Managing the natural ebb and flow of work as a freelance WordPress developer takes some getting used to. Actually, all freelancers are faced with the same challenge; it’s just part of doing business. Eventually you become more comfortable with the process, but never 100% immune to the effects of not knowing where your next client will come from.
When you’re just starting out though, it’s a whole different ball game. It can feel like a new client is never coming your way. You might even find yourself doing funny things, like checking repeatedly to make sure your contact form is working. We’ve all been there.
So how are you supposed to know when you’re doing everything right and it’s just a matter of time until a new client lands in your lap? Or maybe there are a few things you could do differently to speed up the process? Or, maybe your contact form is broken? Kidding.
This article is for new and seasoned freelancers alike. We’re going to run through a few things that should be on your list of items to review any time you feel like the pressure to land a new client is mounting.
Perform an Honest Review of Your Effort
Sometimes we think we’re doing more work than we actually are. This is more of a problem with new developers than those who have some experience. And it’s not to say you’re not doing any work, it’s more that the work you’re doing provides little or no return on investment.
Things like re-designing your website or updating your social profiles are low ROI activities. If you spend some time looking at the sites of other freelancers, you’ll often find that they are out of date. Why is that? It’s because they’re busy doing client work. The freelancers who aren’t quite so busy? Their websites are always sporting a new design.
Now, if you find yourself with some spare time after a busy spell, maybe a website redesign is in order. What we’re talking about though is your feeling that you need to redesign your website instead of doing work that might actually generate some new clients.
The same goes for other areas of your business. Spending countless hours on social media probably won’t land any new clients. Nor will creating a new contract form or designing a business card. Those things may be important, but mostly they represent an excuse for avoiding what you should be doing.
So what should you be doing? Easy – you should be doing anything that increases your odds of landing your next project. Depending on your business that could mean a lot of different things. Maybe it’s going to a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting and introducing yourself toten local business owners. Maybe it means knocking on the doors of local businesses for an afternoon or sending out pitches to businesses owners with websites that still aren’t mobile friendly.
Performing an honest review of your effort means taking a close look at how you spend your time. If you’re doing “work” that is unlikely to generate a new client, maybe you’re not being 100% honest with yourself.
Consider keeping a journal to track your new client activity. You’ll know after just a few days whether you’re doing enough to deserve a new client.
Review Your Website Copy
However long your own website has been live, reviewing the copy is something you should do periodically. If you’ve recently launched your website, your copy will deserve more attention than if you’ve already been landing clients for the last 13 months. Regardless of how well written you feel your site is, maybe it’s time to experiment with some A/B testing?
As you’re reading through each page, ask yourself if it speaks to your audience. You know who your audience is, right? If not, as soon as you’re done here, take a read through this article to learn how you might benefit from targeting a specific niche.
Does your website copy offer a clear value proposition? If visitors to your site don’t have a clear vision of what you do within the first 15 seconds, it might be time to work on clarifying your message.
Review Your Pricing
In my experience, cheap pricing rarely equates to more clients. It certainly never equates to better clients. This can be a major issue for new WordPress developers who are determined to land their first few pieces of work.
You advertise inexpensive pricing thinking it will act as an incentive, but it never does. In fact, it’s a turn-off. Imagine a local plastic surgeons is looking for a developer to build their new website. If they are expecting to pay $10,000 for a semi-custom site, what do think will cross their mind when they find your site advertising custom WordPress development for $2,900? You guessed it – they’ll think they’re in the wrong place. Your local Porsche dealer doesn’t place a Hyundai front and center in his showroom.
Check your pricing. Make sure it’s competitive, but also relative to the value you provide. As a side note, if you’re displaying a portfolio on your website, make sure that what you’re displaying is congruent with the price you’re charging.
Connect With Previous Clients
This piece of advice is obviously more applicable to developers with an established clientele, but with that said, the first place you should look for new business when things are getting slow is your previous clients. Since you’ve already established a relationship with them, there is very little leg work to do.
Even if they don’t have any work for you today, something will come up eventually, or someone they associate with will ask for a referral. You want to be the first person they think of.
For new WordPress developers, this isn’t something to pass over just because you don’t yet have many clients. Have you thought about how you’ll keep in touch with clients once their project wraps up? Will you set up a monthly newsletter? What about providing an ongoing maintenance service?
Past clients can be an exceptionally good source of new business, especially if you build strong relationships and treat them well.
Implement a Content Marketing Strategy
Outbound is so 90s (that’s not entirely true – more on that in a few minutes). For now though, let’s talk about inbound marketing. You’re participating in inbound marketing right now – reading this article.
