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Creative Ways to Find New Freelance Clients

Ask a marketing guru how you can land more freelance clients and you’ll hear the same thing again and again: get referrals, build a website, pay for ads, do some networking, etc., etc. Like we aren’t doing all of that already. Some people though are acting a little smarter. They’re not just telling clients that they’re creative, they’re showing off their creativity with some out-of-the-box marketing ideas. They’re skipping past the conventional marketing strategies to create new channels, produce innovative ideas, and generate messages that prove their value. It’s the kind of thing that can quickly turn an empty schedule into a bursting calendar — and it’s fun too.

Here are five creative ways to land new clients that will have you wondering why you didn’t think of them yourself.

1. Share Your Love

David Airey is a brand identity designer with clients around the world. He writes two monthly blogs about graphic design that bring in more than 250,000 visitors and generate around a million monthly views. He also pitches for work on his site, inviting clients to contact him to talk about a project. So far so routine — even it’s been done unusually well. But David has also turned the content on his blog into a book. If Amazon’s sales ranks are anything to go by, it’s selling reasonably well but that’s not the point.

The point is that as the author of a book about branding, David looks like an expert. He also has something to give to clients that’s more interesting than a portfolio. But most important of all, his book shows that he’s passionate about his subject. There are a lot of good designers around but only a few have bothered to put that passion on the page and get it published — or even to publish it themselves. David’s book helps him to win clients not just by showing what he knows about his subject but by proving how much he cares about making his subject work for his clients.

2. Sell Stuff

David Airey’s book is for sale but the only people who will see it being used are the people reading it. Retail stores have long boxed a little cleverer than that. Buy a shirt in your local mall and it will be placed in a giant bag emblazoned with the company’s logo. As you stroll around the streets, you’ll have paid to become the store’s walking billboard. That might not have been the idea behind designer Chuck Anderson’s t-shirts but it could well be part of the effect (especially the design that incorporates the name of his website.)

It’s true that only a tiny portion of the people who see the t-shirts are likely to be leads, but make the products good enough and people will talk about them. Even if the profits on the sales are small, the buzz generated by the desire to own really cool items can be loud enough for clients to hear.

3. Brand an iPhone Game

Advertising companies weren’t slow to spot the sticky quality and mass appeal of iPhone games, creating apps for Dr. Pepper, Ford and even deodorant product, Axe. Few have been successful. Created on the cheap and sometimes with little connection to the brand, they failed to compete against the tens of thousands of other games available in the store. One game that has done well though is Waterslide Extreme. Based on a television ad for Barclaycard in which an office worker travels home by waterslide, shopping with his credit card without breaking his journey, the game generated more than four million downloads.

According to Advertising Age, an industry newspaper, there are rules to creating a successful branded app. The game has to be good; it has to be linked with the service it advertises; and it has to be marketed. But if you can come up with a game idea related to your work, you could be putting your name in the hands of clients around the world.

4. Challenge the World to Beat You

When something as creative as an iPhone game does well, it’s not just the client who benefits. The firm that came up with the idea, produced the product and pushed it to the top of the charts also gets an opportunity to show people what it can do. It was an opportunity not missed by Dare, the digital marketing agency behind Waterslide Extreme.

They set up a YouTube channel and challenged the public to create their own version of the ad. It was a competition that benefitted the client, who got more publicity for their brand, but it also benefitted Dare which was closely associated with the competition. Views of the top entrants totaled over 1.5 million and picked up over 1,000 comments.

Whenever you do something amazing, you can be sure that people will want to beat you. Give them a way to try and you’ll show that you’re confident, talented — and available.

5. Kill Santa

Or someone like him, because Mettiamoci Latesta, an Italian campaign to encourage businesses not to cut their advertising budgets has already beheaded him. The image, showing a decapitated Father Christmas, complete with bloodied beard, a tag marked “Claus, Santa, Dream Developer” and the slogan “Don’t cut a dream” was intended to shock. It took the idea of cuts and pushed it to an extreme to create an image that was eye-catching, creative and unforgettable.

As a strategy, shock is difficult to implement and each success raises the bar higher for the next campaign. But when you can make an idea related to your business look like a life-or-death issue, you’ll get noticed. And that notice should translate into new business.

There are lots of ways to win new clients, strategies that go beyond playing with AdWords keywords and posting updates on Twitter. The more creative you can make your client-winning approaches, the further your message will reach. And as you’re stretching to reach them, the effort alone will show that you’re worth hiring.

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