Finding Clients as a Freelancer

Researching & Finding Potential Clients

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Finding Clients as a Freelancer

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The "Researching & Finding Potential Clients" Lesson is part of the full, Finding Clients as a Freelancer course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul recommends creating a list of influencers and a list of potential clients within a sector. Influencers will help discover new connections within the sector. The list of potential clients helps narrow the search when establishing a point of contact. LinkedIn is a useful tool for identifying the best possible contacts within an organization.


Transcript from the "Researching & Finding Potential Clients" Lesson

>> Research your sector and pick a winner. How do we do that, okay? Now, I'm gonna be honest, this is the most boring part, right? It involves Excel spreadsheets, okay? This is not gonna be fun people, but buckle in, we'll try and keep it to a minimum, and this is worth doing, right?

I promise you this is worth doing. We're going to basically create two lists, okay? So you've got a sector in your head that you think is approximately right. And we're going to give it a go or maybe you've got three sectors that you're not sure about. So we could do this exercise for all three, so for each of your sectors, you wanna create two lists.

The first list is influencers and I want just to write individuals and I don't like using the word influencers, cuz it sounds so frigging pretentious. But I can't think of a better word. So individuals, events, blogs, communities, membership organizations, that last one is a doozy actually. These membership organizations, cuz they list all their members on their site, and that's invaluable for kind of seeing who's in the sector.

So look for all of those online, right? So you wanna collect a basically, the name of all of these people and their URLs, okay? Then you wanna create a separate list, which is a list of perspective clients that you'd like to work with within the sector, dream dreams.

Who would you like to work with within that particular sector and again, write a company name down, URL down, easy peasy. Just a quick reminder of what we want to know about the sectors that we're considering. We wanna know what conferences they do. Do they have small scale meetups?

Do they have on and offline publications? Are there mailing lists or forums? Can you find any influences? So as you're compiling the list, bear all of that in mind, right? Now, once you've done that, you now looking for some of the key players within the sector, right? So those might be individuals, or publications or that that kind of thing.

So how do you find that that influencer list, if that makes sense. Well, I mean, obviously, you can just Google it, but also talk to any contacts you've got in the sector already, right? If you've got existing clients in the sector, talk to them, right? Ask what publications they read, what events they attend and what communities they participate in.

So that will help start off your influencer list, right? Then you can turn to search, right? Search for your sector combined with words like conference meetup, members, organizations, blogs, that kind of thing, right? So you might go, I don't know university conferences, university blogs, that kind of thing.

Also, when you do those searches pay attention to who's advertising on that those keywords, because those are people that have got money. And so add them to your list as well, right? Another technique, now, this is somebody asked about LinkedIn earlier and how I use LinkedIn. One of my favorite ways of using LinkedIn as a research tool, right?

Everybody seems to focus on I'm going to spam LinkedIn with social media updates and whatever. Okay, fair enough, there is a place for that, I'm not, dismissing that and we'll actually come on to that later. But actually, it's more valuable as a research tool to actually search on the sector that you're after and see who comes up.

What people come up. So I use social a lot, not just LinkedIn, either Twitter to find influencers, companies, membership organizations, and other groups and sector, social can be really, really good for that. Okay, so that's how you find your influencers and fill out that list. Then you've got to find some prospective clients that maybe you'd like to work with.

So I would aim to identify about 30 to 50 specific organizations that you'd like to work with within the sector. So it doesn't need to be an enormous number, but it needs to be a significant number. Start with companies you already know, and like and would really like to work with.

So there might be, let's say you were targeting environmental charities. You might really wanna work with Greenpeace, great, put them down, no problem. Then I would suggest you add any recommendations for personal contacts. So if you've got somebody already within the sector, ask him who else is worth working with or worth reaching out to, inclued them.

And any connections you've already got on LinkedIn, it's surprising what like not maybe direct contacts you've got. But second or third degree contacts to various companies within the sector you're after, great, include those. And then turn to Google search for the rest to bulk out the rest of the list, right?

So what we've ended up with then just to recap is our two lists. Each list has got company name, or blog name, or influence and a URL, okay? So influences list, client list, that's not enough in itself, right? We need to be able to identify the initial contact point, who are we going to reach out to within these organizations?

Right, you've got your two lists, but we need specific people we can contact within these organizations, okay? So you can make an educated guess about the role of the person that you want to contact based on what services you offer, right? So in my case, I'm looking for customer service director, marketing director, head of digital, people like that, right?

If you're more development focused, it might be the head of IT. It might be head of analytics, or data management or that kind of thing, right? So ideally, we want to kind of connect with a very specific person in the company rather than just using their generic contact address, right?

Because that will go through to some kind of customer service team and that's not really gonna help us very much, we need a specific person. So we need to identify the role that that of that person and we need to make an educated guess about that. Now, the role will be very much dependent upon the organization sallies as well as, who you're trying to reach.

