If you are running a service based side hustle like I am, you need clients in order to start bringing in revenue and working towards your income goal. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have any freelance clients yet, you need to focus on getting your first couple of clients. If you already have a few clients but you’re looking to increase your cash flow, there are two main ways you can increase your income. 1. Get more clients 2. Increase your prices. Today, I’m going to focus on the first option, finding new clients.
My service based business is working as a social media and digital marketing manager for small businesses and startups. If you’re interested in learning how I work with small businesses and startups to help grow their digital and social media presence, shoot me an email. Because most of my clients have less than 5 employees or are sole proprietorships, I have to be very careful about increasing my pricing. My services are often the only money they’re spending on marketing. When I’m looking to grow income from this side hustle, that usually means finding new clients. But you can’t just sit back and wait for the clients to come to you! You need to be proactive in putting yourself and your services out there.
There are a few things you should think about before you look for clients:
- Who is your potential client? I can very clearly state that my potential clients are sole proprietors or very small businesses who either don’t know how to do their own marketing or they just don’t have the time to consistently focus on social media and digital marketing activities.
- What can you do for them? If you can’t simply and clearly tell people what problem you’re going to solve for them, you’re going to have a hard time signing new clients. My value-add is that I get to know my clients’ business, how they work, and what they’re looking for. Then I develop a marketing plan and take over as much of the marketing activities as they want. It’s a set it and forget it solution for them so that they can just hire me and have the confidence that their marketing is helping to move their business forward without them having to worry about it every week.
- What can you deliver? Think realistically about what you will be able to deliver for them. If you don’t have video editing experience, be prepared to explain that to potential new clients. You should be prepared to set clear expectations of performance and delivery for new clients so that they don’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of. I guarantee you most small business owners and almost anyone who has had to outsource any type of work before has a horror story about how they were paying this freelancer all this money and they found out down the road that nothing, or what they felt amounted to nothing, was getting done. Be prepared to clearly outline what you can actually deliver for them and why that is a good fit for their business needs.
Now you’ve done some reflecting on your side hustle and you’re ready to talk to potential new clients about exactly what you can do for them. So where the hell do you find these magical potential client unicorns?
There are four main strategies I recommend starting with when you’re trying to find new potential clients:
- Tell everyone you know about your new side hustle. I can’t stress enough how important it is to just put yourself out there. Many of the potential client referrals I’ve gotten were from friends, family members, and random people I have met at social gatherings. Everyone wants to be helpful. So if they’re coworker or friend are looking for digital marketing help with their small business and they remember talking to me about my freelance work, they’re likely to mention that they know someone who may be able to help. Even though the friend recommending me might have no idea if I’m amazing or terrible at my freelance work, the fact that they are referring me is often enough for that potential new client to at least set up an introductory call with me. Don’t be afraid to make your existing network work for you. If you don’t tell anyone about your side hustle, you’re shutting yourself off from a huge source of potential new clients. Similarly, I offer a referral discount to current clients. If a current client recommends me to another small business who I sign as a client, they get a discount on their next invoice. Small business owners often have their own network of other business owners and this is another great way to make your network reach far and wide.
- Browse job boards. This is particularly useful when you’re trying to get your first few clients. When I was first starting out I would looking through job postings traditional platforms like LinkedIn and Monster, freelance focused boards like Fivver and Upwork and I even looked on Craigslist. You have to learn to read between the lines when it comes to some job postings. Maybe a posting listed as a part time job would be open to hiring a freelancer instead? Maybe a small job on Fivver has the potential to grow into a larger client opportunity? Don’t be afraid to apply to these opportunities to get freelance experience under your belt or to see if you can grow short, project based work into ongoing client work. This is definitely a quantity approach, put out a ton of applications to these posts and hope that a few stick, then think about how you can grow those opportunities.
- Talk to other freelancers you know. Do you know another freelancer working in the same field as you? Or do you know another freelancer who works in a complimentary field or focuses on the same industries as you? See if they are open to a partnership in which you refer each other to potential clients if they aren’t interested in taking on a potential client or if they have current clients who are looking for your services. I have had a couple of fellow side hustlers refer potential clients to me because they’re either too busy, the work isn’t exactly the right fit for them or their current clients are looking to also hire a freelancer who offers digital marketing. You could also partner up with another freelancer who offers complimentary services so that together, you offer a broader range of services. This is more of a slow trickle stream of potential clients but it can be a great way to get work without putting in much effort.
- Work for dirt cheap. If you have little or no freelancing experience or experience in the field you are hoping to break into, it can be helpful to barter your services, work for a very low price, or even offer your services for free. For anyone trying to build their side hustle this might not be ideal, but it can be a great way to get things moving. It’s tough for anyone, especially people working with a very tight budget, to say no to something that costs them little to no money. Offer a potential new client an extremely lucrative price in addition to outlining exactly what you can do for them is a surefire way to sign a couple of new clients in a short amount of time. Agreeing upon a low-cost trial period that clients can then cancel your services or start paying a more reasonable price is a great way to sway unsure potential clients. Just be sure you can actually deliver! If you work for free and you can’t deliver a quality product or service, you won’t be getting any referrals or positive reviews from those clients which defeats the whole purpose of working for free in the first place.
Those are the four strategies I would suggest you focus on if you’re trying to find new potential clients. The great thing is that you can use one, a few, or all of these strategies at the same time. The most helpful thing I have found in growing my side hustle is to have as many feelers out as possible at any given time, that way they are all working to find new potential clients.
What do you do to find new clients? Need help with your digital marketing and social media strategy, email me for a free consultation call.