How to Generate Leads as a Freelancer
Freelancing is great!
Work when you want. Work where you want.
Choose your projects. Even choose your clients.
However, the dream of working when you want, where you want, and how you want vanishes pretty quickly when you don’t have any work.
To become a successful freelancer over the long term, you need to develop consistent, sustainable, and predictable ways to generate leads.
To get better at sales and build a client base, you need to hold 100 sales meetings with potential customers , but you might be wondering how to find these clients.
In this article, I will give you seven methods to generate and capture leads and a few tips for those first 100 meetings and many more!
Warning: Not All Leads Are Created Equal
Before focusing on methods for developing solid leads, you should know that there are many ways to generate leads, but not all of them are good.
Some cost a lot of money.
Some take way too much time.
Some may even connect you with people the wrong type of clients .
Because I don’t know your unique business, I can’t tell you the best way to develop leads. You’ll have to figure that out based on your individual situation.
However, here are seven proven methods to build a lead generation strategy.
People can generate leads.
As I discussed in how to get better at sales , a successful freelancing business is built on genuine connections with people.
Method #1: Current and Past Clients
Your investments in building relationships and trust will pay dividends when those people become returning clients and also begin to recommend you to others.
Do you have a client who loves your work?
Do they keep coming back again and again?
Ask them for a testimonial! If they enjoy your work, they’ll give it freely.
Then, you can build a portfolio with examples of projects you’ve completed for clients that includes their testimonials. Then, you can leverage it to build confidence with new customers.
But that’s not the only way to use past clients to help you generating leads.
If you have a good relationship with clients, they could be a huge source of leads. And, when people really love a service or product, they talk about it! So take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising.
One of the best ways is to ask them. “Hey, I love working with you. So, if you know anyone else who needs help, feel free to connect us.”
You can even incentivize their help.
Offer a 10% discount on services for new clients they send your way. It’s a great way to show your appreciation and get more leads!
But, other types of incentives - gift cards, gift baskets, thank you notes, and more - motivate clients to spend a little extra time and energy connecting you with leads, too.
Opening that thank you note or gift basket from you can remind them to mention your name to their contacts, and it also helps build a solid relationship.
Lastly, don’t forget to check in with them every once in a while.
Your services might change, their needs might change, and their situation might require new work.
You never know.
You will gain new skills, techniques, and abilities that could be helpful to the client, and working with old clients again is always easier and safer than rolling the dice with a new one.
If you’d like to keep working with someone, it’s always a good idea to check in with them periodically to see how they are doing and remind them you enjoyed working with them.
This lead generation strategy is one of my favorite ones, for its simplicity, cost effectiveness and amazing results. It also serves to build your brand loyalty.
Method #2: Friends and Family
Don’t forget to reach out to people in your life who probably don’t need much incentive to help you - your friends and family!
This is an easy way to start looking for leads, especially if you’re just starting as a new freelancer.
Share with them how excited you are about starting and building your freelance business.
If they don’t already know, explain what you do in simple and easy-to-remember language so they can explain it to the right types of potential customres.
Also, emphasize how important leads are in generating a customer base.
Then, ask them to bring up your name if they hear from someone looking for help in your area of expertise, perhaps a local business, or a friend with a small business.
This isn’t a long-term solution, and it certainly isn’t something you want to rely on frequently but it can help getting you started with lead generation.
Some family and friends can be great champions for your new freelancing career. Others may not be quite as helpful.
Mixing business and family can be a volatile thing when it is done poorly. Make sure you know who you are asking before you bring them in.
Places can generate leads.
By being in the right place at the right time, you can take advantage of golden opportunities for leads. And places are not only physical locations, online lead generation can transform and skyrocket the leads for your business.
Method #3: Industry Conferences
Conferences are enormous money-makers for freelancers and businesses.
And these events are held throughout the year in many different places, offering you various groups of people from which to generate leads.
Do a google search to see which conferences and conventions will be in your area.
