When Is it Time to Stop Hunting Clients?

A few weeks ago I had a very aspiring freelancer ask me a question that I thought was quite interesting. He asked me, “when do you know it’s time to stop hunting?” His question was referring to the need to go out and get clients (at least I hope he wasn’t talking about actually hunting down clients) and if there’s ever a time when you can sit back and watch new projects walk through your door. My response was that you should never stop hunting!

Never Stop Hunting

Even as my own freelancing business has grown tremendously over the past ten years, I’ve never believed I should just sit back and hope that my next meal walks in the door. While it has become easier for me to get projects because I’ve spent years building my reputation, the reality is that sometimes my work flow still slows down to the point it’s uncomfortable. We can never expect that people will always be banging down our door to give us work. Freelancers who say that they are ALWAYS booked are either exaggerating or they’re the 1% who have the Midas Touch. Sure there ARE those select few who are continually sought out for their talents, but this is rare, like being drafted into the NBA.

Freelancing has an ebb and flow to it with times of abundance and times of scarcity. This is why you should always be hunting or shaking trees or marketing your services.

Always Keep Your Sign On

Another conversation I’ve had recently was with a talented designer who told me she had “turned off her sign” and stopped taking new inquiries because she was booked several months in advance. I understand the logic behind this strategy and it is great to say no to potential projects, but you also have to be careful because shutting down your marketing and lead generation can also backfire.

It’s possible that a client project will fall through or get canceled, even when they’ve paid a deposit. Sometimes a client will drop all communication for various reasons and you’re left with an unfinished project … and not being able to collect a final payment you are counting on! You also might miss an incredible opportunity or perfect client by not accepting new inquiries.

My advice is to ALWAYS keep your sign on and keep connecting with potential clients even when you are booked.

You can filter through the great leads and let potential clients know that you are booked, but if you have an earlier opening, they would be first on the list. They might wait for a couple of months for you to be available. You could also outsource the work and make money for just managing the project. You could also just pass it along for a referral fee and help another freelancer who is needing some work.

Marketing Should ALWAYS Be a Priority

I read an awesome booked year ago by Sergio Zyman called The End of Marketing as We Know ItWhile there is a lot of great content in this book, the one thing that Zyman communicated and that stood out was that Coca Cola (he was head of marketing at Coke) was continually marketing, even when times were great for the company. They marketed their products even when the competitors slowed down because soft drink sales can be seasonal. His premise was market and then market some more! And I think this is an excellent strategy for freelancers.

Freelancing professionally is a tough gig. You can find yourself overwhelmed with work and people begging to hire you. And then you can be sitting there a week later twiddling your thumbs with no work at all.

My advice to you is always be marketing your services. Blog daily. Make connections with new people. Reach out to existing clients. Speak at events. Do whatever it takes to always be getting in front of people and letting them know you are available to help, even when times are great.

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  1. Patrick Neve says

    “Referral fee?” What is that? LOL Always learning something new.

    I really like this subject. It’s interesting to see someone else’s perspective on searching for new clients. I feel the “urge” to do so even when I’m really busy because I hit a dry spell after every project. You’re confirming what my instincts are always telling me. Another thing I’m realizing is that even when I have numerous prospects lined up, it can sometimes take weeks to get a project off the ground. After 3 years I have yet to find a solid formula. The good news is that through trial and error it’s all getting worked out.

    Great post. Thanks for the insight James. It helped.

  2. James Dalman says

    Glad this helped Patrick!

    There can be so many variables at play that it’s important to keep cash flow coming in. Projects can get bogged down,canceled, or put on hold for months. I want to ensure if that happens, that I still have enough work flow to pay my expenses.

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