How to Find Clients as Freelancer – Your Secrets To Hustle Pt1

How to Find Clients as Freelancer – Your Secrets To Hustle Pt1

When you decide to pursue freelance work, you have to know how to find clients. What if you don’t have a clue how to do that? Without clients, you can’t pay your bills. Clients are the life blood of your business. How to find clients will be the subject of this two-part series. You will learn how to talk the talk and walk the walk. You will find out how to pitch yourself and what your pitch must include. You will also learn how to manage your strengths and weakness. Let’s begin!

Continues in part 2.

Start with talking the talk

Let’s launch this article on how to find clients with something you can start doing in the next minute. I have one question. Have you ever heard about talking the talk? Well, this is not the complete form of this saying. It is “talk the talk … walk the walk”. It means that someone talks about something and then delivers. In other words, that person say that she will do something and she do exactly that. Doing something else is not an option. For example, let’s say that your friend says that he will visit you tomorrow. The next day, your friend will show up as he said. This is it.

There is also another form of this saying. It is “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk”. This is the opposite. So, let’s say your friend will not keep his word and not show up. Then, she talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. The same thing if she does something different from she said. I think you get the picture. For this moment, we are going to dedicate our attention to the first part. Don’t worry, we will discuss how to deliver on your promise later.

Why start with the talk

The reason for talking about the first part first is that, well, it is where it all begins. Sure, you can try to walk the walk. You can do things without explicitly talking about them. Nevertheless, this will have much smaller effect. It will look more like a surprise than evidence of your credibility. Do you understand what I’m talking about? Imagine you promise your girlfriend something and you deliver. Then, imagine you deliver without giving the promise first. What’s the difference?

In both cases, your girlfriend will be probably happy. In the first case, she will be pleasantly surprised. This emotional state will last for a certain time. After that time, you will have to surprise her again. Only if you surprise her every single day, she will start to expect it. The problem is that there are no benefits. It will become new standard for her and nothing for you. If you have a different experience, reach me on twitter and let me know.

Let’s now take a look at the second situation. Now, walk the walk, but talk the talk first. In other words, you announce something and then do it. Every time you do this, you are building your credibility. As a result, people will start to trust you more than before. This is the upside. The downside is that if you don’t deliver, your credibility will go down faster than you can imagine. This credibility is what are you looking for if you want to find clients. Why?

The value of credibility and talking the talk

When people know you are credible, they are more likely to do business with you. What’s more, your current clients will be more likely to recommend you. By the way, referrals are the best way to find clients. When you want to find clients on your own, without credibility, you will have to convince people. On the other hand, imagine your current and previous clients will talk about you, in the best sense. Then, you don’t have to convince anyone. You need to live up to your reputation.

This is why, I’m convinced, credibility is your biggest asset. Let me make one bold statement. In the vast majority of situations, credibility can beat polished CV and lower price. Credibility can help you find clients better than competing on price. There are many people who like to save some cash. These people may want hire freelancer with lower prices. I’m going to bet that most of these people will rather pick freelancer with high credibility. Even if it means they will have to pay more.

This brings us back to “talking the talk”. Understand that this step is necessary. Skipping it is like working in a cave and hoping someone will accidentally discover you. This is also why nice guys often end up as last. They are “walking the walk”, but nobody knows about it. The result are two things. First, nobody will notice their effort. Second, people see their effort as something normal and granted. Don’t do this incredibly stupid mistake.

Please, remember that “walking the walk” without “talking the talk” will not work. You will burnout and die in some dark room trying to please someone. Let’s assume you do understand that some talking is necessary. You want to prepare the red carpet before walking in. What next?

Pitch yourself

The first and most important step is to start pitching yourself. By that I mean pitching yourself in the right way. High number of freelance web designers are trying to find clients by pitching. The problem is that all these freelancers do it in the wrong way. Yes, there are more ways you can pitch yourself. One pitch will lead to success and getting new job. The second pitch will lead to negotiation on price and handling objections.

