How To Get (Big) Clients Online: 11+ Proven Strategies

If you’re looking to learn how to get clients online, the methods in this guide will help you start making more money fast

Whether you’re just starting out as a freelancer full-time, or as a side hustle, or your business is well underway and you’re looking to find higher-ticket gigs, these strategies will help.

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New to IWT?
  • Watch Ramit Sethi host Netflix’s “How to Get Rich” 
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And join over 800,000 readers getting our Insiders newsletter, where we share exclusive content that’s not on the blog:​

Table of Contents

How To Get Your First Client Online

When it comes to finding clients, new freelancers often don’t know where to start.

I get it—it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to think that every other online contractor quit their miserable job and is now making triple their salary working part-time from a café in Prague.

But that’s rarely the case.

And, actually, your focus needs to be on your first step, which is simply this: Get one client.

Freelancers are so wrapped up in getting as many clients as possible as quickly as possible that they ignore the importance of attaining their first few clients and then scaling from there.

So, utilize these proven strategies to help you find those first few online clients.

By the way, if you’re still thinking about the kind of online business you want to start, take a look at this video to see how I generate business ideas:

How To Land High-Value Clients

So you think you’re ready to scale and start targeting higher-level clients? It’s actually incredibly simple once you’ve attained your initial 3-5 clients.

All you need to remember is to keep delivering incredible, white-glove service to your clients. After that, it’s all a breeze.

1. Ask For Referrals From Existing Clients

Referrals from existing clients are one of the best ways to not only get more clients but also earn more for your services.

Here’s why:

  1. You can raise your price when you get referred. A lot of freelancers fall into the trap of keeping their rates the same when they get referred, thinking that their old client told the potential client their rate (they usually haven’t). DO NOT  DO THIS!! Your old client added more value to your work by recommending you AND by the experience you gained working for them. Reflect that with a higher rate.
  2. You’ll have more of an incentive to do good work. This is yet another example of why you want to treat every client that comes your way with respect while providing them with world-class service. There are always areas where you can add value, and it’ll only help your client and yourself.
  3. You get higher-quality clients. If you charge more, that means you’ll start to weed out the lower-quality clients who complain about the tiniest things from the higher-quality clients who can afford you and appreciate you as a professional. By paying you more, your new clients are less likely to waste your time and money. It’s a win-win.

Referrals are a simple yet powerful way to add new clients to your roster and start charging more.

The best way to ask for a referral is right after you’ve delivered a high-value product to your client. Once you’ve delivered great service you’re proud of, you can ask for referrals and rest easy in the knowledge that your client will want to tell others about your work.

Learn how to get online clients through referrals in my article How to Ask for a Referral in 2024 ( Easy Steps & Expert Tips).

2. Cold Email Potential Clients

Cold emails don’t have to be scary. They can be shockingly effective if you use the right techniques.

For example, check out this amazing email I received from a reader a while back.

I loved it because, for three reasons, his email is the perfect example of everything that you need to snag a client:

  1. He did his homework. Nothing is going to make a potential client trash your email faster than a copied and pasted boilerplate message. So, make sure you’re clued up about the company. Then, explain your connection to its products and mission and how you can be a part of it. (It also helps to lay the compliments on thick).
  2. He showed concern. Let’s face it: People are busy. That’s why you need to make me give a damn. If you and the person you’re emailing have a warm connection, drop that in the message. 
  3. He made it easy to say yes. The sender made it clear that, though he was looking for paid work, he would be willing to work for a little advice and networking opportunities. He also acknowledged that there might be a few projects on deck that he could potentially jump on. Transparency and an understanding of the lifecycle of projects are key.

By the time I finished the email, I was clamoring for the phone to call him.

You can use the same framework to reach out to VIPs or potential clients that you don’t know. Here are a few great resources that’ll help you do that:

3. Partner With An Agency Or Related Business

Perhaps you’re a web designer, but you don’t do any of the backend coding. Or you’re a PR person, but you don’t know the first thing about marketing automation.

As the technology stack, marketing stack, or whatever stack it is these days keeps growing, businesses of all sizes need expertise in several areas all at once. 

