How to Find Clients for a Service-Focused Side Hustle

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Today’s contribution comes from Claudia Pennington, a digital marketing consultant and trainer. With more than a decade’s worth of experience in online marketing, she has become an expert in search engine optimization, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager through her work with small businesses, startups, and Fortune 500 companies.

Claudia trains side hustlers, freelancers, and small business owners in the fundamentals of digital marketing and SEO

She also blogs about her journey to financial independence through minimalism and entrepreneurship at

Take it away, Claudia!


Thinking about starting a service-focused side hustle? Looking for clients to launch your side hustle?

For new side hustlers, finding clients is often the number one concern. You might be unsure how to go about marketing yourself and your services to attract potential clients. You might even have some fears about the sales process once you connect with potential clients.

At the beginning, I was afraid of putting myself out there–maybe you can relate.

I worried that I wouldn’t find clients.

I worried about not being able to answer every question a potential customer would ask me.

I worried about pricing.

I worried about everything!

Remember that you are only new once and everyone starts in the same place: with zero customers.

Find and pitch your first potential client and you’ll have some sales experience. Each new pitch you send will help you build experience and gain confidence.

Sales and marketing are the lifeblood of every business (and nonprofit organization). Embrace any discomfort you feel today–you are not alone. Every side hustler felt some amount of trepidation when they first started, too. That’s why communities like Side Hustle Nation are so important.

As you work to overcome your fears, focus on the clients you want to serve and how you want to serve them.

What Service Can You Offer?

Everyone needs help with something!

If you’re still thinking about what kind of service(s) you could offer, do this exercise with me.

Grab a notepad and pen. Draw a line down the middle of your piece of paper.

In the first column, list the service or services you’re considering.

Nick’s Notes: You don’t need to be the world’s foremost expert in any field, you just need to be slightly better or more available than your target customer. Example services from my resume would include babysitting, ski teaching, house painting, content writing, and book editing.

In the second column, write the names of people you already know who would benefit from these services. And with that, you have your first list of potential clients–it’s really that easy.

Nick’s Notes: If you can’t think of any potential clients by name yet, that’s OK. Think of the industry connections you have or how you might get your offering in front of the people who need your service. More on that from Claudia below.

Once you have some ideas about the services you could offer and the clients you could serve, narrow down your list of services to one. Which service appeals most to you? Which service reaches the largest number of potential clients?

Nick’s Notes: Which one excites you the most? Which one are you most likely to actually execute on?

With the service you have in mind to launch your side hustle, it’s time to dive into finding clients you could pitch today.

B2B or B2C?

Who do you want to serve? Businesses or individuals?

If your side hustle is B2B, that is business to business, you are looking to provide a service like copywriting or digital marketing.

Nick’s Notes: Or administrative support, graphic design, web development, bookkeeping, or dozens of other business support functions. Need inspiration? Check the categories on Upwork or Fiverr to see what you might be able to offer. 

Business owners who seek assistance use Indeed, SimplyHired, Upwork, LinkedIn ProFinder, Craigslist, and Kijiji to find freelancers like you. For a B2B side hustle, your clients don’t necessarily need to be located in your area; you can serve businesses in other areas if you offer an online/virtual service.

If your side hustle is B2C, that is business to consumer, you are looking to serve your family, friends, and neighbors. B2C side hustles, like house cleaning and dog walking, are often location-dependent side hustles.

For a B2C side hustle, Craigslist, Kijiji, or Thumbtack are great places to start. Post a Facebook update to let your friends know about your new side hustle and ask them to share the update with their friends and families.

Nick’s Notes: Be sure to set your privacy settings to “Public” for this post so when it gets shared it will have a broader reach.

Kai Davis recommends going where the clients are. An excellent resource in your town could be the local chamber of commerce. It could be small business owner meetups. It could be in online software support forums. Small business owners in need of help are out there, online and offline.

Nick’s Notes: My latest book, Buy Buttons, features hundreds of marketplaces you can set up shop where clients already are.

Using any or all of the aforementioned resources, you are likely to find warm leads, i.e. businesses and individuals who are already looking for help.

What I like about warm leads is that the process is less “salesy.” When a business or an individual is already seeking help, the conversation flows easily and your lead is likely to move from “prospective client” to “current client” more quickly.

Identifying Ideal Clients

Let’s say that you are a side hustling digital marketing consultant (like me!) and you want to help business owners drive traffic to their websites. Any business with a website can use that service to increase leads and sales.

Who do you know today? You need just one name to start. Reach out. Set up a coffee date with this person or a Skype call if this person isn’t in your area. See how you can be of service. Focus the conversation on the needs of this person and how you might be able to help him/her.

If you’re a side hustling house cleaner, for example, you could help everyone from the elderly to DINKs (dual income, no kids) to parents with a new baby. Who do you know who recently had kids? Reach out to just one family to start.

Make sure your friends or relatives know that you’re starting a cleaning service and see if they might be able to introduce you to their friends–this is where Facebook can be especially useful.

Nick’s Notes: Seriously, it all starts with your network and spiders out from there. If you’re really clear about your service offering, it makes it easy for people to refer others to you. Even if your immediate network might not need your service, they might know someone who does. 

If you’re top of mind for some specific offering like ACT test prep for high schoolers who struggle with math, you’re in great shape to get that referral. Same thing in the B2B world. I know there are dozens of content creation services out there, but I refer people to Copywriter Today all the time because there’s no guesswork if it’s going to be a fit.

Depending on how much you hustle and the service you offer, it might be a little slow getting started. Or you might find you are inundated with requests immediately.

I recommend that side hustlers set clear boundaries beforehand; decide today how many hours you want to work each day or each week before you start looking for clients.

