This is the second part of a three-part series on how to grow your client base with referrals.

Word of Mouth/Wait for the Phone to Ring

Word of mouth is one of the strongest forms of marketing you can leverage. A referral from a trusted source can do wonders for you as a freelancer or contractor. If you’re in the market for a quality product you’ll ask around or search online for reviews. You are the product in that situation and want to be the person that people suggest first. So reach out to everyone you know and ask for referrals. This is the most common advice you’ll get. Ask family, friends, ex-coworkers, literally anyone can refer you for work. This is probably the best takeaway from this entire article. Referrals are by far the most effective and most common way you’ll get new clients. And all of these other sections are all geared to getting you more referrals. 

Network Your Ass Off

Networking comes naturally to some people. You have to be friendly and insert yourself into sometimes awkward social situations for the sake of attracting work. Networking can happen anytime or anywhere however, not just awkward meet-ups and industry events. If you think someone might be interested in your services, try to work it into the conversation and give them your info or pitch. You never know which new connections could lead to potential work. I’m not saying to get your car wrapped in tacky company decals but you should be confidently repping your skills anytime you can. The more you get yourself out there, the more exposure you’ll have. Volunteer, join social groups, join industry groups and meetups. Social or industry groups that are less closely related are also a great networking tool. For example if you’re a web designer, you could join a web developer group to network as developers frequently need designers and vice versa. You’ll also have the advantage of being in a fresh pool of people who aren’t competing for the same type of work. 

Networking & Clubs

Professional clubs can be a great way to meet industry people and connect with your peers. It can also be a massive circle-jerk of self important people trying too hard at hobnobbing. Networking never hurts but make sure your efforts are spent wisely. You may have better luck networking with groups outside your industry. 

Official Networking Groups

I’m personally weary of paid networking groups like BNI. Many of these groups have strict rules and fees that require you to attend a certain amount of meetings and a quota to bring in new people. This works for some and like all things, assess for yourself but make sure to protect your time. These groups are always chock full of realtors and “entrepreneurs” which in my opinion don’t provide much value when looking for solid clients. 

Specialty Groups

Online communities are great for connecting like minded people across the globe or in a specific location. In these groups you can find mentors or people with overflow work. The more active you are and willing to work, the better chance you have of getting tapped to help on a project and make a new connection. Be careful not to spam too much that you’re looking for work. Make sure your portfolio and resume are on point. 

Staffing Agencies

These companies can be a blessing or a curse depending on the situation and job sector. There seems to be no shortage of staffing agencies on the market these days and their size keeps on growing. Basically they operate by paying you for X per hour and then upcharge the company you go to work for Y per hour. They fill the gaps for employers who don’t have recruiters on staff or want to deal with hiring you directly. I’ve seen contracts where they’ll pay a creative $50/hr and turn around and charge the company $85/hr for the service. If you can, it’s always better to work for a company directly and cut out the middleman. The problem is that you probably won’t get your foot in the door without the staffing agency and the company doesn’t want to get tangled up in hiring freelancers. Many states for example have written new laws regulating the gig economy as to what constitutes an independent contractor. In an effort to curb “permalance” the states have made it almost impossible for businesses to hire a contractors. Instead the states want you be hired as an employee so that the company is paying payroll, unemployment taxes. By using a staffing agency they can avoid all of that because you are technically employed by the staffing agency who pays your taxes and handles all of the paperwork.  

Recruiters/Head Hunters

Recruiters will either work for a large company sourcing roles or they own their own shop and are getting paid to find people. They don’t really fall under the category of networking since they’re paid to do their job either by you or by the employer. They’re still great connections to make for many obvious reasons but keep in mind there may be strings attached.

Now the last bit, tactics.

Thanks for reading. 

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