Travel Tilt

How To Find (And Keep) Travelancing Clients

Before you can run off on an island excursion or spend a week completely unplugged somewhere truly remote, making sure you’ve got a long list of clientele in the pipeline is critical. Not only is it keeping your business afloat, it’s funding your lifestyle (especially the island excursions).

Finding clients can seem expensive and tricky and, if you overthink it, it can be. As an important precursor, you’ll need to build a portfolio that showcases your skills and abilities as a proof point to potential clients – this might not cost you anything, but it will take time. Once you’re able to provide examples of your work, there are some easy simple tactics you can used to get hired as a Travelancer.

1. Ask People You Already Know

Being a successful Travelancer means you give up your right to operate as a super-secret, undercover ninja. Whether you create logos, build websites, or coach people to reach their goals, get very comfortable with telling people what you do. This means more than letting it come up casually in conversation – directly ask people if they could use your help. If they’re not in the market for what you have to offer, ask them to inform other people. Word of mouth is by far the best – and cheapest – marketing you’ll ever get.

Here’s an example conversation starter: “Hi [insert fellow ninja’s name]. Thanks for meeting me. I wanted to speak with you because I’ve just finished building my portfolio and I was wondering if you needed any help with [insert ninja skill.] If not, I’d love your feedback on what I put together and to give you all the information you need to spread the word to other people in your network about what I’m doing.”

The people closest to you won’t mind helping out and will remember you when opportunities present themselves. Moreover, they’re often the first to give honest feedback, take a chance on you, and trust that you can get the job done.

If you’re trying to get your foot in the door, offer to complete a small free project or give them the “friends and family discount.” Personally, when my friends come to me with these types of requests, I’m more inclined to pay full price, since that’s what I believe they’re worth. I know they appreciate it far more than any money I’m saving.

2. Ask People You Meet

When you travel, you’ll inevitably befriend people – it’s almost impossible not to. Even if you’re a passive or introverted person (like me), striking up conversations with other travelers on tours, in the hotel lounge, or even at the local pub can feel almost organic. It’s important to remember – these people want to talk to you. Building a global network of friends and colleagues is a dream for most travelers. Share your story with them: why you are traveling and how you’re working to fund it through Travelancing.

Chances are good that they’ll be genuinely interested in what you’ve been able to do and might even want your advice about doing it themselves! Don’t be afraid to ask them for a favor or to introduce you to anyone that could use your help. I’ve learned that most people find satisfaction in helping others, especially when it comes to connecting two people whose needs align.

Protip: Print out a handful of business cards for these conversations so you have something for them to keep that looks legitimate.

3. Ask/Upsell Old Clients

Unless you’ve burnt your bridges, old (historically happy) clients are a great way to find new projects. This starts with ensuring you keep the relationship alive – before ever asking for their help. Sending a few brief emails before making any type of request can go a long way – reminiscing about an old project or even sending along a link to an article you think they’d enjoy. When you do feel comfortable asking if you can be of service to them, or anyone else they know, include the following:

Protip:  Suggest an additional service that they might need or haven’t thought of yet – something specific to the current needs of their clients or their business.

4. Apply to Projects Online

This is certainly not the glamorous part of the gig. Nor is it a quick, easy, or self-esteem building activity. If you’ve never bid on projects on sites like Upwork (formerly Elance & Olark) or other project marketplaces, prepare your soul for almost certain rejection. With that being said, applying for projects online is a huge opportunity to secure income without ever having to take a client meeting.

Approach this like a salesman approaches their pipeline – you need a lot of irons in the fire to be successful here. But once you’ve closed a few you can find ways get better at closing faster and more often. Be patient. Be diligent.

This online market is extremely competitive – there are thousands of other freelancers and agencies who will try to underbid you in an attempt to win more business. But, if you can move quickly on new projects and really impress clients with proposals that meet their budget restraints and project criteria, you’ll have a much better shot at winning projects online.

The most creative way I’ve used to stand out among my competition is to create a video proposal – a quick video message explaining who I am, what I do, and why I’m a good fit for this specific client. By the time I write a short script, shoot a few takes with my laptop’s webcam, and upload to YouTube, I usually have about 30 minutes into each video – but a big leg up on my competition.

Protip: Read the fine print of a client’s profile before applying to their job. Have they hired before? If so, for what jobs? Where are their past freelancers located? Do they hire the same person again and again? Make a spreadsheet as you start applying and see if there are trends. For example, if a particular client has always hired web developers from India (and that’s not you) then your time might be better spent applying to other projects.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Commit to spending at least an hour every day searching for jobs, bidding on them, and really honing your skills for writing a proposal that will stand out. Be casual, be personable, and try to leave an impression.

5. Get Involved in Online Groups

Online communities are an ideal environment to land clients. Not only do users actively post about problems and pain points, but you can directly respond. I’ve often offered discounted services for group members or asked for genuine feedback on my portfolio as ways to draw attention to what I’m offering. Do be careful about being too sales-oriented – this runs you the risk of getting banned from the group.

Try searching for groups in your niche or even groups for the sole purpose of connecting clients and freelancers. Great places to start include:

Social Networks

Search for your industry or your ideal niche (ex. Travel Blogging) and join a few groups in your favorite social networks. Start commenting on other people’s posts and engage with people one-on-one. For complex Q&As, invite users to continue the conversation via e-mail or direct message (so as not to bother everyone else).

Slack

Slack is one of the fastest growing team messaging apps available. Not only can you use it for your own team, but you can join larger communities as well (like Traffic1M or Launch) which have thousands of members. Jump in, join relevant channels, and start chatting with people right away.

Forums

Forums are home to millions of useful discussion threads that typically revolve around solving someone’s problem or discussing a topic. This group type is a great way to be proactive – not only do they boast large audiences, but many allow users to post their own threads.

Protip: Interact with the group before ever asking for client work. If you can show that you provide genuine value and enthusiasm for the topic, people will be more likely to trust you.

6. Build a Profile on a Task Site

The flip side of bidding on projects is to set up a productized service on a site like Fiverr or Taskrabbit. Essentially, you can put up a digital billboard (“I’ll design you a logo for $5.”) and the clients will actually come to you. You also have the ability to create upsell packages like accelerated delivery or multiple iterations so you’re not only selling $5 tasks.

This may require you to start passing you current clients through sites like this in order to build up a positive history and rating. Once the ball gets rolling, and traffic starts being driven to your page, you’ll appear in the top of search and category results for your specific skill or service. You may even need to hire someone to help you with your tasks!

7. Create Content

Creating valuable content is an excellent way to position yourself as an expert at what you do. Keep in mind – this is more of a long play, but, if you’re dedicated to thought leadership, it might help you land larger clients. If you can say to a potential customer “Hey, I wrote an Ebook about your problem,” or ” you should check out this infographic I created,” they’ll be impressed.

Create blog posts, videos, slideshows, ebooks, and infographics and share them everywhere. If you’re actively creating quality content that’s timely, you’ll see movement in no time.

Get Started Today

There is never a time when you should stop your search for clients while Travelancing. Client work comes and goes, so it’s important to diversify your efforts to find work – don’t rely on one method. Is your head swimming? We’d love to help you iron out a plan for your Travelancing future.

In the meantime, check out these great resources: