Updated: Nov 28, 2021
When you first begin freelancing, the whole world opens up to you. Potential clients are in every country. You imagine working with companies across many cities, states, and countries. As an online service provider, there is almost nothing stopping you from working with clients from anywhere and everywhere.
But it’s also true that location is a highly underrated factor in winning new clients. Instead of thinking globally, I believe a lot of freelancers will find more success by focusing their marketing efforts on their local market.
Speaking from my own experience: I don’t spend a lot of energy to market myself locally. Yet at the time of this writing, I’m actively working for seven companies—and four of them are based in my home city of Austin, Texas. That means more than half of my current clients are based within twenty miles from my house, despite the fact that I run a fully-remote business and have worked with clients across the globe.
Looking back over my five-year freelance career, some of my best (and longest-running) contracts have been with local companies. There is an undeniable home-town advantage to running an online service business, yet I don’t see many other freelancers discussing this topic.
So, here are five tactics for finding local freelance clients (and building a powerful home-town marketing advantage).
1. Appear in local Google searches for your services
It’s easier to appear in local SEO for your services than it is to appear in the national or global equivalent. For example, ranking in the top spot on Google for “Copywriter in Austin” is much easier than ranking for the term “Copywriter”.
I’m no expert in local SEO, but from my experience, implementing these local SEO tactics never hurt:
Establish a Google My Business for your copywriting services
Create a landing page specifically for people in your city and then submit the page to Google Search Console
Sign your business up on local business listings (but beware of scams)
Mention your city or state on your home or About page (“I’m a copywriter based in Austin, Texas”)
Everywhere that you create a business profile—such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.—include your city in the description
Find opportunities to write blogs about local topics in your industry, such as reviews of local marketing events and any services you offer locally (like in-person consulting)
2. Join local Facebook groups
Before I began my extended break from social media, engaging in Facebook groups was one of my most consistent tactics for finding new copywriting clients. I focused on two specific group categories: SaaS (because it’s my target industry) and Austin.
Most major cities will have multiple business-related Facebook groups. Not all are created equal. Look for active groups where spamming is penalized and people are genuinely engaged with the content. These groups make for easy networking.
When a business owner inevitably asks for recommendations for someone with your services, you can direct message them or leave a link to your portfolio in the comments. I’ve won many jobs over the years by simply being one of only a handful of writers for hire in local Austin Facebook groups.
3. Reach out to your network
When I first started my copywriting business in 2016, some of my earliest clients came from my personal network. I knew two local agency owners. All I did was send each of these friends a message saying I was available to help with copywriting services. One friend immediately hired me for a project and the other referred multiple clients to me within a couple months.
If you know local business owners, people in marketing departments, or creative directors, send them each a kind note that says you’re available to help their company on a freelance basis. You may be surprised by how many people in your network would love to send business your way. At the very least, it worked for me.
4. Speak at (or attend) local events
If you’re ever in doubt about whether businesses need designers or copywriters, just attend a few local business events. My experience is that almost every business person has creative ideas that they don’t have time to execute on their own. As soon as I tell these people that I’m a copywriter, they tell me about all the white papers, blogs, and website copywriting refreshes that they’d like to check off their to-do list.
In other words, local events are a powerful way to find freelance clients. Remember: every business needs good writers and designers. You can find more clients than you could ever need by simply showing up in the same room as your ideal customers.
If you want to take your networking to the next level, start speaking at local industry events. Being on stage gives the aura of expertise. And everyone wants to work with the expert in the room.
5. Search local job postings
I used Upwork for my first two years as a freelance copywriter. It’s a great starting place for building a portfolio. But one of the challenges of job boards and freelancer sites is the level of competition. You can easily find yourself competing against 10, 15, even 50 other people for the same project. How do you stand out?
One of the best ways to distinguish yourself is to focus on jobs from companies in your city. I’ve been awarded many contracts simply by starting off my pitch with an emphasis on my locality. Even if I never have to meet the client in person during the job, there’s something about working with people who share your same highways and coffee shops.
When all else is equal, you may be surprised how many clients go with you over the competition, simply because you’re from the same city.
Don’t underestimate the power of local marketing as a digital entrepreneur. While all your competitors focus on companies across the globe, you can retain your home-town advantage—and win way more clients than you could ever need.
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