It was late July in the middle of 2010. I’d just returned from over six months in Thailand and the pressure was on.
I had $1200 in guaranteed income from my work with the Tropical MBA. What felt like a king’s ransom in Bangkok, wasn’t going to get me very far back home.
I had to make more money, somehow.
I’d spent the last 6 months building up my skill set. I was doing everything from copywriting to SEO while I was working with Dan, and while my arsenal of newfound skills was useful, I was at a point where I needed to specialize or die.
Being a generalist can be a really good thing if you’re a blogger, but if you want to make money as a freelancer, I learned some kind of specialty was absolutely essential.
I was getting pretty good with SEO and had some good wins for my portfolio, but what did i know about doing it on a freelance basis?
Only one way to find out right? How hard could it be?
Easily one of the top 5 questions I get asked is:
“How do I actually get clients?”
When you’re building an online business, especially in the early days, it can be really easy to get bogged down in the technicalities. Are my blog posts formatted correctly? Are these tweets being written for maximum impact? Are these keywords actually relevant and attainable?
It can be tough to shift from that technical mindset over to the social mindset it takes to actually bring in well-paying clients.
The good news is, once you do it, it’s dead simple to find clients in any freelance industry.
In this post, we’re going to look at the only two things you have to do in order to build a nice client list and get you well on your way to being a Location Rebel.
Thing #1: Establish Expertise by Building a Blog
Ok, hear me out on this one. I know you’ve heard the advice “build a blog” a thousand times for myself and others, but in this case, it’s vital to your success.
Let me pose a question: What’s the one thing that has allowed me to meet thousands of awesome people all over the world over the past 3 years?
Yeah, you guessed it: Location 180.
In that time I’ve built a bit of a reputation as the guy who can help you quit your job and build a business you can run from anywhere – or at least that’s how I like to think of myself.
None of that would be possible without a blog.
Imagine if I tried to establish myself as an authority on that subject without having a blog? It wouldn’t work. No matter how good all my other communication was, it’s the evolution of the blog that helps build rapport and confidence in what I do.
It’s the same thing for any freelanced skill.
If you apply for a job on Elance and send them to a services page, or even worse no site at all, what will set you apart from everyone else?
Anyone can write a services page that makes themselves sound good. The problem with this is that expertise hasn’t been established. I have no idea if you know what you’re talking about or not.
Now, what if you send someone back to that same services page, but there’s a blog associated with it. A blog where you have dozens of high quality articles directly related to your freelance profession of choice.
All of a sudden there’s expertise. There’s a reason to trust you, because you’ve established you have at least some basic knowledge of the skill at hand.
It’s Not Just About Expertise..
Along with building expertise, a blog also gives you a platform – which is huge when it comes to finding clients. When I wrote “How to Become an SEO Freelancer in 48 Hours” I received 5 inquiries about work within a day.
I had a way to spread my message around. By providing a ridiculously useful article on a subject lots of people have questions about, I put myself in a great position to get my content shared.
And what happens when your content is shared? More people see it.
What happens when more people see it? You have more opportunities to build relationships – and in turn, find clients.
Give people a good reason to find you in the first place, and then give them a better reason to keep coming back for more.
Some of you may be thinking that building a blog takes a lot of time and effort. It’s true, it does.
That being said, once you’ve started that, what can you do to get more clients this week?
Thing #2: Go to Meetups in Complimentary Industries
Alright, let’s say you’re an aspiring SEO freelancer (I keep using this industry because it’s what I have experience in), and you want to find more clients.
What’s your natural inclination when it comes to networking? Go to SEO meetups of course!
Who are you going to find at SEO meetups? Generally people who are doing exactly what you’re trying to do. They have clients of their own and are only going to meetups to maybe learn a cool new tricks, or to do just like you are, and find new clients.
The odds of finding work at an SEO meetup? Slim at best. Sure you may become quick friends with someone so totally overloaded that they need to hire some of their work out, but that’s a long shot.
So what should you be doing instead?
Going to meetups in complimentary industries.
Perhaps you go out to a couple of web design meetups. Who will you find there? Mostly web designers, obviously. How does this help you?
If I’m someone who is working with a web designer to give my site and brand an overhaul, what’s one of the biggest concerns I’ll have about my new design? You guessed it, whether or not it will be fully optimized for SEO.
Most designers hate SEO. It’s time consuming, tedious, and not in their wheelhouse.
Enter you to save the day.
If most web designers are getting asked about SEO, they can either turn down the work, do it themselves, or build a relationship with someone who can do it.
All it takes is one or two relationships like this to have a full SEO plate on your schedule. From there, you’ll build your portfolio, contacts, and within a few months see leads start coming from that blog we talked about in step one.
Meeting people in person is really important for any kind of relationship. There’s a big difference between spending a couple hours drinking beers with someone in person, than a simple 20 minute Skype conversation.
The more people you know in person, the greater likelihood you’ll find new clients.
It gets even easier when they can go back to your website, and see that you really are an expert on your topic.
This is the exact strategy I used after Thailand, when I knew I needed to find work but wasn’t sure how to go about it. The first event I went to (a social media event), led to 3 job offers, and one that provided a lot of recurring income.
How to Start Right Now
Ok, you like the idea and want to get started. But how?
I’m going to make this dead simple:
- Start your blog. You can use this post for the basics. If you want a little more, sign up for the email list below and within a couple days you’ll get a free gift that will help in even more detail.
- Write 10 killer headlines. Before you write any actual posts, write 10 headlines on your industry. These should make people feel as though they have to click through to find out what it’s all about.
- Go to Meetup.com and do a search. There were at least a dozen related meetups here in Portland for a “web design” search. Tons of opportunity to get to know people there. Not finding what you want? Search for a different industry, or start your own meetup.
- As you have time, write the blog posts you’ve already outlined and go to 1-2 meetups a week.
- Reach out to bloggers/websites in both your industry and complimentary ones. Keep doing this. The more people you meet, the easier finding clients becomes.
That’s it. If you follow these steps you’re going to be light years ahead of most people when it comes to actually getting real, bonafide clients.
How have you found your best clients? Share with us in the comments!