New to being your own boss or struggling to retain your client base? Searching for projects can be tough for freelancers. Here are seven of the best strategies on how to get freelance clients.
Here’s a freelancer fact: no matter how exceptional you are, clients may be tough to come by. That’s the tricky thing with freelancing – a golden track record doesn’t always mean projects will pile up
Neophytes may actually spend more time looking for clients than actually working. The same is true for established freelancers who from time to time may still go through a client dry spell and are struggling to maintain their client base.
Freelancers with marketable skills but zero job contracts have to answer a couple of questions: Are you looking in the right place? Does your job profile or CV showcase your know-how in the best way possible?
Finally, there’s cutthroat competition in the freelance marketplace, so what have you done recently to stay competitive?
We’ve compiled eight of the best tips for landing freelance clients so you can maximize your business potential (and let others know how much of a kickass worker you really are).
Table of Contents
Utilize job websites
So you’re a long-time member of Fiverr or Upwork, but no one’s knocking at your door. We know how it feels. Wide-eyed freelancers itching to land their first project may take weeks to find their first job.
While this is normal, there are a couple of things you can do to better your chances of getting a contract. Here are tips for getting freelance clients through freelance marketplaces.
Get to know the process better
Before being showcased to potential clients, your CV or job profile will first be “read” by the platform for relevancy – this means that you have to pass the first challenge of suitability.
Your job description is a good place to utilize industry-relevant keywords, qualifications, skills, and expertise, but don’t just dump keywords all over the place.
Compose a succinct but well-written summary of your expertise using targeted keywords so recruiters, and the platform, can get a good picture of your talents.
For example, if you’re a graphic artist, you may want to use industry-specific words like “logo”, “Photoshop”, or “branding”.
See Related: Best Freelance Writing Jobs
Be an early bird
Expect fierce competition on most job postings, so once you get an alert about a relevant job, sign up right away and don’t delay.
But don’t eschew quality, grammar, and spelling when filling up job applications – these are one of the biggest reasons why CVs are rejected.
Many applicants get rejected because of one common mistake – they fail to read job instructions thoroughly. In an attempt to apply to as many jobs as possible, a lot of newbies submit dozens of substandard applications hoping that just any client would notice.
Don’t be these people. Read instructions carefully to determine if the job is relevant to your set of skills.
PRO-TIP: Websites like TopTal or FreeUp vet their freelancers, giving you more leverage on gaining clients even if you lack previous freelancing experience.
Vetted freelancers mean that clients do not risk hiring a bad performer, giving them more confidence to hire you if you pass the platform application.
Get referrals by word of mouth
This one is should go without saying, but being recommended by someone you’ve worked with is the best and most effective way to land clients.
Having someone recommend you and your set of skills is more impressive than a carefully curated resume. Why? Because people trust recommendations more than a killer portfolio.
A great way to do this is to consistently do good work. If you were able to get clients in the past but you’re struggling now, hit up your previous connections and ask them to recommend your services to their friends.
PRO TIP: If you’re new to freelancing with absolutely no job experience, hit up your family, friends, ex-colleagues, or previous classmates first – those who personally know your talents and what you’re capable of doing.
There’s a good chance they know someone in the industry you work in – and there’s no doubt that they’ll vouch for you.
Create a polished online portfolio – and know how to market it.
You may have spent hours crafting a knockout portfolio, but having your own website doesn’t mean you’ll get traffic.
If you’re wondering how to get freelance clients, you need to know exactly how to market your portfolio.
One of the best ways to do this is to use searchable portfolio platforms that are relevant to your industry.
Web designers should consider using PageCloud, which offers flexibility in design. If you’re a photographer, try platforms like Squarespace which offers galleries and templates for showcasing your work.
Are you a writer? Try making a website with a WordPress template that comes with easy customizations. The world is your oyster.
PRO TIP: Make sure that your portfolio thoroughly showcases your best work samples and case studies. If you have a massive library of work, choose only the best. No client wants to scour pages and pages of work.
You should also consider adding in testimonials from your previous clients and make sure your contact information is readily visible.
Generate online content to showcase your expertise
One of the best ways on how to get freelance clients is to strengthen your online presence. If you’re good with words, start your own blog.
If you aren’t, consider other platforms like YouTube where you can post videos, or LinkedIn where you can share snippets of your expertise.
Creating content for people to see is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge – you just need to be creative about it.
One of the most common pitfalls of generating content to get customers is appealing to people like you – a freelancer. Instead, appeal to businesses.
If you’re a web developer, for example, don’t write about how to code. Consider writing a blog post about how an expertly created website can triple someone’s sales.
If you’re a web content writer, talk about how search engine optimization can help businesses attract more clients. Once potential clients read this, they’ll know exactly how your services can come in handy.
