Finding your clients - Freelance series (1/3)

August 12, 2019

This August marks the one-year anniversary of when I got my first client and started my journey down the road of freelancing in the e-learning industry.

What was meant to be a side hustle quickly became my main source of income and lead me to the decision of handing in my resignation at my stable London job and going head-first into the freelance lifestyle. I’ve been fortunate with the opportunity to work remotely with nearly a dozen clients located across five countries, almost every engagement has been unique and presented a new challenge for me to throw myself at. It’s been a crazy 12 months with all the highs and lows that you can expect from running your own business.

In this series of blog posts, I’ll reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the last year and share some tips on anyone else who’s looking to make the leap into freelancing themselves.

Find out how you get your clients and optimise it (Finding your clients) - Freelancing series (1/3)

A freelance business can’t exist unless it has a way to attract clients. Find the way that you best attract clients and optimise it so that it works as efficiently as possible.

Imagine a pool cleaner who wants to offer her services as a freelance pool cleaner to the people in her town. The way that she may reach her potential clients includes posting leaflets through doors, leaving notes outside her local shop or receiving word of mouth referrals from existing clients.

For my business, Adapt Freelancer, I knew that I wanted to work with clients around the world. I had noticed that knowledge and developer talent for Adapt Learning was centralised almost entirely in the UK. As a technical e-learning authoring tool, Adapt is still a fairly niche product and it's hard to find developers who understand not only how to create courses and plugins with it but also have knowledge of the ecosystem of existing community plugins. I wanted to offer services to companies around the world who wanted to work in Adapt, who may have otherwise had challenges accessing these skills.

As a result of my desired audience, my website was the best way for me to reach out to my global audience. About 85% of my enquiries come from people who google search Adapt-based search terms and find my website directly (having Adapt in my company name makes SEO a whole lot easier!). The other 15% of my leads come from LinkedIn, the Adapt forums and personal referrals.

Once you have identified the way you reach your audience ensure it’s optimised for the exact client you want.

A good exercise is to imagine your ideal client and put yourself in their shoes of how and when they would discover you. For our pool cleaner, her ideal client would be a family from a rich neighbourhood in her town who would be more likely to own a pool and are willing to pay money for a professional to save their own time in cleaning it. She may want to target her marketing to only reach these people by delivering leaflets to households that are likely to own a pool. As well as change her wording or branding to better resonate with this client.

My ideal client would be either a medium-sized e-learning team or in-house team at a larger company or multinational corporation. They would either have been previously exposed to Adapt through another party and be looking to take their development more in-house; or they would be a company who’s relatively new to e-learning, or responsive e-learning, that has identified open-source Adapt as the tool they want to use for the benefits it brings, whether it’s the control of their data, unrivalled customisation or infinite scalability. They are looking for a specialist to work with to help steer them in this direction. Who can help them with all the challenges adopting this new technology can bring.

Since launching my website I’ve been constantly refreshing it (203 commits and counting). When I started I believed I should talk about myself and my experience. I created a website with a heavy-handed mission statement with massive paragraphs of texts talking about myself. With a brochure type navigation.

When a potential client visits my website, the aim is that they contact me. If they are part of the target group I described earlier, I want them to quickly understand that I am looking to work with companies just like theirs. If my message resonates with them it should propel them to continue to navigate through my website. First to the services page which highlights what I can do and then to the clients page, which highlights other companies I’ve been successful in helping. By the end, if they are suitably impressed, they should fill in the contact form. You can check-out my website yourself here - https://adaptfreelancer.com

On top of this having better web design principles and a nice logo the changes I've made reinforce that I’m a professional who can be trusted to deliver a company's projects. These efforts seem to be paying off as I’ve noticed that with every change the amount of inquiries I receive goes up. When I started, I was getting about one message every three to four weeks. Now it’s at least one a week.

I was getting about one message every three to four weeks. Now it’s at least one a week.

To recap, as a freelancer you need to find a clear audience you serve and then determine how they will engage with you. From there you need to ensure that your marketing resonates with them. Then they should be much more willing to reach out to you.

Next week I'll discuss the uncertainty that comes with freelancing and how you can adjust to this risk.