Some of us want to telecommute, but do not want to work 9-5 for one company. Thankfully, there are plenty of remote freelance clients available! You just have to do the work to find them.
To find remote freelance clients, you need to decide what kind of work you want to do. Also, you need to make sure your skills are up to date. In addition, you will need to do your research and reach out to business owners to sell yourself. Finally, you absolutely must deliver on your promises to find repeat and referral clients.
I will assume that you have already decided that telecommuting is right for you! If not, check out my post on the pros and cons of telecommuting. I will also assume that you know all about remote and freelance work. If not, check out my post on the difference between remote and freelance work.
Keep in mind that finding remote freelance clients will take time and effort. If you are ready to do the work to find remote freelance clients, then read on! There are a few distinct phases in your efforts to find remote freelance clients.
First, in the Preparation phase, decide what you want to do and learn the skills you need. Next, in the Research phase, research companies and decide who to work with. Then, in the Outreach phase, prepare and send out pitches to potential clients. Finally, in the Reflection phase, think about what worked and what didn’t, and refresh your approach for the future.
In this phase, you have two main goals. First, you need to decide what type of work you want to do. Second, you need to develop the skills you will need to do the work.
For the type of work, many factors could come into play. The work you do could use skills you already have, skills you want to learn, or both. It could also be something that you have always wanted to do. It might be something that pays well.
Whatever your motivation, you need to communicate the specific benefits that you can deliver to clients.
After you decide on the type of work you want to do, you need to develop your skills. Whether you have the skills or not, taking online or in person classes is one option to learn. Another option is to observe others online and practice on your own, as a self-taught programmer or web designer might do.
You can also offer to do the work for free for family, friends, colleagues, or companies. Think of this work as an investment in the future of your freelance career.
Let’s get down to business and help you to decide on the type of work you will do for your clients.
Decide on the Work
When deciding on the work you will do, there are two areas to consider. First, think about the size of your market (number of potential clients). Second, think about the level of competition.
You don’t want to be too generic when explaining what you have to offer to clients. Instead, you should have a specific skill set that allows you to deliver specific results to specific clients. This is often called “finding your niche”.
Here are a few examples of specific niches that you could choose to work remotely:
- web design for new law firms
- data analytics for large health insurance companies
- logo design and branding for new companies
- copy writing for small e-commerce sites
Can you see how each of these options is neither too general, nor too specific? When you “niche down” like this, you eliminate some of the competition, while also ensuring that a large enough market exists.
How do you know if your niche is too broad or narrow? You will need to use your judgment. One good idea is to do a Google search for companies in your niche. If there are a a decent amount, it might be just the right size. If there are very few, you may want to get more general.
Just to give you a better idea, here are a few examples of niches that are too general:
- web design (for whom?)
- data analytics (what type of data? what industry?)
- logo design and branding (what type of companies?
- copy writing (what type of sites would you write for?)
To give an analogy that might make more sense, think about a doctor.
There are general practice doctors, but they don’t perform surgery. There are surgeons, but they don’t all perform brain surgery, or heart surgery, or knee surgery.
Each of those is a specific niche. Each of those niches requires a specific skill set. If you tried to master them all, you would end up mastering none. Instead, a doctor chooses one, masters it, and develops a reputation for excellence.
You should do the same for your business. Choose a niche that is specific enough so that you can earn a reputation for excellence in that area. In time, you might be able to hire or partner with others to offer a broader range of services to a larger market.
Keep in mind that it is possible to be too specific when it comes to defining your niche. Here are some examples of niches that are too specific:
- web design for new tax law firms in Brockton, Massachusetts
- logo design and branding for new 3D printing companies in Bangor, Maine
- copy writing for small e-commerce sites selling holographic Pokemon cards
Remember: you can brainstorm with family and friends to get some additional ideas. Then, you can combine these ideas in different ways to find some niche ideas.
Once you have a solid list of reasonable niches, you should decide which one to pursue. This can take some time, but once you decide, you can move on to learning or sharpening the skills you need.
Learn the Right Skills
At this point, you have decided on a niche for your remote freelancing business. Now, you need to learn the skills necessary to deliver on the work you will do.
It can be overwhelming to set a goal like “become an expert at SEO for new, small ecommerce sites”. Instead, break your goal out into parts, and work on each one separately.
Let’s say you choose the niche “data analytics for large health insurance companies”. In order to deliver results for these companies, you will need some specific knowledge and skills.
- First, you should know what type of data large health insurance companies will look at. You should also know what type of analysis the hospitals use for that data. In addition, you should understand what type of insights the hospitals are looking for from their analysis. A good way to learn about this is to speak to someone who works in this capacity at a hospital. Ask your network who they know!
- Now you know the type of data you will be working with, and the analysis that you need to perform. This might require use of software like SQL to run queries on data sets, Excel to create charts and graphs, and PowerPoint to present findings to company executives.
- At this point, you should take courses on learning programming languages like SQL and Excel VBA, in addition to a refresher on PowerPoint. Luckily, you can find very specific online classes for these subjects and more – without breaking the bank! To see some specific online courses, try Udemy to start.