PRO TIP: When creating content, keep your goal in mind: what could you post that would make potential clients want to work with you?
See Related: How to Sell Your Skills Online
Work for free
Experience is a freelancer’s greatest weapon, and a solid portfolio works wonders in attracting clients. But what if you have nothing to show for yourself?
Free work gets a bad reputation, but first-time freelancers may consider beefing up their portfolio by working for free. Here’s how to bring in clients by doing unpaid service.
Pitch to charities
One of the best ways to do free work is to pitch to companies or organizations that would benefit from it.
Charities and other non-profits, for example, need all the help they can get with handling their business, so why not pitch your skills in web design or social media management to these organizations? Here are more tips to consider:
It’s easy to abuse someone who does work for free, so make sure that the client has clear expectations for your job responsibilities. Draft a contract or an agreement, and make sure both parties are aligned with the expected deliverables.
Ask for recommendations
Once the work is done, don’t forget to ask for a testimonial. Have the client post a quick recommendation on your LinkedIn if you have an account. You should also encourage them to refer you to other businesses.
Make sure your client knows how much you actually charge for your services. If your project isn’t a one-time thing, you can tell the client that you’re more than happy to work on future clients with your regular rate.
PRO TIP: Working for free is a lot easier to do when you’re still employed at a job that pays you regularly, so if you’re still working nine to five, consider doing pro bono work for friends and family on the side.
See Related: Best Tax Software for Freelancers
Make noise on social media
Check out Facebook groups
If freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork aren’t working for you, you’ll find a plethora of freelance Facebook groups that cater to your industry.
Independent contractors wondering how to get freelance clients will find a variety of projects here posted by clients themselves. A direct connection means you get paid in full, without a platform taking a commission from your rate.
Be mindful of taking jobs from non-freelance platforms as some projects may be outright scams. Make sure you know what to expect from the client and what the client expects from you.
If your skills lean towards the visual, you’ll find Instagram to be the best platform to showcase your work.
Photographers, graphic artists, or stylists can use Instagram’s gallery to promote their portfolio while utilizing industry-specific hashtags. Instagram is also a great place to network with other creatives and generate word-of-mouth marketing.
Don’t be afraid to direct message potential clients with a winning pitch – you’ll never know who’ll need your services!
Connect with Linkedin
If you’re looking to connect with people in your industry, Linkedin is one of the best places to get freelance clients online. Thanks to Linkedin Jobs, freelancers can get connected with potential clients looking for workers who can do temporary projects.
PRO TIP: A variety of freelance platforms sync with Linkedin to provide clients with additional information about your work history. With that said, you should always update your Linkedin account.
Make sure all skills, achievements, and credentials are listed and don’t forget to fill up your recommendations section with testimonials from previous clients.
Join a co-working space
One of the best freedoms of freelancing is working from home alone or with your family, but when it comes to networking, it’s a disadvantage.
Consider working in a co-working space where you can expose yourself to like-minded individuals and professionals from different organizations.
Rent your own desk, and consider water cooler talk with your workmates as a chance to connect with them on a professional level. Even if they don’t need your services, there’s a chance they know someone who does.
Remember, when it comes to networking, nothing beats meeting people in real life as opposed to the internet.
PRO TIP: Freelancing can get lonely. If you’re sick of being alone, co-working spaces may provide an office-like ambiance that benefits some workers and enhances productivity.
Craft the best pitch
How to get your first freelance client? Make a powerful pitch. A pitch is a short message that you send to clients to introduce yourself and show off your skills. Pitches may be sent through email or presented in person if you’ve been invited to an interview.
See Related: Best Freelance Websites
Mastering the email pitch
When sending email pitches, be sure to focus on three things: introducing yourself, explaining what you do, and how your skills and services can help your potential client solve their problems. Don’t forget to include your portfolio or past work for good measure.
While it’s helpful to already have a template lying around, be sure to tweak your pitch according to the job requirements – there’s nothing worse than reading templates that aren’t tailored to the job.
Include testimonials from past clients to give more credibility to your work.
See Related: Pros and Cons of Being a Freelance Web Developer
Mastering the in-person pitch
As a professional, you’ll meet people in real life who are looking for services just like yours. The setting doesn’t have to be professional.
Perhaps a friend introduced you to another friend who owns a company, or you’re hobnobbing with someone in a bar who expressed interest in your skillset. Having an in-person pitch makes you prepared during these moments.
Preparing an in-person pitch is the same as practicing for a job interview. Make sure you have a good knowledge of your skills and how your services can help solve professional problems.
PRO TIP: A pitch can make or break your chances of landing a job, so it makes sense that you take time in composing it.
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