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How to Find Freelance Clients on Twitter

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This post is part of a series called Twitter for Freelancers.
Tracking and Understanding Your Twitter Metrics
Using Twitter for Freelance Business Research

I've often heard freelancers say "I don't use Twitter for marketing". That's like saying you don't use networking events to meet people (Well, perhaps you enjoy the free food, but really?).

Like it or not, if you're on Twitter, you use it for marketing. Twitter is a public platform, and potential clients will look at your Twitter account when they're deciding whether to hire you. More importantly, Twitter is about building relationships and networking, which is a form of marketing.

In this article, I show you how to pro-actively use Twitter as a marketing tool, both to search out freelance gigs and to reach out to contacts who could become clients.

Twitter Marketing Health Check

Before you start using Twitter to reach out to clients, you should check you're doing the basics right. At minimum, you must:

  • Fill out your Twitter biography and upload a photo of yourself. In your Twitter bio, you should let people know how you can help them. If you're on the look-out for new clients, state that in your bio too.
  • Keep your updates clean and professional. It's good to give people a glimpse into your personal life on Twitter. Being open helps build trust. However, if you want to share photos of your drunken Friday night antics, save those for your Facebook friends. Twitter is public, and anyone can take a look at what you share.
  • Reach out to new followers. Send all your new followers a personalized @message. This shows you're someone who's willing to engage. It also creates a starting point for further networking, and it encourages your followers to notice your updates. On top of reaching out to new followers, be sure to always reply whenever you're sent an @message. This shows you're reliable and approachable.
  • Share useful links. This establishes you as an authority in your niche. Your followers see that you're helpful, and potential clients will begin to recognize how you can help them. You can also share occasional updates about the work you're doing.
  • Never try to sell in your Tweets. Some freelancers confuse marketing with selling. Marketing is about boosting the visibility of your business, reaching out to potential clients, and pulling prospects into your sales funnel. Only once a prospect is in your sales funnel should you try to sell to them. The best tools for selling are email, phone calls, Skype, and face-to-face meetings. Twitter is a marketing tool. Use it for selling at your peril - you'll alienate your followers.

Searching for Gigs on Twitter

Twitter's search bar is a powerful tool for finding freelance gigs, fast. If you're currently on the lookout for new clients, it's a quick and simple way to find people looking for your services.

You can use Twitter’s advanced search tool to filter the best opportunities for you.

The disadvantage of Twitter's search tool is that anyone can use it. Competition is fierce, so to stand a chance of winning a gig you must react fast and pitch at a competitive price.

The easiest way to find gigs fast is to search for your job title, such as programmer, copywriter or graphic designer. You'll find a slew of opportunities to wade through. Some of these will be full or part-time in-house jobs, rather than freelance positions. Even then, it's worth getting in touch to share your credentials. Ask if they've considered working with a freelancer, and highlight the benefits of doing so.

You can use Twitter's advanced search tool to filter the best opportunities for you. For example, you can tell Twitter to ignore tweets containing the words "free" or "pro bono" in search results, to exclude opportunities where the client has no budget. If you prefer working locally, you can include a location in your search to find potential clients nearby.

Bonus tips:

  • Try searching your job title or service as a hashtag. For example #copywriter or #designer.
  • You can use advanced search tools in the standard Twitter search bar through Boolean search and other search operators. Check out Twitter's guide here.
  • Keep track of your top search terms by setting up search columns in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. That way, you see the latest work opportunities as they're posted.

Although this technique is powerful, it only helps you discover the most obvious opportunities, so you'll face tough competition.

To find hidden opportunities, you must think creatively about how you use the search tool.

When you uncover an opportunity, keep your approach simple. A short tweet saying what you do, asking “Can I help?” and including a link to your portfolio is enough.

One way of doing this is searching out requests for help. For example "need help with my website" or "having trouble writing my ebook". Alternatively, think about the challenges your clients face. This is a particularly powerful technique for freelancers who solve physical problems, such as gardeners or plumbers. Searching "blocked sink" or "messy garden" brings up a smörgåsbord of potential clients. Computer-based freelancers can use this approach too, though you will have to think more creatively. For example, copywriters or website designers could reach out to people tweeting about "updating my website" or "creating a new brochure".

When you uncover an opportunity, keep your approach simple. A short tweet saying what you do, asking "Can I help?" and including a link to your portfolio is enough. You could comment on their blog, if that seems appropriate. If the prospect has a website with a contact form or email address, you can reach out that way to establish more formal contact.

It's that simple. Keep at it, pitch well when you're given the opportunity, and you will find work.

Building Connections on Twitter

If you don't need work right now, then Twitter is ideal for building connections with prospects. The more prospects you connect with now, the more work you'll have available when you need it in the future.

Building connections on Twitter is smart for a number of reasons.

  • Twitter is ubiquitous. You can be almost certain potential clients for your freelance service use Twitter.
  • Twitter allows you to connect with anyone who tweets - you can even send @messages to the small minority with locked accounts. The only limit to who you can get in touch with is your imagination.
  • Twitter is a non-intrusive way to connect with prospects. People go on Twitter to meet other people and be sociable. They expect you to get in touch.
  • Connecting with prospects on Twitter breeds familiarity and trust with your name and services. Prospects are far more likely to hire you if they've connected with you on Twitter compared to if you're unknown.
  • You choose who you connect with. You can put together a strategy to target potential clients.

Bestselling author and leadership consultant Michael Hyatt calls this building strategic connections. Using the Twitter search tool, or a directory such as Twellow you search out exactly the kind of people who need your services. In Hyatt's own words:

Practice strategic following... By this I mean, follow people in your industry, people who use certain keywords in their bio, or even people who follow the people you follow. Some of these will follow you back. If they retweet you, it will introduce you to their followers. For example, I could use Twitter’s Advanced Search Feature to find everyone within a 50-mile radius of Nashville who has used the word “leadership” in their bio or a post.

Once you've found potential clients, follow them, reach out to them and say hello, and engage in conversation with them. Make a point of being helpful and answering any questions they post. And be sure that the majority of updates you post to your Twitter feed are relevant and helpful to your prospects. After you've gotten to know them on Twitter, start commenting on their blog, if they have one. Connect via email, and share a link you think they'll like, or ask a question to start a conversation.

Not all of these connections will become clients. But you can be sure that when they need your services, you'll be on their shortlist if not their first choice.

Bonus Tips for Finding Clients on Twitter

  • Look at who the influencers in your niche follow. You'll quickly discover who the other influencers are. This is particularly effective if they have thousands of followers, but only follow a handful of people.
  • Follow the friends of friends. This grows your network in an organic way, building a web of connected connections. It also shows prospects you're not only connected to them directly, but through their friends and followers too.
  • Collect "twestimonials" - screenshots of tweets praising your work - and publish them to your website. Twestimonials have a high authenticity factor, and show people say good things about what you do without you needing to ask.
  • Offer free help and advice on Twitter. This is the strategy of pre-eminence. The more people associate you with being helpful, the more likely they are to hire you when they need paid help.
  • Link your Twitter biography to a special landing page on your blog that explains what you do, and encourages readers to sign up for your email newsletter.

I'm curious to know: What gigs or clients have you found on Twitter? What are your top tips for using Twitter to find clients?

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