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When looking for work, freelancers find the Internet a double-edged sword. While it seems to simplify the hunt for opportunities, it has also given rise to both lowball bidders and opportunities that border on fraud.

That’s why freelancers have been getting savvier and more selective in their prospecting methods. Consider these proven methods for finding well-paid work:

Ask clients for repeat business

Ask clients for referrals

Network with prospective clients

Network with fellow freelancers

Pitch agencies

Deliver speeches

Create partnerships

Search reputable niche job boards

Tell people how to do your work

Turn down low-paying work

Ask clients for repeat business

If your clients pay you the rates you want to earn and you’ve built a good relationship with them, ask questions about their upcoming projects and needs to get them thinking about hiring you again in the future.

Ask clients for referrals

Many freelancers have already worked for clients that both liked the work they did and paid a fair price for that work. Those clients may know other businesspeople who could use similar services and are open to paying professional rates. Why not ask those clients for referrals?

Network with prospective clients

Whether you attend events in person or contribute to discussions in online networks like LinkedIn or Google+, you can interact with people over common interests. You make an impression on other people. You build your reputation. You show up on more peoples’ radar. And over time you can open doors for yourself by asking for opportunities to work with those people you’ve connected with.

Spend time on various networks to find out where your prospective clients, and their connections, hang out. When you find these places, target your efforts to them. Start with places like:

  • Professional organizations that cater to your prospective clients
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Industry trade shows and conferences
  • Websites that cater to potential customers

LinkedIn groups and other online forums If you’re having difficulty learning where to meet prospective clients, ask people you know. And remember that you may meet prospective clients (and their contacts) at any time or place, so be ready to network wherever you are.

Network with fellow freelancers

Joining trade associations and informal groups (e.g. Yahoo or Google groups) helps you become known to others who you might consider competitors. Some have more work coming in than they can handle, so they might outsource some of it to you once you get to know them and build rapport. They’re helping you and they’re helping clients by hitting deadlines they can’t meet themselves.

Such groups are also great for water-cooler talk, sharing tips and learnings, as well as discussing industry information. And if your business ever experiences a slump, your peers will be there to lean on for support and to see you through it.

Pitch agencies

Many businesses outsource work to advertising and marketing agencies. To meet their clients’ deadlines, agencies either hire or contract a variety of professionals: copywriters, designers, social media specialists, public relations managers, app developers, and so on.

Meet people in agencies and you may find their “overflow” project work flowing to you.

Deliver speeches

Members of your target market may attend trade shows, workshops and other events that need public speakers. Contact event organizers, who frequently organize keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and other forms of “live content marketing”. There are few better ways to get you in front of prospective clients.

Create partnerships

Let’s say you enjoyed collaborating on a project with other freelancers. (e.g. building a business website where one person wrote copy, another designed the site and a third coded an ecommerce module for the site). Talk to your partners about jointly finding and working on similar projects.

If they agree, you can publicize this collaborative relationship on your respective websites. Consider naming this alliance and creating social media presences (e.g. Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn company page, Pinterest page, separate website) to promote the group.

By pooling your marketing efforts, you’ll land work as a group you may not have won alone.

Search reputable niche job boards

Look for job boards that cater to the specific work you do. People who post jobs on such boards may better understand the value you can deliver and offer commensurate rates.

Don’t discount larger freelance job boards like Elance and oDesk, and try Kijiji and Craiglsist too. You may need to sift through many lower-paying gigs, but good opportunities can be found there.

Not sure where to start? This post about finding freelance jobs shares 17 great sites to find work.

Tell people how to do your work

This tip may seem counterintuitive. Why write blog posts or a book to explain what you do and risk having people learn from your material and do the work themselves?

Not everybody will go the DIY route. When you publicize your know-how, some people will ask you to do the work because they lack the time, expertise or resources to do it themselves.

Besides, anybody who comes across your tips will see you as an expert and call on you or refer you when they hear that other people need your talents.

Turn down low-paying work

When you avoid gigs that don’t pay the rates you want to earn, you create more time to market to clients who pay those higher rates.

This isn’t always the easiest advice to follow. If you’re building a portfolio, for instance, you may want to accept lower rates in return for referrals, portfolio pieces and whatever other benefits you can obtain. Just remember your long-term goal of seeking better pay.

When will I see results?

You can’t predict the speed at which these methods produce results. Pitching for a job you find on a job board might elicit an immediate response, while an insightful comment you add to a LinkedIn group discussion might be found months later by somebody looking for that insight to solve a business problem.

Work consistently at each method and you’ll find you both produce results and that the results come more easily. The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.