Sure, you could set up a booth and connect with attendees. But, that often takes time and money. And, attendees are always a little leary about connecting with you in this capacity.
So don’t discount simply going, attending, and making real connections with people.
Everyone wants someone to go to lunch with them. Everyone wants to connect with like-minded people, and a lot of people are primed to spend money and make deals.
More than one freelancing career has started at an industry conference. Yours could be next.
However, one note of warning: don’t turn every interaction into a networking opportunity.
Seek to make genuine, honest, and valuable connections with people.
Your relationships will go much farther and generate solid leads.
Method #4: Freelancing Websites
Freelance websites, such as Fiverr and Upwork , or Toptal , offer massive networks of potential customers scouring the platform for freelancers to handle business issues for them.
These services (often referred to as freelance gigs) are great places to connect you with clients and help you offer your services to a global audience.
As you gain momentum on them, the clients can come fast and furious.
However, with so many freelancers offering digital services, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd.
You need to make sure potential clients understand your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), so you can gain traction. Your USP gives clients the reason they should hire you and pay for your services instead of someone else.
And, whatever you do, don’t discount your services too deeply.
Some clients on these sites only care about the lowest price, and there’s always someone willing to offer services more cheaply than you do.
So, don’t lose money trying to gain clients who only care about saving money. They aren’t worth your time in the long run.
Communicate the worth of your expertise and drive the conversation from a value proposition, target setting fair and competitive prices, and don’t undercut yourself.
Method #5: A Business Website
For web developers, a great website is essential. But, if you specialize in something else, don’t overlook this.
This essential digital space is where clients can find you, and a great website:
- Builds trust
- Shows your skills
- Helps you to stand out from the competition.
A well-designed website is a place you can showcase your talents and make powerful connections with potential clients.
However, remember that simply having a beautiful website isn’t enough.
Your website also needs:
- Website copy (writing) that moves potential clients to become new clients
- Ways to collect capture leads like forms, free downloads, lead magnets, etc. with clear a call to action.
- A portfolio of your relevant work with examples, links, and images.
- Testimonials from previous clients.
A well-designed website with the right information can drive web traffic to your business, which will generate more leads.
Also, do not disregard the design of your site, as it is the landing page, the first online contact point between you a potential customer looking to find more information about you, your services and your business.
If you don’t have technical expertise you can visit freelance sites and look for external help, or you can use no-code tools such as webflow , which allows you to build beautiful websites without knowing how to code or anything about web development.
Products can generate leads.
Using proven products to expand your marketing outreach can produce a wealth of leads.
Method #6: Paid Ads and Internet Marketing
Google, Youtube, and Facebook are just a few examples of ad networks with massive worldwide reach.
With the right targeting, they can generate highly interested traffic to your website for a few bucks.
But, before you jump on board with paid advertising and internet marketing, you’ll need to have everything else we’ve discussed dialed in.
- A well-designed website
- Lead capture technology
- The means to follow up with interested clients
So, make sure you know what you are doing and have these essential tools primed and ready before spending the money to drive traffic to your website.
And although it’s great to leverage the global reach of ad networks, it’s also easy to waste money quickly with these services.
So, make sure you know what you are doing or get the help of someone who understands how to best use these services.
It will save you a lot of money and time!
Method #7: Cold Outreach
In some situations, you may need or want to reach out to a specific company or potential client.
It could be that there’s a company or client you really want to work with.
Or, you might need to generate new business, reaching out to a range of potential clients.
Cold outreach methods include a host of different options, phone calls, in-person visits, emails, or social media outreach. Below, I’ll give you a brief example of a cold email and cold social media message, but here I’ll say a few words about the process of cold outreach.
First, cold outreach is not a particularly effective long-term strategy. It can be time-consuming, and if you are using it to generate a lot of business, you will be sending a lot of emails or messages before you get much traction. So don’t desperate if no one is replying, that is the norm.
