How To Get Clients For Your First Freelance Project
Freelancing

How To Get Clients For Your First Freelance Project

By
Derek Abram
|
CEO of Prio
|
7 min read

While the prospect of becoming a freelancer and being your own boss may be appealing, one of the biggest challenges faced by novice freelancers is actually finding freelance work. There are a lot of things you will need to do as a precursor to landing clients.

If you’re new to the world of freelancing and haven’t yet gotten to that space where you can say, “Hey, this is my first client.”, don’t sweat it. 

It is estimated that freelancers could take anywhere between 3 months to a year to network, build a pipeline, and begin to land freelance projects.

For all of you newbie freelancers wondering how to find clients, we’ve put together a comprehensive “to-do” list that will ensure you get your first paying clients before long.

How to find clients as a freelancer

There isn’t a single answer for how to find clients as a freelancer. It takes a combination of multiple factors, patience, and perseverance for clients to start trickling in. But once you have your foot in the door, things will get a lot easier. 

Let’s break down some of the most important things you ought to do as a new freelancer trying to find paying clients.

1. Create a portfolio

One of the first things you’d want to do is make a portfolio. Your profile may talk about your capabilities, but your portfolio is proof that you actually do have the skills required for the job.

While you may be new to freelancing, it is safe to assume that you have some experience with the service you’re offering your clients. Your profile ought to be a showcase of the best of that experience.

Another way to add relevant content to your portfolio is to do sample work or pro bono work for people you know. An added bonus is the fact that by doing this, you add to your work experience as well. 

You could create a website to showcase your portfolio, or depending on your area of specialization, choose one of the many online portals to host it for you, such as Tumblr, Wordpress, and others.

For example, if you’re a graphic designer or a digital artist, Behance is one of the best platforms for you to host your portfolio on. Design clients and creative professionals alike are also found sharing ideas and work samples on sites like Dribble and Portfolio. 

Developers can be found sharing ideas on Github, while photographers tend to populate Flickr and Photo Critique. 

2. Create content for digital platforms

Social media and digital platforms are the biggest resource pools that most businesses rely on currently. 

Therefore, writing blogs for social media platforms about the subject matter of your expertise is a great way to show your peers and prospective clients that you know your trade.

However, it is important for you to choose your topics wisely. The purpose of these blogs is not to write an instructional manual. 

Instead, try to write the types of blogs that show you as a strong resource for clients to work with.

Simply put, instead of writing a “how-to” blog post, write instead about topics such as breakthroughs in your industry or changing market trends. 

Writing about things that affect the industry you serve is sure to attract the attention of the right kind of people and make it easier for you to get clients. 

3. Word of mouth works great

Very often, the easiest way to land a job is also the most old-school approach: word of mouth. 

Simply put, when your services are recommended by someone, your client is bound to assume your credibility is beyond reproach and give you the job.

Word of mouth works for the same reason that you read product reviews before purchasing a new TV. People tend to believe in recommendations more than words on a website.

There are two ways that you could employ word of mouth to get your freelance clients. The first is to do discounted or free work for a couple of clients and to ask them to spread the word, recommend your work, and generally vouch for you.

The second way is to reach out to friends and family, tell them about your new venture, and ask them to tell people they know about the services you offer. You’d be surprised at how fast word gets around. 

4. Pay attention to your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is where a lot of employers go to look for resources as well as where job seekers connect with potential employers, which makes it important for your profile on this professional networking site to be up to date and active.

To begin with, start following your industry peers as well as organizations in the business verticals you want to work with. This will give you the opportunity to connect with and start conversations with other freelancers and potential employers.

It is equally important for you to keep your profile active and contribute to the community as well. 

By posting about ongoing or completed projects, industry news, and even the services you want to offer your clients regularly, you will increase your visibility, and thereby also increase the chances of being discovered and approached for a project.

5. Network and attend industry events

Networking, both online and in person, is one of the most important things for a freelancer to do. This is how you will make contacts within the industry and meet potential freelance clients.

While we’ve already spoken about networking on social media, doing it in person can sometimes be more beneficial.

A good place to start is to ask people you know to introduce you to decision-makers that they personally know. Another effective way to network in person is to register for conferences and attend industry events in your city. You may even want to facilitate or host online events yourself.

Be sure to carry your visiting cards. You never know whom you might meet at these events!

What to do once you’ve landed your first client

Following the tips mentioned above is sure to make it easier for you to land your first freelance client. However, what you do after you’ve landed that first client is just as important to ensure you keep getting work. 

1. Make it easy to work with you

Keep in mind that the more organized you are and the easier you are to work with, the more likely your client is to return to you and refer your services to others. Being easy to work with has multiple aspects to it.

One of the easiest things you can do to make it easy for others to work with you as a freelancer is to have a tool stack that allows for easy communication as well as organization.

 For example, using Microsoft Teams or creating a separate channel on Stack will allow your clients to leave you messages in real-time without having to email or call you. 

Similarly, project management tools like Trello and Asana will allow you to organize your projects better, enable transparency by allowing your clients to track the progress of their projects, and even empower a certain degree of collaboration.

Another handy tool to add to your freelancer arsenal is Prio’s automated invoicing tool. As a freelancer, you will now be responsible for sending invoices to each client for payments, following up on payments, and paying your taxes. 

Prio’s invoicing tool will help you generate invoices in three easy steps.

2. Make the client comfortable

One of the cornerstones of great customer service is proactive service instead of reactive service. 

What this translates to in the world of freelancing is that you ought to put your customers at ease by reaching out to them before they reach out to you.

You could do this by doing multiple things. For example, you could explain the way you will approach the project and the way you will execute it before you begin. 

You could send them a daily tracker with the progress you’ve been making on their project. Scheduling periodic calls to update them and answer any questions they may have is a great way to show them that you’re on top of things.

It is also important that you, irrespective of your chosen working hours, be available on the phone to answer their calls and resolve any issues they may have during their working hours. 

3. Impress them with timely output

There’s a term that gets used in marketing very often, and that is the “wow factor.” In the context of freelancers, the wow factor would be when you give your clients what they asked for, and maybe a little more.

For example, if the client wants their project by a certain date, try and send it to them a day or two earlier. They are sure to be impressed by your punctuality and professionalism. 

Always try and stick to the brief given by your clients, because while the work may be yours, the project is still theirs. 

However, do add value to it in whatever way you can. Remember, a happy client is bound to come back for more.

4. Ask for feedback

While you may have done the absolute best you could on your first freelance project, always have the humility to ask for feedback and accept it. 

Sometimes, others may be able to look at your work from a more objective point of view and offer you suggestions on how to make it better. 

The very fact that you are open to feedback is in itself often seen as a positive trait and is bound to impress your clients.

5. Ask for referrals

Once you have completed the assignment and you know the customer is happy with your work as a freelancer, be sure to ask them for referrals. 

For one, they are bound to know other people in the industry that you could work with. And as we mentioned earlier, a referral from an industry peer is more likely to land you another job than anything in your portfolio ever will. 

Conclusion

While we’ve shown you what you need to do to land that first freelance gig, there’s still a lot more you will need to do in order to keep that momentum going and have a consistent volume of work. 

Click here for ten tips you can follow to become a successful professional freelancer.

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