How to find customers online when you’re just starting your side hustle can be a struggle. Especially if you’re focused on serving those customers and have no spare time to find new ones.
The backbone of any successful side hustle business lies solely on the type of clients or customers you have. Whether you’ve got a few or a ton, you can’t have a successful business without your ideal target audience paying you for what you offer.
The trick is in finding quality customers who have ongoing work for you. Think of it like property. You can choose to invest in property and hold on to it for the long-term, or you can buy and sell properties for a profit (called ‘flipping’).
There are pros and cons to both options.
If you invest and hold onto your properties for the long-term, they tend to pay you bigger dividends.
In comparison, if you buy and sell properties for a profit, you’ll get immediate cash flow, but you’ll need to do the same again in order to maintain that cash flow.
Which one seems like more work to you?
There is really no right or wrong answer. It depends on what you’re wanting to do with your life…
Where do you see your business going in a few years? What are your long-term lifestyle goals? Where do you see yourself in a few years?
Once you’ve got those answers covered, then you can decide whether you’re playing the long game or the short game in terms of cash flow.
Regardless of which way you’re going, you still need to find quality clients or customers to work within your online business.
Read on to learn how to do this.
5 Steps to Finding Customers Online
Follow the steps below to find quality clients for your own freelancing business!
Step #1: Create an online resume
Did you know that your “normal” resume shouldn’t be the one that you use in your freelancing business?
The main reason for this is that when you’re applying for side hustle gigs, you’re typically only focusing on one specific skill set. So if you present your “normal” resume to a potential client, they are going to be somewhat overwhelmed and may be confused, particularly if your freelancing skill set is something that you’ve just started doing or are doing on the side.
Enter the online resume…
This type of resume allows you to create a specific online document that only showcases your freelancing skill set. Nothing more, nothing less.
They look like infographics, so are much easier to digest from a potential client’s perspective. They allow you to present information in way that represents your creative flair (if you want).
There are a lot of online resume builders. Most are powered by LinkedIn, so make sure that you’ve got this up-to-date. If you’d rather not use LinkedIn to power your resume, you can look at Pinterest examples and create your own from scratch.
Here’s a number of online resume builders (powered by LinkedIn or Social Media profiles) you can utilize to create your “infographic resume” right now:
If you want to create something from scratch or don’t wanna create it using your social media profiles or LinkedIn, there are a couple of other options you can access:
Present A Standout Resume
I found that using this type of resume in my side hustle business made me stand out from the freelancing crowd. And while it might not work for every skill, having a combination of a one-page resume and an infographic resume shows that you know how to present information in a way that is easy for your potential clients to digest.
There are different ways to present your credentials to prospective clients. In addition to an online resume, you could instead present them as part of your portfolio, or on the About Page on your website.
Just ensure it’s up to date and clearly highlights how amazing you are. Highlight any work that you’ve done in your side hustle with previous clients or anyone you worked with when you first got started (which also leads into your portfolio).
Step #2: Make sure your portfolio is up-to-date
I know a lot of freelancers think they don’t need a portfolio site, mainly because they feel that their particular skill base doesn’t require it.
I tend to disagree. As a potential client, I like to be able to quickly see what someone has done, so I can get a feel for their work.
That goes for whether the person I’m looking to work with is a virtual assistant, graphic designer, or social media consultant.
It’s important that you at least have something in place before you start applying for jobs on any online sites.
It’s one of the first things clients will ask to see and you should always include a link to your portfolio when putting forward your proposal, even if you have one on the site you’re applying through, like Upwork, where you would set up a portfolio specific to that site.
If you don’t have one, create one. Here are a few sites to help you do that if you’re not looking at working on sites like Upwork.com:
Bottom line: get something up, make it easily accessible and functional, and keep it up-to-date.
Step #3: Optimize your social media profiles
When it comes to social media profiles, as a freelancer, it’s important that you ensure that your online profiles are optimized the right way. If possible, you should have at least LinkedIn and Twitter profiles and maybe a Facebook page, Pinterest boards relevant to your niche and an Instagram account, depending on your business.
Remember to have email capture on your site and provide an amazing freebie for them to nab. What that freebie is will depend on the type of business that you’re running, but think about it from your client’s point of view.
What’s something that is a quick win for them? What is something that you can provide to make their life easier?
Then make sure you have a really good nurture sequence on the back end that funnels through into your different products or services. Because if they landed on your website, they are interested in knowing more. So make sure that you’ve got that automated and set up in the background.
Bottom line: make sure all your social media profiles are optimized with the same image and use the same verbiage. Make it easy for your customers to find you online. Try to use the same handle where possible and that they all lead back to your website.
Step #4: Check your business documentation
I’m talking about making sure you’ve contracts set up to deal with the type of work or services you’ll be providing as well as email templates for contacting prospective clients. You should also have a proposal template that allows you to modify to suit each client.
All of these things will allow you to find and work with clients faster.
Step #5: Apply for jobs!
Up until this point, we’ve just been getting things in place. Now it’s time to put things into action and start applying for jobs.
But not just any job and not just any client.
You want to make sure that you’re only working with quality clients from quality sites. Find sites where your ideal client and customer hangs out and posts jobs.
Below are the top 10 sites where I’ve found quality clients and quality jobs.
- Envato Studio
This is a mix of sites. It will work for some side hustlers and not others, depending on your skill base and niche. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer provide jobs for all types of skill sets, whereas sites like 99designs and Getacoder are more specific to graphic designers or computer programmers.
What Makes a Quality Client?
Once you land on these sites, there are a few things you should be looking out for in terms of finding a quality client:
- How long have they been on the site for?
- What is their rating and/or feedback from other freelancers?
- If you can see money spent, are they paying well or only looking for 'cheap' freelancers
- Are they payment verified? (note: this is only relevant to freelancing sites like Upwork, etc)
It goes without saying that if none of the above items are favourable, then you should walk away from the job or client. Don’t even waste your time applying. It will only lead to frustration and potentially unpaid work.
Only work with clients who you can see are quality, have basically got their shiz together. But also remember that you need only apply for jobs that are a really good fit for you and worth your time.
Bottom line: It’s not just about finding any random customer; it’s about how to find customers online that quality and the best match for you.
Check Out Your Potential Client
Don’t forget to check out their website. Do a bit of digging to see what you can find out about your customers’ online presence, too. They’ll be doing the same to you — stalk them on Google, check out their social media platforms, what are people saying about their business?
Approach it like you would any other job and you’ll always work with quality clients.
A word on communication: make sure that your communication with clients is clear and to the point. Ask questions if you’re not sure and clarify back to the client when they make a request, so that they can see that you’re understanding what they want (or clear things up if you aren’t). Communication is a key skill to have as a successful side hustler. Brush up on it if this is not your strong suit.
Taking action is the most important part. Do something with what you just learned in the five steps above. Make a plan and implement.
Do you have anything you’d like to add to this article? Have some further suggestions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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