It’s a terrible feeling for any freelancer to run low on client work – or even worse – to run out of work entirely.
To help ensure this never happens I try to stay on top of my workload, and recognize when projects are starting to come to an end so I can begin to prospect for new work. There are many things you can do to get your name out there, but for me, there are five specific tasks I like to accomplish when work runs low to generate new leads.
1. Publicize my availability
The easiest and fastest thing I can do to help generate new project leads is publicize my availability. I turn to my social media accounts and announce that I’m available to take on certain types of design projects for the coming month(s).
I always include a link to my portfolio, and try to keep it as short as possible with specific keywords based around the type of work I specialize in and the type of work I’d like to take on.
I have some availability this month for new logo projects! If you need a rebrand or new logo, get in touch! [Link to portfolio]
2. Reach out to past clients
The next easiest and fastest thing to do that has far better chances at generating new work is to reach out to past clients. I typically reach out via email; checking in on how they’re doing and seeing if there’s anything I can do to help.
I hope all is well with you. I have some availability this month for design work and would love to work with you again! Maybe you have something coming up or have some run-off tasks I can help with? I’m here to help anyway I can, so let me know.
Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing back from you.
All the best, Brent
That’s a very generalized example. I try to make my work inquiries more personable to the person I’m reaching out to. I may ask how business is going, how things have been since their new site has launched, etc.
I never send out mass emails. Each email is written and tailored specifically to each person I’m reaching out to. I may start with a base template, but each email is personal to its recipient.
3. Reach out to a compiled list of prospects
To better my chances at landing a larger number of new projects, I take a lot of time to search and reach out to prospective clients. After I have a decent list compiled (around 5–10 businesses/contacts) I write and tailor each email to whom I’m contacting.
There are many places to discover new prospective clients – the easiest being Google. Keeping my target market in mind and the type of work I’d like to take on, I search for local small businesses around my area.
Another place you can try searching is Facebook and Twitter. You can do advanced searches for certain keywords. Try searching for the type of services you provide or the type of businesses you’d like to work with.
Once I’ve found a potential client, I evaluate their online presence. For example, I’d look over their branding (logo, color scheme, website, social accounts, branding consistency, etc.) If you’re a web developer, you may want to review their site and see if it’s responsive. I look for flaws to fix and ways I could help improve their business.
I compile the information gathered on each prospect in a Google Doc; contact name, email, website, and the flaws or details of how I can help.
After an hour or two of compiling a list of new potential clients, I then start reaching out via email to each prospect individually; briefly introducing myself, my services, and sharing how I’d like to help. In most cases I try to only converse rather than ask for a hard sale – meaning I don’t shoot out an email saying, “I’m a graphic designer, want to work with me to enhance your brand?” I first try to get the value I have to offer across, which most often naturally leads to landing a new project.
Compiling a list of prospects, reaching out to each personally, conversing, and converting them into paying clients takes a lot of time. Also, not every email turns into a paying project. Heck, not every email I send even gets a reply. But without this added effort I would never gain experience and find a decent amount of work, and that work missed out on will never lead to new portfolio pieces or referrals – resulting in a failed freelance business.
4. Update my portfolio with new content
Sometimes all it takes is a simple share of a new project you’ve worked on. I don’t always get the chance to show off my design work, so when things are slow I take the time to dress-up completed projects, showcase them on my site, then share that across my social media sites.
At the very least I share a screenshot of the completed design work on my work page or on Dribbble. However, when possible, I try to build a case study out of my completed projects. Clients love to see how a project is developed and what your work process looks like.
You can make your case studies as simple or detail filled as you’d like. Some projects I do are small, which turns out to only be a couple of images, but with others I can write entire blog posts about the process.
When creating a case study for a portfolio piece I go over the end goal, how I achieved it with my services, and it really helps if I include a testimonial from the client.
Once I’ve added new work to my website, I then promote it on all of my social media accounts, enhancing my chances at clients finding me rather that having to find them.
5. Evaluate and adjust where needed
A smaller task that I feel is necessary to accomplish from time to time is to evaluate my current online presence and make adjustments where needed. This can relate back to the last task of updating my portfolio, but aside from that where could I improve?
I may tweak my site’s copy with better keywords and phrases, I may add a few new calls-to-action where necessary, or maybe I adjust my work resources (i.e. project brief form, feedback survey, email newsletter copy, contact form, email templates, etc.)
Although this may not generate a lot of new exposure, it will ultimately help facilitate the process I take in generating new client leads.
Add to this list…
What things do you like to do when client work runs low? Add to this list and share in the comments below!