Congratulations, you took the plunge and are now a full-time freelancer! But how do you find your first client?
Or, maybe you just broke up with a client and are looking for something new. Where do you even start?
The pandemic opened the eyes of many employers to the possibilities of remote work or adding freelancers to the team, which means there are more opportunities than ever if you’re looking to jump in. Sometimes clients just fall in your lap and other times you have to be a little bit more creative. Here are some ideas on how to uncover your next diamond in the rough.
Do you have a favorite small or local business that you would love to see succeed? Whether they are new to the scene or a staple in town, the pandemic was hard on many local businesses. In addition to you being a customer, they may need some help behind the scenes but can’t afford to take on someone full-time.
Next time you visit, strike up a chat with the owner or manager and ask how business has been. Without being pushy, let them know about the services you offer and how you are invested in their success. You are a customer of theirs for specific reasons, and you just have to figure out what reasons might make them want to hire you. Don’t forget to follow up your visit with an email or business card.
Apps like Nextdoor or your neighborhood Facebook groups can be great resources if you’re looking for work. You’ll be able to keep your ear to the ground regarding businesses that might be opening or what kinds of issues people are running into.
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Post on your social media platforms (personal or professional!) letting your connections know you are looking for clients. You never know who will come out of the woodwork with a client introduction or a project. If you have a website or online portfolio, make sure it’s updated with your latest and greatest work as well as pricing information. If you’re really looking to catapult your business forward, invest in some paid social media advertising.
Keep it in the family.
At first glance it probably doesn’t look like it, but your family and friends comprise a great potential client list. You never know what kind of work their company might be looking for or how your skills can fit into the bigger picture. Share what you’re looking to do and what you bring to the table, and ask that they pass on your information to the appropriate parties. The best part is that your friends and family serve as the ultimate references and can vouch for you better than just any old client can.
Work your network.
Assuming you aren’t violating any non-disclosure agreements, it would be appropriate to reach out to your connections from previous roles - full-time or freelance - letting them know that you are going freelance and adding to your client list. Be specific about the services you offer and how you can help.
If nothing comes of reaching out to your connections, ask for them to write you a testimonial or share referrals. An old client vouching for your skills will be extremely valuable to any potential new clients. Even if nothing comes of these conversations right away, you never know how your name might pop up in the future.
Create a freelance network.
As you reach out to friends, family, and former clients, figure out who else has a freelance career. The great work-from-home movement encouraged many people to follow their passions and build a side hustle around something they love, and you never know who might have a side business. Ask to trade referrals with them: if they are a web designer and you are a social media manager, ask them to keep you in mind if any of their clients could use your services and vice-versa. Hiring multiple freelancers is often less expensive than hiring a full-time role with benefits, and as a result more and more companies are opening their doors to remote workers.
Don’t be afraid to connect with freelancers in your same industry too; they can be a great learning resource as well as someone to lean on if your workload (or theirs) becomes too much to handle.
Network in real life.
Though the pandemic may have temporarily halted in-person networking events, things are slowly popping up once again. Some ideas:
- See if any local business associations or industry groups have meetings in your area.
- Volunteer to speak at industry events or conferences.
- Guest lecture at a college or university.
- Join a co-working space.
- Attend alumni events from your college or university.
- Join an association for your industry.
Join a freelancing job site.
There are many different sites to choose from, each with their own nuances. A fee is often involved when getting paid via these sites, but it may be worth it for you depending on your rates. Many major companies turn to these websites first when looking to hire a freelancer.
Before biting the bullet and creating an account, you’ll want to do some research about which website is best for your skills and experience level.
It may feel like a daunting task to enter the freelance workforce and not feel sure where to start. Potential clients are everywhere, but part of the challenge is that they might not even know that they need your help. Finding that first client is going to be the most difficult part of building your business - persistence is key. Practice your pitch and remain confident in the skills that you are bringing to the table. You are an expert in your field and will be a great contributor to a worthy organization.