This is a series of posts where I field freelancing questions.
Have questions you’d like me to answer? Email me!
I know most work probably comes from making connections in the industry and building up client relationships, but where would one begin to look? There are some sites that post contract/freelance gigs but I feel like those are highly competitive.
Network as much as possible
It’s not only great to meet people in or related to your industry but people in demand often have an overflow of work. They turn down a lot of projects and would happily refer those clients to someone else that they trust. Trust is key here, everything is about relationships and it takes work and effort to foster and maintain those relationships. Have coffee with people (often!), stay in touch with great people you meet, build your network every week!
Ask past clients to refer you
It’s totally OK to ask your clients if they know anyone in their network that is looking for someone like you. Definitely best done after any current projects with the existing client wraps. As with networking, stay in touch with past clients so you’re top of mind for them and you never know when past clients will have new projects coming up.
If you’re in a city like New York or San Francisco there’s more startups than coffee shops. If they’re not finding you – then go find them! Create a list of companies you want to contact Prepare a well written and succinct email introducing yourself and your skills. Start sending emails. If you want to go the extra mile and look really professional, prepare a nice PDF that does a great job at marketing yourself and your work; you can go more in depth here and cover what you can’t in an email. Even though it’s 2016 and everything is on the Web, it’s nice to receive something like this in an email and you should also link to your online Website and LinkedIn profile. I took an approach like this when moving to a new city except I reached out directly to CEO’s in the area via LinkedIn (no shame here) and did get one project this way. It did take upgrading to Premium (but hey I cancelled three weeks later).
Do side projects
This is the one piece of advice that I give that more rarely taken. If you’re trying to build your portfolio all work counts. Clients want to see your thought process, to see that you’re a problem solver and that the actual outcome of the work is good. You can do this with side projects. Building your portfolio can be maddening at times if it depends only on the work that you have available to you through work or clients. Don’t wait around, do it yourself! Whatever you design, if it’s a Website or an app – it doesn’t have to get created in code to matter.
This one cannot be underestimated. If you don’t write regularly I understand how daunting it can feel to start. A blog is a wonderful addition or augmentation to your actual portfolio. It gives you the space to really express yourself and the way you think, which is so important to clients. It’s great for SEO also – remember people are searching for someone like you. How are you making sure they’re going to find you in the crowd of people? I’ve had prospective clients email me after reading a blog post I wrote wanting to meet. In the beginning it can feel like a lot of effort for little reward as it can take some time to pay off but it’s something you should be doing anyway. If you’re having a hard time thinking about what to write about, think about how your blog can be a resource for potential clients. Some posts I write demonstrate my process. I can easily link to them when potential clients have questions.
Building a career as a freelancer takes grit and hustle, but it’s worth it! It’s worth also reading this post that offers advice for transitioning to a full-time freelancing career. The truth is: if you’re full-time employed, you may have to work hard to do a little freelancing while working full-time to start and build a client base. It can be challenging to make the switch without a little traction to start, but not impossible – find your pace and good luck!