12 Creative Ways for Freelance WordPress Developers to Get and Handle Clients

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First things first, this isn't yet another article talking about how essential it is to be active on Twitter or bid on various publicly available gigs on the internet. I've really kind of had it with this type of advice. In 2013, it's bringing nothing to the table and I highly doubt that any freelancer would consider it useful at this point.
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First things first, this isn’t yet another article talking about how essential it is to be active on Twitter or bid on various publicly available gigs on the internet. I’ve really kind of had it with this type of advice. In 2013, it’s bringing nothing to the table and I highly doubt that any freelancer would consider it useful at this point.

Anyway, I’m by no means a “creative marketing” guru, but I think that even I can share some techniques that are a bit more creative than the general advice. What I have in my defense is that most of the things I’m about to list have already worked for me, i.e. scored me some clients, so I’m not just theorizing.

So, without further delay, here’s the good stuff:

1. Email popular bloggers about what’s wrong with their sites

Although this might sound counterintuitive, a big number of bloggers are not experts in WordPress (other than the basics of SEO and content publishing), so they often turn to independent contractors to handle most of their WordPress work. Therefore, in general, the majority of bloggers can use your help with the technical stuff.

You can get on a blogger’s radar very easily and position yourself as someone who knows their way around WordPress by simply pointing out some flaws in their sites.

Start by creating a list of people you want to target, go to their blogs and search for things that are not quite right. Then compose a nice email message listing the mistakes, plus some info on how to fix them, and send it out.

If the blogger sees the value in your email, they will respond. Take it from there and explain why your WordPress skills can change the world, so to speak.

2. Spend a while to understand web design and then reach out to designers

Web design and development have always been a love couple of some nerdy kind. Every newly designed website needs someone to code it and turn it into an actual WordPress site, but not every designer is knowledgeable in this area. I mean, cutting a design into some HTML structure is one thing, but building a well-optimized WordPress structure is another.

If you spend some time to learn the principles of design and the way WordPress themes are built (structure-wise), you will be able to pitch yourself to designers and offer your help in speeding up their projects. Such a partnership can last for a long time and bring great profits for both of you.

Again, start with a list of freelance designers you can contact and take it from there.

3. Guest post the smart way

Not every type of guest post has the potential to land you a WordPress-related job. And this isn’t even about the mysterious concept of quality content.

For me, there are a handful of factors when crafting a guest post designed to be used as a marketing tool:

  • Find blogs that are not strictly about WordPress. Your clients probably don’t read those anyway. Instead, you can focus on virtually any other niche possible, like: business advice, professional photography, sites for freelancers, and so on. In a word, write for sites that cater to entrepreneurs in a specific area.
  • Pick a topic that describes a WordPress problem or challenge that can be common for a given type of user (depending on the site you’ve selected). Focus on the user’s point of view. This type of problems can be sometimes obvious to you – the specialist – but for everyday users, they will seem challenging.
  • Write your post using simple language, explain the nature of the problem and share an easy-to-apply solution. Remember that you’re not talking to other developers here.
  • Finally, in your bio box, mention that you’re a developer for hire.

With this technique, not only are you presenting your expertise but you’re also giving a direct call to action for anyone who needs some more assistance with their site.

4. Build a personal mini-site

I’m talking about a simple one-page website that lists your services and portfolio. You can then link to such a site from your guest posts. (Here’s mine, for example, to give you a good idea of what I mean.)

If you already have a blog of some kind then you can create a “hire me” page instead, which should be just as effective.

5. Scour through Flippa

Flippa is an online marketplace for websites. In short, people go there to buy and sell websites. It’s a great place in general, and you should check it out for a number of reasons. However, the reason we’re interested in it today is simple; new website owners often need a specialist to get their re-cycled site ready to be launched. This is where you come into play.

If you hit them up at just the right moment – after they’ve bought a website – you have a very good chance of scoring a deal.

6. Get clients locally

Locally, as in offline. I bet that if you take a walk and look around you, you’ll find a number of businesses that don’t have their website quite figured out yet. Or maybe they do, but there’s nothing that appealing about it, or maybe it hasn’t been “serviced” in months. These are all the things you can take care of.

Actually, such local deals are sometimes the best kind of deals possible. People who are not that tech savvy and don’t go online searching for help actively, tend to value the professional help they receive. That’s simply because the hassle involved in actually finding someone else on their own would be too much.

7. Partner with local businesses

Whenever you have the impression that you won’t be able to offer your services to a particular local business, at least offer them a commission for referring clients to you.

I’m not saying that this sort of partnership will make you rich, but it can provide a number of clients every year that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

8. Make your proposals professional

The thing with getting clients in a creative way is that sometimes such methods can make you look less professional than you actually are.

