The attraction of local clients is one of the most important things that a freelance business can try to accomplish. This goes for all walks of life from your web designers, graphic designers, programmers and many more businesses. Pretty much any business you can start needs to have a strong local presence. If you are trying to start up a freelance business then I suggest you start small and work with the people who may know you or know people that know you. Local people fit this bill.
Starting locally has many advantages. you can get away with more word of mouth advertising to get your name out there, you can meet your clients (one of the things that I think the clients likes the most…someone to put a face with), you know where and how you will be paid so that you are less likely to be stood up, and lastly you are more likely to get a great position on Google, Yahoo, and Bing using your home town as a keyword. For example, Future Design Group has a much higher rank for “Mississippi Website Design” or “Florida Website Design” then we do for “Website Design” just because the competition is lower, thus the keyword has more value.
In this article we will give you some pointers about how to attract local clients to your freelance business or any business for that matter. These are just some tips we have acquired since we started in 2003. It seems top work greatly for us since we have gained the attention of many local businesses that have in turn given us more local clients based on the recommendations. If you know of something we missed, please leave a comment below so that our readers can take your advice.
Join The Chamber of Commerce
It took us a while to finally put aside some money to join the Chamber of Commerce in Mississippi, but it has been fruitful since we did. I wish I would have done it earlier, but of course I didn’t have an article telling me the benefits of doing so. First of all, most chambers will link to the websites of members, thus giving your free publicity in your local area. Secondly, you can make some high and powerful business contacts by attending the meetings actively. I say actively, because if you are not a good participant you will most likely not see any return from your chamber investment.
If you are advertising on the radio, in magazines, or on the TV then you should be fairly aware of your target demographic. Some people advertise on broad networks hoping to get a footing in the national market in a state where no one knows of their business or the businesses they have done work for. It is much easier to target the local audience using traditional methods over many online marketing methods because people know about the businesses you have already helped and will be more likely to take the word of a local business over a national business they know nothing about.
Business Cards Distribution
I will admit, that most of my clients are from referrals from my previous clients. One of the easiest ways for your previous client to remember your contact information is to give them an eye-catching business card that leaves an impression on them.
Demonstrate Your Expertise in The Field
A good way to earn some cash on the side while you earn new clients is to teach at a local community college or to be a guest speaker for a teacher at the same college. Most colleges are always looking for someone who knows the field and can teach the students beyond what they normally learn in the classroom. We all know that most of what we learned in school did not prepare us to start our own business and gain clients…so you can help with that. A great way is to start a workshop for the students to train them to become a freelancer since ultimately that is what they really want. Share the knowledge and you may gain the attention of someone who needs your help, but if not, a lot of college students think you know what you are doing.
Be Up Front with People
You can usually get a lot of business by simply asking people if they need your services. Many people are either scared to go online or they are intimidated by the fact that they know absolutely nothing about the Internet or what you will be charging them for. This usually prevents people from actively seeking out a talented individual to take over the process. If you come out and ask them if they need your help then you are more likely to land a new client. What is the worst that can happen? They can say no and you move on…no harm done. If you do not ask them, you will never know. Always have a pitch in your mind when you walk into a business, nothing long or hard to follow…stay on their level. Break through that insecurity they have about their knowledge and you can easily land a new client.
Attend Networking Events
These events can be offered by community groups, the local Chamber of Commerce, colleges, or other businesses. Usually the people and businesses that attend these events are looking for people, the same thing you are. They may not be looking for Website designers or graphic designers, but they may know someone who is. People go to Networking Events to network, but I guess you already knew that.
Target Your City and State in Your Title
On your blog or website you need to have good keywords to get people to visit your site. Make some of the keywords and your title include your local cities so that you can boost your presence for the cities on Google and Yahoo. The title is much more important, so you should try to work at least the state in there. This is pretty much a shoe in to get you on the local listings for your city and state…plus it lets your clients know that you are from their area.
Cold Calling and Direct Marketing
I hate cold calling or emails because I hate when people do it to me, but it is a very important aspect of generating clients. It is also one of the hardest methods to master, but gives you a direct line to the small business. Write the owner, or manager or ask for them by name (from their existing website) to get more attention. Again, this is the time you need to be up front with people and let them know what you can do for them and why you think they should do it. This is a quick way to either get hung up on or toe earn a new client. You win some, you lose most. Let them know what benefits that you bring to the table, be persistent, but DON’T be pushy. If you can sell yourself well, then this should be easy for you.
Craigslist and Other Classifieds
One of the tools that bring many potential clients to my site is advertising on Craigslist. Of course you get a lot of spammers and scammers that send you bogus get rich quick schemes, but for the most part you have genuine people needing your services, especially if you are in a large city or town. One way to get rid of the scammers is to make the respondent place a certain keyword in the subject line, something like NOSPAM just so you do not have to even open the email if the subject is not contained because bots will not add it to their list. That is just my two cents though.
In conclusion to this very long article, we hope that we enlightened you to some of the methods to attract new clients. Not every one of them will work for everybody that reads this article, but most will work for some. You have to pay with the different methods and learn what bring the most to you and what your local businesses look for. If you have any more ideas, please post them below in the comments.
About the Author
Director of Website Development
With over a decade of experience designing and developing websites, Eric has worked in every position of the agency ladder. He is fluent in multiple backend and front end programming languages and has written multiple international best selling plugins for WordPress. He has been part of or is still part of many startups. He is the Director of Website Development for Future Design Group and one of it's founding partners.