3 Ways Creative Freelancers and Entrepreneurs Can Get New Clients

Whenever one of our kids complains about how unfair life is, my husband invokes one of his blues music heroes, Buddy Guy If you don’t think you’ve got the blues, just keep living.” 

 

Booms and busts, bubbles and recessions, medical advancements and pandemics – if you’re lucky to be in this game long enough, you’re going to have to contend with the blues!  

I’ve personally navigated 3 recessions as a business owner (2001, 2008, and 2020). Is it fun? Heck no! Is it survivable? Apparently. I’m still here and so are you!

Having your own business means experiencing the highs and lows to the max! When times are good, you’re on top of the world! When times are tough, it can feel overwhelming to the point of paralysis. 

Since ups and downs come in all shapes and sizes – poor health, war, climate-related crises – I’m going to focus on the challenge I see most as a business coach for creative freelancers and entrepreneurs – not enough high-quality, well-paying clients – and what to do about it. 

Whether you’re a creative freelancer or entrepreneur who is experiencing a business slowdown OR you’re doing great and want to keep it that way, read on for 3 ways to get new clients.

Your creative career or business is going to have some great times. 🎉 That sweet spot where people are buying what you’re selling, you have the perfect number of clients (maybe with a couple of ongoing clients or juicy retainers thrown in!), and you’re not having to market yourself at all.

Your business will also have some downtimes. An ongoing client brings in a new leadership team and you lose your retainer. Your industry gets hit hard by circumstances outside of your control. Social media changes its algorithms and folks aren’t seeing you in their feed anymore.

The secret to riding out these peaks and valleys is playing the long game and the short game. The long game is getting your messaging, marketing, and sales processes in place.  The short game is having some reliable actions you can take right now to drum up new business.  Here are three:

1) Write website copy that converts

As a freelancer or small business owner, you’re constantly tinkering with your services and messaging and sometimes things get a little screwy!

When I experienced a drop in organic search last year, I asked my product-manager husband to look at my website and share his thoughts. Boy, was that eye-opening! Subsequent calls with my website designer/developer and an SEO specialist confirmed the discrepancies that I was then able to address.

When was the last time you looked at your website or other materials with fresh eyes? A while? Maybe never? As you can see from my example, there’s great value in getting a fresh set of eyes on your website and messaging. If you choose to take the challenge, I invite you to ask a trusted collaborator, partner, or friend to look at your website and tell you:

  • What you do
  • Who you do it for
  • What makes you different
  • How you work
  • What they should do next

Next, I invite you to put on your big-person pants and ask them to tell you:

  • What’s confusing
  • What’s missing
  • What feels off target or off-brand

TIp: Feedback isn’t always easy to take, especially when it’s your business, so give yourself (and your ego) a little pep talk before this exercise!

2) Increase brand visibility

I get the appeal of being low key and a little bit mysterious, it’s so chic! But folks are busy and if you’re not visible, you’re not top of mind, no matter how great you are.

The last thing I would ask anyone to do is turn themselves into a personal-branding machine, if that’s not their jam. But there’s a vast spectrum between being invisible and being a Kardashian! You’ve just gotta find your sweet spot. Here are a few ways to rethink what showing up looks like for you.

Share the love

For the promotion-shy creatives, I invite you to brainstorm all the ways you love to geek out about branding/graphic design/illustration/writing, etc., and think about all the ways you might share your love and enthusiasm for your topic with others. A poetry slam? A salon? A talk series or local entrepreneurs’ support group?

IRL

Do networking events simultaneously bore you to tears and fill you with dread and fear? Skip ‘em! What about attending a talk at your local Creative Mornings or AIGA chapter? Or attending an industry event packed with folks just as awkward as you! (just kidding 😉)

Online

One of the good things to come out of Covid is that EVERYTHING went online.  Joining an online community with your people is a great way to show up however you need to. Lurk when you want to and make connections and contributions when you’re feeling more comfortable.

3) Get more referrals

You’ve heard the saying “Closed mouths don’t get fed”, right? Whether it’s imposter syndrome holding you back or a belief that you need to be given permission or discovered, all too often, folks don’t ask for what they want or need. Here are a few practical ways to approach asking for things:

Referrals

Asking friends, colleagues, or past clients for referrals. It can be a simple email that goes something like this:

Hi____

I’m reaching out because I’ve got a couple of openings for (name of service) right now and wondered if you knew of anyone who might be looking for that kind of support?

Let me know if I can reciprocate and send any particular referrals your way.

Teaching, writing or speaking opportunities

One of the best ways to get new clients is to get in front of someone else’s audience. Research organizations, associations, or alliances who serve your audience and ask if you can give a workshop, write a guest blog post, or give a talk on your area of expertise. I know this might sound intimidating if it’s new to you, but I promise you have something valuable to share and the more you do it, the easier it gets!

Collaborations

Whatever your industry, other folks are serving the same audience, but in a different way. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer who specializes in events and weddings. A great collaborator for you might be a wedding planner, photographer, event producer, owner of an event space etc. Why not reach out to these folks and pitch collaborations? Other people’s audiences = greater visibility and new contacts.

The great thing about each of these tips is that they work for all creative freelancers and entrepreneurs – regardless of how established you are or how full your sales pipeline is.  Give them a try and let me know how you do.

And if you need more guidance, support, and accountability as you position yourself to higher-quality, better-paying clients, we should talk. Click here and let’s get your free discovery call on the calendar!

2 thoughts on “3 Ways Creative Freelancers and Entrepreneurs Can Get New Clients

  1. Hey Justine,
    Happy belated Birthday! What a breath of fresh air this reading has been. So much insightful information, thank you!!
    So many reminders and innovative approaches to business, life and adventure. I appreciate your consistency and how you show up as a business owner and an amazing business coach!

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