One time I pitched an Australian business on Upwork. He was ready to start and promised to hire me right away… Only to never be heard from him again.
Another time I worked with a company that got sanctioned and shut down by the government for illegal activity. I got paid what they owed me without challenges but imagine my surprise when I woke up one morning and saw that all over the news.
If we work to land clients, eventually, these stories will happen to the best of us. It’s just part of the game. In this article, let’s look at how to get clients for digital marketing services remotely.
How to get clients for digital marketing: popular tactic of the week
Search for how to get clients for digital marketing services and there are listicles everywhere offering 1,000 tactics.
It’s one of those things that seems nice on the surface but turns out to be counterproductive since it is costly to try something new.
Even if we are not spending any money, the cost is that when we master one way to land clients, it becomes easy because we get good.
When we move on to try a new approach, we are beginning from scratch again and so it will take time to see get good and see results. In this case, our most important asset is time and because it takes more time, it becomes expensive.
You’ll see results much faster by picking one approach and mastering it before even considering anything else. The challenge is that without the experience it is difficult to figure out which one to pick. That’s what this article is about.
Underneath it all, everything is the same. We need to understand the client’s problem, have them trust us, and trust us to be the right person to solve that problem for them.
All the tactics we see are ways to do that but the challenge that many of us face is that we focus on making the process easy and quick too early, even if we aren’t landing clients just yet!
For some reason, we’ve gotten into our heads that it is better to have a quick and easy way to pitch, even if it doesn’t really work, that one that is slower but works.
The worst thing about a freelance business is the confusion we sometimes experience when we are unsure what to do and which direction to go in.
It’s the most headache-inducing thing and in this article, we’ll look at the simplest and most effective approach I know, so the next step is always straightforward.
The 9 things you shouldn’t do if you want to land clients fast
Here’s a list of tactics that often suggested to land digital marketing clients.
- Blogging, guest blogging, or SEO
- Online ads like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google ads
- Discuss stuff on Reddit, LinkedIn or Quora
- Networking events
- Partnerships e.g. with other agencies
- Use online directories
- Create a portfolio
- Build a following or email newsletter
A list is great but how do you pick just one tactic to start with? Let’s dive deeper into each one.
Blogging, SEO or guest blogging
The difference between blogging and guest blogging is whether we are writing blog articles on our own blog or on someone else’s blog. The tactic does work but it usually takes months if not years to get this to work seriously for your freelance business.
Tasks such as finding and pitching the right blogs to be allowed to write for takes longer than you might think. And even when we get something published, there is no guarantee that you’ll see any visitors from it.
I’ve written a number of guest articles that did zero for my business except allowing me to practice. The idea does work but don’t underestimate the energy it requires to find, pitch, and write the right articles in order to get clients and traffic.
When we write on our own blog, are people just magically going to find it? How?
They have to be exposed to it somewhere either because you’ve shared articles on e.g. your Facebook profile or because you hooked it up to Google, so people can find it when searching for relevant keywords. Readers don’t just come on their own, instead, we have to promote ourselves.
Understanding if people are searching for your topics in the first place can be tricky not to mention that it takes a long time for it to show up in Google – if it even does at all. There is no guarantee and because of competition, you might rank so low that no one sees the article.
To give you an example, it took me years before I started seeing meaningful traffic. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to get results faster but if you don’t know what you are doing with this tactic, it might take just as long.
Online ads like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google ads
Online ads have a special place in my heart since that’s where I started my career in digital marketing.
There is nothing like starting an ad campaign and seeing it convert like gangbusters. It’s exhilarating but it took me many campaigns and lots of money burned in order to understand how it works.
Usually, the first thing that new advertisers realize when launching their first few ad campaigns is how stupid we are since most of the things we expect to work totally flops.
It does work and it can even be a fast approach, too, if you know what you are doing. But be prepared to burn money at first if you don’t have any experience.
Discussions on Reddit, LinkedIn, or Quora
This can also work if you know that your clients are looking at specific discussion boards. Often, clients are not, and most of those seeing it will be freelancers having the same idea as you, also working to land clients.
Similar to guest blogging, it takes work to figure out which forums and topics work well to get clients.
A networking event is a classic example. It works because there’s just something about building trust in person compared to online.
It is easier if you are comfortable with networking events and meeting new people. On the other hand, you have to sift through many to find the right fit since the events are often not targeted.
It can be particularly challenging if you live in a small city and there simply are no good networking events (not to mention the current corona lockdown situation),
Partnerships or referrals e.g. with other agencies
The challenge here is that we depend on someone else to promote us or give us work. It can be a decent approach if you are leaving an agency because they might already trust you.
Otherwise, you have to persuade them to trust you to give you work that they can deliver to their clients and look good.
