonard can do for them. They then risk not getting the full value a partnership like that can provide.

Let’s change that, shall we?

Here’s our team’s advice on how to get the most ROI from your recruiting partner.

1. Ask for guidance and keep an open mind.

Sometimes clients come to us with a key role to fill, and we’re thrilled to do it. But often it’s more complicated — their budget is stretched thin, they’ve over-hired where talent’s no longer needed, or they’re trying to backfill for a product that will sunset next year. 

So, what’s the next best move? It depends! 

Think of your recruiting partner as less of a seat filler and more of a strategic advisor. The challenges you face that appear to be nearly impossible to tackle look a lot like the problems we solve for clients every day. 

In Emily’s case, she saw the value in taking a different approach. 

Her Freeman+Leonard advisor found the right on-demand resources to help her meet her KPIs without hiring a full-time employee she wasn’t even confident she could hold onto long-term.

“My advice: Don't automatically assume you need to fill your open roles with the same kinds of FTEs who vacated them,” says Kathy Leonard, President & CMO at Freeman+Leonard.

“Look at it from another angle,” she says. “Consider what KPIs you need to hit this quarter, and this year. What strategies and tactics will get you there? Only then start thinking about the marketing skills you need.”

And remember: We can help you at every stage of this process, so there’s no need to figure this out alone. 

2. Collaborate and communicate with our team.

Communication is key to delivering ideal outcomes. Your recruiter can act as an extension of your team, ready and eager to collaborate — less of a vendor, and more of a colleague and confidante.

The more we know about what’s going on in your company, the better. 

If pressure is building internally to change up the role you’re hiring for or to add different types of skills, let us know early and often — even if you’re worried about giving us whiplash.

Rather than hashing it out on your own, bring us into the conversation, and sooner rather than later. You never know what new ideas we might generate.

When in doubt, let’s talk it out! Allow us to be a sounding board to help you make sense of it all and mitigate the impact of these changes on your hiring process.

3. Commit to attracting talent together.

Part of a recruiter’s job is to play intermediary, and we’re masters of reassuring candidates while they’re in the running. But if you’re serious about competing for top talent, you can’t afford to play hard to get. You need to keep your head in the game and play to win, which means being responsive to, and transparent with, candidates. 

Leverage your recruiter as less of a defensive player and more of a relationship facilitator.

We get it; sometimes things are unsettled on your end and you don’t have answers yet. But keeping candidates in the loop matters.

That whip-smart marketing director with the blue-chip brands on her resume who nailed her interview two weeks ago but never heard from you? She’s not waiting for your call. And if she feels ghosted, your employer brand reputation and ability to attract top talent are at stake. 

Candidates talk to each other, and a negative interview experience can come back to haunt you. Help us help you make a strong impression with talent.  

Seize the opportunity to gain a true partner

Economic volatility aside, the new way of working calls for more creativity and strategic thinking in hiring practices, the ability to pivot on a dime, and a continuous commitment to attracting top talent. 

In Emily’s story, there are lessons for all hiring managers. When you open your mind to new ways of working with talent, you can solve today’s problems in ways that prepare you for greater returns tomorrow – while still taking care of your people. 

Whether you’ve been asked to ramp up at a moment’s notice or shift to do more with less, a strategic recruiting partner like Freeman+Leonard can ensure you’re still able to meet your goals despite the toughest constraints. 

If you have questions about hiring and ensuring your marketing and advertising teams are fully resourced — even if you’re not necessarily ready to hire — reach out to a Freeman+Leonard consultant.