Photo Credit: chuttersnap via Unsplash

The Least Sexy (and Most Profitable) Advice About Freelancing You’ll Ever Get

Hint: Don’t be a jerk.

My first freelance clients were people I already knew. I had no “professional” network to speak of, and I certainly wasn’t going to poach clients from the creative agency where I had worked.

My ex-boss did re-hire me as a freelancer to finish up one or two writing projects, but otherwise, I had to start from scratch.

So I went to events and meetups for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

I had to do something with all that time on my hands, so I chose to get involved with an organization called Entrepreneurs of Knoxville (EOK). One relationship led to another.

  • I met a designer named Bobbi, and she referred several more writing clients to me.
  • I met a serial entrepreneur named Leo, and he referred the founder of a startup to me.
  • I met a marketing consultant named Scot, and he later hired me to write a sales letter for one of his clients. He also encouraged me to sign up for Ed Dale’s 30-Day Challenge, which was a crash course in search engine optimization, and niche websites, and affiliate sales.
  • Several months later, I parlayed that internet marketing experience into my first marketing retainer, $2,900 a month, which was a kingly sum at the time.
  • I went to church with several members of a Southern rock band, and they sent me some work.
  • Another friend from church, an award-winning designer and creative director, recommended me to several of his clients.
  • I also sought out other freelancers in the community and

When aspiring (or frustrated) freelancers ask me how I built my freelance business, I don’t have a cut-and-dry answer for them.

No magic growth hacking beans or fairy dust whisked me away to a land of plenty.

I didn’t even have a networking “strategy.”

I was trying to survive. On a Thursday I had a 9-to-5 job at an agency, and the next day, I suddenly didn’t.

I expanded my network one cup of coffee, one relationship, at a time.

Most of my best freelance clients have come through referral. Your best clients will too.

Most of my easiest money has come trough repeat business. Yours will too.

If you want to grow your freelancing with referrals and repeat business, you need to meet more people.

Do the math.

How many people have a clear understanding of how you serve clients? How many could describe your business in one sentence?

If only a tiny fraction of those people will EVER refer a paying client — people who beg for free work don’t qualify — then does your math work out? Do you know enough people? Or do you need to grow your network before you can realistically hope to get enough referrals and repeat business to reach sustainability?

The inverse is true: Most freelancers don’t have enough relationships.

And they don’t ask for referrals.

Not enough relationships and not enough referrals is a perfect recipe for famine.

Networking is necessary.

You need more relationships, and you should proactively connect with freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

Assume that the interesting people you meet will become your clients two years from now — if you keep in touch and if you’re not a jerk.

  1. Pick two people per week.
  2. Schedule get-to-know calls. Be more interested than interesting.
  3. Add them to your CRM.
  4. Keep in touch.
  5. Help them with links to resources, introductions, and troubleshooting.
  6. Grow your network one meaningful connection at a time.

Sorry I can’t give you sexier advice. The freelance store was fresh out of 24k unicorns.

Luckily, this ordinary way of meeting other human beings and proving that you care actually works.

If you want more clients, meet more people. Your network is your net worth. Grow yours.

Try it.

Two new people each week.

Don’t be a jerk.


Keep in touch.

Truly caring is the real magic. Truly caring has always been my unfair advantage.

Have you not been asking for referrals?

You dramatically increase your odds of getting a referral if you ask for them. I know. Earth-shattering.

Many freelancers don’t ask for referrals because they’re afraid of coming across as weird or needy.

If you want my 4 templates and the cheatsheet that explains how to use them, then click on this link.

Plug in your name and email address, and I’ll email you the download link.

These 4 templates will transform your freelancing business.

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