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Freelancing 201: Landing Your First Client

From landing your first client to getting repeat business, an on-going series of blog posts to help you become a better freelancer.

Being a freelancer paves the way to meet new people, work with fantastic teams and live your life on your own terms. But being a competitive business, it can be quite hard to find your first client. Here are a few tips on how to land your first gig.

Start with the Why

Before looking for your first client, you should ask yourself whether freelancing is really for you. Along with the independence, it comes with a risk of irregular income in comparison to a full-time job.

RISKS

There have been days where I have struggled to find work even after having years of experience and a great client base. Therefore, it is important to understand the pros and cons of taking up a freelancing career before taking the leap.

Like any business, it takes time to build a client base and get a steady stream of work. So before planning to ditch your workspace and travel the world, be aware that you might go without work for a few days or even weeks.

KNOW YOUR NICHE

Secondly, understand your market. What exactly are you offering your clients? Do you know the type of clients that require your services? Are they a startup or a small business? Can they afford you or are you too cheap for them?

If you don’t know where to look, you won’t find what you are looking for!

A little bit of Digital marketing knowledge goes a long way in helping you understand your client base better. It's important because if you don't know where to look, you won’t find what you are looking for!


Finding Clients

Now the next question is where do you find work as a beginner? There are two common ways through which freelancers often find their clients.

UPWORK

Upwork is great for beginners, given its simplicity and easy to use interface. Upwork has a good number of genuine clients who are looking for quality freelancers. I had my start with Upwork nearly 7 years ago (back then it was called Odesk) and have enjoyed a successful stream of projects and wonderful clients.

I know freelancers who work from $5 / hr to $200 / hr on Upwork with a successful career spanning nearly a decade. Though it does take time and effort to grow on Upwork, it's easy to land your first client on Upwork. Here is mine if you want to take a look!

LINKEDIN

Linkedin is more suited for experienced consultants who have moved past the usual beginner’s mistakes. The challenge with Linkedin is that you don’t usually know who is looking for a consultant, so it’s more about building a solid profile and cultivating relationships.

Though LinkedIn takes more time, it helps you to build strong connections and get in touch with C-level executives of companies who can boost your career to new highs.


Negotiating Price

Your growth is directly proportional to the trust that your clients have in you. So it’s important to build a portfolio in your early days than focusing too much on the price.

FREE MEETINGS

It doesn’t hurt to spend some time with the client for free in order to understand their problem and suggest the best solution for their company. Take a free 30-minute meeting with the client to see if you are the best guy to solve that problem. If not, suggest a better alternative.

It is better to give up a project today and land a bigger one tomorrow than ruining your reputation for a short-term gig.

REFUNDS

In case you are unable to finish a project, give the client their money back. The important thing to understand is that your client is taking up a risk by hiring you and if you make him/her look bad, it's not worth it.

If you fail to deliver, give them a full refund (unless the problem is on the client’s side which is a whole another story). If you have wasted their time, the least you can give them back is their money.

Conclusion

I have been a tech freelancer/consultant for the past 7 years. From building my first website to landing gigs worth tens of thousands of dollars, the experience has been truly rewarding. In order to have a successful freelancing career, understand if it is really for you, build trust and relationships and focus on giving your clients the best experience ever!

If you have questions, let me know in the comments.

About me: I am a tech consultant with a small (and awesome) team helping startups & small businesses with product development. Here is my full profile.
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