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 and how to build your strategy around your target client. Today, I’ll be demystifying goal setting, social media metrics, and why follower count is not the only indicator of your success. Why? Because I want to help you achieve your social goals—not anyone else’s.
How do I figure out which social media metrics to focus on?
Social media apps and our own egos want us to believe that gaining followers and likes are the most important metrics, and the more the better. I’m not going to minimize the importance of followers and likes when it comes to getting your work seen by potential clients, but I need you to know that these are not the end-all be-all of understanding your impact. Depending on your ideal outcome, you might also want to consider your engagement and your reach.
To understand which metrics you should focus on, follow this four-step guide, beginning with…
Step 1: Identify your goals.
Start by asking yourself, “What are my goals with this social media account?”
It’s one of those questions to which there are no right or wrong answers (sorry to all the Capricorns and enneagram 5s out there). This is the toughest part of creating a social media strategy, and it’s also the most important. It requires research and a soul-search.
I’m guessing that one of your goals is “land a client.” Excellent! Now ask yourself the following questions:
- Why is landing a client my goal right now?
- Is landing a client my only goal?*
- How does that goal make me feel?
There are lots of valid answers to the first question, and each one points to a slightly different strategic path.
- Landing a client is my goal right now because I need to make income as soon as possible. Like, yesterday. –> Time is of the essence! Pitch, pitch, pitch.
- Landing a client is my goal right now because I want to build a foundation for a sustainable freelance career. –> Time is on your side. Start by optimizing your socials to appeal to your target client.
- Landing a client is my goal right now because my current contract is ending soon and I need more work. –> Good for you! Let’s focus on building your funnel and tracking conversions.
Write down as many answers as you can think of, and decide which three to five are the most important right now. Got it? Then you’re ready for step two.
*If landing a client is your only goal, social media shouldn’t be your sole or main focus. If your feed is focused only on courting clients, you’re going to look like a marketing robot to potential clients. I would recommend trying pitching friends and family, browsing freelance job boards, or focusing your efforts on networking in your target industry. That’s how I got my start!
Step 2: Make those goals specific, measurable, and actionable.
I’m a firm believer that the more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to soar through them. Metrics are only useful if you have something to compare them to, after all. And if some of the specifics don’t matter right now, that’s okay too—you can pick a benchmark and adjust later.
Let’s start with “land a client.” You should have an idea of why that’s your goal right now (if not, repeat step 1!), which will help you get more specific. Here are some examples:
- Landing a client is my goal right now because I need to make income as soon as possible. becomes “Goal #1: Land a client, any client, by the end of the week.”
- Landing a client is my goal right now because I want to build a foundation for a sustainable freelance career. becomes “Goal #1: Land a graphic design gig for a musician, band, or record label by the end of the quarter.”
- Landing a client is my goal right now because my current contract is ending soon and I need more work. becomes “Goal #1: Attract another client in the same price range before the end of my current contract so I can maintain consistent income.”
You’re a whole human being, so landing a client and getting paid probably isn’t your only goal, especially in the long term. When I work with my own clients on their social strategy, I use a guide that includes the following sample goals for a part-time graphic designer with a bold, fun-loving, trendy personal brand:
|Goal #1||Establish a portfolio||I want to create an online portfolio of my graphic design and illustration work to attract clients and inspire other designers, so I will commit to sharing a new design on Instagram, Dribbble, and Behance once per week.|
|Goal #2||Land a client||I want to book at least five commission pieces this year, preferably doing logo and brand design for small, independent businesses.|
|Goal #3||Build community||This is my side gig, so I’m not reliant on it for income, but I want to stay open to taking it full-time someday. So I want to make friends, network, and build connections on and offline—in other words, I want to grow an engaged following of small businesses and fellow designers.|
|Goal #4||Sell merchandise||I want to produce physical objects with my designs on them, to give people an opportunity to have my work in their homes. So I want to produce and sell my first print this year.|
Step 3: Focus on the social media metrics that support your goals (and forget the ones that don’t)
Now that you have a clearer understanding of your goals, it’s time to match them up with the metrics that will support you in achieving them. Luckily, if you’re looking to land a client, all metrics are good ones to boost! Here’s a breakdown of commonly-tracked metrics and how they might align with your more specific social media goals. Some of these can be viewed directly using the creator or business tools of your social media app of choice, but they’re most easily accessed using a scheduler. I use Later, both of which is budget-friendly and has comprehensive analytics tools.
Engagement generally includes likes, comments, shares, saves, and DM replies. You can calculate your engagement without a fancy tool by adding up your likes, comments, shares, saves for each post and dividing it by your follower count. This is where your follower count can count against you—for example, you have 1,000 followers and only ten regularly engage with your content, your content might be prioritized less than content coming from an account with 100 followers and 50 who regularly engage.
High engagement is pretty much never a bad thing, and it’s a great metric to track regardless of your goals. That said, it can be especially important if your goals include converting warm client leads (aka potential clients you already engage with), building brand loyalty, and building community.
Reach is the number of unique individuals who view any given post. Your reach is beneficial to track if your goals are to spread your content as far and wide as possible, if you’re focusing on drawing in clients from cold leads (aka potential clients you’ve never interacted with), or if you’re focusing on boosting product sales. You might not need to focus too much on reach if you already have very high engagement, or if your clients tend to be repeat customers who are already part of your community.
Conversions are the number of viewers or followers who actually purchase from you reach out to you about your services through social media. It’s no surprise that tracking your conversions is the best way to know how effective your social is at helping you land clients. You can keep tabs on this through not only direct inquiries or sales, but also through how many users clicked on your website or otherwise followed you off the social media platform. If generating income isn’t important to your strategy right now, then you probably don’t need to track your conversions—you might not even have any to track, and if it’s not your goal to do so, then don’t sweat it.
And finally, followers. Boosting your followers can be important to your strategy if you’re focusing on building a large community or network, gaining authority in your niche or industry, or growing your audience. Gaining followers is an indicator that your engagement and reach are growing, but it’s unlikely that this is the only metric you need to gauge the success of your strategy. After all, unengaged followers often count against you when it comes to the feed algorithm.
Step 4: Track your progress and pivot if necessary
You’ve got your goals. You’ve got your metrics. Now, the best way to gauge if your strategy is helping you toward your goals is to compare the two regularly. I do this for my clients on a monthly basis in the form of a super fun slide deck, so that we can chart progress effectively over time and adjust our strategy if things aren’t on track.
For example: let’s say your goal is make friends, network, and build connections on and offline—in other words, you want to grow an engaged following of small businesses and fellow designers. If you notice that your engagement is growing over time, then keep up the good work! If you notice it staying the same, take some cues from your best-performing posts to know what to tweak in order to increase your engagement. And if it’s decreasing? It might be time to try something new.
If your goal is to sell your widely-appealing t-shirts far and wide, take a look at your reach. If it’s growing, you’re on the right track! If it’s staying the same or decreasing, time to try out some new hashtags or create content that appeals to different niches.
All of your goals and metrics will overlap, layer, and inform each other. But by being clear about your goals, understanding your metrics, and intentionally tracking both, you’ll be able to use your social to achieve those goals. I believe in you!✨