Any ambitious entrepreneur wants to land high-profile clients. Not only do big, prestigious companies pay more, they also offer an excellent addition to your portfolio, increasing your reputation and professional credibility.

The problem is that the bigger the client, the greater the competition. So how do you go about standing out from the crowd? I spoke to some successful self-employed professionals to find out.

Use your current contacts

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world.

So it stands to reason that someone at that big company you’ve always wanted to work for could be, at the very least, a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.

Claire Louise Sheridan is a 25 year old freelance writer who recently worked on some content for one of the world’s biggest dating sites. She says the key is to use your contacts to your advantage:

“Ask your friends. They may be looking for a freelancer and never considered you were looking, and it can take a load off their mind, too. A friend has the added benefit of knowing your background and talents. This is how I started doing freelance content with one of my main clients.

“You should also strategically expand your friendship circle. If you know that a friend of yours is connected either with a company that you’d love the chance to work with, get an introduction. This is like classic networking, but providing you do it right, it’s way less sleazy. Don’t go in looking for work with them – try and establish a connection first, but ultimately appear professional when testing the waters in this area.”

LinkedIn is a really important tool for forming and maintaining casual professional relationships with your friends. Connecting with your buddies makes your profile more visible to their contacts, meaning you’re more likely to be spotted.

If you tend not to mix your work and social life, LinkedIn will also automatically tell you when your friend gets a new job. So if one of your friends starts working for your dream client, you’ll know straight away and can get your foot in the door.

Make a great impression

To land a high profile client, you need to be the real deal. This means not only having a whole load of skills and experience to offer, but also an online presence that conveys your professional worth and expertise.

A great way to do this is to have your own website. Jamie Thomson, a freelance copywriter who’s worked for a world-renowned fashion brand, said that he maintains a blog, which shows potential clients that he’s both passionate and knowledgeable about his work:

“As a freelancer, I think it’s important that you show commitment to your craft. You need to show potential clients that you keep up to date with the latest trends in your industry and that your knowledge goes beyond entry-level topics.

“Think of your blog as an extension of your portfolio and make it useful to people who may be interested in using your services.”

You could also consider engaging in some content marketing. Think of a topic that creates a lot of problems or controversy in your area of work and create a great piece of content for your blog or website. Then share it round social media and try and get links back to it on other blogs.

This method of marketing is being used more and more in modern companies – and it really works. The idea is to position yourself as an expert in your niche, drive traffic to your website and find ways to convert that traffic into sales. Here’s a great post from Jamie about why content is the most important part of your website.

Keep at it

Keeping on top of blogging and social media needs to be part of your daily routine if you want to make the most out of your contacts and content marketing.

Patience is key. It might sometimes feel like you’re doing a load of extra stuff and seeing no return – but it’s a long term investment – which means you need to put in a little over a long period to see some return.

Here are some wise words from Stephanie Barnes, a freelance PR consultant:

“Get on freelance job sites. Get on Linkedin. Get on Facebook. Get business cards. Get out and about into the field – for example, if you’re a website designer, go to art shows etc. Just keep going, I did 15 hour days every day for about a year. Keep dreaming, visualising, going for it. Stay humble and grateful.”

At the end of the day, if you’re a freelancer you’ve hopefully chosen to do something you’re passionate about, so you should enjoy engaging with other freelancers and professionals in the community.

All you need to do is keep networking, keep posting, keep updated and one day that friend of a friend of a friend of a friend is sure to pop up, offering you your golden opportunity.

Photo by Laurel F