How I Find New Freelance Clients Weekly — With Minimal Marketing

Carol Tice

Relaxed businesswomanBy Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

Are you looking to land new freelance clients?

I was, too. A year ago, I moved to Houston from New York City because of my husband’s job. I decided to take my business online. And I thought it would be really hard.

But I was wrong.

Yes, the online world is more crowded than Times Squares on New Year’s Eve. Everybody is a marketer, an entrepreneur, a blogger. And a millionaire!

It was intimidating, but I realized there was a method to this madness.

The bigger players know their X-factor — and they make it relevant for their audiences. Clients come as a result of it.

So, if I were to succeed, I couldn’t just be a marketer or a writer. I had to be something more, something different — without being someone else.

Create custom X-factors

First, I figured out what was salable about me and my work. Then, I married it with what my prospects were looking for.

I highlight different aspects of my education and experience for each of my prospect groups.

For instance, for freelancers, I stress the fact that I have never worked a 9-5 job, yet I consistently land high-paying clients. This instantly creates a bond.

I create a bond with my arty clients when they learn I am also a certified filmmaker and a trained short-story writer.

I customize my positioning every time I send out a pitch or meet people professionally. Especially in networking settings.

Connect with prospects

As for reaching out to prospects, I go with what has worked for me in the past: cold calls and emails.

From the cold call to Enrique Yeves (Chief of TV Production at the United Nations in New York) to my cold email to radio legend Edie Hilliard, I owe a big chunk of my business success to cold calls and emails. I use these communication channels to share my X-factor with my prospects.

I’ve also thrown something new into the mix: social media. Although I enjoy the social media space, I don’t like to use the medium to broadcast information.

That feels empty … and vain.

Instead, I use it to support my cold email strategy: to find prospects.

Productive social media time

I spend 10 minutes every morning finding prospects on Twitter and LinkedIn and scheduling conversations and meetings with them in real life.

In a week, I schedule 3-5 meetings and conversations. This results in a constant surge of new clients.

Simple, right?

Well…if you notice, I don’t sweat over whether to use social media or email. Or whatever the new “in” thing is. No successful Internet marketer does. These marketing methods are simply tools for communication.

The thing that matters is the ability to understand and articulate the “difference” our business offers, confidently and clearly.

How do you find new clients? Tell us what’s working in the comments.

Sharmeen Akbani Gangat is the CEO of The Glocul Group. A Columbia graduate and filmmaker, Sharmeen has taught marketing at New York University and Hunter College.

Freelance writer tries to avoid the bad clients

27 Comments

  1. Pooja

    Hi Sharmeen,

    I like how you demystify the madness. You’re right. When I was new to the online scene, I had the exact same experience — everyone’s a millionaire! Heck people were making money selling Irish dirt (yes, you can look it up) 😉

    Pure genius right? How would a new freelancer survive?

    But those strategies you share were definitely the saviors.

    I also loved how you don’t stick to one avenue — social media or email, whatever works. Brilliant attitude. Gets the work done in time.

    Pooja

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Thank you, Pooja, for your kind words! One of the most lessons I have learned is that whatever works for everyone doesn’t work for anyone. We need a fresh approach and attitude.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m such a fan of meeting 1 on 1 with people, on Skype or in person. I try to do that at least once a week, to build relationships and expand my circle.

      • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

        Oh, absolutely! We must network for relationships, not referrals. Referrals are a byproduct of nurtured relationships.

  2. John Soares

    Sharmeen, I really how you differentiate yourself to prospective clients, and that you tailor your pitch to each prospect.

    It’s important for freelance writers to stand out from the herd by highlighting their strengths. In my specialty, I point out my 20 years of experience, my recommendations, and my ability to get complex projects done correctly and on time.

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Thank you, John:) And great going! The key is in figuring out what our clients want to know instead of what they want to buy.

  3. Sylvia

    There is so much food for thought in this guest post! Sharmeen, it is obvious that you are not only a gifted writer, but a talented marketer. You show no fear in cold calling the “big boys” and it pays off.

    You have taught me a better way to use social media. Rather than send out blind tweets with links to my blog posts, I should be prospecting for potential clients. Duh. Of course!
    Thank you for opening up my mind to new tactics!