They also know that a solo freelancer, no matter how talented, cannot handle it all.

Reach out to businesses and even other freelancers who offer a service that’s adjacent to yours. If you are in similar niches, you can exchange referrals and drive business to each other.

Or, you can even approach prospective clients together as a much larger team. This will enable you to charge higher rates because the client is getting additional expertise with a  whole team rather than just a solo freelancer. The benefits of doing this can be great for both you and your partner. You get to demonstrate expanded capabilities and can now offer additional services to clients, which also means you can grow your clientele.

Advanced Client Acquisition Tactics

If you’ve tried all of the above recommendations and are chomping at the bit for more, there are some advanced tactics to consider. 

Because these take too long to get off the ground and some also incorporate additional expenses, we don’t recommend starting with these tactics.

Most people will be better off starting with the tactics outlined above, and it’s important to note that those tactics can still be used even when your freelance business is humming. However, the adventurous should consider the following advanced digital marketing tactics.

1. Build A Website, and others can’t seem to stop telling the world that everyone can create a website IN MINUTES for FREE.

Unfortunately, anyone who’s tried to build a website in a few minutes for free knows that it’s not as easy as it sounds. 

But at some point, as your freelance business grows, it will make sense to have your own home on the web. If you are incorporated with a business name, you will want a website with your business name in the URL in addition to a branded email with that same domain. 

Anyone would agree that it makes you appear much more professional. 

As your business grows, so can your website. You might want to start with a free theme or template, and then add more content when time and other resources (i.e., money) are available. If you’ve found a way to partner with a website designer or agency (#3 above under High-Value Clients), you might be able to snag a fabulous website for free.

Find out how to drive traffic to your website by reading our article “The 3 Best Ways to Get Traffic to Your Website”.

2. Grow A Social Media Following

Starting a social media account is even easier than starting a website because no design is involved at all. (Well, you might need to resize your profile photo.)

However, while starting a social media account is easy, growing a social media account is hard. It’s especially hard when you want to use that social media account for lead generation. You need to find ways to attract more followers and convince people to want to engage with you. 

That means constantly thinking about interesting messages to send while being careful not to say too much—you don’t want someone reading your tweet or LinkedIn post to get their question answered without engaging with you further. 


Luckily, people know that having thousands of followers doesn’t automatically make you a highly sought-after expert in your field. Instead, be strategic:

Choose only those social networks that your target market is hanging out on (which might not be TikTok) and engage for quality, not quantity.

Keep in mind that this is still time-consuming, though, but it does give you social proof.

3. Try Digital Advertising

You’ve probably noticed that only sponsored posts from Facebook Pages surface in newsfeeds. Because of this, many freelancers and small business owners decide to bite the bullet and pony up the advertising dollars.

Of course, you can boost posts for as little as $1 per day for impressions, and $5 per day for clicks likes, and other engagements. This might not seem like much, but it can quickly add up, month over month. 

It never hurts to give something a try. But even the most die-hard performance marketers (that’s what paid advertising folks call themselves these days) agree that a blended strategy of organic content along with pay-per-click advertising is the way to go.

Creating perfect posts might be more time-consuming than an ad, but a mix of both generally gives better results.

Your prospect doesn’t want to just learn about your expertise in an ad. They want to learn about your expertise in other ways. 

(By the way, I have a great guide here that goes through everything you need to know about digital marketing.)

Final Thoughts About Getting Online

It’s essential to remember that these activities alone do not guarantee success. What truly matters in the early stages of your business is securing your first few clients. The focus should be on generating real revenue and establishing a solid foundation for growth.

Remember, while exciting and attention-grabbing tactics have their place in marketing, the core of any successful business lies in its ability to secure and serve clients. By dedicating your efforts to acquiring and delighting your initial clients, you set a strong foundation for long-term success and create a positive momentum that can propel your business forward. 

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1. Search Industry-Specific Job Boards

If perusing job search meta sites like Indeed or SimplyHired for part-time contract work is not your thing, you might find more comfort with industry-specific job boards. 

