When it’s on you to book your own clients, it can be tough to balance your time between working to land a client and, you know, actually doing your work. It’s easy to feel like you’ve taken on a sales role that you never asked for (and that no one ever taught you how to do 😬).
Luckily, social media can be a great tool for maintaining a living portfolio and giving prospective clients a chance to get to know you before you ever connect irl (or over Zoom). But it’s not as simple as sharing your latest work on Instagram and waiting for inquiries to flood your DMs—if you want to use social media as a tool to land a client, you need to use it strategically.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing simple strategies for optimizing your social media presence to land a client.
I’ve already written about the importance of establishing a personal brand. My next tip is to build your strategy around your target client.
What if I’m desperate to land a client, or I don’t care who I work for?
I know this feeling well—I think a lot of creatives and freelancers do! But the reality is, targeting your dream client doesn’t exclude you from working with anyone else. It only improves your chances of working with that client, in an industry you actually like, or with a team you vibe with. Some people call this “manifesting.” I call it “good strategy.”
Plus, sharing on social with a strategy in mind adds polish and professionalism to your name, so you’re more likely to land a client either way. It’s worth the up-front effort, I promise! Here’s how (and why) to make it happen:
1. Dream big!
You might have an idea of who your dream client is already. You might also think that working with them is out of reach for you. I’m not going to lie to you: it might be. But targeting that client isn’t going to hurt you—it can only help.
Let’s say you’re an amateur photographer and your ultimate goal is to work with National Geographic. You’re probably not going to end up with NatGeo in your Instagram DMs asking to use your photos for a story. But you should set your sights on that goal and incorporate it into your strategy.
National Geographic is a nonprofit organization (and a magazine, and a massive cultural force) that shares stories from around the world using striking photographs of people, animals, and landscapes. If you think of everything you share on social as a pitch specifically for them, you’ll end up with a feed full of stories accompanied by striking photographs of people, animals, and landscapes.
Your feed will appeal to nonprofits and orgs interested in people and culture, to magazines and websites looking for photographers like you. You’ll be prepared to send pitches to (and receive them from!) clients already aligned with your vision. You’ll probably get a few bites from great clients who aren’t exactly what you imagined, too. And by the time you’re ready to pitch your white whale, you’ll have an impressive portfolio already built.
2. Create the right community
Once you’ve selected a few dream clients, the real strategy work begins.
Here’s another example: you’re an amateur makeup artist whose ultimate dream is to be the head makeup artist for HBO’s Euphoria. Your short-term goal is to land any paid makeup gig as a freelancer (wedding, editorial for a local publication, whoever bites first!).
If you’re not already, follow your dream client (in this case, @euphoria) and anyone adjacent to them (their current makeup designer, the actors, outlets that cover the show). Scroll through the followed & following for those accounts to find like-minded individuals to network with. Find relevant hashtags by checking out profiles and posts you like, and follow the most popular ones that most represent the style and work you’re interested in. #MakeupInspo and #EditorialMakeup are more relevant for you than #MakeupArtist, which features mostly other artists looking to get noticed.
Next, start and join some conversations! Use the same hashtags consistently, connect meaningfully in the comments with other artists you like, and stay engaged in your new community. This is a great way to ensure that the algorithm shows your work and profile to the people who you want to see it, such as a photographer who wants to capture your looks or a fan who might recommend your services to a friend.
3. Keep your goal in mind
Everything you post should be a pitch to your target client. The number one true cliche in marketing is that if you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one. So don’t be afraid to get specific!
For our final example, imagine you’re a ceramics artist looking to start selling some of your work on the side and maybe some day take your business full-time. Your dream scenario is having your mugs stocked at your favorite local coffee shop, and your vases and pots stocked at your favorite local florist. You’ve followed those businesses, their employees, their regulars, and some relevant hashtags, such as #BuyLocal, #CoffeeLover, and #HouseplantsClub.
Even though you’d be happy to have anyone online order some of your work, imagine each and every post as a pitch to the coffee shop and flower shop managers. Style your shoots with a similar aesthetic. Tag and mention those establishments and their fans. Share products you think would sell well on those shelves. Use hashtags frequently used by your target clients. For fun, community-building posts, focus on coffee, flowers, or local attractions.
Best case scenario? The coffee shop buyer takes note and reaches out to you for a collaboration.
Worst case scenario? You never strike that deal with your favorite store, but locals who want to support an independent artist notice your work (thanks, algorithm!) and buy some of your work on your website.
Whether the partnership you want works out or not, identifying your target clients and building your strategy around them can help you land gigs. And when that client does come calling? Let me know and we can pop some champagne. 🥂🍾