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      I’m glad you find this helpful, Sylvia! Confidence is contagious…and sexy. Just pick up the phone and write an email. What worse can happen??? They’ll say no??? So what? Don’t take it personally. You can’t please everyone every time, not even yourself:)

  4. Willi Morris

    My new hero – I haven’t cold called and cold emailing has only led to new contacts, not so much new clients. That’s fantastic. I do need to hit up LinkedIn more.

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Willi, one of the strategies that works for me is to send a “can we talk?” message to new LinkedIn connections and schedule a meeting or a telephone conversation. Try this and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you:)

      • Amy

        Great ideas Sharmeen. I’m always trying to make LinkedIn connections more meaningful and I love your no fuss approach and focus on communication through whatever means. It’s very refreshing versus a “cold calling is dead” approach. I also admire your confidence in cold calling big contacts.

        I work on connecting with people as humans first before talking business through social media and setting up a phone call as soon as possible.

        Thanks for sharing!

        • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

          Thanks, Amy! Honestly, I never pay attention to these “cold calling is dead” or guest blogging is dead” declarations. Says who? I go with what works. Fancy is not always fantastic! At Blogher2014, Arianna Huffington said something very interesting.
          “Everyday the world will grab you by hand and tell you what’s important. You should take your hand back to your heart and realize what’s important.”

      • Patrick Icasas

        I’m interested in hearing how you phrase the “can we talk” requests, Sharmeen! Is that how you word your cold calls and cold emails? I’ve never tried that tactic and am wondering how I should approach it.

        • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

          Patrick, I look for a common ground and then customize the message accordingly.

          • Carol Tice

            We had a great example today on our Den call about LinkedIn – one of our experts discovered his prospect had gone to a university that once had Dan Marino playing for them — he sent a reach-out that mentioned the team and ended up with a $10,000 copywriting contract. 😉

          • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

            How cool is that! Background research on prospects always pays huge dividends. The thing is that we don’t need hell of a complicated spiel to get people interested in our skills and services. We simply need to know what they want to know and who they know.

  5. Ashley Denefield

    I love this article. It confirms my belief that simplicity is key. There is always a new post about a right and wrong way to garner success in our freelance endeavors, and although helpful the fact remains that before all the new apps and pretentiousness of social media, there was a phone, a person, a phone book, and sheer determination. Let’s get back to basics.

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Amen to that, Ashley! Go with what works for you. Hype harasses.

  6. Luiza

    Hi Sharmeen,
    Thank you for sharing your prospecting techniques with us. Would you be able to tell me how you use those 10 minutes of social media to contact new prospects? Do you know already who you are going to contact, or do you do some searching? If you search, what do you search for?
    I am in a new city, and don’t know much of the local market – which companies are out there that I could offer my services to. I try to use social media for that, but sometimes I get a bit lost with so much information…

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Luiza, I send connection requests first and follow it up with a thank you note (after they accept my request), asking if they would be interested in talking or meeting. I send out anywhere between 5-8 such messages every day. But, I don’t pitch anything in those messages. My messages and meetings are simply to know them, connect with them, and understand them. One more thing: I don’t just connect with prospects. Anybody who seems interesting but falls within the framework of what I do, I reach out to them. And surprising things happen. When you network without an agenda and less expectations, you get so much more out of it. Good luck with your business in the new city! It’s hard but not impossible.

  7. Katharine Paljug

    I love your point about whether it doesn’t matter if you use email or social media. Reaching out is reaching out — whether to prospective clients or newly discovered colleagues!

  8. michael byrd

    Love your Knowledge very resourceful will keep listening
    Michael

  9. Roberto Lebron

    You make this seem so easy! Can it be? I will start implementing your LinkedIn strategy right now (I’m at a hotel in Key Largo, waiting for a storm to pass). Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

      Roberto, it is not that easy. There are many components: reaching out the right people, saying the right thing, following-up, etc.

      It takes work. But, if you have all the components in place, it works. It gets easier from then on.

      Good luck!

  10. Emma Sledge

    Shareem,

    Great article! I am a fairly new freelancer and have been successful initially finding a few good clients, but of course I’d like more! I was hoping you might be willing to expand a bit on how you determine a good prospect. I’m sure this will be different for every writer, but what searches do you conduct and how do you determine who is worth reaching out to?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m not sure Sharmeen is still around…but you could check out my How to Get Great Freelance Clients ebook up on the ebooks tab here on the blog, which goes into elaborate detail on resources and techniques for identifying, qualifying, and marketing to better-quality prospects.

  11. Emma Sledge

    Wonderful! Thanks, Carol.

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