Finding Your First Freelance Client Can Be Easier Than You Think
Learn how to start down the road to self-employment with these three strategies.
You’ve got a lot to offer the world, and know that you can use your skills to make money. The idea of working as a consultant or freelancers is something that you’ve toyed with, but it feels like a big task especially as you’re working a regular 9–5 gig.
On top of all the potential to earn some extra cash, you also love the idea of being fully self-employed, and the flexibility that it brings with it. No more long commutes, grumpy co-workers or bad office coffee.
But the thing that weighs most heavily on your mind is where and how you find your first client, and prove that you’ve got what it takes to provide an exceptional experience.
With a little leg work and use of the right online tools, you can set yourself up for success in not only finding, but landing your first paying client that will move you from dreamer to doer.
Get Busy On LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing social media platforms among professionals and for good reason — it provides a ready made solution for you to highlight all your skills, experience and education in one place, while providing countless opportunities to network.
If you don’t already have a profile, take the time to start one now. Commit dedicated time (about an hour) to fully complete your profile. Include important details about who you are as a professional, but be careful not to go overboard.
LinkedIn is not like Facebook or other social media platforms where oversharing of personal details is the norm. Remember that this is a professional platform and most users are there to exchange big ideas, and extend their own influence throughout their network.
Add people that you’ve worked with in the past and current colleagues to your network. Give careful consideration as to if you want your current manager as part of your network, especially if you’re open to looking for new opportunities.
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Look for others in your industry that might be outside of your personal network, but that you’d like to connect with. Share interesting and relevant articles. Write posts that reflect your thoughts and opinions on your industry.
One of the great ways that LinkedIn can be leveraged is to establish your reputation as a teacher and thought leader. Post tips and tricks that you use to make your working life better, and share with others openly. Position yourself as an expert, and stay within your own niche to carve out your space as a trusted resource.
People will watch and follow what you say and do closely. The opportunities that come from engagement through LinkedIn are endless — it’s up to you to make the most of them.
Register On A Gig-Based Website
Sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fivver have a reputation for low quality job opportunities, and pitiful hourly rates for freelancers and consultants. While this may be true in some cases, it’s not the situation for every job opportunity.
My experience with Upwork in particular has been positive, but it does take time to understand how the platform works, and what you can do to maximize your chances of finding a great client.
Fill out and complete your profile to the very best of your ability. Make sure that you highlight your skills and experience, and what makes you standout from the competition — this part is extremely important.
Many of the job seekers on these sites are from abroad and they will do the work you’re trying to bid on for a quarter of the cost as you are asking. Your bids will constantly be undercut — and in a lot of situations the lowest price is what the client is after.
These types of scenarios often mean that you don’t want to work with that client anyway.
With that said, there are lots of clients seeking skilled and experienced professionals with a proved track record of success that are willing to pay expert level compensation to the right person.
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Start by submitting proposals to a few lower paying opportunities to build your portfolio, and reputation on the platform. Gaining this experience along with positive reviews from clients will help you become a top rated candidate that gets the right attention from the very start.
Look for opportunities to work with clients that are seeking a longer-term working relationships where you have the chance to move from a single gig to multiple engagements.
One of my best clients that I love to work with came about as a result of my profile on Upwork. She reached out because of my background in grant writing, and I’ve just recently completed my third large project with her. We’re now discussing future collaboration and how I can help her business grow.
Start A Blog Or Write On Medium
You probably hear this all the time, but you need to start a blog or become a regular contributor to Medium. Why? To get your ideas out there and build a reputation.
Writing comes naturally for some of us, and for others it’s a bit more of a struggle, but this is an area worth investing in.
In order to establish your reputation, build an audience, and open yourself up to opportunities you need an online presence where you can showcase your best ideas.
If you want to be a writer in particular, you need an online profile that demonstrates what you’re capable of.
Industry specific thought leadership is a powerful way to extend your reach and influence — even if you don’t consider yourself experienced enough to fall into this category.
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There is something that you know how to do, and how to do it well, and it’s your job to share that with the world. Use writing platforms like a personal blog or Medium to get that information out to the world. As you establish your credibility, you’ll find that new opportunities will come.
People will approach you for advice and your opinion on things they’re struggling with. Be ready to listen to their stories, and always offer whatever insight you can into their situation.
Not only is this a great way to establish a reputation for a person-centered approach to doing business, but it also lets you hone your skills that can then be used when working with paying clients.
When you’re looking to start a career as a consultant or freelancer, one of the most difficult tasks can be landing your first client. With a strategy that sees you build a profile on LinkedIn, register with gig-based websites like Upwork, and committing to a writing habit that sees you publishing on a personal blog or on Medium, you’re opening yourself up to endless possibility. Working with your dream client may be closer than you think — and the road to self-employment is just that much easier to follow.
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