MarketingHire for marketers, the PMI’s Career Center for project managers, and other industry-specific sites listing jobs can hopefully deliver more relevant jobs.

At some point or another,  a Google search on job boards or sites for a particular role will lead you to freelancer sites like Upwork or Fiverr.

These types of sites are good for those either completely new to freelancing or to offering a particular service (i.e., your day job is as a paralegal but you want to freelance as a fitness blogger).  

I love sites like Upwork and Fiverr, but only as a client.

2. Search X (formerly Twitter) To Find Clients In Need Of Your Services

Sure, you might find job postings tweeted out by job sites (follow the hashtag #jobs), but don’t just respond to those—go deeper.

Anyone who’s in the process of evaluating different products, including software, or perhaps gotten stuck using a product or software they already bought, will take to the interwebs to ask a question.

And if you have expertise in a particular product, there’s no reason why you can’t find these questions and answer them.

Of course, you won’t want to give the most complete answer. For one, it might not fit within 280 characters, and two, you want the person to follow up with you via direct or private message to discuss a potential project.

And who knows, one single answered tweet might help you land multiple customers.

3. Find Clients On Craigslist

Craigslist gets a bum rap and for a good reason. (Thank goodness they kept the Best of Craigslist so we can all have a good laugh every now and then.) 

However, client work is waiting for you if you can just demonstrate that you are 1,000 times better than your competition, which shouldn’t be hard to do. 

Don’t just peruse the Gigs postings, either. Go through the Jobs postings too because some of these might be part-time and remote. 

By taking the time to shortlist the right postings and craft a semi-thoughtful message, you can immediately separate yourself from the throngs (and bots) sending canned, boilerplate emails.

4. Attend Networking Events And Meetups

I know what you’re thinking: Networking events SUCK.

But that’s because people typically go to them looking for clients.

Instead of being that creeper, go to the event to find CONNECTORS. These are people who may not turn out to be a client but can potentially introduce you to some.

Whew, what a relief! Now instead of looking for leads or feeling you have to be constantly pitching your business, you can go to a networking or mixer event with the idea of connecting with connectors

Here’s an example of a good script to start a conversation with a connector: “Hey, if you know of anyone who’s looking for a video editor, let me know. Here’s my card. You can pass it along to them.”

Of course, you should mold the script to fit your individual situation and find subjects to talk about in a non-icky manner.

Be sure to check out event boards like MeetupEventbrite, and even Facebook for networking events in your area or industry.

5. Reach Out To Your Existing Network

Reaching out to your existing network might seem like a no-brainer. But after years of hearing this advice over and over, it’s time to take a closer look.

You may think you have a healthy existing network because you can see your  “500+ connections” every time you visit your LinkedIn profile. But this doesn’t mean that those 500+ people will be willing and ready to hire you.

They might be busy and have missed your messages. They might not know of any openings for someone with your expertise. 

And let’s face it, some people will never help you, no matter how many times you’ve helped them in the past.

That’s life.

So, sure, you can certainly reach out to your existing network, but proceed with caution. Take the time to shortlist those who know you and your work well, and craft a message that will resonate with them. Explain that you have become a freelance contractor, detail what services and deliverables you can provide, and ask if they know of any people or companies who are actively looking for someone with your expertise.

If you still feel uncomfortable about asking people for work, ask your network for something potentially equally valuable: a recommendation.

No, not just a recommendation on LinkedIn, but the type of longer recommendation that you needed when you applied to college or grad school. When you are applying or bidding on projects down the road, you can always forward these to a prospective client as proof of your past achievements.

Try this. You’ll be sure to stand out.

You should also read this blog post that teaches you how to grow a successful network.

6. Join Professional Organizations In Your Niche

This is yet another overused piece of career advice. 

However, as with #4 and #5 above, you need to find ways to set yourself apart from the crowd who are just using these to find clients. 

Just because the professional organization was built, does not mean that clients will come. 

Aside from finding connectors, a great way to leverage the power of a professional organization is to volunteer for them. Offer to do something for them for free: design a landing page, restructure a database; make your offer valuable to them.

