Becoming a freelancer is often more an emotional decision than a logical one. Tired, frustrated, or burnt out from their current job, the talented freelancer decides to pursue their lifelong passion for writing/graphic design/marketing/(fill in the blank).
You make a website; you set up social media accounts; you create buzz; you rack up a huge bill at your local office supplies store; and then…nothing. Because as talented as you are, the clients aren’t going to come running to you. Or worse, you get job after job working with the type of clients that create the same frustrations that set you off on your journey towards employment independence in the first place.
Here is our professional advice about how to become an established freelancer, land the best types of freelance jobs and find the kind of clients you want to work for.
#1: Reach out to everyone
Referrals have been cited as the biggest and most effective channel for getting new clients. As a freelancer, you must reach out to everyone you know: friends, relatives, college buddies, anyone and everyone you can think of. Just a short, personal note letting people know what you’re up to, that you’re available for hire, and what services you provide will get your name out to a lot of people, and that means more potential customers for every email you send. You can even offer a finder’s fee to incentivize friends to help get you clients.
Once you get the clients, that doesn’t mean you have to accept, but it’s good to have offers coming in. The more potential job offers, the more selective you can be.
#2: Get involved in the freelance community
You’d be amazed at how many people are willing to give you advice and help, even those who are seemingly in direct competition with you. The freelance community has fostered a sort of “sharing is caring” attitude – we’re all in the same boat, after all, and no one wants to see a fellow freelancer get shipwrecked!
As a result, fellow freelancers (even within your field) are more willing to share experiences, tips, and advice on how to make it in this industry than you would imagine. Reach out to the community via social media and specialized groups like The Freelancer Club and The Freelancers Union with questions, concerns, and issues, and get more answers than you’d expect. Learn from their mistakes, clarify points about a specific potential client, and start to understand the mentality of landing solid clients.
#3: Establish yourself as an asset
Create excellent content (whatever your industry is) that’s helpful to your potential clients and post it on your blog or LinkedIn profile. This will give you a name in the industry as being resourceful, helpful, and talented all at once. Try starting a YouTube channel or blog about the things your clients need/want to know. Teach them about the right/wrong questions they’re asking, give them pointers to help make their lives easier and self-help fixes they can implement themselves.
Once you’re an asset, you can be a lot pickier about which jobs you accept. What’s more, higher quality companies and gigs will come your way as an industry leader.
#4: Do your homework
The more knowledgeable you are about the industry, the client, and the project, the more likely you are to get hired. People like to know that you’ve a) taken an interest in their cause, and b) are knowledgeable in their area of expertise. Do as much homework as possible before getting in touch with the client so you know what you’re in for, what to say, and how to respond.
While researching your potential client, you’ll also be able to detect whether or not this is the kind of client you want to work with. If you notice a lot of complaints from other freelancers about a company, that’s a good indication that they aren’t good customers. If their proposals are vague or unusually demanding, there’s another sign. Don’t accept work from companies you aren’t comfortable with.
#5: Raise your rates
This may sound counter-intuitive, but when you increase your rates (within reason), you’ll establish yourself as a veteran in the field and a sought after asset. The better clients will naturally gravitate towards you because these are the companies who are willing to pay more for good quality work. These types of investors know how to treat their employees.
If you are a newbie freelancer trying to gain some work experience, start out on the lower side and then increase your rates as you receive a steady flow of work. LikeHacker Paul Jarvis notes that he lets his calendar determine his rate increase; whenever he has a solid two months of work lined up, he increases his rates on the next project. This way, he know he has a steady flow of work coming in and can afford to be slightly choosier about his clients.
Don’t settle for mediocre work. One of the benefits of being your own boss is choosing your clients so you really enjoy the work you do. Use these pointers to land the gigs you will really love, and never work a day in your life.