It is painful to keep bidding with no work. It hurts when online job boards run dry. It demoralizing when you log in to your favorite online freelancing website but there are no jobs on the queue. Or the few jobs that you can see give you instant headache since you clearly are unable to do them.
While you’re fumbling online looking for the best online work platforms to work on, some people are busy being given direct work and payments by clients.
A direct client (DC) is a person who hires you without the use of a freelancing website. Therefore you discuss with the client directly, and not through Upwork, SpeechPad, iWriter etc. Once you do the job, the client pays directly to your MPESA, PayPal, Skrill, Payoneer, bank account or via any other agreed method.
Direct clients pay way better and in most cases have an almost zero rejection rate.
This is because by the time they decide it’s Walter who will work on the job, they have vetted Walter as much as they can. The more they approve Walter’s work, the easier it is for Walter to handle their assignments and the more they establish a good working relationship.
DCs also tend to be long-term. If you do a good job for one they can retain you for years!
A few things to note before we go on (if you forget these, don’t say you were never told):
- You must be able to provide quality in your field of online work
- It is not wrong to be part of a freelancing website. It’s good to mix up websites and direct clients. As I always say, have multiple sources of income.
- Be more cautious when working for direct clients since in case of any disagreement, there is no site that can mediate. Therefore consider things like charging them higher to cover the risk, asking for deposits (50 to 100%) before working, establishing POD (pay on delivery) models or asking them to pay more frequently (daily or weekly) to minimize risks.
So, with that out of the way, how do you get direct clients?
1. Friends and family
This is the most basic way of getting local clients.
It is as simple as it sounds. As much as it may not get you so many clients, you can actually get some few jobs to start with.
Below is how you can reach your friends and family:
- Subscribe to one of those cheap SMS bundles on your preferred mobile phone network. Send a text message to your entire phonebook. Yes, everyone on that contact list, even your grandfather :). Tell them that you can offer a certain service e.g. article writing, graphic design, transcription etc – whatever service you are confident you can provide quality in.
- Do the same thing on WhatsApp.
- Go to Facebook and create a status update informing your friends that you offer a certain service. Tag anyone relevant in your field. For example if you are a writer, you can feel free to tag other writers, web designers and graphic designers. This is because sometimes these professions cross paths i.e. when one is doing web design, his client may ask him for a good content creator or graphic designer. And that’s where you come in.
- Do the same thing via an email to friends and family all over the world.
- Whenever someone gives you a job, do it well and ask for feedback. If they’re happy with your work, tell them to refer you to their friends and colleagues.
I have written for many local clients who are actually my personal friends and family. They simply know that whenever someone in their office needs a writer, the number to call is mine – 0720754933 – or my email firstname.lastname@example.org!
2. Freelancing sites
One point to note is that this method is not approved by most freelancing websites. If found doing this, your membership in the site may be suspended or even completely terminated. Do it at your own risk.
Despite the above, in my personal experience, most freelancers all over the world get DCs from freelancing sites. Below is how they do it:
- Join a good freelancing site. These include Upwork, Freelancer, iWriter and Fiverr among others.
- Provide top quality services
- Some clients will give you their email addresses and ask you to contact them outside after the job is done and paid for. Those who ask the above before they’ve even seen your work are mere scammers.
- If your conscience allows you, contact those who you’ve worked for through the emails they provided but be cautious as stated above.
- Don’t work for them outside unless they are willing to give a deposit, pay frequently (if possible daily) and feel free to increase your charges to cover for the risk.
- Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable in any way to work outside, decline and continue working within the sites. It’s safer that way anyway.
- Don’t tell the clients to hire you outside, let them tell you instead. If no one asks, just use the other methods in this blog post. No need to lose a client because you want to earn a few more bucks.
- If you’ve used your username elsewhere, some clients may actually search for you online and contact you outside. That has happened to me once. An iWriter client googled my username, got my contacts all over the net and contacted me. However we were unable to strike a deal outside (I’m strict with my “outside rules”) so we continued on iWriter.
Through freelancing websites, I have been able to get some good direct clients who pay well.
Some have stuck around for years and become close friends.
I have also got some bad clients who delayed with payments. When I was a newbie I got two who ran away with my money. After I created the above rules, I rarely lose money with DCs.
I also once earned 150 dollars from this simple contest. The client hired me in Fiverr, gave me a writing job, paid me for it and asked me to submit it into the contest. I participated in the traffic contest and won $150! That’s a whopping $150 (plus the $5 I got from Fiverr) for a simple, 500 word article.
This is an awesome way to get direct clients!
It is not easy to rank a blog.
It takes a lot of time and patience but compared to all the methods highlighted here, it can get you some of the highest paying clients. Simply follow these steps:
- Create a blog that talks about your area of online freelancing e.g. writing, graphic design, transcription or academic writing
- Research on the pain points of your clients. What pains them most? Who would they like to hire? What makes them cry? What makes them smile? Write mostly about these things.
