As of writing, I've been freelancing fulltime for just over 200 days now (Woo 🎉) and I wanted to share with y'all what I've been doing to get new clients in 2021 and how I plan to adjust going into 2022.
I'm making no guarantee that these tactics will work for you. I'm just relaying what's worked for me in hopes that you can take something from it, apply it to your own freelance business, and grow as well.
- Have a blog.
- Write down the things you do.
- Get people to read how to do the things you do, but decide to hire you to just do it instead.
Just had this happen for the first time ever and I was so shocked. A BigCommerce Development agency owner was looking to setup Continuous Integration through GitHub Actions and the Stencil CLI for his agency. He came across my blog post on the topic that I'd written a little over a year ago. From there, he saw I was still freelancing and reached out to see if I'd be interested in doing some BigCommerce work for him. We had a nice long chat about my experience with BigCommerce and other aspects of programming and e-commerce management. He liked the words coming out of my mouth, got a contract signed, and bada-bing bada-boom, I've got another client.
WRITE ABOUT THE TECHNICAL THINGS YOU DO. People might find out about you because they're trying to solve a problem you already solved, find your post about it, and just hire you to do it instead.
I will caveat this technique with the fact that it is not an efficient client gathering method AT ALL. I've been freelancing full time for 6 months now, and blogging for several years at least and this is the first time it's ever happened. There are a ton of reasons to have a blog as a freelancer which I'll go over in a post soon, but the fact that work that I did a year ago (and haven't thought about since then) is bringing me money today? That makes it all worth it.
Tweeting & 💩 Posting
Being active on Twitter has brought me so many opportunities, and is partially responsible for my ability to do this full time.
I'm constantly searching around for people wishing something existed. I picked up one of my first steady clients by responding to this tweet:
going to develop an online voting tool called “is my rep a dipshit?” to easily identify dipshits and prevent them from accruing political power because this is getting out of hand. anyone interested in helping?— collin duddy (@LoboExplosivo) October 23, 2019
Collin had an idea, I said "that wouldn't be that hard to actually build", and that's all it took to get me connected with the people over at IDK Inc. From there I've been able to build out my freelance business into what it is today.
Connecting with other web developers and freelancers has also brought in a significant amount of clients. Several times I've had internet friends reach out about work that they got hit up about. They didn't have the availability to take the work on, but I did. They passed the HOT lead on to me, and I got a client out of it.
Networking is KEY. Having that pile of friends that do what you do (or even tangentially do what you do), can payout immensely. Whether it's them bringing you work, or you having someone to pass off (or subcontract) work to, having enough colleagues in your corner means you will never run out of work.
Be THAT Guy At Parties
I'm able to do this full time because I never shut up about the fact that I make websites for a living. 9 out of 10 people usually don't care, but there's always that 1 person that needs a website, knows someone that needs a website, or can connect you to the people at their job that you need to convince to get a new website.
Now I'm not saying kill the vibes by shouting boring technical talk at anybody within listening distance, just find an easy way to work it into the small talk. My goto is to subtly mention the fact that I have clients somehow: "One of my clients recommended this place to me", "I had a fantastic meeting with a new client today", etc. That usually sparks the "What do you do?" question, and then I get to brag about myself for a good five minutes.
The more people that know about what you do as a freelancer, the better the chances are that someone knows someone who needs your work.
How I'm Prepping for 2022
In short? More of everything.
More tweeting. More blog posts. More, more, more.
At this point things are snowballing for me. Clients are coming in on their own. I've done hardly anything that really counts as "client outreach", and yet I'm able to sustain myself off just the freelancing. (HOW COOL IS THAT?!?) My existing clients keep getting happier with my work, and we're already planning out new work for the start of the new year.
A big thing for me, going into 2022, is to grow my Twitter & Newsletter audiences (follow and subscribe if you're not 🙏🏽). Both platforms have the ability to generate massive amounts of upside, and I need to actively dedicate the time & energy to growing both.
For now, I'm going to keep this freelance thing going as long as I can, keep working for clients, keep getting new ones dropped in my lap, and keep working on my side projects to develop passive income. The ultimate goal is to stop trading time for money. I may be self-employed, but my income is still tied to how long my butt is in my computer chair. I'm trying to get on that "Make Money While You Sleep" level. I know I can, I just need to put in the time upfront.