How to market your freelance business without spending a dime

Posted by Aazar Ali Shad | July 5, 2019 | proposals,
Freelance business

Landing your ideal client is a very thoughtful job. We all know the obstacles freelance work comes with. You can’t find ideal clients, if you do find some then you’re usually underpaid, and the list goes on. Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle for a lot of freelancers (the new and existing ones), is finding the “ideal” clients for your business. At the end of the day, can you even call yourself a freelancer if you have zero clients? Whether you’re a web designer, UI specialist, copywriter or marketer, the principle of landing your ideal clients is the same in a lot of cases. We’ve all been there, and that’s the reason why we’ve decided to create this article for you. So, continue to read on if you:

  • want to learn how to identify the ideal client for your service
  • want to learn how to track your ideal clients down
  • how to generate potential leads
  • and ultimately, how to land ideal clients.

Conducting the ideal client persona research

Conducting Ideal Client Persona (ICP) research is of crucial importance. Choosing clients carefully is the key to the future of your freelance business, but you can’t do that without conducting ICP research. It will not just help you to identify who is your ideal client, but it will also, later on, save your time, energy, and efforts. You should target those who would need your expertise, but also those who have the right budget for you. So, here’s what answers your research should have about your ICP:

  • Do detailed background research on your ideal clients – who are they? what’s their title and job description? Why they need your services? What are the common demographic trends? Are they living in India, the USA, or in West Europe?
  • Find out the places where they’re gathering – What social media channels are they using? Can they be found in your city? What are the common meetups and conferences they are going to? 
  • Learn what type of content they like to consume – Do they prefer more ebooks, articles or videos? What content are they usually sharing on their social media channels? 
  • Learn what their most common problems and pain points are – How can you help them meet their goals? How can you provide value to them? 

Those are all information and data points that you need about your Ideal Customer Persona before you even start searching and marketing to them. The good practice is to create a spreadsheet and gather all the information there.

Make sure your business is a well-working machine

You shouldn’t greet an ideal client unprepared. Before you even start searching for your ideal clients, you need to be sure that you will deliver your work on time and with a certain dose of professionalism. Everyone who is searching to transform short-term gigs into long-term freelance projects and contracts should take care of a few crucial things.

  • You should be a professional from the go. Make sure that your knowledge and experience meet your client’s goals before you even start working together.
  • Be sure that you can deliver the projects on time (or even earlier).
  • Learn how to build a professional, but yet the friendly relationship between you and your clients.

All-in-one, if you want to find long-term relationships, make sure that you can be available with all of your professionalism from the first day of your collaboration.

Make necessary preparations

If you’re going to represent yourself as a professional, you should definitely pay attention to your “online image”.What we concretely mean is, that your online presence, social media, freelance platform’s accounts, landing pages, and any other things where you’re looking to send your clients, should be well-prepared. If you’re sending your potential clients to your website or landing page, make sure that it shows the right message and showcase your work, testimonials, and expertise. When you’re creating your own website, try to set it into the client’s shoes. What’s he looking for freelancers? What skills does he need? Your website should answer all of his questions. When we’re talking about Social Media, make sure that it’s, from the moment when a potential client lands on your profile, clear what you’re doing and how can you help him. Here’s a good example of how a LinkedIn profile should look like:

  • Your profile picture should be clear and professional
  • Description short, catchy, clear and straight-to-the-point
  • The cover photo should follow the guidelines.

It’s the same for other social media and freelance platforms too. Be sure that you’re representing yourself in the best light.

Create juicy content (or a lead magnet)