- Check out different forums to see what potential clients are mostly talking about and write about it
- Always provide solutions to your clients through your writing
- If the aim of your blog is to get clients, then don’t over-highlight your own pains as a freelancer. Clients’ main aim is to have their problems solved. Not yours.
- Check out blogs targeted towards freelancing clients and get content ideas
- Have a services page where you highlight your services – all of which solve the problems the clients have
If you don’t know how to create a blog, simply sign up here and I’ll give you a free blogging eBook that will teach you step by step how to do it.
Through this blog, I have gotten some of the best ever international clients. To highlight two of the best, one paid me $100 per 500 words article for a one-off project (just that one article). Many have paid me $50 per article. Another long-term client pays me over $30 per 500 words while many others have paid me $50-150 for very simple marketing tasks. All reached out to me after reading this blog.
4. Social media
You can use social media to get freelance clients.
I have already mentioned above how you can take advantage of your own social media platforms to turn a percentage of your friends and family to clients.
You can also use social media to get clients who are not friends or family. Below are some pointers:
- Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups that have freelancers (they are so many nowadays)
- Feel free to ask questions on the group wall
- Answer as many questions as you can on the wall
- Learn from the existing wall posts
- It’s social media so whenever jokes are posted feel free to participate and make merry
- Once you’re well known to the group, you can feel free to post that you are looking for online jobs in your niche
- You will also see other people who are looking for freelancers. Apply for their jobs.
- Before you accept any offer from a Facebook group, ask the group admins and other trusted members whether the client is trustworthy (people get conned everyday in groups)
- Once you’re sure the employers are legitimate, go ahead and do a good job
- As usual once a job is approved ask the client to refer you to their friends
- Make sure you have a smashing LinkedIn profile since international clients love checking that out
- “Like” social media pages that talk about freelancing and inbox them asking for job offers
- Don’t confine yourself to local groups, also join international groups and pages and you can get clients there too
- Also don’t confine yourself to existing groups, you can create your own. I created one of the first Kenyan transcribers Facebook groups and this has helped bring in lots of business to me and its members.
I have heard of many who have gotten long-term clients straight from social media groups and pages. You never know, this may be your jackpot. Try it out now and see how it goes.
There are so many forums in the world. Some are very active with lots of hits per day. They are excellent sources of direct clients.
- Join a good forum that either generally talks about business or that is narrowed down to online business
- Some of the forums I’ve joined and gotten clients from include Wazua, Affilorama, Essaylancer and Warrior Forum.
- All forums have rules. Read them!
- Ask questions, answer questions, crack jokes, inform etc. to establish your presence in the forums
- In forums that allow you to advertise your services, advertise yours
- In those that allow you to put a link to your services, put a link to yours as a forum signature. Remember to have a small description either as anchor text to your link or right before the link.
6. Partner with others
Are you an established freelancer? Do you offer exceptional services? Then it may be time to partner up with someone else. Form networks with other freelancers who do different online jobs. When you hear something they can do, freely pass on the job to them. They will most likely do the same to you.
You can also find an established online freelancer who already has a huge market then read carefully below:
- Don’t just send an email and say you want to partner with a successful person, they’ll ignore it
- Offer a benefit. At the end of the day, people only buy benefits. Therefore create an arrangement that will mutually benefit you both.
Yeah, just those two points. I’ll give you two examples.
Timothy Maina talked to me at some point. He was living in the States and he wanted to do a smashing seminar in Kenya on how one can establish a thriving online business as a side-hustle. He gave me the following benefits:
- I was to market his seminar on my blog and emails
- I would attend the seminar, have time to talk about online business and market my products
- I would learn his in-depth tips on internet marketing
- I would get a commission on all attendees I referred
- I would get a commission on all those who bought his side hustle training, even long after his seminar.
This was a great mutual arrangement which I quickly endorsed, marketed and earned from.
John Wafula (fictitious name to protect his privacy), a friend of mine, keeps calling asking for a partnership to establish a writing business. I am to use my blog and mails, use my resources, use my money etc. to contribute towards this. After we get the company rolling, we share with him a 50/50 percentage.
I have already personally helped him establish an entire online business where he makes money from. I never earn from what I established for him freely (and I don’t really want to, I helped as a friend).
However, the fact that he keeps calling asking for things and not giving, I am mostly inclined to decline his offers, since they are not really mutual-benefit arrangements.
Partnerships can help you get lots of lasting direct clients. I have a perfect partnership with a friend where I get direct clients and she helps get the labor and we split the income. You can also make such lifetime mutual benefit arrangements.
Just ensure that you are not a leech, pest or parasite to whoever you want to benefit from.
Don’t get me wrong, it is always great to give free business advice and help. I do it all the time 🙂
However, there are limits as to what one can do for you for free.
It does feel great to get a great direct client in online freelancing, especially the ones who give constant jobs, pay daily and refer you to their friends. Make sure you remember the safety tips since it is so painful to be conned by a client after working hard. On your side, remember to always provide quality work and remain professional so that you can keep them flowing. Keep searching online for more tips. Feel free to add, subtract, ask, criticize or compliment these tips on the comments section below.