Twitter is in my opinion one of the best ways to find new clients as freelance designer. This post will hopefully lay out the basics describing how to use Twitter to find new clients, potential customers or simply people who may appreciate your help. As a one man team, I don’t have the luxury of a marketing group or advertising socialites who attend conferences and events handing out flyers and business cards – so how do clients come across my work? Getting to the top of Google’s search results for general terms such as “Graphic Designer” or “Logo Designer” is almost impossible, even the first page is incredible enough. A specific term may get you to the top, but the downside is that less people will use that exact term. So what are the options?
Word of mouth can work wonders, but that relies on previous clients bringing it up in conversation – the rate of referrals is quite low in my experience. Clients mentioning you on their site with a link to you (called a backlink) may also help. This can drive people to your site under the recommendation of the client, therefore boosting your site’s status.
Cold calling companies who you think need your help could be seen as rude – how would you feel if a stranger phoned you up and said, “Hey, I’m an amazing designer and I noticed your website is terrible, do you want me to do you a better one?” Kinda obnoxious but you get the idea. Getting your name out there is obviously good, but the point I am trying to make is that it’s a hit and miss way of working, with results not necessarily being instantaneous.
I found alternative social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook’s search options aren’t as good, certainly LinkedIn can be used, but the majority of search results are tweets fed through the users main activity stream. There is a few sites that scrape Facebook allowing some search capabilities but it’s almost always more personal and informal than Twitter.
Sites like Craigslist and Gumtree are good in theory, but I have yet to find a professional request for a designer offering more of a budget than $50. In most cases they have the audacity to ask free work for ‘the exposure’ – steer clear.
Forums are an option, but they’re becoming a communication hub of the past. To me, they are ugly, badly designed and confusing – it’s often hard to follow conversations jumping from user to user, page to page. Twitter is similar, but entirely different at the same time. Global, multi-user (even multi-lingual) communication is done in real-time; it’s only a case of finding the tweets that matter.
Advanced searches are how I have gained around approximately 40-50% of my client’s over the last year or so from Twitter. I start with the key phrase, say for example “Logo designer” and see what appears. Usually the spammy tweets are easily filtered using the ‘-’ symbol, then the word Twitter should ignore e.g. “Logo designer -free” or “Logo designer -99designs”. It really is the build up of words you want to hide that makes finding the relevant tweets easy. That is how to use Twitter to find new clients!
Start by adding your general search term followed by the words you don’t want to see appear in the results. If there seems to be real people, asking for real help then you have already found potential clients – make sure you save the search. Over time, you will have a set of search phrases that will help find users who need your help. The next step is to get in touch.
The important part is to respond to only those who specifically ask. Replying in bulk to every username in the results is clearly spamming by definition; but by hand picking and replying to the users soliciting a professionals’ help, you are being useful. I feel a generic response is acceptable, as long as the person is definitely looking assistance, even something like “Hello. I’m a designer – Can I help? [insert your portfolio url]” appeals to most people as a fair response. It’s not rude, pushy or spammy – they are free to check out your portfolio at their own leisure. If you have time, a personal (use their name) tweet may have more positive returns and response rates.
Using these searches can be done from almost all Twitter clients and apps, the site itself works well. In my constant strive to find the perfect search tool, I’ve settled on an iPhone Twitter app called Twitbird. It’s one standout feature is that it highlights tweets that you haven’t read, reverting them to default when you have. Why is this important? Well, certain tweets may appear in multiple saved searches – having them marked as read means there is no chance you would send duplicate messages to the same user. I’m not sure why more apps don’t work like this, it’s so helpful. If you have or know of a similar app with this feature, I’d love to hear what it is!
That is basically it. Select your keywords, set up a few saved searches, get in touch and engage with the person – remember these people are looking for the services you can provide, so be friendly, helpful and turn them into a customer. Hopefully these tips, albeit fairly simple and well-known, will show you how to use Twitter to find new clients.