Finding clients when you work out of a home office can be a challenge. Here are some strategies to help you expand your network.
Are you stuck wondering how you’ll find potential clients and where you’ll meet them once you do? Unsure of how the professional/customer relationship works as a freelancer? Then this article will help you navigate these challenges.
When you choose to work for yourself, you’re deciding to pursue your passion. Whether it’s web design, programming, writing, or photography, you’re blazing your own trail; the route of the creative professional.
If you haven’t already, you’ll probably make a website, promote yourself on social media, and continue honing your craft. But what’s the next step?
A lot of creative professionals make the mistake of thinking that since they work hard at what they do, business will fall into their lap. They may wait for clients to come to them and then end up wondering why they aren’t getting any customers.
Unfortunately, being good at your job isn’t enough to automatically snag great clients. So, how do you find them?
Finding Clients from Your Home Office
When it comes to finding customers, you’ll need to try a variety of strategies until you find what works. Then you can perfect your technique and keep getting business on a reliable basis. Here are some methods you can try out to start with.
Keep Your Portfolio Up-to-Date
The first step to finding great clients is having a way to showcase your great skills. Your portfolio is your chance to prove to prospective customers what you’re made of. This could be links to websites you helped design, an online album of photos you took, or a list of apps you created.
As a professional who works from home, you’ll be communicating with potential clients mainly via the Internet. Having an online portfolio to show them eliminates a lot of unnecessary back and forth messaging and cuts straight to the chase.
Keep your portfolio up to date, especially online.
Use Job Boards
Job boards can be a good way to find freelance work, especially if you’re new to the game and want to get your name out there. Websites like Guru, Fiverr or Upwork are an option for finding your first clients, then you can branch out from there.
You can work on getting consistent work you can rely on through job boards and then raising your rates as you gain more exposure. While you will face a lot of competition on these websites, you’ll also gain access to a steady flow of job listings.
Online job boards can be a great way to get some exposure to clients and develop a good reputation.
Create a Valuable Freebie
Creative small business owners can help people get familiar with their name by creating something of value to help others in their field. If you already have a name for yourself, you can create something and sell it, whereas beginners may want to offer something for free.
As a photographer, this could be a quick tutorial for choosing backgrounds or a course about editing. For a web designer, this might look like an e-book on how to choose a layout. By giving something away that helps others, you’re creating a positive association with your name and could potentially gain loyal clients.
Create a free E-Book or tutorial to showcase your skills.
Contact People You Already Know
You may not have a professional network yet, but odds are, you already have some potential clients in your existing contacts. Your old co-workers, classmates from college, or family friends might have some connections you can benefit from. Send out some short emails to everyone in your contact list, letting them know that you’re available for freelance projects.
Include what you’re offering, your portfolio, and who you’d be interested in working with. You can even offer people who connect you with a potential client a discount off your product or return the favor for them by spreading the word about their business.
Your own network can be the best source for a personal referral.
Start a Blog
Creating a blog is another good way to get your name out there, show people your portfolio, and get new clients. In order to use blogging to grow your customer base, you’ll need to think about what people who would hire you would want to see.
They’ll want to know that they can trust you to come through before deciding to hire you for your services. A blog helps with this because it lets you show your personality to prospective clients.
Another benefit to starting a blog for your business is showcasing your work. A blog is a way for you to make sure people who are interested in what you have to offer get a chance to see your best and latest work.
A blog is an excellent way to showcase your work.
Whether you have your own blog or not, guest blogging is always a good way to extend the reach of your brand. Look around for blogs that you think your potential clients might visit and contact the owner to see if you can contribute.
Guest blogging is valuable because it’s a win-win situation for both you and the person who runs the blog. Plus, if you guest blog on a popular website, it can really boost your visibility.
Guest blogging is a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your field.
Follow Up with Previous Clients
People are busy and it’s easy to forget about someone you worked with if they don’t contact you directly and remind you. Get in touch with clients you’ve lost contact with to see if they could use your services.
A quick email to ask them how their last project is going and to ask if you can be of any help can be enough to get you working with them again.
Follow on work with previous clients is often the easiest way to drum up business.
Ask for Referrals
It’s easy to assume that if you did a good job with your customer, they’ll refer you automatically when someone they know needs the same service. But that’s not always the case. Instead of waiting for referrals to come to you, you can take matters into your own hands and ask directly.
Email people you’ve worked with in the past who were happy with your work and let them know you’re available if they know of anyone who could use your services.
Ask your clients specifically for referal, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
Pitch Your Ideal Clients Directly
While job boards can work, you’ll be facing a lot of competition, as mentioned before. You can bypass this and go straight to the source by pitching your ideas directly to the people you’d most want to work with.
Think about your market and who needs your product and then find the appropriate websites with contact information.
A direct pitch to clients can work in certain fields.
Google Adwords or Facebook ads are potential methods for gaining more visibility and business. Facebook is known for being fairly user-friendly, even if you don’t have any experience with this. Ads can help you take your business to the next level, especially if you use them on top of the other methods listed above.
If you have an online presence, online advertising can increase your reach.
How to Network When You Work from a Home Office
Collaborating with other professionals and sharing ideas can score you more clients as you learn from them or just put yourself on the radar more. Networking can be tough when you work from home since most of your days will be spent by yourself, but it’s far from impossible!
As a self-employed professional, you need to get more creative with your networking, developing a method that works for you. Here are some tips for meeting other professionals as a freelancer:
Talk to People in Your Field
You can think of other people in your field as competition, or you can see them as opportunities to work together and learn. Be friendly and introduce yourself to other freelancing professionals in your area. Online forums, professional associations, and events are all potential ways to meet other professionals in your line of work.
