Your clients are the bread and butter of your freelance business. And just about any freelancer would tell you that landing your first client is a challenge.
But, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
How to Get Your First Freelance Client
No serious client will hire a freelancer without seeing their past work. It’s just too risky.
As such, the typical freelancer usually showcases samples of their past work on an online portfolio.
- Designers tend to use Behance and DeviantArt.
- Photographers love Instagram and Flickr.
- Writers go to clippings.me and WordPress.com.
Experienced freelancers go the extra step and create a portfolio on their own website. They understand the value of fully owning the platform that their portfolio is on. Further, they get to brand their portfolio website with a unique web address.
If you’re interested in building your own portfolio website in no time, try Sitebeat.
Make it easy for potential clients to find you online and assess if you’re right for their project. Update your social media profiles and create an online portfolio.
Update your LinkedIn profile and ask for referrals from the people whom you’ve worked with. Include links that showcase samples of your work associated with your past jobs in the work experience section.
Update your work experience on your Facebook profile to indicate that you’re a freelancer in your chosen field. Add a link to your online portfolio. Then, announce this on your timeline with links or photos of your work samples.
Update your Twitter profile description to indicate that you’re a freelancer. Use hashtags that convey your chosen field. For example, a freelance writer might use the hashtag #freelancewriter. This makes you easier to find. Then add a link to your online portfolio.
Then, post a tweet that you’re available for freelance projects.
Most job boards require you to bid on projects and compete with other freelancers, so it’s important to have a profile which showcases your skills and experience.
Here are the most popular freelance platforms to get started:
Originally known as Elance-oDesk, Upwork is one of the top freelancing platforms in the world where businesses can hire local or global talents. As of June 30, 2018, a total of 2 billion projects were posted on the platform, with 375,000 freelancers, 475,000 clients in over 180 countries. Available jobs range from web development to admin support, so all kinds of freelancers can join.
If you’re a software developer, designer, finance expert, or project manager with extensive experience, you can also find freelance work in Toptal. This California-based freelancing platform promises only elite talent for clients. They have a strict screening process where they get only the top 3% of applicants.
Folyo is a freelancing platform for creatives like graphic designers, front-end designers, UX designers, web designers, illustrators, and logo designers. The Folyo team screens more than 10,000 projects every day and sends five to 20 projects per week to members.
Fiverr is an online marketplace where business can buy and freelancers can sell their services. Gigs — or small one-off jobs — start at $5, hence the name. Services offered include graphics and design, digital marketing, writing and translation, video and animation, music and audio, programming and tech, business, and fun and lifestyle.
This networking site owned by Adobe is a site where creatives can build, showcase, and promote their portfolio online. It also serves as a recruitment pool where 12 million creatives like graphic designers, photographers, art directors, and others can find work.
Look through your professional network. Ask anyone who has worked with you to leave a recommendation on LinkedIn (if they have an account). If relevant to your freelancing field, add the recommendation on your website.
Clients are more open to hiring a freelancer referred to them by someone they know, which increases your chances of landing your first gig.
Leverage your personal and professional networks and tell them about your new career path as a freelancer. They might be able to refer you to a potential client who needs your service.
You’re signed into Facebook and noticed that someone has recommended a page to you. Turns out, it’s another freelancer. What do you do? Do you view this fellow freelancer as competition and a threat?
The freelancing community is a closely-knit one. So don’t be afraid to network with other freelancers in your area.
Attend freelancer seminars, networking sessions, and other events where you could meet and connect with fellow freelancers. Ask them how they got their start and put their ideas into action. Some may even end up recommending you to their clients.
Don’t rule out offering your services for free to non-profits and charities. And consider doing projects for free for strategic industry leaders in your field.
Reach out to those potential clients and offer to write a blog post or build a sample homepage for them without a commitment to hiring you. If they like your work, a one-off project may lead to them being a paying client.
It’s a win-win situation also, as you get to include the work in your portfolio even if you’re not paid. You can also ask for testimonials and referrals once you’re finished. And it looks really good if you’ve done pro-bono work for charities, and have gotten testimonials from key figures in your industry.
You’ve told the client all about you and what you can do for them. But when it’s time to pitch, make it all about them. Seek to understand their business challenges and explain how you can provide a solution.
If you have to, use business jargon to show you’ve taken the time to understand their industry and not just offering a generic band-aid solution.
Make sure you’re adequately protected legally and financially by putting everything down in a contract. Make sure the contract covers the basics — a set of timelines, pricing, forms of payment, penalties for late payments, and terms and conditions for additional work.
Once you have sealed the deal, put your best foot forward and strive to impress the client with your work. Double check project requirements to make sure you understand what the project requires. Ask questions if you have to.
If you can do more than what the client requires — such as submitting earlier than the deadline — that would be great, too.
The Bottom Line: Repeat the steps and take on more jobs
The only way to get more clients is… taking on more freelancing jobs. You’ll get the hang of working freelance the more clients you take in and the more experience you gain under your belt. So after landing your first client, keep on hustling!
Landing your first client is a challenge. But once you do it, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your freelance career. Have a strategy in place, persevere in your efforts, and you’ll find that dream client soon enough.