I pretty sure you don’t desire any of these things to be the outcome of your pitch. So, how can you pitch yourself in the right way? Don’t pitch yourself at all. Yes, you read it right. The best pitch is selfless. The best pitch is not focused on you, your skills or what do you want. It focuses on how you can benefit your client. Let’s say you want to find clients as a freelance web designer. How should your pitch look like? You have to think about the outcome your client want.

When you find clients and want to pitch yourself, you have to do your homework. Gather information about that client and his business. You need to understand her business if you want to know how to help her. For example, designing a website is not about creating pretty mockup in Photoshop. It is about using design to increase client’s sales, conversions, sign ups or whatever is her goal. Your pitch should focus on this. Your pitch has to be about benefits, not the features.

It is not about pitching design, HTML, CSS or JavaScript. It is about great user experience and sales going through the roof. It is about increasing client’s hotel bookings one month in advance. In other words, pitch the outcomes of your work.

Sell your strengths

Aside from pitching the benefits and outcomes of working with you, focus on your strengths. You have to know exactly what are you the best at. Notice that I didn’t say what are you good at. The things you are good at are not your real strengths. For example, let’s say you are good at swimming. Would you go and compete in the Olympics? I’m pretty sure you would never do that, or not in a serious manner. You know that your chances to win at least bronze are pretty much zero. You may be good at swimming, but not at competition-ready level.

You should think about your skills in the same way. This means that you should not try to pitch and sell what you are good at. Again, these are not your strengths. These are things you can do well. Instead, you need to pitch only skills you are best at. Those are the skills you are the expert on. You have them in your blood. Let’s say I will wake you up at 3 am. Can you code something right on the spot? Or, can you sketch out some wireframe for a simple website? If so, these are your strengths.

Another way to find out what your strengths are is to test your knowledge. Let’s say I will ask you on some problem related to JavaScript. Can you, with absolute confidence, tell me how to fix that problem? Or, can you, with absolute confidence, tell me why my business model doesn’t work? Are there some topics you can talk the whole day about? Or, are there some topics you know no question can unsettle you? Again, this is your strength and this is what you should pitch.

The difference between “good at” and “best at”

There is one quite simple reason why you should pitch only these skills. When you want to find clients, you want to look confident. I mean real confidence, not some fake it till you make it. Sure, you try this as well. However, you have to fake it really well and prepare yourself for every possibility. It is not an option to let your potential client catch you without any answer. The problem with the fake it strategy is that it puts you under stress.

Despite what you may hear, stress is not that bad. In low doses, it can be even healthy. It can make you more antifragile and increase your resilience. The problem is when you are under high dose of stress and it becomes chronic. Then, it is something that’s harmful. Anyway, that’s not important for now. The problem with stress evoked by faking it is that you are more likely to make a mistake. Sure, stress can take even an expert out of the zone. However, that is much less likely to happen.

This is why you should focus on your solid strengths instead of faking it. When you do that, your chances to improvise and succeed are also much higher. This is because you have more supplemental knowledge you can draw from. So, what if something unexpected happens? Then, you can use this knowledge to get yourself out of problems. This is the main difference between “good at” and “best at”. You are standing on more stable ground.

When you know about this, you are more confident. You reflect this in your voice, posture and just everything. This is why confident liars are often so difficult to spot. Do you want to increase your chances to find clients? Sell your “best at” skills.

Set the bar ridiculously high

I hope that you are okay with pitching only your “best at” skills, or real strengths. Otherwise, you will not like this part. This is about setting the bar ridiculously high when you pitch yourself. What does this mean? You have to pitch yourself (and your skills) as the best guy your client can ever find. There is no place for doubts. Assuming you are pitching only your “best at” skill, there is also nothing like overstating. Whatever you say, you can deliver.