I used to have trouble saying “no” and consequently, I said “yes” to all of the work that came my way; I worked almost every night and weekend until I was on the verge of burnout.

Working too many hours can impact the quality of the work you do for your clients. You want clients to be happy and to stick around for the long haul, so I recommend setting up boundaries before you start pitching.

Focus on One Client

Focusing on one client at the start of your side hustle gives you an opportunity to take a deep dive into your client’s business and his or her needs.

One client is easier to manage than multiple clients and you’re likely providing better service to one than to many in the limited time you have available. 

Nick’s Notes: There’s magic in that first client. It’s empowering to earn your first job-free income!

Service-based side hustling is all about relationship building. If this is your first side hustle, you’re likely super enthusiastic about sharing the news with the world (and you’re eager to start making more money).

However, with a greater focus on relationship building, your client will continue to work with you and to refer you to others within his/her network. One client might be all you need to launch your side hustle.


Client Secret Sauce: Referrals

I’ll tell you my not-so-secret secret for finding clients: referrals.

When I’m looking for clients, I start with those small business owners I already know and those I have done work for in the past.

For example, my accountant mentioned a desire to increase traffic to his website. As a digital marketing & SEO consultant, I offered assistance with his website and we agreed to begin a marketing campaign at the end of the spring tax season.

By providing my accountant with excellent service, he may refer me to other small business owners. As an accountant, he knows that sales and marketing make or break success, so he may refer me to his clients who need help.

Nick’s Notes: And as an accountant, he already works with LOTS of Claudia’s potential clients. She could take it one step further and apply Joshua Lisec’s Other People’s Audiences strategy by hosting a free workshop for the accountant’s clients.

One of my clients has been with me nearly two years and she continues to refer me to friends and relatives. And it’s not just her. Other clients send referrals my way, too. Establishing one great relationship with a client and your client may help you create your own referral snowball.

Nick’s Notes: My wife has seen this to be true in her photography side hustle as well. Do great work, and the word begins to spread. We’d much rather do business with a personal recommendation than deal with finding a stranger.

Growing Your Side Hustle

If you have the time to try all strategies simultaneously, I say go for it! You could even try cold calling to find clients. See what sticks.

I have had greater success starting with those I already know and people actively seeking assistance, but you might be able to use these cold calling scripts from Matty McLain and find clients just as quickly.

When you’re ready to grow your side hustle, consider starting with Craigslist and Facebook Groups.

Looking for Clients on Craigslist

In 2015, I found a blogger on Craigslist in need of help with her website. Traffic wasn’t going the direction she thought it should be, so she posted an ad on Craigslist seeking assistance.

After a few months of working together, traffic started trending in the right direction, revenue increased, and soon I had referrals to other business owners she knew. Craigslist has been great for my side hustle!

I’m not the only fan of using Craigslist for side hustling. Cassandre Poblah shared her experience using Craigslist to find clients and tips for growing a side hustle quickly. Her experience demonstrates the importance of staying on top of those Craigslist ads.

Nick’s Notes: Craigslist is actually how my wife found her first photography gigs as well, though both she and Cassandre posted an ad for their services.

Looking for Clients in Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are great opportunities to connect with other side hustlers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. These groups may or may not help you find clients right away, but with consistent participation in and support of the group, you will be recognized. Being a selfless group member can generate new opportunities.

Nick’s Notes: Gabe Arnold shared this “hack” on a recent podcast episode, and that was to literally search relevant groups for keywords like “help” or “struggling” and finding threads where people are asking for help. Chime and provide as much free support as you can, and ultimately it’s the perfect lead in to something like, “Well, actually I run a business that helps companies like yours with that exact problem…”

Facebook Group administrators may post opportunities for you to share your work, so ensure you are respectful and stay with their guidelines for self-promotion. Even if there aren’t any opportunities for self-promotion, other group members will see you are active and helpful.

I have completed a few projects for a few different clients as a result of meaningful participation in Facebook Groups, so I highly recommend diving into a community you have a fondness for or where your ideal client is hanging out.

Nick’s Notes: Grayson Bell is the master of this, becoming known as the go-to guy for website support in a couple groups I’m in.

You will be surprised at the relationship-building opportunities you’ll find.

Your Turn

Where are you going to go to find your first or next client?

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Stock photo by Leszek Czerwonka via Shutterstock

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

7 thoughts on “How to Find Clients for a Service-Focused Side Hustle”

  1. Thank you, Claudia, for such a detailed post (and Nick for sharing it). When I first started writing, I was clueless about how to get clients. I spent more energy consuming information and bouncing around on social media than actually doing things that would get me closer to landing clients who needed my help. I’ve learned that it’s great to consume (and do social media), but it’s even better to follow through on what I’ve learned, be intentional with social media, and actually build a real, profitable stream of income.

    You mention referrals. They are now the source of more than half of my writing clients. It takes time to build this source, though. But it’s well worth it.

    Great pointers. Thanks again.

  2. Claudia these are helpful tips. I am huge on building bonds with clients, 1 to 1. Doing so strengthens these bonds and also helps me draw in referral clients too. More than that it feels fun to befriend folks while you’re helping them with their needs. Easiest way to grow a prospering freelance business; focus on 1 client at a time, build those bonds and prosper.


  3. Hi Nick,

    I always believe that building social relationships with clients help to boost more projects. Always build strong relationship not just the sake of work but add human touch in everything.


  4. Thanks for your helpful tips. I really benefited from your point to “identify your ideal clients”, it makes sense and I have started to reach out to the type of person who is my ideal client to learn about what they need and want from my service – will report back soon. Entrepreneurs get great business ideas using the Small Business Idea Generator


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