It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. Luckily the reason is that I got a very good, long term client back in July and I have been very busy with that and with the writing of my book on iOS development. Today I want to talk about the easiest way to attract clients I have found so far, which is how I got my last client. As good as it sounds, keep in mind that it’s the easiest, but not necessarily easy by itself.
I have talked already in the past about the sales cycle and why a potential client has no reasons to trust you at the beginning. But a sales cycle takes a long time, during which your resources keep depleting if you cannot get more business. Is there a way to actually skip that part and get directly to the signing of the contract? Actually there is: referrals.
Referrals from a trusted person can take the place of a long sales cycle where you have to prove to your client that you are capable of delivering value for him. A good referral can do that in just a couple of minutes. When a potential client needs a service and asks for a recommendation to some friend or acquaintance he trusts, that trust is transferred to you and the effort you have to do to convince the client almost vanishes.
If I look back at my client history, all of them, except one, came from a referral of someone who knew me personally or worked with me in the past. That single exception was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Since I heard from an Android freelance friend that a client he had was also looking for an iOS developer. But that client was the key in landing me my current client and other prospects too, since the CEO of that company keeps referring me to anybody who needs an iOS developer.
As I said, this is not necessarily an easy task by itself. A genuine referral works because the person referring you is willing to put his credibility at stake. This means that you still have to earn that trust in the first place in some way. The person referring you does not need to be a previous client of yours, though, and there are steps you can take to make sure that a someone will recommend you at some point.
The first, most powerful kind of referral is the “self” referral, which is not really technically a referral and does not technically help you in getting new clients. This happens when someone who already worked with you in the past needs your service again. A lot of work for freelancers comes from recurring clients. But even if they know you already, you should not assume they will call you as soon as they will have a need.
Everybody is busy, so what is not immediately in sight gets forgotten. For this reason, you should never treat a finished project as completed and forget about it. Keep contact with previous clients to remind them of your presence and value. After a couple of months from the end of a project, pay them a visit to check the results of your work and take the occasion to give them some more valuable advice on how things could be improved.
That by itself could be enough to generate more work. But if it’s not, you can always ask your past clients if there is something you could help them with. Chances are that something is sitting around, but they are just not thinking about it at the moment. And while you are asking, don’t limit the question to just them. They might not have some work at the moment, but someone they know might. If you have delivered good work and they trust you, the simple act of asking might be enough to generate a referral from them.
All this obviously works only if you have already worked with someone (which, by the way, might even be your previous employer). Can you still get referrals otherwise? Yes. Referrals do not only come from people you have already worked with. Not all my referrals in the past came from previous clients, especially at the beginning when I was just starting freelancing. You don’t earn trust only by working for someone. Another way is to help people even if they are not paying you.
By this I’m not saying you should be working for free. But you can always give some valuable advice and help to people trying to do something related to your field. You participate in your community and give good advice to people you meet, thus earning their trust in your abilities. At some point they might need you. Even if they will never be a client of yours, they might know or meet someone who needs you. Some of the work I have done came from a recommendation from other freelance iOS developers like me that at that moment could not get some work because they were too busy.
Another way to earn trust is to establish yourself as an authority on your field of expertise. Many professionals have great skills but fail to advertise them. Speaking at conferences, blogging, writing a book, are all ways of doing it. That is why I am writing a book on iOS development (in addition to the money I hope to earn with it). As I wrote in my last post, content marketing helps to build trust.
In the end, if I look at my past, referrals are what really allowed me to stay afloat even if my marketing skills where terrible. I hope this can help you to get more work.