Relying on referrals, websites, conferences, and more is generally more effective when those methods are done correctly.
So, if you can, try to reserve cold outreach methods for specific situations or clients where you are willing to put time and effort into crafting the best message.
Second, to be effective, you need to be specific. Sending a generic message like, “Hello, my name is Juan, and I build websites. If you need help with yours, let me know,” Won’t cut it.
Every message needs to have a personal touch which shows that you’ve taken the time to get to know them.
When reaching out, offer specifics about how you can help them, what areas you specialize in, and what benefits they’ll get when working with you.
Third, lean into benefits.
We discussed this when we talked about sales , but it is essential to think about the transaction from their perspective. How can you help them? How can you improve them? How can you make a difference for them?
Lastly, be consistent and keep track of your communication.
Rarely will you get the client to call you back, set an appointment, or return your email on the first try. Cold outreach requires multiple attempts.
So, you must be willing to send emails regularly (without being spammy) AND keep track of when/how you sent them.
Adding lines like, “I emailed you 10 days ago and didn’t hear back, so I wanted to try again. We all know that emails can slip through the cracks when we are busy” show that you are keeping track and organized.
With that in mind, here are a couple of examples.
Cold email example,
I’m Juan, a software developer. I was looking for somewhere to eat yesterday when I stumbled on your website. The food looked great, but I noticed the website was hard to load on my phone. It looks like your website isn’t mobile-friendly.
We both know how important a mobile-friendly website is, and I don’t want you to miss out on potential business because yours wouldn’t load properly.
If you already have a web developer, I’d suggest you check in with them to get the situation fixed. If you don’t, I’d love to help you out.
I know you are busy so we can schedule a call at your convenience so I can explain how we could fix your site and get even more diners into your restaurant.
I look forward to hearing from you,
I have a lot of experience optimizing websites for a mobile experience and can show several examples of my work.
Social media outreach example
Hi, my name is Juan, I’m a software developer, and as I was looking for dining options in your area, I noticed that your website is very hard to read on a mobile phone as it seems it was never designed for smaller screens.
That can be a problem, as potential customers who find you through these devices may have a bad experience trying to get information about your place, as was the case for me.
If you already have technical talent on your team, I’d advise you to point out this problem to them so they can fix it.
If you don’t have anyone that could help you right now, I’d love to jump into a call with you, where I can explain the work I’d do on your site, so that it will attract more people to dine in your restaurant.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
If you decide to send cold emails or messages, focus on using them to build connections and start conversations with other like-minded business people. Don’t solely focus on promoting your services.
Building connections and creating business conversations can generate leads.
In Conclusion, You Need a Lead Generation Strategy
Running a successful, sustainable freelance business depends on generating solid leads. Tweet this
Generating leads is hard, but you’ll get better at it. Start with one of the lead generation strategies we recommended, and then expand to others. Lead generation should be a top priority, and should be done always, even while working on current projects.
Whichever ones you choose to use should be based on your unique situation.
You can decide to use a combination or try all of these seven proven lead generation strategies:
- Leveraging current and past clients for referrals and testimonials
- Asking friends and family for freelance jobs or introductions
- Attending industry conferences to connect with future clients
- Use a freelance platform and promote freelance gigs or search through job postings
- Creating your own, well-designed website to serve as portfolio
- Paying for ads and internet marketing to a target audience
- Doing cold outreach to local or small businesses
Your investment of time, effort, and money in these methods will generate leads that will turn into clients, allowing your freelance business to afford you the freedom to work when, where, and how you want!
Thanks for reading and happy hunting!
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Juan Cruz Martinez
Juan has made it his mission to help aspiring developers unlock their full potential. With over two decades of hands-on programming experience, he understands the challenges and rewards of learning to code. By providing accessible and engaging educational content, Juan has cultivated a community of learners who share their passion for coding. Leveraging his expertise and empathetic teaching approach, Juan has successfully guided countless students on their journey to becoming skilled developers, transforming lives through the power of technology.