An avalanche of freelance development work has had you working your tail off for months without a spare second to market your web design business. Now that a couple of big projects are wrapped up, you realize in a panic that you don’t have anything in the pipeline.
You need to drum up some new web development gigs work, fast. But where should you start?
First up, don’t panic. While it’s obviously best to keep marketing your freelance business even during the busy times, it’s possible that new projects are lurking just out of sight. Here are a few strategies for landing those new projects quickly.
Ask your network for referrals
Start by tapping into your network to see if they have any leads on freelance development work. Post on social media that you’re currently accepting new web development clients. Email other freelancers you’ve worked with in the past to see if they have any leads for you. Reach out to your LinkedIn connections and let them know you’re taking on new work.
You may feel awkward sending an email like this because you fear it will sound like your freelance business is floundering. But, first of all, remember this basic rule: “Don’t ask, don’t get.” You can’t just sit back and wait for freelance jobs to come to you.
Second, there are ways to position this message that is honest without sounding desperate. For example, you can say that one of your current contracts is nearing the end so you are on the lookout for your next client.
Of course, this strategy works best if you’ve been keeping in touch with your network before this point. If your network only hears from you when you need help, it’s really a network.
Ask old clients
You’ve been meaning to send a “keep in touch email” anyway. Now’s as good a time as any!
Check in with your old clients to ask if they have any new projects coming up that may need your skills. If they say no, let them know you’re taking on new clients and ask if they have any referrals.
Now is also a good time to ask for a testimonial if you didn’t get that earlier. One way to get a testimonial from your freelance clients that is easy for them and useful to you is to direct them to the recommendations area on LinkedIn. You invite them to complete a recommendation about you. Once that is done, you can crib the best parts to use on your website and elsewhere.
You may also discover that some of your old contacts have moved on to new positions with other companies. If so, shoot them a congratulatory email to remind them just how great it was to work with you on that last project.
Write a guest post
Want a steady stream of freelance development work coming to you? Guest posting for the sites your clients read gets your name — and expertise — out in front of prospects.
Guest posting also adds legitimacy to your abilities. After all, the editors at BigNameWebsite.com are vouching for your ideas by choosing to publish your piece.
Choose a topic that you can speak on knowledgeably and that highlights your particular web development skill set.
Call up agencies
Creative agencies are often a great source of freelance development work, and they’re always looking for freelancers. Come up with a list of local agencies, find the right contact, and send an introductory warm email introducing yourself and your services.
Or, stand out from your competition by . . . cold calling! It’s everybody’s favorite! (Right?)
Start by writing out two scripts (one for if you get the person you’re trying to reach, one for the voicemail), then set aside a couple of hours one afternoon to work through your list.
Whether or not you reach your intended target, be sure to send a follow up email thanking them for their time and linking to your portfolio.
Terrified at the thought of reaching out? Read: Self Promotion 101 For Shy Freelancers
Follow up on old leads
What ever happened to that one company who was so excited to work with you, then completely dropped off the map?
Scan back through your email and try following up with some of those past prospects who seemed promising at the time, but didn’t go anywhere. A back burnered project may be flickering to life once more, and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
Pitch new prospects
Many business in your niche are in need of a website overhaul, and reaching out to them may lead to new freelance development work.
But don’t just spam them with an email through their contact form that says, “Dear Webmaster, I am a website professional. Have you ever considered redoing your website?”
Instead, shoot them a detailed email that shows you’re a real person who’s bothered to take a look at their site by offering suggestions and concrete ideas for improving. Or, pick up the phone and talk with them in person.
Hit the networking circuits
What better way to make a good impression business owners in need of web development services than at local networking events? Seek out both general business networking events and industry networking events to get to know other freelancers in your area. Many will be happy to refer freelance development work to you once they get to know you.
Scan the job boards and RFP sites
There are a number of online marketplaces for freelance development work. Check out our writeup of the best freelance websites and marketplaces here. Web developers should also be keeping an eye on request for proposal (RFP) sites like RFP Database (free) and FindRFP (subscription).
If you primarily do web development work for small businesses, your local listings may be a good source of jobs. Check your local newspaper’s classifieds section, search out specialty job boards in your area, and get on local networking email lists.
Related reading: How to Write a Top-Notch Business Proposal (And Get The Job!)
Make yourself visible
Advertising isn’t a widely-used tactic for freelancers; however, if you’re targeting a tight enough niche it can help you stand out above your competition. Advertising rates vary, and if you hunt around you may find a few within your budget.
This can be particularly effective for finding freelance development work with small local businesses. Many grocery stores, libraries and cafes have areas where local service providers can leave business cards posted. Or, you could take out advertising in your local business journal.
Freelance development work is out there
As you dive into prospecting, take advantage of the lull in work to refresh your online image and marketing. After all, you want to be proud of the place you’ll be sending all these new prospects to.
Is your portfolio up to date? Is your marketing consistent? Is your social media appropriate? Take time to fix any fatal flaws and optimize your own website so you can have a better chance at converting potential clients.
Your next website project is waiting nearby. Are you ready to find it?
Have you used any of these strategies to get freelance development work? What worked the best for you? Let us know in the comments.
Jessie Kwak author bio
Jessie Kwak is a freelance writer and novelist living in Portland, Oregon. She writes for B2B brands in educational technology, SaaS and related industries. You can learn more about her work at www.jlkwak.com.