The main concern is often that the partners don’t want to look stupid if something doesn’t go according to plan, that risk can feel worse to them than not completing the project for the client in the first place.
Among all of the options on this list, this might be the most effective option to land projects, short-term along with going to networking events.
But even if you do a partnership, there is no way of knowing when they will send us work and we still depend on them to land projects.
Use online directories
Online directories are usually similar to the yellow pages and there are just not that many clients that go there to find freelancers anymore.
For many clients, they might as well just go to Upwork if they are looking for freelancers (and they do). It is often less about finding someone to help and rather about finding the right fit that they can trust.
You could test these out if you find some that you are confident your client type browses from time to time.
Build a following or email newsletter
As with so many of the other options, building a following takes a long time since we need to build traffic to the newsletter or following using any of the approaches above.
Building a following on social media is often slightly easier since they are already on the platform.
The challenge is that is difficult to tell whether they are potential clients or just randos that liked something we shared. For example, if a beautiful woman post an attractive photo on Instagram they will get many likes from men that would never turn into clients.
Another challenge on social media is that some creators get their account locked and blocked out of the blue
Even if it is an error, they have now lost everything because they didn’t own it – the platform where they built it, did.
Some people refer to it as shiny object syndrome when we switch to the latest new and shiny tactic before masting the previous one.
The name doesn’t matter but when we switch too often, we never get good at anything and in the freelance world, we are rewarded financially by being the best (or at least great) at something.
But there is one tactic I’ve found to work well if you want to land clients fast.
How to get clients if you are ambitious and want ’em NOW
If you are serious about landing freelancing clients fast, there is one approach that works really well and doesn’t require money or any setup: directly contacting businesses you’d like to work with.
Not large lists of businesses and anything on the moon, instead, just the right businesses for you. Here’s a case study where I did exactly that.
In there, I show how it took me a few weeks to land good clients and you can even speed that up by focusing on projects where the investment for the client is smaller and thus less risky.
I know what you are thinking and no, I don’t want to be salesy and spammy either. And we don’t need to even though many other freelancers are.
Another approach is to use a platform like Upwork. It works and functions best as a practice ground with training wheels and you’ll likely have to move away from the platform eventually.
How to do it without being salesy
We see other freelancers acting salesy online and we end up trying the same stuff because if everyone is doing it, it must work. Right? Even if we don’t like it and even if we would never act the same way if we met them in person.
How would you, or someone you admire, approach a potential client at a networking event? Have you ever seen someone who’s really good?
It’s amazing to watch. They aren’t machine gunning business cards. Instead, they are smooth as hell and open with a friendly line like “aren’t you the person that XYZ?”
We can do the same online and via email. We can act as we would offline and be our normal warm and friendly-self.
Let’s look at a few techniques of email and direct outreach etiquette.
Technique 1: A good place to start is to assume that they are busy and to acknowledge that you are aware of it. Most people don’t and so you’ve already got a leg up this way (some point it out as an excuse to write a short and shitty message — don’t do that, it’s so easy to tell)
Technique 2: we can also look for common ground to connect with them over things such as a mutual friend or a shared interest.
The trick is to understand what’s valuable for them since it’s different for everyone. If they like being entertained, you might work your charm and perhaps approach with a joke.
Technique 3: focus only on them and how what you can do HELPS THEM and their interests, not you. For example, don’t say you run ads. Tell them specifically how that can help them based on what they value such as more revenue and sales fast.
How pitching digital marketing services is different from other services
There are generally only two ways to approach pitching digital marketing services.
Either the client knows what they want done and usually how as well, or they don’t know that they want something at all and we have to persuade them as to why they should invest in a particular idea for their business.
The first type of client is often a great place to start if you are somewhat new to digital marketing and don’t feel extremely confident. They will often teach us their methods and show us the best approach because they have already experimented and made it work, and now need to remove themselves from the task.
In the other scenario, we are driving everything including the experimentation of the campaign to drive results.
This type is better suited for experts since we also need to show them that the idea is worth the investment in the first place and the best way to do that is usually to breakdown the potential gains of the project.
For example, if someone is pitching Facebook ads they might show a calculation that breaks down the estimated profit or extra sales as a result of the campaign along with how much the client stands to gain after the investment in the freelancer and the ad campaign.
I like to walk them through each step of the calculation, so they know that I haven’t used unrealistic numbers.
In the example of the client who knows everything and needs help implementing, we can focus on our experience driving results for the same type of project if we have any.
We can also focus on our reliability as a freelancer since clients like these often want long term help if we are trustworthy and reliable. Something most freelancers are not.
For a more in-depth look at how to get clients for digital marketing services with specific examples, look at this guide to freelance digital marketing.