You should keep a portfolio of sample projects you have done along the way to learn your skills.
This can be helpful when you are just starting out as a remote freelancer. Later on, you can rely on testimonials and referrals from happy clients to find more business!
Another good idea is to start a business for your website, and maintain a page for your portfolio. You can put this site on business cards, your LinkedIn profile, social media accounts, and anywhere else where people might see it.
At this point, you have chosen a niche and learned the skills you need to succeed. You could even start the research phase before you finish taking the courses and learning the skills you need.
The purpose of this phase is to find clients. This involves a few different steps. First, you need to identify companies in your niche. Second, you need to research these companies and find out what they need and how you can deliver. Finally, use your research to make a decision on which companies to reach out to.
Identify Companies in Your Niche
The first order of business is to find companies in your niche that fit your profile. This seems overwhelming at first: there are a lot of companies out there, and you might not know where to start. After all, the best thing about the internet is all the information, and worst thing about the internet is all the information.
Fortunately, there are many tools out there to help you sift through that information. The tools you use will depend on your niche and skill set. However, I would start off with a Google search to identify some companies to start your list. At this point, you can start off with 10 companies or so.
From there, you can use LinkedIn to search for the companies on your list. LinkedIn can show you similar companies to the ones you searched for. Like magic, your list will rapidly expand from there.
You can also use other sites to help in your search, depending on your niche.
For instance, let’s say you want to do social media management for e-commerce stores that sell jewelry. You can use Facebook to search for these types of companies.
Check out their presence on Facebook, and take notes about what works and what doesn’t. What companies are doing well on Facebook, and why? What companies are struggling, and why? Can you identify the “winning” factors and help some of these companies to improve?
As another example, let’s say that you are a recruiter for technical positions at small startups. It would be helpful for you to check out a site like AngelList, where you can see tons of startup companies who might need your services.
There may be other ways to build your list and find prospects. Some companies will post for jobs, gigs, and freelance assignments on craigslist. If you want to work for an e-commerce company, Amazon might be a good place to start looking. Use your imagination and be resourceful. The internet is a huge place, and soon, you will find lots of companies that might need your services.
Do Specific Company Research
Now you have a solid list of companies that you want to work for. It’s time to do a little more research to cut down the list. There are a few things to look for, including:
- Is the company growing, stagnant, or declining?
- Does the company usually hire remote freelancers?
- What other information can you gather from the company website?
- What does the company’s social media presence tell you?
- Can you find any mentions of the company on forums or industry blogs?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you might find a good prospect or a no-go.
What are the Company’s Prospects?
Is the company growing, stagnant, or declining? If it is publicly held, you can look at financial information, like stock price, dividends, etc.
If it is privately held, look for press releases from the company. Read between the lines to see what is happening behind the scenes.
You might not want to invest a ton of time and money into winning a client that might not exist in a few years – or a few months!
On the other hand, you might be able to pull off the “turnaround artist” image. In that case, you can try to help the company to recover with excellent copy writing or some other service. That would be an important angle to use when approaching the company – but don’t insult them!
Does the Company Hire Remote Freelancers?
If you know any remote freelancers, ask if they know anyone who has worked for the company. You can also ask the same question of anyone in your network.
Another idea is to use LinkedIn’s search to find remote freelancers. For instance, you can search “freelancer Airbnb” or “remote contract Wayfair”. This might bring up some permanent employees, but if you scroll through the search results, you can quickly tell whether the company hires freelancers or not.
You can also search through forums or blogs to see if the company hires remote freelancers. In addition, you could ask the question on a platform like Reddit. However, you should take the answers with a grain of salt. Remember, if someone sees your question, they may not want to help the competition if they do the same work as you!
Look Through the Company’s Website
A great source of information is the company’s website. Normally, you can find press releases, a blog, and information about the company and its officers. You might also find contact information that is not available elsewhere, like the email addresses of executives.
Search through the press releases and blog to find out what the company has been up to lately. Look for hints about future projects, which would indicate a need to hire. If they can’t find the right talent locally, they might consider a remote freelancer. Even if the local talent pool is strong, you might get the job anyway, provided you fall into the company’s lap at the right moment!
Again, try to read between the lines, and think about how you could help the company with your skillset. Think about the industry they are in, and how they could grow or maintain their business. There is really nothing to lose by sending an idea to the company. If they ignore it, it is no big deal. If they like it, they might ask you to be a part of the project!
For instance, let’s say you are a web designer. You see that a successful small business has a “comments” box that is not working, along with some other problems. You could contact them and ask if they need someone to spruce up the site. They may not be interested, or they may have as much business as they can handle. However, you won’t know until you ask!
What Can You Learn from Social Media?
Social media can be a big time waster, so be intentional when you use it. After all, it is designed to be addictive! Specify what you want to accomplish in a certain time period, and set an alarm.
For instance, you might take 10 minutes to scroll through the company’s Facebook page. Your goal would be to see what customers are saying about the company.
If there are any complaints, think about how you might be able to help resolve those problems. If you want to be a social media manager, think about how you would respond to those customer complaints.
