Freelance Lead Sourcing

As a freelancer, one of the most important things you can do is get leads.

Leads -> Clients -> $$$

But getting leads is one of those things that sounds simple, but proves more difficult in practice.

Here’s what I’ve done over the last month:

  • Email the vast majority of my personal contacts (friends, family, etc) letting them know what I’m up to and asking for referrals/introductions

  • Attended local networking events and intentionally started meeting people and getting my name in circulation locally

  • Leveraged existing systems like Upwork

  • Written and published almost every day since leaving my job

Not all of those efforts are equal. Some have direct value while others are more of a long play with indirect value.

Networking events and meeting people locally does not provide a ton of direct value. I moved to a new state about 6 months ago so I’m still getting adjusted. I know a tiny number of people in this city. For me, there is long-term value in meeting people and getting my name and abilities/results circulating around the city. I know I will be here for a long time so investing in getting my name out there is a long play.

It’s a slow process and I can only meet so many people at a time, but I’ve already begun to identify people to connect with and invest in for years to come.

Writing everyday and publishing (almost) everyday also provides indirect value. On a personal level it forces me to be consistent, intentional, and relentless. I'm forced to ship something every day. My skills as a writer (and thinker) are stretched every time I sit down to a blank page. I write even when I don't feel like it or feel like I have nothing to say because that's when it's most important to be consistent.

On a business level, writing about things I’ve learned and experienced and sharing that gets my writing in front of all sorts of audiences. Publishing my writing on places like LinkedIn, my personal website, my email newsletter, and Twitter gets my name and perspective in front of people I might never otherwise meet. You never know who’s reading and I’ve gotten a couple referrals this way already.

Reaching out to all of my personal contacts was the first thing I did when I left my old job. I wrote personalized emails to friends and family letting them know I was transitioning out of my job and striking out on my own. I wasn’t expecting those people to become clients. The value there is that their networks combined are incredibly large and if they know what I do then they can send people my way when those type of needs inevitably cross their paths.

I’ve also ended up getting introduced to some cool people that I never otherwise would’ve met because of those conversations. To me, that’s incredibly valuable even if it’s not monetary.

This last part has surprised me. Upwork has been one of the more valuable resources in the last month. It’s a platform connecting freelancers with clients. It’s usually people looking to outsource work for cheap, but I’ve also found some legitimate work opportunities as well. The key is to filter the type of work you’re willing to do and searching for.

For example, I found one client by simply searching “copywriting” and filtering the opportunities to be project-based and worth >$1K.

Yes, there are people looking to hire you for pennies on the dollar, but there are also legitimate opportunities to work with clients for thousands of dollars. And for those in the freelance world or folks looking to start a side hustle, Upwork should be considered as a potential source of revenue.

The great news is that once you get a few clients under your belt and blow their socks off (because you should ultimately be focusing on providing incredible work over all else) you’ll start getting referral business and it becomes somewhat of a self-sustaining cycle.

If you're a freelancer, how else you source leads? What would you add?