So their size or structure in their sector. So for example, in smaller companies, you might go for the founder, right? Cuz that's gonna be the key decision maker in most places. If it's a single product company, then if you offer design any kind of services or web services, you're probably gonna want to talk to a digital lead or head of marketing.

If it's more developing services, probably gonna be the head of IT or like I said, data management. Now, for multiple product companies, it gets a lot more complicated, right? So if you're trying to target Nestle that you've got like dozens and dozens of companies. You're gonna need to pick particular brand names that you go for and do it that way.

I would avoid that to begin with until you get a bit slicker at this, because it turns into a nightmare. If you don't know what you're doing. So we kind of got a roll, we got the company. Now, we find the right name, we've got to find a person here.

Well, once again, that's where LinkedIn comes in, right? Once we know the role of the person that we wanna contact and we've got their company information, it's as simple as a LinkedIn search. Most of the time that will get you where you need to be. Alternatively, you can search on the company website.

They often list senior members of management on their website or via Google, right? So you search head of marketing, or director of marketing, or marketing leads and different combinations till you get to the kind of person you're after. If you can't find a name, that's okay, reach out to somebody within the same company and ask them.

I'm trying to work out who the head of marketing is. It's surprising how helpful people are as long as you say, I'm trying to contact the head of marketing. Because I'm running a research project, you don't say, because I want to sell some shit, right? And, of course, then you can't sell stuff, you do need to be honest about it.

Failing that, try emailing the catch all email address and asking them. So most companies will have a inquiries at whatever. You can drop them an email, although, they tend to be pretty more cautious about handing out people's contact information. Alternatively, just give up and try another role or another company, don't beat yourself up over, it's not really worth it.

So we're getting there now. We've identified our companies or our influences, cuz this approach applies to both. We've identified the role that we wanna reach out to in each case. I found the name of the person, so now, it comes to actually contacting them. And so we wanna contact of their email, how do we get their email address?

Okay, there's a couple of ways, right? You could make a guess of their email address, by looking at email address of anybody else in the company and extrapolating it, right? It's really, really simple, because if it's formatted first name dot last name, then you're good to go, you could even validate that.

There's a tool called Email hippo, there'll be a link in the slides to that, where you can actually go in and validate that it's real email address which is great. The tool the way that I only do it is slightly different to say, cuz it saves me time.

I use a page tool, I got it for a one off payment, I think of $35 and some deal that they were doing. Where you can look up, it kind of looks up email addresses for you and works out what they are. It's called, that said, increasingly, I'm just using LinkedIn.

Instead of using email, I reach out to people via LinkedIn instead. Now, you will have to sign up for their kind of paid service to do that. Because LinkedIn, unless, you've got already a contact with the person, they don't let you send a direct message to them. Although, sometimes I've just sent a connection request and put in the connection request.

I'm working on a research piece and I'd love your feedback, and see what happens. So you don't necessarily, and LinkedIn is just a great way. I find people very approachable over LinkedIn, almost better than email in some cases these days. So there's a little bit about defining your audience and how we're gonna contact the audience.

I'm gonna talk you through the specifics of contacting them in a minute. But that kind of gives you the how we get the list part. So let's just recap that, and then we'll do any questions about that before we move on. So you got research sector, you're looking for a sector which has got cultural sharing and interaction.

You wanna create a list of companies that you'd like to work for and influences within that sector. Then you wanna identify the role within the organization that you should be contacting. Find the name of the person with that role via LinkedIn, via Google search, etc. And find their email address or LinkedIn profile, and contact them that way.

So at the end of all that, you're gonna end up with a spreadsheet with company name, company URL, role, person's name, person's email or LinkedIn profile. That's the boring bit done, any questions about that? Incredibly painful and boring, and process that you've got to go through. By the way you only have to do that probably every three years.

So [LAUGH] it's not gonna be an ongoing one. Anything from the chat room or from you guys?
>> Do you use any other paid services that help you with the lead like databases or?
>> Yeah, there are many paid services that help with a lot of this stuff, but to be honest, I don't like a lot of them.

A lot of them are really designed about, okay, we're gonna harvest a load of email addresses and spam them. So they're not designed for this very targeted approach of these specific individuals I wanna reach out to on a personal basis. And I feel that considering the kind of services we offer in the way that we operate and the level in which we operate.

That kind of, it doesn't work in any way I think is yucky and horrible. So no.
>> And those conferences that you go to.
>> Yeah.
>> Okay, so your plan is to be a speaker not to get a booth, that's.
>> It's not off the table a booth, I don't favor that.

Because I'm tight, I don't like paying money, if I can be somewhere for free. But at the moment, you almost don't need to worry about is web where we're in this process. You're not even necessarily thinking about I'm gonna attend these events, or speak at them or doing a booth, we just need to know what they are.

>> Just go to them and get information and-
>> Get, all we need at the moment, yeah.
>> Find the leads.
>> Yeah, we're very early stage, we can worry about that when we get to the grow your list bit which will be later on.

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