Inbound marketing is quite honestly a better, less irritating way of doing business. Although the results it generates will never be as quick as knocking on doors, you won’t have to face ten rejections before landing a new client either.
Content marketing involves producing great content that is designed to help your target audience. The hope is that over time your audience will get to know you better. The day may come where they need some help and – since they’ve been reading your useful content for the last six months – you’ll be in the running to land their business.
It’s still amazing how many small businesses don’t participate in content marketing. They’d rather run an ad in the local newspaper. If you’re performing any kind of advertising at all, I’d recommend making content marketing part of your strategy.
Implement an Outbound Marketing Strategy
Back to the 90s we go, but don’t worry, outbound isn’t quite dead. Just make sure you’re doing it properly. I realize I mentioned door knocking above, but don’t take that out of context. There’s a reason that ten people will slam the door in your face before you hear a single yes: The simple fact that people hate being sold to when they’re not ready to buy.
Outbound marketing today is focused on networking. Get away from your desk and become involved in the local business community – attend a local WordCamp or meetup, or join your local chamber of commerce. Establish yourself as the WordPress developer in your local community.
Make your outbound marketing the equivalent of face-to-face inbound. Be helpful, share your experience and knowledge without any expectation of receiving something in return. As you become more well known and respected, people will turn to you when they need help.
If there was only one tip I could provide when it comes to landing new clients it’s this.
I mentioned a natural ebb and flow that seems to be part of freelancing. There will be times when you have more projects on the go than you can handle. Then, a few months later, you might experience a drought. If you’re a new developer who is just getting started, maybe you’re still patiently waiting for your first client to come along. All of this is completely normal.
Whichever situation you find yourself in, the most important thing you can do is remain consistent in your approach. Make changes where warranted – things like pricing, website copy, and sales activity. Just make sure you take action each and every day that is likely to contribute towards the growth of your business. Avoid the ‘make busy’ work.
We’ve covered a few things you should be looking at or doing next time you’re having trouble landing new clients. Chances are though, you’re not actually having any trouble at all. It’s just the natural flow that occurs as you grow your business.
Over time the actions you take today, tomorrow, next week and next year will begin to compound. Before you know it you’ll find yourself with a steady stream of work and maybe even in a position to be turning away new business.
Have you ever found yourself in a dry spell, wondering where your next client will come from? What tactics did you try and were they effective for you? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: pixome / ShutterStock
Thanks for the great read! It is full of useful info and is spot on. There is no doubt is seems to getting harder and harder to find new clients. Years ago it seemed to be much easier to land new website jobs. These days there seems to be more people who are needing help trying to figure out how to build a solid mobile responsive website.
“Chances are though, you’re not actually having any trouble at all. It’s just the natural flow that occurs as you grow your business.” This doesn’t alleviate all those worries and butterflies in my stomach…but it does make them a little less busy 🙂 I’m glad to know that I’m not experiencing anything out of the ordinary!
Thank you for this post,
Excellent article. I love your points on evaluating best ROI. Your pricing advice is right on target too. Keep writing!
I have a different strategy on pricing. Letting my customers to determine. Basically I have a web design pricing tool here:
and I’m trying to sell sites between $300 and $30k. Do you think transparent pricing is a mistake in getting new clients?
Don’t just focus more on working harder but working smarter. You can spend hours in a day trying to land new clients that are not even in the realm of being interested, just working hard is no longer good enough. Doing research and knowing who your clients are are more important. Great article.
It’s always boom or bust. The key is just to start thinking a month out. Remember that last month’s leads are this month’s clients are next month’s food and rent!
Practical, sensible points, and yes indeed how many web site builders are hawking their $500 site deals about their local towns…I see them all the time. I think the largest point to make is identifying your market, if you try to accommodate everyone you will wind up not appealing to anyone. This is a mistake I have made and see others making (even when I know it is wrong!)
This for me is the crucial part of doing this work – targeting the right market for your type of services.
It’s been a few years since I’ve freelanced, did it for many years before taking a break. This article reminds me of what I used to do in the early 2000’s. It does work, now utilizing the responsiveness element, I will definitely be implementing what you mentioned.
I almost believe people use their iPads or iPhones before their laptop these days, I will be trying that approach and see what happens.
Thank you for the article!!
Oh the perils of finding new clients. Thanks for the reminder not to undercharge.
This was a good read. There’s definitely room for me to make outbound marketing efforts to attract more leads, as well as create better call to actions. And the problem with being consistent is that it is easier to do when you’re not busy, but very hard to keep up with when you are.
This was a nice reminder to stay on task. So does it send the wrong message to your potential clients if your website is “on point”? I am noticing it takes a lot of wiggling of content to get the right clients. Also with me it never fails, it’s always feast or famine.