Newly established and longtime freelancers alike are on a quest to find and keep clients. These are a few things I’ve found helpful in developing relationships with new clients and maintaining lasting relationships with existing ones.

In-person networking: Industry events are hands-down the most effective method for finding new clients. Annual media conferences bring content buyers from far and wide to one location. Local and regional agricultural events, such as a beef association annual meeting or an organic growing workshop, often invite vendors for a tradeshow. Take the time to visit with the exhibitors, you may find a business that needs your marketing services. Or you may finally have a chance to meet the editor of a publication you’ve always wanted to work for.

Get involved: Attending an annual conference is a great starting point for networking. Volunteering to help on-site, sitting on committees and serving on an association board raises your visibility to all types of new clients.  I’ve served on the American Horse Publications board of directors for several years now and that has opened more doors than I ever imagined. I’m relatively new to the Livestock Publications Council and Agricultural Communicators Network and plan to get more involved.

Referrals: Develop relationships with other freelancers. In a previous fulltime non-agricultural job, I worked with a freelance graphic designer. To this day, we stay in touch and refer one another’s services to clients when possible.

Build an online presence: Pick a platform and stay committed to it. For some social media is the right fit. I’m personally not a big social media user. Instead, I’ve hired a freelancer to build and maintain my website. This month alone, I’ve had three potential clients contact me through the website.

Saying no: Finding new clients is the first step in building a freelance business, maintaining clients is next. As a new freelancer we are always hungry to sign the next client or accept the next assignment from an editor. As hard as it is, turning down a project that isn’t the right fit is the best way to build lasting relationships. Clients appreciate knowing that you want the best outcome for his/her project. More often than not, when I have turned down a project, the client ends up coming back with multiple projects that are a better fit for timing or subject matter. What works for you? I’d love to hear your feedback.