People who enter the freelance world often have no idea how to actually find clients. They usually enter that world because they have seen someone close to them doing it or heard that it is the right choice. Few people embark on freelancing out of desire. There is a much larger number of those who do it out of necessity and the fact that they have not found themselves in a job they currently do or simply do not have a job at all.
Either way, when you decide to start freelancing, you enter unfamiliar terrain. Even those who have some previous work experience in the industry and have chosen to freelance often make the mistake upon getting into this.
The Sequence of Events
This is how freelancers usually start functioning in that world:
- they decide to try freelance
- make a beautiful and modern website that explains what they do
- create profiles on social networks and start promotion
- waiting for clients to come
So? Well, in most cases nothing much happens. If a client comes, it is usually a lonely case, an exception. Even if you are good at what you do, often it is not enough to be noticed. We will paraphrase what Bill Bernbach, one of the fathers of modern advertising, said a long time ago – in today’s world, good does not always defeat evil, and evil does not always defeat good, but the energetic people always defeat the passive ones. The same is with the loud ones, who are heard more than those who may be more worth listening to but who are waiting to be asked. Bottom line – take matters into your own hands!
One of the most important things for a freelancer, both at the beginning and later, is research. That is, in fact, a nice name for a boring job. It does not always have to be boring but it usually is. If you do not know where to start, here is a suggestion: research who are the people of a similar profile as yours and what they have been doing lately.
Next, contact the people they have worked with and ask them a few questions like:
- What made them decide to hire a freelancer?
- How did they find him?
- Why did they decide to do that job at all?
- Why did they choose a freelancer and not a big company?
Not everyone will answer you. In fact, many will not. They have neither the time nor the will. They do not have a special reason either. But if you are persistent, someone will answer you. In time, you will have an insight into a lot of feedback and you will notice, very likely, one interesting thing – in many situations, what seems important and logical to you, is not really important and logical to the client.
10 Strategies for Finding Clients at the Beginning of Freelance
At the very beginning, you only need a few clients. For starters, look around, maybe someone in your environment needs your services or that someone knows someone else who needs those services. Let all the people you know learn about it. If you get a job, you will have a great base and you will gather experience in an environment where you can solve problems more easily.
When you exhaust what is colloquially called “FFF” (friends, fools, and family), here are suggestions on how to proceed…
Show Your Vision of an Existing Product
This recommendation may mostly apply to designers but, with a little creativity, you can adapt it to any other niche and not just to the one dedicated to building websites. As a designer, you are aware that making and publishing your work in a form of a website, which will explain what you do, is not the end of the process of attracting clients. Designers know that and they often make extra effort to show what they can do, how they think, and, of course, to be noticed. We are talking about the synergy of social networks, which you should use to create your profile, and examples of your work on them in creating this profile.
Monitor Job Platforms
Always follow what is offered and demanded on job platforms, such as Upwork, We Work Remotely, Authentic Jobs, Guru, or Fiverr. In the beginning, you have to follow everything, and try to bid as much as possible. When doing this, do not put yourself in the first place but focus on the client’s problem. If you have no alternative, accept jobs that may be below the rate you set or would like to achieve. You have to start with something, and it takes time to gain a reputation.
Before sending offers, put in a little extra effort, research a little more about the client, try to make the offer in a way that is what he really needs. And even with a little effort, you will be ahead of many. The more you try, the more chances of finding something you get.
Note: Introduce one rule. Every time you are busy, say, for the next two months, raise your rate. It almost always turned out to be a complete success to those who dared to do it.
Use People You Know
In addition to addressing the immediate environment, slowly start expanding the circle. Inform your acquaintances, use social networks, and contact privately friends from high school or college, and introduce them to what you do.
To further motivate them, you can always offer them a fee for each client they recommend and with whom you start a business partnership.
Talk to Freelancers in Your Niche
Stay in touch with colleagues. You are not just a competition, you are also a community. Get to know them, show them what you can do, make an agreement that will suit both of you to take on a small portion of the work that they may not be able to complete.
Be active in online communities that bring together people from your niche. Attend events, conferences, seminars. Stay in touch with people you meet there.
