Making the decision to go self-employed is just the first exciting step into the world of freelance work. There’s a lot to get your head around, such as record keeping, website build, business cards and logo design, as well as understanding your tax, NI and VAT commitments. 
Then there’s the big one, how do I find my clients? 
No clients mean no income. No income means financial struggle and an unsustainable way of life. 
Getting your first freelance assignment often leads to other wins. You gain reputation, pick up reviews or testimonials, and from there you’ll find the work starts to flow. 
Identifying your clients 
Firstly, you need to identify your clients, then you can start to target them. In order to build up your customer profile, ask yourself these questions: 
- Who needs and/or wants my product/services? 
- What problem will it resolve for them? 
- How often will they need my product/services? Are they repeat buyers or is it a one-off service? 
- What is their demographic profile? E.g. age, gender, income, home ownership, geographical location. 
By answering these questions, you should be able to decide where to look for your new customers. For example, if you’re providing garden landscaping services, there’s not much point targeting people who live in a block of flats. 
Below are some of the ways you can go about finding your next freelance assignment. 
Building a good reputation for your business can take time. Start with your friends and family, tell them what you’re doing and why, get them onboard and ask for them to spread the word. Remember that word of mouth is an excellent way for people to learn about what you do. To achieve this, you need people to share your excitement and enthusiasm about the services or products you offer. If they love it enough, they will want to tell others. 
Having a business website is a great way to legitimise your business and an easier way for potential clients to find you. Make sure your website is: 
- optimised for search engines (known as SEO) 
- that you have clear CTA (calls to action) on there. E.g. your contact details or how to order online 
- designed in a way that represents you and your brand 
- displaying your strap line and logo in way that makes it obvious what you’re offering 
There’s lots of advice online on how to create a website yourself. But if you’re after something bespoke or with an online shop, it’s always best to get your website designed and built by a professional. Depending on what your services are, you may be able to negotiate a skills swap in return for a website build, that way saving you money up-front when cash flow may be tight. 
Social media 
It’s important to organise your social media based on your industry. What works for one service may be totally unsuitable for another. It’s best to run a few media channels well, rather than lots of them poorly. 
The most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Think about which of these will work best for your business and focus on those. This ties back to who your client is and where they’re most likely to hang out online. 
Think about how much of your own personality you want to share online or if it’s best to keep it solely professional. You should always be honest and transparent, but we advise against oversharing in a public forum. 
If you have a vast knowledge about your subject and can write about it in a succinct and helpful manner, then blogging could be for you. Updating your website with fresh content on a regular basis (once a week is the norm) can help boost your website SEO. Good quality blog posts can also improve your credibility and make you stand out from the crowd. 
You also may want to consider vlogging. Instead of writing your blogs, you can film yourself talking about your business and sharing this to your potential clients via an online platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. Make sure you read up on the do’s and don’ts of online vlogging before you start. 
These days you’re far more likely to receive an online newsletter instead of an old fashion paper leaflet. In order to build up a customer database to send out newsletter, you will need to obtain data. A sign-up option on your website or in the footer of your email signature is always a good idea. 
However, if you do go down this route don’t forget to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR rules if dealing with clients in the EU. For more information read our blog on this topic
Physical networking has become tricky during the COVID pandemic, however a lot of it has now moved online. There are many networking clubs you can join but be mindful about which ones you join and make sure you’re talking to the right kind of people, i.e. potential clients. Think about the costs and time involved and be explicit about what you want to gain from networking before you commit. 
It’s also worth thinking about your business schpeel, also known as an elevator pitch. This is a short introduction about who you are and what you do. Make it concise and interesting. If you’re a nervous public speaker, make notes and practice your pitch before doing it live. 
Remember to follow up people you meet who expressed an interested in your service or product. Get their contact details and drop them an email or text after the event with your contact information. 
If you’re worried you might forget to make contact once you’ve identified a potential client, then set yourself a reminder or invest in a CRM 
A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) programme is a fantastic tool when used and maintained properly. There are lots of options out there for good, and sometimes free, software that can help you manage your contacts. 
Make sure that whatever system you use, you are operating within the laws set out by the Data Protection Act 2018 and storing all personal data in compliance with these regulations. 
Repeat business 
Getting an existing client to use your service or buy your product can be an easy win. To ensure they don’t forget about your business, add their details to your CRM and automate sending them emails and/or newsletters. Make sure you get their consent before doing this. 
If you’re business is big-ticket one-off purchases, it may be worth scheduling in a six-monthly or yearly phone call to catch up with any potential repeat clients. Make sure you get the balance right – enough contact so you’re in the forefront of their minds, but not too much to irritate them. 
IR35 Advice 
If you are a contractor working for multiple clients, you need to ensure that your business is truly a freelance service. The IR35 law was introduced in order to combat tax avoidance by a worker supplying their services under a limited company banner, where they should in fact be treated as an employee. 
Contact us so that we can guide you through the complicities around the IR35 laws. 
Written by 
Nicola J Sorrell 
- Effective Accounting 
Founder | Xero Champion | IR35 Expert 
Tagged as: For - Contractors
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