Adarsh Pandit

Software Developer

How to Generate Sales Leads as a Freelance Developer

By Adarsh Pandit in consulting

As I wrote in this post, I’m sharing what I know about consulting in the hope it’s helpful for others.

This post focuses on how to generate sales leads or “finding people who are interested in paying you.”

Everything here I learned as a freelance management consultant, while selling millions of dollars of work for a medium-sized boutique firm, and now as a freelance developer.


It’s a weird thing to hire someone else and pay them for their time.

The relationship requires trust above all else. Once one party loses trust in the other, it’s best to move on, re-evaluate what happened, and find other work. As such everything you do needs to be authentic, honest, and professional, including trying to drum up business.

Also it’s worth noting these tactics work best when you do them very consistently for a long time. There’s no substitute for building good routines and doing the work.

Finally, it should be noted that I am by no means perfect at sales and your mileage may vary.

Okay let’s start:


Specific Tactics I Use

  • Keep a list of people to stay in touch with.
  • Be sure to follow up regularly. Use tools to automate the process. I like to send a reminder to with the subject line “Get Coffee With PERSON” and get reminded regularly. Repeating calendar invites are great for this as well.
  • Be Helpful 1: Make introductions on behalf of people you think might benefit from meeting each other.
  • Be Helpful 2: Forward articles/videos/tweets/etc to people if you think they’ll find it interesting / relevant.
  • Don’t spend time with people you don’t like.
  • Send them articles when you think they may find them interesting. Here’s an old post where I talk about doing it with Google Reader, which tells you how old the post is.

The goal of these activities is to make “business friends” whom you like, and who like you. If you don’t like someone, or are just hanging out with them because you feel you have to, it won’t work.

You should be helpful to them, recommending candidates to hire, articles to read, people to meet, and services to try.

You should ask them for advice frequently. You should ask them for help rarely. You should support their businesses, retweet their product announcements, and support their crowdfunding campaigns, but only do so because you feel like it.

I should note that every job I’ve ever gotten has been a result of networking. I’m guessing this is broadly true.

Why Do This

First of all, you make business friends to learn. Asking questions helps you understand what other companies and situations are like which helps you handle your own thing.

Second of all, it feels good to help people, or rather it should. If it doesn’t, there’s a whole other set of problems to address.

But really, the reason you get to know a lot of people is to be top of mind when they need help.

An example is: Sally works at a company and hears “oh we need to get help with this Rails app,” and thinks “I wonder if my friend YOUR_NAME knows someone, or can help…”

Then they call you, and you have a discussion about how helpful you can be (if at all). Be sure to let them know if you’re the wrong person for the job but maybe you know who the right person is.

All of this should feel authentic. If it feels slimy or manipulative to you, it will seem that way to everyone, and you won’t build trust (see above).

Content Marketing: Writing

Specific Tactics I Use

  • Set up a blog which clearly states you are hirable and what skills you have.
  • Blog and tweet as regularly as you can about your work. The content should be solid, but quantity and regularity matter much more.
  • If you do something neat for a client, use their name (with permission). They may cross-promote your post for you.
  • Try using an editorial board in Trello to build a pipeline of ideas which you can push along into posts.
  • Set regular writing goals like one post per week, one hour a day, etc.
  • Promote your posts using Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever. You can use Buffer to automate this stuff.
  • Find a pal who is good at writing to edit your posts before going out. I have everything in GitHub and ask for reviews using pull requests.

Why Do This

Writing blog posts is the highest leverage activity you can engage in. In other words, you can reach the most people per unit time of effort.

Also, posts last forever and the longer they’re around the more likely they are to be read.

Finally, your writing is representative of what you are like to work with. If it’s clear and well-edited, it’ll signal how you take care in your work. If you share interesting perspectives, it likely means you’ll have valuable things to say when someone hires you. If you write very regularly, it clearly demonstrates discipline.

Content Marketing: Speaking

Specific Tactics I Use

  • Write a ton of articles. Seriously, as many as you can.
  • Some of them will get a lot of traction. You’ll know because people will tweet them and maybe contact you. Analytics could help here also.
  • Write a 5-10 minute talk about the most popular topic.
  • Ask to give that talk at a meetup. Organizers are always looking for good technical material as long as you’re not shamelessly selling something.
  • Big meetups record or stream the video content. Watch the recording to see how you did. Also ask others at the meeting for feedback.
  • Keep giving this talk. In other words, practice.
  • Expand the talk to something bigger.
  • Use the expanded talk and video as submission materials for conferences.
  • Go to conferences and meet all the other nice people.

Why Do This

Talks help promote your articles, which in turn promote your consulting business.

In addition, speaking publicly makes you seem approachable and gives shy people a great excuse to talk to you, which is the goal - networking and making friends in your field of work.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun.

Then What?

How do you handle all of this crazy sales demand now that you are a big shot?

People will find a way to get in touch with you. You could add an interest form to your blog to increase the volume, but note that comes with a decrease in quality.

You may need something like a CRM if you’re going to run a firm with other people as employees.

If it’s just you, don’t bother. Use something like Trello to keep info in one place, and follow-up regularly with interested parties.

My next post will be on how to actually close these leads.

Thanks to Chris Eigner, Gabe Berke-Williams, and Jordan Eldridge for helpful edits and feedback.

Written by Adarsh Pandit

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