Get More Involved in the Community
Be a useful part of the community. Help people and promote yourself through that. Find out where the people you want to attract spend their time. Any written clue with your name at some point can bring you valuable contact or job.
Here are some communities for the three industries:
- Designers: United Designers, Designer News, web_design on Reddit.
- Developers: Hacker News on Slack, webdev on Reddit.
- Writers and copywriters: Inbound, my.copyblogger forum, Scribophile.
Create Interesting Content
Having fancy equipment does not make you a photographer, but doing photography makes you a photographer. In every industry, there is a way to make something that might be interesting and perhaps useful to others, and thus improve your skill. Every more complex thing you dedicate yourself to is an ideal opportunity to improve what you know and learn something new.
- Write or show something that you think potential clients should know about the business you are in.
- If you think something your client asked for is wrong, show why you think so and what you think is right.
- Share with potential clients small tips from your area that can help them.
- Write case studies about the jobs you have completed, or thought about the jobs you would like to do.
- Share with clients some resources, instructions, guides, tutorials. Recommend an interesting online article or book.
Offer Your Services for Free
When building a portfolio, this is also an option. Simply, sometimes it is much more important to have a little more freedom and have a good portfolio project than to earn money in the short term. It is also an opportunity to promote yourself.
For example, choose a charity organization, or something similar, and offer them your services. The other side should be aware of your qualities, and the values you give them. Even though they do not pay you, it does not mean that your time and work are worthless. If they are satisfied with the cooperation, ask them to recommend you to someone.
In addition, you can focus your time on a personal project. It can be something dedicated to an area that interests you besides work, your hobby for example. Something for your soul, but also something you will do as a professional.
Make a Usable Product
Whether what you do is free or paid, it can bring you the visibility you need. For starters, you can make some simple free products. If you are a writer, you can create a guide with tips for writers, if you are a designer you can create some free resources that people would use in their further work, and you can share your tips and experiences – e.g. how someone outside the story gets a better result in communicating with the designer and the like.
People will learn about you, remember you, and some will certainly contact you.
Find a Partner
Whatever you do, it is very likely that there is some complementary occupation. Find associates you can help with the part of the job that is your profession, and you will also have partners for things that your clients need that are not part of your job. Over time, by building a network like this, you will see who suits you best to work with and maybe even make some permanent arrangements.
It is very difficult to find quality and reliable associates, and people almost always rely on recommendations when it comes to that. Be able to recommend and be recommended.
Make a List of the People and Companies You Want to Work For
It is always good to have a nicely defined area of interest, i.e. niche. Once you find it, it is much easier to plan and research. When you decide on a niche, research it in detail. Introduce yourself to potential clients, follow what they are doing, show them that you know their work. If they do not hire you, at least they will find out who you are.
If you are not sure how to choose a niche, ask yourself these questions:
- Products of which industry do you use and love?
- In what industry do they hire people of your profile?
- Which people would you like to socialize with professionally and be part of their industry?
Lastly – Do Your ‘Homework’
Whenever you approach a potential client, research his business. In the field in which you are an expert, there are certainly various things that he can improve. Do not teach him how to do his job, but show him yours and how good you are at it. Suggest something to them that will improve their position, give the client a small free sample of your knowledge and explain it in a way that they understand. It delights people when someone dedicates himself to them in that way and when someone gives them value.
For example – if you are a designer, give a concrete suggestion why they should do something and how it can improve their business (e.g. shorten the registration process and simplify the forms, better organize the content in the site header, etc.). If you are a writer, suggest changes to the content that they have based on your experience of how visitors use similar sites, or suggest what new content they could make and why. If you are a developer – how can they speed up the loading of the site or adapt it to mobile devices, etc.
When you are a freelancer, you are not just what you do. You are your PR, and marketing, and sales. You are a small company. You have to master each of these tasks. Is this a lot of work? Yes, it is. But, when you start as a freelancer, it all takes time, dedication, and persistence. Everyone’s story is different, but what is perhaps the only thing that connects all freelancers is perseverance.