There is a high number of people who will tell you under-promise and over-deliver. This is a bad advice and you should not listen to these people. People saying this are often afraid that they can fail miserably. These people are not confident in their offering. This is because these people usually pitch their “good at” skills, not “best at” skills. Think about it. Let’s say you know you are world-class at something. In that case, would you be afraid of failing?

Absolutely not. You would be willing to bet on yourself and your ability to deliver. You know that you can get the job done. Since you are pitching your “best at” skills, you have to go and over-promise. Then, you over-deliver. Your pitching should not look like you want to find client or that you desperately need one. It should look like that client wants to find you that she desperately needs you. In other words, you have to position yourself as something exclusive.

The upside of exclusivity is higher price and potential gain of rock-solid reputation. The downside is that you have to deliver on your promise. In other words, you have to walk the walk. Think about exclusive brands. All of them are setting the bar higher than the competition. Do the same.

Why competition is always a loser’s game (almost)

Since we tackled the subject of competition, let’s talk about it for a moment. If you read some articles about business on my blog, then you know that I am against competition. Well, at least in the beginning. I adopted this opinion from Zero to One book written by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. The reason I don’t like competition is not that I’m afraid of losing. Not at all. When you compete with me, you compete for second place.

I am against one type of competition, competition in pricing. This type of competition is not good for you, your business and your clients. Let’s say you find clients, but you are not the only one pitching. What will happen if you decide to compete on price instead of skills and expertise? As you go lower with your price, you may need to take another project to meet your needs. This can put you under more pressure and force you to speed up your work.

There is nothing wrong with working under pressure or working in faster pace. The problem is when this becomes overwhelming. Your mood may get worse and this will affect your tone in communication with client. When you are stressed, your self-control is less stable and reliable. You are more likely to say something you inappropriate. Also, your work will start to suffer. You may miss subtle details. From this point of view, competing on price harms your clients.

When competition can be beneficial

There is one type of competition that I do like. In a fact, I seek it. We can call this type a competition in quality. What do I mean? I look at work of other designers and developers and do my best to beat them. When I see some really good design, I take it as a challenge. It is an opportunity to push myself beyond the limits and leave my comfort zone. In this sense, I want to encourage you to seek competition and tough challenges.

Do you want to find clients willing to pay for premium or exclusive work? Then, you need to have high quality material to demonstrate your skills. Finding clients willing to pay for high quality work is the goal of this “talking the talk” strategy. Looking at your competition and challenging yourself is one way to create this library of high quality work. So, is competition inherently bad? No.

Competition is bad only when you let it interfere with your business. If you let competition interfere with the quality of your work, that’s bad. Or, if you let competition damage relationships with your clients, that’s bad. Something else is if you use your competition as a fuel to move you forward. When you welcome competition as interesting challenge with open hands. Then, competition can be, in some sense, unusual way to find clients.

Cover your weaknesses

What’s the next thing right after pitching your “best at” skills? You have to work on your weaknesses. Again, there are a lot of people saying that you should only focus on your strengths. Sure, go ahead and do that if you want. But, don’t cry if something unexpected happens and you will find yourself in a trouble. This is the problem with weaknesses. They can take you down in not time. It doesn’t matter how many strengths you have. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

This is why I’m convinced, from the depths of my soul, that working on your weakness is important. When you ignore your weakness you are asking for trouble. You are making place for something unpleasant to happen. Have you heard about that Greek hero Achilles? This fought in Trojan War. He was unbeatable. Nobody can hurt him or kill hem. He had no weaknesses. Well, except one thing – his heel. Guess what happened.

There was another hero, Hector, fighting in Trojan War. Hector was Trojan prince and also the leader of Trojans. Hector is important character of this story because it was he who killed Achilles. He shot Achilles into his heel with an arrow and Achilles bled to death. The point is it doesn’t matter how strong Achilles was. It doesn’t matter that he was almost invincible. What matters is the word “almost”. He had only one weakness, one weak spot. Still, it was enough.

