Do you work with direct clients?
Or do you shudder at the thought? Maybe you have a mix of direct and agency clients (that’s cool too.) When I started out as a translator, I thought that everyone just worked with agencies. It didn’t occur to me, at least at first, that I could go direct. I’m not sure why, I guess I just assumed that if it were a possibility then surely someone would’ve told me. (Yes, I did believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy for a considerable portion of my youth…)
When I did finally figure out that not everyone was working exclusively with agencies, I started to search for information on how I might get these elusive direct clients. I discovered, to my amazement, that some colleagues only worked with direct clients.
My tiny mind was blown.
It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted me a piece of the direct client pie too. So, being the diligent researcher that I am, I started to look into how I might go about it. I felt sure that there’d be myriad blog posts and articles, probably helpfully titled “How I found my direct clients and, as a bonus, here’s a 5 step guide to how you can do it too.” (Hey, I said I was diligent, I didn’t say I wasn’t lazy.) But I couldn’t find anything. When I went on forums and groups, I either encountered the message that working for direct clients was a myth, or that it was such a closely guarded secret that they’d have to kill me if they told me…which somewhat defeats the purpose.
So I was on my own.
Did I succeed in finding direct clients?
Yes. Was it hard work? Yes, but not necessarily that much harder than finding decent, well-paying agencies. Do I work exclusively with direct clients? No, but they make up about 85-90% of my client list. Do I charge them more than agency clients? Yes, always – usually between 75-100% more (depending on what I’m doing for them.) How did I find them? Having looked through my client list, this is the breakdown of how I “got” them:
My website (i.e. they found me)
Linkedin (through groups that I’m a member of)
Pitch emails (i.e. I contacted them prospecting for work)
They advertised a “real” job & I asked if they’d consider a freelancer
Are you surprised at those methods, or are they disappointingly ordinary? I won’t be offended if it’s the latter. In fact, I want it to be the latter. I genuinely don’t believe that finding direct clients is complicated – there aren’t massive secrets to it. But people can be secretive about it. As you’ll know by now, I’m not a huge fan of secrets (case in point: the Let’s Talk Rates chat.) I don’t think it helps anyone. Moreover, I see it as pointless. Just as I’m fairly confident that sharing my methods of producing proposals, setting my rates or asking for testimonials will not ruin my business, I don’t think that by telling colleagues how I found my clients (or, if it’s the case, honestly saying that they found me) I will lose customers. I highly doubt that you’re going to hunt down my copywriting customers and steal them from under my nose, because, frankly, if you’re going to that much effort, finding direct clients of your own should be a breeze. I think tapping my nose in a “wouldn’t you like to know” sort of a fashion is ridiculous.
So let’s get it all out in the open. Wouldn’t it just feel better? I’m guessing you know where this is going, even if I hadn’t titled the blog post “live chat announcement”. Yes, I’m hosting another live chat – this time it’s about direct clients. I’ll be asking my panellists….
How did you get your best clients?
Did they find you or did you find them?
Do you do cold calling or emailing?
How much do you charge them in comparison to agencies?
Do you use any systems?
Do you work exclusively with direct clients? If so, why? If not, why not?
As ever, these sorts of chats would be a bit
lonely pointless if you don’t get involved. If there are questions you’d like answered, get in touch. If you’d like to get involved as a panellist, I’d love to hear from you too. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d just like to listen in and scribble madly….here’s the link:
When is it? It’s on Thursday 17th November at 20:00 GMT. The attendee limit is 100 (though this might change if interest is high!) You know what this means, right? Sign up soon!
So get commenting, get sharing and get involved! Connect on Twitter – here. Or on Facebook – here.