How to find clients outside your network

Here’s a guest post from a new guest posting freelancer, Gina Blitsten, who is a writer for Smartpress Booklet Printing

One of the initial challenges for new freelancers is drumming up business for our fledgling enterprise. As a freelancer myself, I know that my first writing gigs were for friends, family and close acquaintances. That’s only natural for several reasons:

  • We announce our business first to those we know, in hopes they will help us spread the word
  • Personal recommendations are very natural to give and receive
  • We begin to grow our network from the inside out

When I began my writing career, I wrote copy for my husband’s technical services website and for my hair stylist’s website. Next, I began writing for a colleague of my husband’s; then for an acquaintance of hers. And so grew my network, from a close-knit inner circle to an ever-widening one, like the ripples on a pond.

Initially, working with my immediate circle provided a tidy bit of work, accumulating writing experience, new skills and business know-how under my belt. I felt comfortable working with these clients and I developed a very attractive level of confidence with their projects and my performance.

Confidence is a wonderful attribute but freelancers need to be very careful to make sure that level of comfort with our skills doesn’t actually hold us back. Working for a handful of people doesn’t ensure success the way that working with a wide array of diverse clients does.

Eventually, I examined my business and discovered that my portfolio bore a striking resemblance to my contact list. While the clients I had were loyal and satisfied, there was virtually no one outside my immediate network for whom I did work. I began to wonder where to find more clients to continue the momentum I’d gained working with my inner circle. I needed to cast a wider net to seek out new and different types of clients.

As freelancers, we don’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for work to come our way — we need to get out there and seek it out — even if it means entering unchartered territory.

Why we should expand our reach beyond our own network

Avoid these enemies of business growth by diversifying our portfolios:

  • Complacency: Lack of motivation is the enemy of the freelancer — a person whose middle name must be ‘Ambition.’ There are reasons we put ourselves through the rigors of entrepreneurship and none of them relate to keeping the status quo. Allowing ourselves to be satisfied working within a tight-knit network will keep our client pool small and limited, stifling our business’ growth.
  • Stagnation: It’s vital for freelancers to remain creative and professionally stimulated. Working within the same group means that we may very well know what a client is going to need before we ever get a call. Seeking clients and projects outside our immediate network ensures that we keep our knowledge fresh, our skills honed and up-to-date and our enthusiasm at its peak. Avoiding stagnation helps us feel more satisfied with and fulfilled by our freelancing careers.
  • Lack of opportunity: Specializing is all well and good but the greater the variety in our clients and projects, the more agile freelancers we become. We’ll find greater variety the farther we move from our network’s core. The more well-rounded our abilities and experience, the more diverse the clients and projects we can take on.
  • Single sources of work: Without diverse sources of new clients, it takes just one problem with a single client to destroy access to new opportunities. Even the best freelancers run into problems with clients, but it’s less of an issue when that client can’t tell everyone else in your circle about what’s going on.

Are you struggling with any of these too? If so, please comment.

And watch tomorrow for Part 2 of this article, when Gina will address the solution: How to diversify your network.

3 thoughts on “How to find clients outside your network

  1. Jen

    Well written article. My studio recently found ourselves at a place where we just weren’t making money, and it hit me that we had to get a bit uncomfortable to find the people out there who needed our services! Once you get out there, it’s not quite as scary as it first seems!

  2. Elsy Aumann

    One of the ways I was able to expand my circle of clients was to accept invitations to attend Trade Show Events at Conventions Centers and offer my services by just handing out a nice flyer with my services overview to every booth I visited. Also helped greatly to connect with a Local Printer, I reduced my hourly fee to them and many times the clients ends up sticking with you after building a long time relationship. Not to say that doing great design allow me receive a lot o f referrals from happy customers. 🙂

  3. Yohanes W

    i’ve been around as a freelance graphic designer. for about 4 years (until presence time) i’m really in stagnation. it is so hard to expand the variety of client. so hard to broaden my mind and keep creative. any suggestions is really appreciated.