Keep your chain strong

There is one saying that goes something like this, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” The story about Hector and Achilles is a great way to demonstrate the power of this saying. You can think about Achilles as the chain. This chain was composed of many strong link. There was just one link that was weak and fragile. It doesn’t matter whether Hector knew about this weakness or not. He could hit Achilles’ heel either on purpose or just by accident.

There is another, more modern, demonstration of this saying. Have you ever heard about that guy from comics, Superman? This guy is literally invincible. Nothing can hurt him or kill him. He has also superhuman strength and number of other superhero abilities. Nevertheless, he has also one weakness. This weakness is kryptonite. When you put this near Superman, all his strength and invincibility goes out of the window. He is no longer a superhuman. Anyone can defeat him.

From the point of architecture, having some weakness is similar to building a house on unstable ground. It is usually just question of the time until this weakness will show up. I think that this is enough to give you the idea of how this chain of strengths and weaknesses works. The question is, what can you do about that. You have to regularly test your skills. Put your skills under pressure and see what will happen. When you find some weak spot, work on it.

Focus on your strengths, but work on your weaknesses. Never underestimate the power of weaknesses. Every weakness can lower your chances to succeed and get clients. Remember, you don’t want to build a house of cards. When you find weakness, attack it head-on. Keep your chain as strong as possible.

Stay humble and be grateful

There is a notion about talking the talk walking the walking and hustling. Some people see those living this mindset as arrogant. In many cases, it is true. I will not lie to you. There are people talking the talk who are the perfect example of arrogance. This is why I want to warn you about going too far. When you talk the talk in order to find clients, you can easily cross the edge. The line between confidence and arrogance is very thin. You end up on the other side before you realize it.

If there is one way to avoid going too far, it is staying humble. I’m convinced that you can’t be humble and arrogant in the same time. Sure, you can be humble and incredibly confident, but not arrogant or uppish. Think about it. When was the last time you saw someone showing humility who looked arrogant? I will bet this is more rare than seeing a rainbow after snowstorm. The same is true for gratitude. Along with humility, gratitude is the cure for arrogance.

The challenge for you might be to know when to talk the talk and when to be humble. I think that the best approach is to combine these two. One way to do this is by following the advice on pitching I gave you today. Build your pitch around your potential client. Talk about her and her business and benefits she will get. During this pitch, you can also talk positively about your previous clients. Describe how they helped you get better and improve your skills.

The last thing is to say thank you. It doesn’t matter whether you get the job or not. You should always give thanks to potential client for her time.

Confidence is about showing your flaws

You want to make yourself look like one of the best freelancers around. There is no doubt about it. You want to show real confidence in yourself and your skills. This also means that you are not afraid to be thankful to people who helped you get where you are. Show that you too can make mistakes and that you are willing to learn from them. This is the real demonstration of healthy self-confidence. When you are willing to show your flaws and human side.

Closing thoughts on how to find clients

This is all I have for you in this first part. I hope you enjoyed it. Today, we discussed a lot about talking the talk. I know that some of you will not be satisfied. Some of you like to skip the theory and jump right into practice. I like it as well. Still, I think it was necessary to talk about the topics we discussed today. Not everyone has the same amount of information. I wanted to avoid that some readers will have a hard time understanding more advanced topics of walking the walk.

This is why I started with talking the talk, to provide all of you with foundation we can build upon. If this article was disappointment for you, reach me on twitter and let me know about it. Your feedback means a lot. And, if you are disappointed with this first about how to find clients, don’t worry. In the second part, we will get our hands really dirty! You will learn all you need about how to hustle and work like nobody else. You will also learn about what work should you do and show.

Along with that, we will also discuss how to use social media to promote your work. So, stay tuned because you will learn how to hit it really hard and finally find clients! Until then, remember these few things. First, pitch yourself and build your speech around your potential client. Second, sell your “best at” strengths. Third, the ridiculously high standards. Fourth, keep the chain strong by working on your weaknesses. Fifth, stay humble and show gratitude.

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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