Attend networking events and meetups related to your field
If you studied at college, make sure to keep in touch with your classmates and check in with them every so often. If you’ve worked in a more traditional job setting with your passion, stay in touch with your coworkers, too.
Interview People You Admire
While talking to professionals on your level is a good way to get ideas and possibly meet new clients, talking to photographers you admire is another option. Get in touch with freelancers in your field who you consider successful and would like to learn from.
While people you admire are likely to be busy, some of them should be happy to give you a quick word of advice or answer a specific question you have.
Seek out mentoring opportunities with people who’s work you admire.
Utilize Social Media
In our day and age, there’s a social media group for everything you can imagine. These groups are one easy way to find people in your field to interact with. Join some groups and participate in discussions and see where it takes you. Start with LinkedIn and use the group feature, seeking out a group related to your niche.
LinkedIn is a great forum for discussions and professional networking.
Join a Creative Organization
Joining a creative group or organization can give you ample opportunities to network within your field, though it may take some time before you see results from your efforts. You can check out Meetup.com to search for groups or look online.
Trade confereneces can be another great source of leads.
Try to find an organization that has plenty of activities and conferences you can attend to meet other professionals. Keep an eye out for promotions or contests offered by the group and attend every event possible.
The more people you meet in your field, the better-connected you’ll be as a freelancer.
Telling Clients You Work from Home (Should You?)
One of the next questions you may have as a freelancer is whether or not you should tell your clients you work from a home office. There was a time when working from home was out of the ordinary and might have been considered odd, but these days, it’s become increasingly common.
Depending on the work you do, there’s a good chance that this question will never come up, in which case you probably don’t need to mention it. However, if you think it may come up, it’s better to mention it sooner than later.
Where to Meet Your Clients when You Work from Home
Meeting clients at your home comes with a number of advantages. You won’t have to shell out extra money for an office space, there’s no commute, and you can be home with your kids, if applicable.
But working from home can present new complications when it comes to initial client meetings. Meeting them at your house may feel a little awkward, depending on how your office looks and the nature of your business.
Tips for Meeting Clients at Your Home
If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can mention that you use a home office in the initial phone or email conversation you have with the client, then give them the option to meet you there. If you do decide to meet clients at your home, here are some tips for making sure it goes smoothly:
- Have a separate space for meetings: Most home offices should be in a separate area from the rest of the house. Meeting a client in your kitchen might be a bit too informal, whereas a distinct office creates a more professional image.
- Make your yard and house presentable: Having a manicured yard and clean house will create a good first impression when your clients come to visit you at home. Take care of clutter around your home and your client will feel much more assured about your professional abilities and the meeting itself.
- Appropriate, neutral decorations: Your home business space should look professional if you plan to meet clients there. This means neutral, inoffensive decorations that won’t cause any distractions. While it will be mostly the conversation your client focuses on, a nice and inviting space can make it run a lot smoother.
- Keep your animals contained: While your client might be a dog-lover, you don’t want to count on that. Some people are afraid of animals, while others are allergic or dislike them. If you have dogs or cats, keep them out of sight and out of mind when you meet your clients at the home office.
Although your home and office are the same thing to you, it’s a good idea to keep them separate when you’re meeting with a client. This will help them focus on the service or product you’re offering rather than the surroundings.
Meeting Clients at an Alternate Location
Some people will feel more comfortable meeting their clients at an alternate location instead of their home. While it can be hard to think of appropriate meeting places when you work from a home office, most clients these days are flexible and don’t have a problem meeting somewhere other than your office. Here are some ideas for good places to meet:
A restaurant is one potential meeting place, although the appropriateness of this will depend on how well you know your client. If you haven’t met them in person yet, having a meal with them might be a little too intimate.
If you’ve met them before, however, or you’re following up on a previous meeting, a restaurant could work.
Coffee shops are a very common meeting place because they’re a friendly setting and usually have Wi-Fi access. They’re informal and present a casual, comfortable environment to chat with your client about your business.
This will depend entirely on the client you’re meeting and their personality, but meeting outdoors is always an option. If your client is an active person who loves exercise, you could suggest a walk on the river trail. If they enjoy being outside, you could meet at a park.
Some hotels have areas that would serve well as meeting spaces, such as a restaurant, café, or lounge. Some even have meeting spaces or conferences rooms where you could host a bigger meeting if you’ll be talking to more than one person.
Before choosing this as a meeting place, make sure you check with the hotel you have in mind to see what they offer.
Rented Office Space
If you live in a bigger city, you likely have access to office spaces where you can rent by the hour or day. You may even consider paying rent at an office space to use it on a regular basis for client meetings.
This is a good option if your home office isn’t fit to have customer meetings for some reason. Search online for office space rentals to see if anything near you could fit the bill and work for this.
A Friend’s Office
If you don’t feel comfortable meeting clients in your home and don’t want to rent an office space, you could ask a friend to use their office space. If they’re a close friend, they may let you use the space for free, whereas an acquaintance might want some type of compensation.
This isn’t a place to meet your client, per se, but it is an avenue to use if you don’t have a place to meet in person or your client just lives far away. Ask them if they’d be comfortable setting up a time to chat on Skype, so you can discuss business.
As you can see, working from home comes with a whole list of new aspects to consider. As you get more comfortable with running your business, you’ll develop a strategy that you know works for you.