Before you make the leap, know that becoming a freelancer is not for the faint of heart. Even if you’re an expert copywriter, web developer, or graphic artist, it does not guarantee freelance success. Sure, having the right skills and experience is necessary, but you have to get hired by clients in the first place. In a competitive marketplace, that’s no easy feat. In fact, landing your first gig as a freelancer is one of the most challenge parts…
This is not meant to discourage you – I didn’t say it was impossible. Far from it! After all, the gig economy is one of the fastest growing industries, with millions of part-time and full-time freelancers around the world. What you need to succeed is a clear strategy for getting that first paid freelance gig. Once that’s done, all you need to do is ensure your client is satisfied and then find more clients who are willing to pay for your services.
Below are the 6 steps to get your first client as a freelancer. Before I get to step 1, there is actually a step zero… You NEED to have a valuable skill that people are willing to pay you for! If you don’t have one yet, then check out my blog post on the top 12 high demand freelance skills and where you can learn them for free (click here).
1. Create and Maintain a Professional Website
A lot of freelancers get their first project from referrals, and we’ll discuss that later on in this article. But having a professional website makes you stand out from the crowd. Not only does it show that you mean business, it makes it easy for clients to find you. After all, most people nowadays look for products or services online using search engines like Google or Bing. If you don’t have a website yet, here is a step-by-step guides to help you build a blog from scratch.
What should be included in your site? It should present the following information clearly: your skills, services, and achievements. It’s not a “one and done” task either; you need to regularly update your website by adding to your portfolio, including testimonials from recent clients, and posting blog entries.
When writing your website content, you need to strike a balance between being both businesslike and personable. You’re not just marketing your services; you’re also promoting yourself to potential clients. Thus, your website should feature proactive, passionate, and insightful content.
A blog is only effective if it is clear, purposeful, and relevant to your business. Unless you’re in the food industry, there’s no point in blogging about what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, your posts should showcase your expertise in a specific niche and provide valuable information to your readers.
Your website is often the first impression clients get of you and your business, so make sure you include a portfolio of your best work. Your portfolio is proof that you can translate objectives and ideas into top-notch results. If you have nothing to show (either because you’re really new or your previous projects are covered by non-disclosure agreements), then you could include a resume that your site visitors can download.
2. Grow Your Network
Being a freelancer does not mean going into isolation. In order to get clients (and stay sane if you’re an extrovert), it’s a must to connect with people and add to your circle of friends. Reach out to well-known freelancers in your field and ask them for advice. If you are not known to them personally, you can send polite emails instead. Most successful freelancers remember how it feels to be a rookie and would probably be glad to share their experiences and useful tips.
So where exactly can you freelance professionals like these? Aside from contacting people you actually know, you can also look for fellow freelancers online. Get inspiration from their website, portfolio, and client list. Then, brainstorm with a piece of paper with these questions:
- Why did client X avail of this freelancer’s services?
- How did their communication start?
- Do you think they need additional help from another freelancer with a similar skill set?
If you answered the last question in the affirmative, you could reach out to the client yourself. Follow them on social media and send an email introducing yourself, expressing sincere interest in their work, and offering your services.
Don’t forget to update your email signature with links to your website and social media profiles. It’s amazing how this tactic can expand your network and client base.
Another tip is to participate in social media discussions and networking events in your field. You can boost your visibility with regular attendance to freelance or industry gatherings, both online and in person.
3. Keep Your LinkedIn Profile Up-to-Date
Social media sites have different target audiences, and LinkedIn attracts people who are interested in professional and business topics. That’s probably why it’s a treasure trove of opportunities for freelancers.
Devote a day or two to polishing your profile. Make sure it includes a professional photo, updated information, and a career summary or objective. Check that your profile is tagged as “open to new opportunities” and add relevant uploads and links that would catch the eye of your next client.
Make sure you take advantage of the power of your LinkedIn contacts — friends, colleagues, classmates, relatives, and even fellow freelancers. Your existing network is a rich source of future clients and collaborators. Pro tip: take a peek at your competitor’s network.
4. Lend a Helping Hand for Free
Another way to get more clients is by working for free, usually for people you already know, like a relative or a friend. It’s a win-win for everyone: they get high-quality work for free, while you get a sample for your portfolio and authentic testimonials and endorsements for your website.