Unfortunately, you won’t be the only person attempting this strategy. So you might need to do this a few times to raise your visibility before a staff member provides you with a contact who might hire you.

Of course, you would also want to learn something from this organization along the way. Professional and personal growth are often reasons people join these organizations, not just for new business. It could be a terrific unexpected benefit of getting involved.

7. Spend Time Where Your Clients Do

No, this doesn’t mean stalking potential clients and going to where they live (unless you want a restraining order).

Instead, you’re going to go online to the same places where potential clients might be spending time online.

It’s what Luisa Zhou, entrepreneur and writer for IWT, did to help her earn $1.1m in eleven months.

You can use Luisa’s exact same framework for your potential clients. 

For example:

  • Are you a graphic designer? Find a Facebook or subreddit group for small business owners who need your services.
  • Are you a writer for a niche industry? Start answering questions on Quora regarding your niche. (As you would do by answering interesting tweets, as explained above in #2)
  • Maybe you’re a video editor. Find online groups for bloggers looking to expand their content media.

No matter what you choose, you need to make sure you stay engaging and provide high-quality answers to your potential client. By doing this, you build your brand and make connections you would never have made otherwise.

It all goes back to the 80/20 rule. The little bit of effort you put in now will pay off in spades in the future.


How to quickly find clients online?

To find clients online fast, you’ve got to be where your clients are. Use platforms like LinkedIn for professional services, Instagram for creative work, or X for tech and media. Optimize your profile with keywords your clients are searching for. Then, engage in relevant groups, contribute valuable insights, and connect directly with potential clients. To sum it up; show up, add value, and make it impossible for them not to notice you.

How do I get clients to come to me?

Getting clients to come to you is all about positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your niche. Create content that solves your ideal client’s biggest problems. Start a blog, launch a podcast, or post insightful videos. Use SEO strategies to ensure your content ranks well on Google. And don’t forget to collect emails to nurture leads with valuable advice, turning your audience into willing buyers. Make your online presence so compelling that clients can’t help but seek you out.

What do you say to attract more customers?

To attract more customers, your message should be crystal clear: tell them exactly how you’ll solve their problem like nobody else can. Use language that resonates with their deepest needs and desires. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about them. Highlight the transformation they’ll experience after working with you. Think, “Go from feeling overwhelmed with your finances to confidently managing your money in 90 days.” Make them feel seen, understood, and ready to take action.

How do beginners get clients?

Beginners get clients by leveraging their existing networks. Start with who you know—friends, family, former colleagues. Don’t just ask if they need your services; ask if they know someone who does. Use social media to share your journey, the services you offer, and the value you provide. Offer a free mini-service or consultation to showcase your skills. This builds trust and credibility, turning skeptics into advocates and, eventually, into paying clients. Remember, every big name started small. Your enthusiasm, coupled with relentless pursuit, will open doors.

How to get clients as a freelancer?

To attract clients as a freelancer, establish a strong online presence through a professional website and active social media profiles. Networking, both online and offline, can significantly boost your visibility. Utilizing freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, and LinkedIn to showcase your portfolio and skills is also effective. Engaging in industry forums and participating in relevant discussions can further establish your expertise and attract potential clients.

How do you find big clients?

Finding big clients requires a focused approach. Start by identifying your niche and the big players within it. Build a portfolio that showcases your best work, specifically tailored to the industries you aim to serve. Attend industry conferences and networking events, and consider using LinkedIn for targeted outreach to decision-makers. Demonstrating your value through case studies, testimonials, and offering a clear ROI can help attract larger clients. Establishing partnerships with other businesses that serve your target market but aren’t direct competitors can also lead to referrals.

How do I get my first client?

Securing your first client involves showcasing your skills and reliability. Start by creating a compelling portfolio that highlights your projects and skills. Offer your services at a competitive rate or consider doing a small project for free or at a discounted rate to build your portfolio and gain testimonials. Use your personal network by letting friends, family, and acquaintances know about your services. Freelance platforms can also be a good starting point, as they connect freelancers with clients looking for specific skills.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.