How to Attract More Clients as a Freelancer
How I secured close to 30 recurring clients my first year as a full-time freelance copywriter (and spent $0 on marketing)
Finding and retaining clients is the single most important aspect of being a freelancer and business owner. With the wide array of sites promising to connect freelancers to clients (typically for “one small monthly fee”), it can be overwhelming to hone in on which sites actually work, and which ones will be a complete waste of time.
Here are the strategies I used to attract 27 clients in less than a year, most of which send recurring work, and spent $0 on marketing my company:
Upwork — 11 Clients
Say what you will about Upwork, I personally find it to be the best platform for finding clients.
Here’s what’s great about it: after you have used the platform consistently, they will promote your profile to clients looking for freelancers. I have never paid for them to promote my profile, they do this for free. They also take into account how quickly you respond to messages through the platform, your reviews from clients, and the amount of money you have made, so it is imperative to respond to Upwork messages in a timely manner and deliver great work. To ensure I never miss an Upwork message, I have the app on my phone which sends me notifications every time I receive a message.
After using Upwork consistently for about six months, I began receiving messages from clients asking to work with me. The past four clients I have worked with sent me a message on Upwork asking if I could write for them, and we secured successful contracts from there. I rarely have to apply for Upwork positions now, eliminating the application process.
When applying for gigs, some freelancers tend to get overwhelmed by the Upwork cover letter. What should it include? How much is too much?
Your cover letter doesn’t have to be several paragraphs long. Last summer, I hired a freelance writer through Upwork to help me with a project. When determining who to hire, I found that the more succinct the cover letter was, the better.
Here is the cover letter that has landed me several clients on Upwork:
My name is Amanda Sapio and I am an experienced business writer with 8+ years of copywriting experience. My writing style is professional, approachable, engaging, and concise. I have written blog posts, landing pages, newsletters, press releases, social media content, and more for real estate firms, marketing/PR agencies, event planning companies, non-profits, universities, and several others. I invite you to visit my website, www.ASAPEditorial.com, where I have linked several writing samples and additional information about my background.
I look forward to connecting with you soon.
Thank you! Amanda
If you don’t have a website, just link to some samples or your work or include PDF attachments. If you are a copywriter, send them articles you wrote here on Medium.
Personal Network — 7 Clients
This proved to be the most effective method for securing long-term, recurring clients. It is important to note that out of the seven clients I found through my network, only three were individuals I had actually met in-person previously. The remaining five were introduced to me by friends, family, or colleagues.
When considering your personal network, don’t only think about who you know — your network goes far beyond that.
Here’s what I recommend:
Take a moment to write down every job you have ever had, including internships. If you have a point of contact you can reach out to at any of those companies, send them an email. I did this when I first started out as a full-time freelancer and was overwhelmed by the response. Former colleagues who I had not spoken to in 8–10 years were willing to send my writing samples to their network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you haven’t connected with in years, or even decades. There may be great business opportunities there.
Additionally, be extremely vocal about your freelance business on LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other social sites you are active on.
Cold Email — 3 Clients
This one makes many people cringe, but it is a necessary aspect of being a freelancer. I now have a column on StreetEasy (a company owned by Zillow) because I sent an email to a generic email I found on Zillow’s website. It typically takes companies several weeks (if not months) to reply to an email, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back right away.
Sending cold emails can be time-consuming, as you want to tailor the message to their company and demonstrate that you have read their content. However, if you land a client from a cold email, it is worth the 10–15 minutes it may have taken to write the email initially.
Here is what I typically write when sending cold emails:
I hope this finds you well! I have been an avid follower of StreetEasy’s One Block Over blog for several years and would love the opportunity to write for your website.
Just to provide a bit of background about me, I am a full-time freelance writer and editor with a background in real estate marketing. I previously worked for Sotheby’s International Realty and Marcus & Millichap in Manhattan for close to five years. I now work with companies on developing their blogs, website content, and marketing collateral to ensure their content is succinct, SEO-driven, and easy to understand.
Please see below for a link to my website to review my writing samples and learn more about my background: www.ASAPEditorial.com
I also advise including articles that are relevant to the client’s website (if you have them). If not, just include anything that has been published. If you have work saved as a PDF, you can attach it, but some email servers tend to flag emails that come with attachments, so it may be best to send it as a link from Google Docs. Then, include your contact information at the end of the email and you’re ready to send :)
Posting Medium Articles on LinkedIn — 3 Clients
When I made the leap from being a part-time freelance copywriter to full-time in January 2019, I announced it on LinkedIn. Shortly thereafter, I started writing on Medium. I always shared my Medium articles on LinkedIn, which led to the two most lucrative contracts I have secured as a freelance writer to date.
When I look at my Medium statistics on where I get the bulk of my traffic, LinkedIn always greatly outweighs any other site (even Facebook). What’s great about LinkedIn is that it shows you what your connections ‘like’ and comment on, so when your LinkedIn connections like, comment, or share your work, your writing reaches more people.
After posting a few articles on LinkedIn, a friend from college sent me a message asking me to apply for a freelance writing position with her company, The Motley Fool. I submitted an application and was hired as a writer on their site. Had I not posted my Medium articles on LinkedIn, she would have never had the chance to read my writing and recommend me for the position.
Around the same time that I was hired by The Motley Fool, a former colleague who worked in an office where I had interned (over seven years ago!) also saw my Medium articles and sent me a message. As it turns out, her office was looking for an SEO writer who could help with their new website launch. I had prior SEO experience using tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush in the past, so her team hired me for the role. I have now been working with them for nearly eight months, and it has been one of the most rewarding projects I have ever worked on.
Indeed, LinkedIn (Direct Apply), and Craigslist — 3 Clients
In addition to the methods included above, I also secured one client through Indeed, one through LinkedIn (directly applying for the position), and — the most shocking of all — Craigslist.
The great thing about finding clients through these sites is that you can bill the client directly and don’t have to pay a fee to be on the platform (as you do with Upwork).
However, there are some downsides:
Indeed & LinkedIn:
On Indeed and LinkedIn, I found it challenging to find freelance writing positions that were remote. Most of the positions I found are contract roles that require the applicant to work in an office for a set period of time.
As you already know, Craigslist can be sketchy. Knowing that, I strongly advise carefully researching a company prior to agreeing to work with them. If you haven’t already, create a freelance contract (I typically use the contract found here, it’s free). I also recommend asking the client to pay 50% of the project upfront before the work has been started to ensure they are trustworthy.
When applying for freelance positions, be mindful of which timezone the company is located in. For example, one of my clients is in New Zealand and I live in New York City. New Zealand is almost a day ahead of me, meaning I need to get all writing projects in 24 hours ahead of time. Working with companies from around the world is an excellent way to expand your portfolio and learn from international clients, but it is important to always factor in timezones when determining deadlines with clients outside your area.
My name is Amanda Sapio and I am a freelance copywriter with 8+ years’ experience as a writer/editor. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.
Follow me on Medium and feel free to sign up for my weekly email which includes tips on freelancing and career growth.