As a freelancer, your number one priority is finding work and getting paid, right?
But finding freelance clients can be overwhelming, scary, and frustrating, especially when you’re just starting out, or when you’re in a slump.
Many freelancers – myself included – have come close to throwing in the towel because whatever we were doing just wasn’t working.
We figured we could always get part-time jobs, or go back to work at a 9-5.
While there’s nothing wrong with either of those options, since you’re reading this, I assume you’d rather try getting clients first!
So what can you do to find more people to work with? Maybe something is missing in your approach.
If there is, these six strategies will help you fill any gaps you might have, so you can get freelance clients and get paid.
1) Have a Platform
Having a platform is critically important as a freelancer, because your potential clients want to get to know you before reaching out.
Think about it. If you’re working virtually, what’s missing? Human connection.
When you submit a job application/resume/cover letter, you’re letting your potential employer know why you’re qualified, and they get to know a little bit about you. But most employers generally want to talk to you, and meet you face-to-face, to get a feel for the type of worker you are.
If you are nowhere to be found on the internet, no one is going to want to work with you. They won’t even know you exist!
So what kind of platform should you have? I highly recommend having at least a website, even if it’s a free one (like on wordpress.com). You don’t necessarily need to have a blog associated with your website (we’ll get into that in the next section), but you should have a picture of yourself on there, an “about me” page along with a “Hire me/Work with me” page, a contact form, and where they can find you on social media.
This is optional, but you can also list your rates on your website. Some freelancers do, some don’t. It helps make your target client clear, and if you wouldn’t accept anything lower, then it helps turn away clients that aren’t the right fit for you right off the bat.
You might think that’s a lot, but it’s extremely important to build trust when you’re doing business online.
It’s also important to have a home base. I don’t care if you’re primarily a YouTuber, you need to have a website people can go back to. What happens if YouTube ever shuts down? What if they demonetize one of your videos? Having a website where you control everything can help you bounce back from that.
2) Have a Portfolio
Okay, so here’s where a blog might come in if you want to be a freelance writer.
In any creative field, it’s important to have a portfolio on your website so you can showcase your work. So if you’re a graphic designer, journalist, photographer, stylist, web designer, etc. you should have examples of your work front and center so you can impress potential clients.
Almost all the personal finance freelance writers I know started off with a blog. They then guest posted for others in the community, making their name known, driving traffic back to their site (and hopefully their “hire me” page), all while familiarizing potential clients with the type of content they can produce.
Again, it’s common sense. If you were looking to hire a photographer, would you hire one that didn’t show any images of their own on their website? No!
It should also go without saying, but please don’t use anything you didn’t produce. Don’t grab a stock photo and try and pass it off as your own, and don’t copy and paste someone else’s article. Forget being inauthentic, that can get you in a lot of legal trouble.
3) Let Your Network Know You’re Looking
You might feel a little weird doing this, but don’t worry. I can almost guarantee you that no one will think you’re begging for work in an annoying way. Putting yourself out there is part of freelancing, and most of us understand that.
First, I recommend letting your close freelance friends know – perhaps freelance friends that are already overloaded with work. I can’t tell you how many of us wish we had recommendations for our clients when our plates are too full, but don’t know of anyone who isn’t super busy!
Here’s another strategy – if you’re a newer freelancer who doesn’t have many connections, then make some! Strategically target people who you know are busy and offer to help them. That’s how quite a few of my friends and I got our virtual assistant clients.
Either way, it doesn’t hurt to put the word out there to other freelancers in your line of work, unless it’s an absolute cutthroat industry. Most freelancers I know (myself included) are more than happy to help newer freelancers out. And in most cases, we’re thankful to have someone else we can name when asked for recommendations.
Second, I recommend posting on social media. A simple Facebook status tells all of your connections that you’re available and looking for work. Be specific, though – especially if some of your friends are a little clueless about the work that you do. You don’t need them sending irrelevant job listings your way.
Connect with people on LinkedIn or Twitter. It’s an easy outlet where you can start conversations around your industry and present your expertise.
The point is, make it known to the people around you that you’re a freelance _____ looking for _____ types of projects. Your network can keep their eyes and ears open for you.
4) Ask Your Past and Current Clients
This, of course, assumes that you have a client base to start with, or have some former clients you can reach out to.
While I consider clients to be part of my network, in some industries, it’s a little different, and some freelancers don’t think to ask their current clients for more work.
There are a few ways to go about doing this:
Reach out to your past clients and let them know that you’re looking to take on work. Who knows, some of them might be starting new projects they need help with, maybe they’re unhappy with their current contractors, or maybe they have a friend who is looking for services you can provide.
With your current clients – first, ask them if they need help with anything else that’s closely related to what you’re doing for them. If you have any crazy awesome skills you think they might need, you can always mention them. Some of my writing clients became VA clients, and vice versa. If you have a diverse skill set, they might entrust you with additional projects.
If they don’t need more help, it doesn’t hurt to ask them if they know of anyone else that might be in need of your services. You can also simply ask them to keep you in mind. From being within the personal finance community for 3+ years, I know many of us talk with one another, and we often hire and recommend people based off of our network.
5) Send Cold Pitches
Some freelancers have luck cold pitching potential clients, and others don’t, but it’s still a popular method some use to get clients.
Research the niche you’re targeting, and find a few clients that seem like they might be a good fit for your work. Find their contact information, and email them!
I know it sounds scary, but the worst that can happen is that you don’t receive a response, or they say “no.” More often than not, you’ll just get silence.
To have the best chance at getting a response, do not use a boilerplate email template. Established bloggers or “online personalities” can totally sniff that out, and they hit “delete” while sighing in disappointment.
The truth is, people are busy, and when you didn’t spend any time personalizing your email, they don’t feel inclined to give you any of their time. Rightfully so.
You should have learned a little bit about them and their business while doing your research. Keep an eye out for pain points. Did they blog about being too busy to handle something? Mention that, and quickly detail how you might be able to help.
Something else that goes along with cold pitching is searching for gigs on job boards. I’m not the biggest fan of these, but some freelancers have found success with it. In this case, it’s not as cold of a pitch, but you’re still going into it with no prior connection.
6) Connect With Different Audiences
What I mean by this is figuring out how to get your name out to different communities. That might mean guest posting, that might mean doing podcast interviews, or that might mean doing a Skype video-interview with someone.
If you’ve tried everything else on this list and you’re not getting many leads, it can be useful to leverage someone else’s audience.
For example, guest posting isn’t just for freelance writers. Yes, it can help you build a portfolio and make connections, but it can also help you get traffic to your site. Your potential client could be someone’s reader or listener.
You also don’t need to stick to your niche. Many personal finance writers branch out to self-development, parenting, minimalism, fitness, or business. That’s because you can relate almost everything to money!
This is a tip that applies to all the advice given here, but take a moment and think about your ideal client. Who are they? How old are they? Are they male or female? What does a typical day look like for them? Where do they hang out online?
Getting clear on this can help you figure out how and where to connect with them.
Finding freelance clients can be scary and overwhelming, but if you focus on building up a good, stable client base, you’ll likely find that word-of-mouth referrals will come easier. Sooner or later, you won’t need to pitch anyone.
Here’s some related posts you may be interested in:
If you’re a freelancer, how did you find your first freelance client? Which methods have you had the most success with?