Let me give you an example. If you simply respond to an official project listing on some freelancing site then you’re, by definition, a professional developer.

But if you just go to a local bar, have a little talk over a beer and convince the owner to have some website maintenance done then you can still be portrayed as a kind of “by the way” -specialist.

My recommended way of fixing this is with your client proposals. And the advice is simple: make them look as serious as possible. So when your client sees them, they know you are indeed a professional, no matter where they met you.

Bidsketch – a client proposal software will help you with that. It’s an online tool that has a lot of templates and additional mechanisms to help you manage and send out your proposals. Plus, there are cool stats available.

Using such a tool will free you from the need to play around in MS Word instead of focusing on some real work.

9. Smart invoicing

Basically, forget about MS Excel (sorry, Microsoft) and other traditional tools. The way invoicing is done in the 21st century is either through something like FreshBooks (the tool I use), or some specialized WordPress invoicing plugins (described not that long ago here at WPMayor).

10. Try billing on an hourly rate for new projects

Not every freelancer is a fan of the hourly rate. Mainly because of the difficulty to accurately estimate the number of hours needed to complete a given project.

On the other hand, I like the hourly rate for one main reason. It strips your client from the possibility of negotiating the deal too aggressively.

For instance, if your client thinks the project will be too expensive, you can always make it cheaper by reducing the number of hours (i.e. by reducing the volume of the things that will get done). However, you will never be forced to do the same amount of stuff yet for a lower price.

11. Retainer-based agreements for ongoing projects

Billing new clients by the hour works great, but if you want some stability in your business, you’ll want to look into switching to a retainer-based agreement later on.

The idea is that you offer a specific range of tasks being done on a monthly basis for a set retainer.

Clients are usually responsive to this kind of things, but it’s your job to make the agreement clear in every way. Mainly, you don’t want to end up as your client’s pocket pet, so to speak, or someone who’s ready to do work at every time of the day and night.

12. Create video tutorials

Please bear with me for a moment. I really believe in video tutorials for WordPress-related work and I actually think that it’s one of the best client-service “tricks.”

The thing with many clients, especially first-time clients, is that they are not very familiar with WordPress and the way it works. So you basically have two ways of helping them out: you can either (1) get phone calls every hour and explain some common stuff over and over again, or (2) you can record some video tutorials that handle those FAQ-like issues and send them to every new client right upon project completion.

These days it’s really easy to shoot such videos. All you need is a tool like Jing (screen capture tool) and 10 minutes of free time per video. You don’t even need to worry about editing the videos professionally; the content is what matters here.

Your turn

Okay, I guess it’s a good moment to call it a post. I really encourage you to take action and test the above approaches out. In the meantime, how’s your WordPress freelancing going so far? Do you have any interesting tactics of your own? And of course, feel free to ask me anything.

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Karol K

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance blogger and writer, published author, and online business figure-outer. His work has been featured all over the web on sites like: NewInternetOrder.com, MarketingProfs.com, Smashing Magazine, Adobe.com, and others. Feel free to contact him to find out how he can help your business grow by writing unique and engaging content for your blog or website.

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7 Responses

  1. This is an awesome post Karol, thanks. I really like your first tip about suggesting possible improvements to bloggers’ websites to get work. This could also be a great way to simply build a relationship with the said blogger. Your 9th tip is also helpful. I’ve heard great things about Freshbooks and I know a few who use it. However, I’d like to suggest Clever Accounting which offers a free online invoicing solution which is great for freelancers. You can have a have a look at what it offers at : . For those starting out, it’s a great way to save a few pennies yet still use a user-friendly solution.

    1. Freshbooks has free plans as well. Can you point out some other benefits of Clever Accounting? I’m not familiar with it.

      1. Yeah but the Freshbooks free plan seems very limiting. Their website says you can only have one client for instance. Clever Accounting is actually a fully-fledged online accounting solution. A person can either choose to have the accounting system for a trial period or else the invoicing edition totally free. I think Clever Accounting strength is its ease of use and support. As a disclaimer, I work for the company behind Clever Accounting. The feedback we’ve received on its usability has been fantastic.

  2. Some great ideas. When I first started out I did point 7, I got in touch with every computer repair shop in the area and asked if they offered web design services and if not would they be interested in offering them in partnership with me. The results were good and we still have a good relationship with some we teamed up with. In fact we do a lot of work with other IT and marketing companies.

    1. That’s a great idea. I guess aligning yourself with anyone who does work related to computers in any way is a good tactic. In the end, you never know when someone asks them about some web design/dev services.

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