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The Twitter-Based Client-Hunting Tricks You’re Missing

LinkedIn connects you to jobs, Facebook connects you to the people you know and Twitter connects you to the people you want to know — the people who need a writer, a designer, or a freelancer programmer, for example. All you have to do is follow people who look like they might need the services you provide and, as soon as they’re ready, they’ll drop you a line and ask you to pitch. In practice, it rarely works out that way. If it did, Twellow, a Twitter directory, would list more than 4,572 freelancers, a fraction of the nearly 600,000 individuals and businesses listed on Elance. And yet, attraction-based marketing and Twitter do go together, giving freelancers an opportunity to land gigs, and helping clients to find service providers who already fill them with confidence. Here’s how to do it.

Start by Searching Smart

The key to making attraction-based marketing work on Twitter is to identify the right people looking for the right sorts of services and persuade them to like you.

That first step used to be fairly difficult and Twitter still depends to a large extent on organic growth. Users follow their friends on Facebook but on Twitter, they follow strangers after seeing a retweet or a reply or after spotting a button on a company website.

Twitter’s search engine though does have an Advanced Search feature that allows you to finely target the people you’d like to meet. Forget the search box at the top of the page, which is only good for Boolean-trained librarians and looking for hashtags, and surf to Twitter.com/search-advanced.

The page is divided into three sections: words, people and places. Focus on the first section:

You want to use this section to look for professional questions. Think of it as a chance to stand out on Twitter in the same way that some experts can stand out as “top answerers” on Quora. Because they’re willing to lend a hand, they get a chance to show off their knowledge. They also get to start a relationship with potential new clients by giving those leads professional help for free.

Land the Client by Offering Help

That’s the kind of start that’s going give the freelancer a huge advantage when the lead is ready to hire.

  • In the field marked “All of these words,” enter a keyword related your services.
  • In the field marked “This exact phrase,” enter “How do I”.

For example if you were a designer looking for clients you might do a search for “How do I” and add “logos,” “web page,” “brochure,” or “design.”

At the bottom of the page is a checkbox that lets you search for a question. It actually searches for a question mark in the tweet, which isn’t quite the same thing. It looks like a useful shortcut but actually, it will just cut out the punctuation-challenged. They might not have been great at English class but they might have made for high-paying clients. Leave it unchecked.

Hit “Search” and you should see a list of all the tweets made in the last couple of weeks by people looking for the sort of specialist knowledge you possess.

Not all of the responses will be relevant. But in between the questions from people who want to put the logo from their favorite band on their ripped CDs will be questions about inserting logos into emails, turning them into a brand or creating a logo from scratch. It won’t take more than a minute to hit the Follow button and send back an answer.

You won’t be making a pitch with your answer nor will you be trying to persuade people to hire you or point out that you can create their logo for them for a very competitive fee. The engagement, retention and desire to buy should come from a timeline filled with interesting, relevant tweets, a growing relationship — and a prominent link on your bio.

Before you answer though, click the cog icon on the right. You’ll be shown a drop-down menu that includes the option to save the search.

Once you’ve done that, it will only take a minute to repeat it, throw out some more answers and show off your skills to more people interested in logos, ebooks, websites or whatever it is you produce.

That’s not all that Twitter’s Advanced Search can offer though. The People fields can be useful for tracking specific conversations with people you’re already following or comments they’re receiving but they’ll be fairly unhelpful for freelancers looking for clients. A quick check of the timeline of someone relevant will show you who they consider important.

The “Places” field will be vital if you need to meet your clients face-to-face. That’s not important for every freelancer but being local can be an advantage. Even if freelancers like to telecommute, not all clients are comfortable conducting every discussion by telephone and email.

There are other ways to use Twitter to find freelance clients, of course. One Twitter usage that seems to come up again and again is that of a kind of professional clubhouse: freelancers working alone are able to swap tips and suggestions with other freelancers. Sometimes those connections do blossom into opportunities for mutual marketing. A wedding photographer and a wedding planner from the same town who meet on Twitter might agree to recommend each other, for example.

A simple search for “freelance job” will throw out several requests an hour. (Although those offers are always going to be hugely competitive and win lots of responses.)

In general, the best strategy for finding clients on Twitter isn’t to look for opportunities. When they turn up there will be too many people running after them. It’s to make sure that you’re the most obvious choice and the first freelancer a lead thinks of when an opportunity opens.

You can do that by:

  1. Finding people who have shown that they lack the knowledge you possess — and need it;
  2. And by offering a sample of your specialist knowledge for free so that they know that your professional advice will be worth the money.

Get that combination right and you should be picking up clients on Twitter.

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