How to Get Client Intros from Other Freelancers


The Best-Kept Secret for Generating Freelance Leads

Today we’re going to talk about the best-kept secret for generating freelance leads.

No, I’m not talking about going to networking events and working the room—though that can work if you’re good at it. Instead, I’m talking about finding a group of freelancers to share clients with you.

This simple tactic is extremely powerful. And the best part is, you don’t need any clients of your own to start.

Finding My First Client

When I first started freelancing as a UX Designer, I struggled for months to land my first client. It was a challenging time, and it made me wonder if I’d made the right decision striking out on my own.

I tried posting on LinkedIn. Nothing. I tried responding to job listings on Upwork. Crickets. I tried networking events. What a waste of time.

Networking events? Ugh.

Thankfully, I decided to ask one of my programmer friends whether any of his clients might need design services. Less than a week later, I had my first paying client. To date, that client has paid me well over $25,000.

But this isn’t an anomaly. Other freelancers have referred the majority of my best-paying, most loyal clients.

So how does this work?

Complementary Skillsets

The secret to getting leads from other freelancers is simple: find freelancers with complementary skillsets.

What do I mean by complementary skillsets? You’re looking for people whose work frequently overlaps with yours, but who aren’t directly competing with you for work.

If You’re A…Try to Meet…
DesignerWeb Developers, Programmers, Product Consultants, Marketers, Copywriters
CopywriterDesigners, Marketers, Photographers, Illustrators
ProgrammerDesigners, Marketers
PhotographerCopywriters, Event Planners, Wedding Planners, Marketers
Event PlannerMarketers, Photographers

These freelancers are already working with the exact types of clients you’re looking for. And they often get requests for introductions to freelancers offering your services.

Since these freelancers focus elsewhere, they’re not in a position to compete with you. In fact, referring you will make them look good. It demonstrates that they have their client’s best interests at heart and want their client to succeed.

Where to Find Complementary Freelancers

Chances are you already have some of these freelancers in your network. You may not even know it.

If you haven’t already, start reaching out to friends, former colleagues, and anybody else you know who works as a freelancer or might know freelancers. Tell them what you’re working on and ask if they know anybody who works in complementary fields.

You can also look at your contacts’ networks on LinkedIn to see who they know; once you find somebody who might be a good fit, ask for an intro.

Freelancers are a friendly bunch, and they love to help each other and pay it forward.

Finally, you can join freelancer meetups and professional Slack groups that freelancers frequent. There are communities for Startups, Design, Photography, programming, marketing, SEO, and a whole lot more. Make the most of them!

Asking for Meetings

No matter where you look, your goal is to set up coffee meetings or a quick video calls with at least 5 freelancers working with the types of clients you hope to land.

I typically write something like this in Slack groups:

Hey all! My name is Tim Noetzel, and I’m a Boston-based UX Design Consultant. I’d love to chat with any marketing or web developer freelancers out there and see if there are ways we can help each other.

Anybody up for a quick call or video chat sometime this week?

If you find specific freelancers, it’s also okay to send them a direct message and ask for a meeting. Just remember: be respectful and don’t spam.

Making the Most of Your Meeting

Once you’ve got a meeting set up, you need to make the most of it!

I usually like to cover 3 things when talking with other freelancers:

  1. What are they working on?: Get as much information from them as you can about their business. What types of services do they offer? What types of clients do they work with? How’s it going?
  2. What do they need help with?: Is there anything you can do to help their business? If you’re a designer talking to a programmer, for example, you could volunteer to help a bit with their website. Also mention any clients you have in the pipeline if you have them and suggest bringing up their services.
  3. Opportunities to Collaborate: Do any of their clients need the types of services you offer? Save this one for last. You want referrals, but it’s important to get to know one another and pay it forward first.

This formula might seem simple, but I’ve gotten countless clients this way. Try it out and let me know how it goes!