Nowadays, content is one of the most crucial aspects of every marketing and sales strategy. Before you start your lead generation and outreach to the ICPs, make sure that you have something to show them. A good practice is to create little case studies (with proven data points) from your previous experiences. For example, if you’re a social media marketer, what were your achievements when you worked for previous clients? If you’re a web designer, showcase your previous work. Don’t be ashamed if you have nothing to show. We all started somewhere. If you don’t have previous experience, then do a couple of demo projects – this is especially useful if you’re a web designer. If you’re doing marketing, sales, or customer support, try to find out some little projects and gigs with little or no money. Just in order to create some portfolio and to showcase something. You can also try to create a lead magnet. Lead magnets are usually ebooks or videos that can catch your ICP’s attention. If you’re going to create a lead magnet, make sure that it provides enough value so after consuming it, your ICP can be interested in your service. For example, if you’re an SEO expert, you can create your lead magnet ebook about: “5 Worst SEO Obstacles Small Business Owners are Facing and How to Resolve Them”.Here are a couple of real-life examples of successful freelancers that are killing in their lead magnet strategies: Katelyn Bourgoin is the owner of the Forget The Funnel website. She’s creating SaaS Marketing Workshops and podcasts for her target audience, as well as sending unique and valuable tips and blueprints each week: Pro Tip: Blueprints and templates can be extremely powerful. You can create templates that your ICPs could use and build credibility and relationship with them at the same time. If you have some newsletter subscribers, you can also try to create education drip campaigns, just like Samuel from UserOnboard does:[author]  On the other hand, Jane Portman from UI Breakfast uses podcasts to engage with her Ideal Customer Personas: Your Ideal Customer Personas are everywhere, you just need to have a little bit of imagination and create the content in what you’re good at, and you will attract their attention. Pro Tip: You can also build your credibility and personal brand awareness by coming on other people’s podcasts and events.

Lead Generation and Outreach

This is one of the most crucial parts of your entire marketing strategy. It’s the moment where the magic happens. Without lead generation (finding and identifying your ICPs) and outreach (reaching out to them), the whole marketing campaign (if you’re looking to go without any dime), doesn’t make any sense. If you have a website, make sure that your landing pages and the content itself are the SEO compliant. That means, that you should target the couple of most interesting keywords that should land you potential clients. Fortunately, modern technology allows us to rank first for certain keywords even if we’re not the experts. Using proper rank tracking tools (e.g. Linkio) can help you with better positioning tracking and so you can see the day to day progress of your SEO campaign.

Here are the two most important tips that could help you to rank high on low-intensity keywords:

  • Make sure that your website is SEO-friendly (it loads fast, you have all the titles and meta tags filled in, the website is responsive, etc.)
  • Write a couple of guest blog posts on high-reputational websites.

It’s not a big deal if you don’t have a website (although you’re missing a good lead generation strategy – SEO). There are other ways to find out your ICPs.One way is to take a look at the online company databases and listings, such as AngelList, CrunchBase, G2 Crowd, Capterra, Yelp, and many other websites. You can easily filter those results by your ICP research, and find out potential clients. Put them in one spreadsheet, and identify the persons who are decision-makers. For example, if your ICPs are small and medium local businesses, the decision-maker could be the owner itself. But if you’re targeting large enterprises, some of the lower positioned employees, such as VP of Marketing, could be good for you. When you find out decision-makers, it’s time to identify their emails. You can use tools such as FindThatLead, VoilaNorbert, or UpLead to find the emails based on their names and company domains. Another great way to generate your leads is through social media scraping. Channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and many others are full of your potential customers. It would be foolish to not take that opportunity. When it comes to the outreach, either you’re doing it through email or social media messages, make sure that your initial email is compatible with the following “unbreakable” rules:

  • Don’t be too promotional from the beginning.
  • Briefly introduce yourself and point out your ICP’s problems.
  • Don’t be overwhelming. In a few short sentences (not more than 3!), let him know how can you help him to solve those problems and meet his goals.
  • Don’t brag, but subtle point out your experiences and achievements.

The Bottom Line

Not the first lead will catch up. Try it. Make sure that you go through the trial-and-error process. It’s nothing bad. Eventually, at the end of the day, you will land some ideal clients. After you land the first one, everything else will go easy. You will have more budget for your marketing campaigns, and you will eventually grow your freelance business. Let’s recap all of this. Here’s what should you do to market your freelance business without spending a dime and land your ideal clients:

    • Make sure that you know who exactly your Ideal Customer Persona is.
    • Make the necessary preparations:
      • Be sure that your business is working like a well-oiled machine.
      • Be professional
      • Clean up your website and social media profiles. Represent yourself in the best light.
  • Create juicy content that will catch your ICPs attention
  • Effectively generate your leads
  • Create stunning outreach templates, and be ready to land your ideal clients!


Aazar Ali Shad - He's a growth hacker, content marketer, and SEO-specialist. He loves SaaS and advising people on AAARR model.