The burning question that every inexperienced freelancer is struggling with: how to get clients? The fact of the matter is – it’s not easy, but if you follow these few steps, it will become easier.
1. Create a client-focused profile
If you have a Linkedin or any other profile you hope to get clients with, it has to be about what you can do for a client, not what you can do in general. Here’s an example. If you’re a photography expert, this would be a good headline:
Perfect Photography for All Your Memories
while this would be a relatively bad one:
An Excellent Photographer.
Are you noticing the difference? Clients want to know how you can help them achieve something. If you’re only promoting your good skills without mentioning words like “you” or “yours”, chances are, they won’t be too interested in it.
Another useful thing to do is to have your bio written in a conversational way. Your CV is there for them to get the exact image of where, what, and when, but if your bio doesn’t interest them, they probably won’t even go any further. Mention your skills and achievements, but make it sound more readable than just stating all your accomplishments.
2. Build a network
Freelancers tend to think that once they opt for freelancing, they must be on their own. But that is far from the truth! One of the most important things when searching for clients is to build a network of people with similar interests.
That’s easy enough to do on Linkedin – you find a person with similar knowledge and ideas, you send a short invitation, and they’ll probably add you to their network, too.
“But wait”, you might be thinking, “why should I be conspiring with the enemy? After all, we’re playing the same field. Shouldn’t I be avoiding them?” This is a common misconception, and I can see where it’s coming from – I’ve been there myself.
There are more and more freelancers by the day, so keeping away from others seems like a good way to ensure no one will steal your clients.
Logical as that may sound, it’s actually the other way around.
By getting to know others who have been in the business for longer, you can learn something new and useful.
Take a look at their profile, the things they share, the way they talk. Get to know them better – ask them specific questions about their work and how they personally find clients (always start with flattery, though – that tends to land you the best, most sincere answers!).
My dream is to build a community of freelancers who support each other, rather than an egocentric platform keeping the fire of severe competition burning.
That’s why I started the “Freelance Tips With…” series. Every week I interview a freelancer who has somehow inspired me. The people I talk to share not only their success stories but also their flaws.
Together we choose not to fake it until we make it, but to open the dialogue about the challenges the freelancers around the world have to deal with.
At the end of the day, if you’re helping others out, others will be helping you out, too. And besides, you can find potential clients among others’ connections. Maybe it’s not that bad to have them as your acquaintances, after all!
3. Have your friends help out
Now that we agree that having those with similar interests inspire and help you is a good thing, let’s talk about friends and family.
No one knows you and your capabilities better than them, and they could help you a lot by promoting you – something as simple as sharing your work online. But we are often too shy to ask them for fear of being boring and sounding like we’re using them.
Say it with me: having your loved ones help you out when you really need it doesn’t mean you’re using them!
It means you need some help and that’s perfectly okay. Of course, you shouldn’t go overboard – even one share could make a difference. But don’t refrain from doing it simply because you don’t want to bother anyone. As a freelancer, it’s on you to use any and all resources given to you.
4. Stop comparing yourself
A common mistake many freelancers make is comparing themselves. They would…
• …see how much “big names” in the freelance industry are getting paid
• …offer a similar rate for their own work
• …end up without clients, unhappy because the world isn’t just.
While wanting to be paid equally is something to strive for, the fact is, those other freelancers probably started out with way lower rates, too. People are ready to pay a lot only if they know for sure what they are paying for. If you have great reviews and amazing rating, of course, that’ll happen.
However, if you’re just starting out without much to show for yourself, you are expecting someone to take your word for it and just trust you blindly that you’re capable of doing something they need. From the client’s perspective, that’s a huge risk many of them will not be willing to take.
Luckily, there are always clients whose budget isn’t all that high. They’ll go for low rates without looking for reviews and references. This is where you should tread lightly: accept the lower rates, but know your worth, too. If someone is offering you $5 per 3000 words, I wouldn’t advise you to accept that – that is simply a client using those who desperately need exposure.
Nonetheless, accept that the first few gigs you’ll do probably won’t be paying much. In time, you’ll be building your portfolio, and with that, you’ll get the experience and confidence needed to start working for more money.
5. Be patient
Being a freelancer isn’t as peachy as people make it out to be. “Oh, you’re your own boss – you decide when, where, and how much to work!”. Sure, it might be that way for those who have made it big in the industry. But for most of the other freelancers, finding clients can take weeks, even months.
For most of us, beginnings are tough, so it’s on you to be patient and not give up. Once you start sending invitations and emails without getting an answer, just think of this: it will take one – only one – response to help land you your first client, and everything will become easier from that point on.
So even though it will probably take some time to get there, don’t give up. Ask people from your network if they need your services (again, try focusing on them and their needs), let them know how you would fix a problem you think they have (website design, for example), and let them know you’re the right person for them. Be persistent, and things will get easier with time.
I highly recommend reading my articles Become a Successful Freelancer by Getting Into This Mindset and What No One Tells You About Being a Freelancer. They will help you focus on the big picture and find motivation even in the darkest days when you feel completely lost and overwhelmed.
6. Build a portfolio
When you’re a freelancer, having a portfolio is crucial. And one of the foolproof ways to build a credible portfolio is to work for free. Of course, you can create your own blog or showcase your work on websites like Behance or Medium. However, it looks way more professional if you’ve created something in collaboration with somebody else.
Later in your freelance career, you’ll be able to show to your potential clients the work you’ve done for the people who hired you before them. But to be hired in the first place, you need to charm your way into it.
Doing a couple of projects for free may help you land clients more quickly. If you write, ask to be featured as a guest writer on a blog you find interesting and fitting to your skills. Have them link back to your LinkedIn profile, blog, or social media in return.
Advertising is incredibly important when you’re a freelancer, and the most certain way to get it is to work for free.
You can do this if you’re a graphic designer, photographer, translator – it works for any niche. You simply need to dig a little to find someone who’s looking for some extra help.
One thing all of these tips have in common is that it’s all up to you. Even though it may sound scary, it’s actually a good thing. Find a comfortable place, get your laptop out, and start searching, writing, and promoting yourself. Good luck!
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