You can also collaborate for free with other freelancers who are already established. Offer to do a guest post or take photos or create high-quality content that they can publish on their website. It might not bring in cash, but guest posting will help you attract new clients as it showcases your expertise. If you submit top-notch work, then this is a good way to jumpstart your freelance career. Just make sure the website you’re guesting on gives you proper credit and adds a link to your own website.
Why does this tactic work? It’s simply because when you work for free, you’re doing that person a favor, and people are hardwired to return them in kind.
Say you create a stunning infographic for a friend who has a limited budget. If they like what you’ve done, they’ll be glad to promote your business as a satisfied customer. Every time your friend receives positive feedback on the infographic, they’re going to say who helped them make it: that’s you! You will also be top of mind whenever they hear of someone who needs similar services.
Here’s another way to combine working for free with networking to boost your freelance opportunities. For example, you received a marketing email with a few typos. You can reach out to the brand and respectfully mention what you’ve noticed. The company will probably appreciate your pointing it out in a private email and take note of your attention to detail. That takes care of your initial contact. Now, you can send a follow-up email expressing interest in volunteering or interning with them while you are getting your freelance business up and running.
If you’re just starting out, getting involved in projects with known brands would have a positive impact on your business. When you’re more established, you can start charging fees that are commensurate to your experience and skills.
5. Stay Active on Social Media Platforms
Don’t limit yourself to the usual sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. Search for platforms that cater specifically to professionals in your industry and niche.
Check out Behance if you’re a designer. There’s GitHub for developers, Vimeo for videographers, and so on. Create profiles on these social media platforms and upload the best samples from your portfolio.
The majority of clients would reach out to you through a third party, usually a friend or contact on social media. These platforms serve as your online business card, so highlight the information that would attract clients. When interacting with people on these sites, know your strengths and emphasize them.
6. Join Freelance Job Platforms
Established freelancers tend to avoid job marketplaces like Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork, and People Per Hour for a variety of reasons. However, if you are really new to the industry and have little experience working in the gig economy, then consider joining these platforms.
Initially, it would require lots of effort and time to establish your reputation on these sites. Still, many freelancers have successfully used them as a stepping stone to bigger projects and higher rates. It’s always worth a shot, especially if you’re starting from zero clients and income as a freelancer.
Getting that first ever client is a challenge, but it is possible if you have a teachable and collaborative approach. You also need to know your goals and articulate them clearly.
Try to increase your network, as the more people you know, the more chances of getting a new client. When building your website, focus on content that would attract and help out your potential customers. List the characteristics of your ideal client and find out how they hire freelancers.
Start small with just a few clients. If you keep a positive and friendly mindset, that number will soon double or even triple before you know it.
P/S: I just found the best presentation geared towards freelancers (or people thinking of becoming a freelancer)…and I wanted to share it with you if that’s YOU.
Call me crazy, but it just seems like there are so many incredible resources out there if you want to sell infoproducts…
Or physical products…
But what about when it comes to selling YOURSELF?
How do you bootstrap your way to success when you’re trying to sell your own freelance services?
Until now, I had never seen anything that really supports and speaks directly to freelancers…
If you’re a freelancer trying to grow your business…
Or, if you want to start your own online business, but you don’t have a product just yet…
Or, if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the service-based industry to see what this “freelancer” thing is all about…
You NEED to watch this incredible presentation that I just discovered… (it’s totally free to watch)
I’ve never heard ANYBODY explain the struggles, and frustrations, and real-life scenarios of a freelancer quite like Julie Stoian has laid them out…
And, I’ve never seen a more clearly laid out “roadmap” that acts like a high-level guide for someone wanting to start a business online, but might need help figuring out how or where to start.
Julie walks you through each step of the “freelancer’s roadmap” that took her from stay-at-home mom to six-figure freelancer in just a few years.
The door is WIDE open with so opportunity if you are thinking of going the Freelancer route…
Julie went from stay-at-home mom to six-figure freelancer in just a few years, despite the crapstorm of obstacles that she was dealt…
Check out her crazy story, and then you’ll see why I have zero doubt that you can do it, too…