Friday, March 4, 2011

Finding local freelance clients

As an American living in France, I’m always translating. I walk down the street mumbling to myself in French, planning conversations way before I have them. When I need to call the plumber or go to the doctor, I thumb through a French-English dictionary first. And when I read a book on freelancing or the writing business, I translate the advice given to fit my expat life.

As I expand my freelance business to embrace copywriting I’m doing that last kind of translation more and more. For example, many freelance copywriting books advise you to start your business by contacting local clients. Now, of course, with the internet and social media, you don't really have to do that anymore, but it makes sense. With local clients you have the advantage of sitting down with them, seeing their operations first-hand and making a more vivid impression than clients you contact remotely.

Some books recommend finding prospective local clients by subscribing to a local business paper or magazine, or heading off to the library to peruse industry magazines and journals, or using online contact directories. But when you're an expat freelancer, these helpful items may not exist, or you can't get your hands on them, or they don't have contacts in your region.

So, how to tap into the local English-speaking market in your country? Here are a few ideas:

1. Join your local American Chamber of Commerce. The American Chamber of Commerce Abroad (called AmCham) is an organization affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The organization has 112 chapters in 102 countries and its purpose is to “advances the interests of Americans businesses overseas.” Members are composed of businesses and individuals with business interests, and there are plenty of social and networking opportunities. Get involved, find out who’s doing what and be ready to offer your services. (Americans in Paris - here's the link to our local AmCham).

2. Get involved in your Alumni Association. Both my undergraduate and law school have alumni chapters/networks here in Paris. Every month I get email notifying me of local events and parties. Check to see if your school has an association in your country. If not, find out from your alumni office if there are others grads in your area. Maybe it's time to start a chapter.

3. Plan a Tweet-up. For those unfamiliar with the term, a Tweet-Up is a tweet way (sorry!) of saying “Meet Up” for people who follow each other on Twitter. I met my first official copywriting client via Twitter - not because we followed each other, but because we attended a Tweet Up and happened to sit next to each other. Why not organize a tweet-up of people in your area so that you can meet, greet and network face-to-face?

4. Join a private organization. Churches, synagogues, parenting groups, entrepreneur groups, volunteer organizations are all great ways to meet other English-speakers and find out what’s going on in the Anglophone community – and possibly land a few clients.

Expats - How do you find freelance clients?

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