Dig through Forums and Blogs
Finally, you can search for information on the company on forums and blogs. You can tell pretty quickly if there is a lot of recent buzz about a new product from the company. You might also strike gold and find a blog post written by someone who freelances for that company.
In that case, take the time to contact the person and ask some questions. Do this even if you think there is no current need for someone with your skills. You don’t know what the company has planned for the future! If this person mentions you to people at the company, they might hire you later on.
Decide Which Companies to Work With
By now, you have done extensive research on the companies on your list. Some of them don’t seem like good prospects, based on what you have learned.
For the rest, prepare to make contact. You should have email addresses or phone numbers from your research. In addition, you should have an idea of some current or pending projects for the company. You might even have ideas about new projects you could suggest to them.
Once your information is organized, move on to the next step: reaching out!
At this point, you have a list of companies that you would like to work for. You know quite a bit about them, and you know how to contact them.
The worst thing you could do, after all this work, is to send out 10, 20, or 30 generic pitches. It will take more time, but you should craft a specific pitch for each company.
To do this, use your research to craft your pitch. Once that is done, leverage your network to increase the chances that your pitch will end up in the right hands.
Use Your Research to Craft Your Pitch
Remember all the work we did in the last step? This is the part where you are really going to use it to your advantage. When you write your pitch, use specific information about the company. Don’t write something vague and generic that anyone could say about any company.
Also, try to reach out to a specific person, if possible.
Good afternoon Mr. Smith,
I just read the latest blog post on the Mantis Praying website. It looks like the company is hoping to launch the next version of the Grasshopper lawn mower later this year. The blog post is getting people excited about the product, judging by the recent buzz on social media.
As the product launch approaches, you will need to produce solid copy to convince people to buy the Grasshopper. Writing good copy is sometimes overlooked, but it is vital to ensure that the product launch is a success.
If you need someone who has experience with writing copy for products in the lawn care space, please get in touch with me. If you would like to see my portfolio, you can see my work at xyzcopywriting.com and eloquence.org.
You can also find me on LinkedIn – I have included the link below.
Please let me know if you are interested in working together on this product launch.
You can improve your chances of receiving a “yes” from Mr. Smith by including some sample copy. Don’t do all the work, but include enough to show that you understand the company and the product. This also gives you a chance to show off your skills, and it proves that you have work ethic.
Remember that you might have to send several pitches like this in order to receive one “yes”. The same is true with sales. A salesman might need to make 10 or 50 or 100 calls to make a sale. If he knew which calls would be a success, he could make them by noon and spend the rest of the day golfing.
Making your way through the rejections and ignored pitches is part of the process of finding clients. Embrace it!
Tap Your Network
If you know anyone at the companies you are pitching, ask what they know about the company. You have a much better chance of learning something that is not posted online. Then, you can add this information to your research profile of the company.
Another idea is to ask for an introduction to someone at the company. If you speak to someone in the company, keep it at the level of an informational interview. Ask questions to learn about current and upcoming projects, as well as areas the company would like to improve.
Knowing a little about “inside” projects can give you an edge when crafting your pitch to the company. It also shows once again that you are doing your homework to learn about the company. If you take your research seriously, most companies assume you will also take a contract seriously.
Now that you have pitched some companies, wait a little while to hear back. Did you receive any interest? Did you see tons of rejections? Maybe you’re hearing radio silence. In any case, it’s time to reflect on what you did in trying to find clients. You should consider what worked, what did not, and how to improve in the future.
What Worked Well
Review any emails or calls you receive where a company expressed interest in you. What specifically does the company seem to be interested in?
Also, look at the pitches you sent to these companies. What do the pitches share in common? What do the companies share in common?
Maybe all of your replies came from a very specific type of company, such as small hair salons that need a website redesign. This might end up being your niche, at least for now. You should focus on contacting more of these clients, and consider expanding later.
What Did Not Work
Look through the rejection letters you received, and the corresponding pitches. What do they have in common? If you can figure this out, then you know what to improve (or leave out) for future pitches.
For instance, a company might comment that they need someone to maintain their website, in addition to managing social media accounts. If you pitched them on your social media management abilities, then they might figure that you can’t handle the website.
They might want one person who can do it all, rather than hiring, managing, and paying two or more people. In that case, learn how to maintain websites, especially if you hear this type of comment from more than one company!
If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn web design, you can partner or contract with someone who works in that area. Be creative in solving the problems that you encounter, and you will find success!
Apply Insights and Improve
Now that you have thought about what worked well and what did not, it is time to actually change. If you found out that larger companies want freelancers with more experience, search out some smaller companies to start working with.
If you don’t have the skills you need yet, then read some books, take some courses, and invest in yourself! The knowledge and skills you acquire can help you for years to come, and no one can take them away from you.
I hope this gives you some ideas for how to find freelance clients. Finding clients is important, but doing the work is just as important! Make sure to do a great job for your clients, communicate well, and take care of them every step of the way. This increases your chances of earning repeat or referral work.
If you have any comments or ideas about finding remote freelance work, or want to share a story of your own, please leave a comment below.