Finding work as a small business or sole trader

Not always a popular topic...however finding work is really important whether you’re just starting out or want to develop your existing business. Many take the view that business will just land in their lap, however, our clients have noted the importance of proactively finding work.

We’ve put together a few hints and tips to get you started.


It’s certainly worth investing in a website so prospective clients can find information about you, your services and contact details. In order to create a ‘professional look’ and brand identity, the website should reflect who you are and what your business is all about! If you know a web developer, you’ll be able to negotiate a competitive rate however, if you don’t then there are a number of low-cost packages out there to get you online. A few things to consider when designing your website include:

KIS (Keep it simple)

Don’t complicate your site with too many pictures (search engines can struggle with these so prefer text copy when searching your site) and keep your messages and information clear and concise with simple navigation.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Certain things on your website can help search engines like Google to find and rank it highly:

  • Keywords - think of the words that potential clients would type into Google and include these in your webpages, include them in the URL (web address name), the code behind the page (meta titles and meta descriptions), and article headings.
  • Content - make sure that your content is relevant to those you’re targeting it and have links throughout that connect to other pages on your website. Google is very clever and seems to know if you’ve written quality relevant copy, if you try and shortcut the process Google will spot this and not list you on the vital first page.

URL’s - Choose your URL carefully – make sure it clearly indicates what your freelance services are about. You can buy and check the availability of certain URL’s online at

Testimonials - Once you’ve worked for a couple of clients, get them to write you a testimonial to put on your website. If prospects know you’ve done a great job for someone else, it’s more likely you’ll do a good job for them.

Data collection - Get peoples contact details – if someone’s interested in the services you offer, get them to fill out some details (name, email, phone number). You can use these to send them more information about the services you offer. Even if they don’t use your business immediately, if you stay in contact they may become clients in the future.

Become an industry expert - If you write authoritative pieces on your website, there’s a good chance people will find them. For example, if you’re a copywriter write a page like ‘how to find a good copywriter’, there’s a fair chance a potential client will type this search term in and find your site.

Getting online might not get you direct sales but it increases your profile and means that people can find you when they need your goods or services!

Along with a website, creating a formal email address (for example rather than a Hotmail/Google email can give a professional look to clients creating the impression that the business is bigger than it actually is!

Contacts, contacts, contacts!

The most important and crucial part of business is the ability to optimise your existing contacts as well as building a base of new contacts. Potential clients are everywhere so don’t just focus on business networking but discuss your business in a social capacity as well.

Think about anyone you’ve worked with in the past, or met through someone else, and consider whether they could be potential clients. Track these people down and get in touch!

Picking up the telephone can be daunting but is a fantastic way of getting instant feedback on your business. Remember – if the person you’ve called isn’t a potential client, they may know someone who is.

In order to ‘close the deal’ and get the first prospect on board, you may need to offer a discounted service in return for a positive referral to another contact. Use this first client to write a case study about how useful your service is and use examples of work done in pitching to new clients. Prospects will always be more comfortable if they believe they’re not your first client!


Networking is a crucial aspect of developing leads and contacts – the more people who know what your business does, the more likely you are to generate business. Investigate local networking groups, breakfast clubs or trade events – perfect opportunities to approach large groups of people and pitch away!

Get signed up on Linkedin and start contacting people who might be able to help you promote your freelance services. These don’t need to be potential clients but could be associated businesses or other industry experts – it’s a great chance to get first hand advice from experienced entrepreneurs.

Business Stationery

Make sure you have professional business cards. Hand them out to friends, suppliers and any contacts you may have making sure to get these people to spread the word about your business. The cards need to have all contact details, a small description of what services you offer and your business name and logo.

You can get brochures and leaflets written up about your business however these can be costly and don’t add much value to the services you offer. Once your business is well established then they may be worth investing in.


Advertising can be costly (giving a lower return than other methods of marketing) however it’ll raise your profile in the industry and may bring in business. If you do decide to advertise you’ll need to consider your target audience:

  • What do they read, what sites do they visit, where do they look for new suppliers?
  • Can I reach them in a cost effective way?
  • What’s the adverts’ objective? To get them to call me, visit my website, read an article, buy my product/service, remember me?
  • What will your prospects think about you after reading the advert?
  • Does the advert represent your industry? Trendy and funky might be good in some instances but it’s probably not best for solicitors, accountants and doctors.

Initially, you may get business through networking however you may want to put out some paid adverts to put your freelance services in front of your target audience. Most people these days find suppliers online, therefore if you’re going to advertise online make sure you do your research and find the best, most cost-effective advert for your market.

Banners and links from other websites can also bring in business. If you operate in a niche market (or even a larger industry) there’s likely to be plenty of blogs written about that market – many bloggers sell space for advertisements but if you offer a great service then they may recommend you for free! If there’s an industry body (e.g. for freelance Photographers you may be a member of BFP), they can help promote your business, enable you to network with potential clients, and put the link to your website on their pages.

We’ve talked a lot about your target audience; this is because when thinking about where to advertise it’s easy to be sold on absolute numbers. However, this can be pointless, after all so what if 1,000,000 people see your advert but it isn’t relevant to any of them, far better that your advert is seen by 1,000 hot prospects. Make sure when discussing your requirements with advertisers that you are very clear about who your target audience.

Forums, blogging and social networking

A new revelation to marketing, forum entries and blogging has become one of the cheapest and best ways to acquire new clients. To appeal to clients you need to appear as an expert in your field – through writing a blog you gain credibility within your industry. Make sure you keep the content of your blog relevant and interesting – keep up with changes in your industry and development in the skills that you can offer.

You’ll find that if you’re interested in the services you offer, so will others! There are lots of forums out there talking about everything from financial advice to your crisp flavour preference. Chances are, people are talking about the goods or services that you offer. Get online, search for these forums and start posting away! Don’t just market your services – offer advice and helpful tips. This will build you a name in the industry.

Furthering this, increasing your social networking presence can get people to your website. Set up a Facebook account dedicated to your freelance services and promote away! Twitter about your services making sure to Tweet links to your website – you’ll be surprised how many people will be interested in your business.

Forums, blogging and social networking

Picking up the phone is difficult, there’s no doubt about that. However, telemarketing can be one of the best ways to get people interested in your business.

Step 1 - Find some local data. You can pick this up relatively cheaply off the internet however the quality of data can be varied. You may need to ‘clean’ the list by calling up each number and checking the details are correct.

Step 2 - Write a script. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re calling and write down how you think the conversation would go and the difficult questions you might be asked. Make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality. Think of a good conversation starter but don’t ask any closed or negative questions. If you’re stuck there are plenty of telemarketing templates on the internet

Step 3 - Pick up the phone! It’s likely that you’ll get some objections but as long as you handle them professionally (and don’t panic) you’ll be fine. Your objective should not be to sell your freelance services over the phone but set up meetings to discuss how you could help the potential client. Make sure you take details over the phone as you can send more information about your services in the future.

Direct mail is one option however it has poor response rates and is very expensive! If you’re going to send direct mail make sure it’s unique and will get in front of the key decision-maker - don’t just send a leaflet through the post.

Have a look at our sales and marketing pages for more information on growing your business.

Finding work as a freelancer follows a very different route compared to finding work in permanent employment. As a freelancer, finding work can feel overwhelming at first.

Whether you're on the hunt for a full time freelancer role, or just to get freelance work in addition to your regular job, here are a few tips to help you secure a job that's right for you.

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