how to get your first freelance client

Top 15 Experts On How To Find The First Freelance Client

Freelancing has become a lucrative career for so many people and this industry is growing strong.

According to Forbes,  “There are 53 million freelancers in America today. By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers (this does not mean they are all full-time freelancers, but one of every two workers will be freelancers in some capacity).”

But the real question is, how do you get started?

How do you find your first client?

It’s actually not that hard and here are some tips and hacks from top industry Freelancers.

1. Create A Convincing Portfolio

To make a great impression with the client, you need to have a convincing portfolio. By portfolio, I don’t mean one with a lot of showy graphics and design. Good portfolios use a simple design and show off the best work you have done. If you have worked on some big projects at your daily job, put up some screen shots and a description of the project. (Jay Raj, @jay3dec)

2. Make Your Existence Visible

Clients aren’t going to know you exist unless you get your name out there in front of them. First thing you need to do is tell your family, friends, and other influential people in your life about what it is you’re doing. “I’m starting to design full-time, so if you know anyone that’s in need of [insert your specialty], let me know!” (Brent Galloway, @brentgalloway)

3. Have an Awesome Website

What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking for help? You Google whatever it is that you need, right?

Well, think about how others are going to find you. If you’re a graphic designer, and you want to get your first paid graphic design gig, how are people going to know about your services and capabilities? Through your awesome website, that’s how! (Jessie Spielvogel, @jspielvogel)

4. Consider Client’s Budget

As you make yourself available and give value like crazy, potential clients will start asking for your help. When they ask, say yes! Make sure that you focus on a “win” for your client and yourself. This means that you start by asking for a budget or by telling them upfront what you charge. If they don’t have a budget, feel them out, “$500? $1000? $2000? $3000?” They’ll let you know how much they’re comfortable with. From there, determine if their budget and your services are a match. Once you’ve worked out a win, pour yourself into giving that first client the best experience possible. (Jonathan Wold, @sirjonathan)

5. Grow Their Business

It’s when you contact bloggers, entrepreneurs, companies, small businesses or startups and let them know how you – a freelance writer – can help grow their business.

Yes, I know, it sounds hard (and scary) doesn’t? Especially if you’re brand new to freelance writing. But, you know what? It’s totally easy to do. (Elna Cain, @ecainwrites)

6. Take Local Newspaper As The Launchpad

Your local newspaper is a great place to start. Even the big metro dailies are often willing to take on a freelancer because they get paid less than a staff writer.  A weekly newspaper might be an easier shot, particularly the free ones, because there’s likely to be less competition.

If you can take decent pictures, that’s a bonus, but not required.

Editors love writers who come with ideas and can meet the promised deadline.

The pay won’t be great, but the credit is worth it for anyone, beginner or pro. (Anne Wayman, @annewayman)

7. Go For Twitter

Most experienced freelance writer got their first freelance writing job by using this tool and many of them still uses it nowadays. To find freelance writer jobs using this option all you have to do is to search for “Freelance Writer” in the Search Twitter tool and many tweets containing this search are going to show up, then all you have to do is to read all of them until you find the ones actually offering a job (because many of the results are about blog posts on this topic). It can take a while for you to actually get a job and there isn’t many job posting in it, but it’s a way to get started. (Victoria Oliveira, @itsmevoa)

8. Use Upwork To Grab It

When I first started freelancing, I did what everyone else did. I turned to Elance, the global freelancing platform (now named Upwork). I was desperate for a client, any client, and that was the best place to start—at least that’s what I thought. So, I made my profile, paid the monthly fee, and started applying to everything in sight.

It took a few weeks, lots of applications, and a few disappointing losses until I finally landed my first client—a gentleman who needed 1,000-word articles for his technology app. Let me be blunt. I knew next to nothing about his product, which focused on words of affirmation and child psychology, but I was willing to learn. After a few articles with detailed feedback, written and via Skype, I finally found my groove and started writing articles that worked. (Kelly Vo, @kevowriting)

9. Ask People Around

Work outwards from your blog to people who know you. Put the word out that you are looking for writing work. This isn’t begging, you can really help someone else with your writing skills or just by saving them time. Friends of friends and word of mouth is where I get half my work so this is a really effective method. When you are down it is hard to sell yourself so it really helps if someone is doing it for you. I would mention one lady in particular here who instantly comes to mind as a friend everybody should have but I don’t want her inundating with appeals for referrals, hehe. (Chris Garrett, @chrisgarrett)

10. Resume Plays An Important Role

Everyone looking for a job should have a résumé, but this document can be especially important to a design applicant. Your résumé deserves careful typographic design that reflects your type skill and ability. (Jacob Cass, @justcreative)

11. Start Bidding On Contracts

Upwork (formerly oDesk) is an online marketplace designed to connect freelancers and prospective clients. Create a profile, upload your portfolio, and start bidding on contracts. You can even apply for the ones you might not feel totally qualified for yet—that’s how you grow and become an even better designer. (Neal O Grady, @nealogrady)

12. Portfolio Design As Per Client’s Requirements

It never fails to amaze me how many designer portfolios I see that feel like they are aimed at other designers. The language you use on your portfolio site, the pieces you choose and the presentation should all be pitched at the clients you are trying to land. When hiring designers for corporate work I’ve had people present me portfolios of grungy, edgy or just arty work. This is a huge turn off and for a client, rather confusing. People want to see what they want to buy, not something completely different. So if your target market is edgy, make it edgy, if it’s corporate, make it corporate. Spend the time defining your brand and target market and then create a portfolio that will appeal to them. (Collis Taeed, @collis)

13. Presentation Matters A Lot

How you present your work matters. Many designers make the mistake of presenting an image of their project along with the project’s name, maybe with a URL thrown in for good measure. Don’t do it! You’ll be missing out on the big sell. Tell your potential clients just what it is your good at. Show them the process you went through and how you can help them with a similar project. (Nathan Powell, @nathanpowell76)

14. Go The Downtown Way

Walk the business district of your neighborhood or visit the local chamber of commerce and pick up all their current brochures or fliers. Call or stop in at the ones that have weak marketing materials, introduce yourself as a copywriter, and ask if they’d like help creating more powerful messages. (Carol Tice, @ticewrites)

15. Never Give Up

You’re not going to have plenty of clients right away, and that’s not a bad thing. Every client is also a new opportunity to learn. When you just get started, you’re still lacking experience and having too many clients would be overwhelming. Your first client is an introduction to the freelancing world; you build a solid basis for everything that’s coming next, and with each new client your experience improves. Believe me; that matters a lot in the freelancing world. I joined UpWork, formerly known as oDesk, and was lucky enough to get hired after sending my very first job proposal ever. Unfortunately, others aren’t as lucky; some freelance writers wait up to a two months or so to get hired. That’s why patience is crucial. Just because you weren’t hired immediately, it doesn’t mean you will not be able to find your first client. The point is never to give up and always apply wherever you can. (Amra Serdarevic, @amra_88)

I know it’s a lot of information but here is what I would do

  • Pick 1 or 2 strategies from the above list
  • Take consistent action
  • Measure your progress and results.

So what do you think? What strategy would implement and test first?