How do you find work if you’re new to freelancing? Seems kinda chicken-and-eggy… you need experience, but it’s tough to get it when most clients want you to already have experience. I hear you. Let’s talk about 14 very simple, very straightforward ways you can start building that client list.
#1 Join a freelance platform
This one’s the gimme, right? But there are tons of freelancing sites you can join and find a consistent stream of freelance work delivered right to your inbox. You just have to be strategic about how you work and what kinds of jobs you take.
Fun fact: Most freelance platforms list the prices you were paid for previous jobs on the platform, so set your freelance rates accordingly.
You’ll be competing against thousands of other providers for each gig, and the easier and more general the gig is, the more competition you’ll have. If you’re pretty new to freelancing, the key to winning jobs is specializing in a thing (for me it was eBooks) and getting really good at delivering on that service fast and exceptionally well.
#2 Work for a Blog
Blogs require more than just writers to survive. Blogs will often have a content editor who plans what topics the writers will cover every quarter, an illustrator, someone who handles opt-in funnels, web designers and developers who handle backend stuff, proofreaders, rewriters… Plus, if the writing team isn’t equipped to do so, blog owners also have to call in people who specialize in helping blogs rank on Google. And for most blogs, these needs are ongoing. So, if you happen to have any of these skills (or you’re working on learning them), you can a variety of different services to blogs as a freelancer.
#3 Talk about your skill
A few years ago after my BFF died unexpectedly from a brain anyeurism, I took a break from writing to reassess my life. During that time, I took a job as a bookkeeper at an Atlanta area adoption agency to make ends meet. When I left that agency a few months later to go back to writing, the first thing I did was emailed everyone in my contacts and told them I was writing again full-time. I had another full-time job as the head of content within a week.
You know the saying “a closed mouth won’t get fed”? This is the situation too often with women who are starting something new. The goal isn’t to get you friends and family to patronize your business. The goal is to let them know so that when they come across people who need your services, they’ll be able to tell people about you!
So, what are you good at? What are people willing to pay to have you do for them? People don’t pay for your time, but they do pay for your value. If you have excellent skills, you won’t have to struggle, wondering how to find freelance work.
So, post your skills on a job board like Upwork, or leave a clever little pitch in your LinkedIn profile, or heck, just send an email or text to everyone you know letting them know you’re available for work. Eventually, someone in need of a person with your skillset will contact you. Or more likely, several someones.
Niche down. I know this sounds weird because the idea most freelancers have is “I need to take whatever work I can get!” But take it from someone who knows what it’s like to be freelancing just to crash and burn (out): choose a handful of things that you WANT to do, preferably, services that are all related, and stick to those.
So, for instance, when I ghostwrite books for people, I actually offer several services bundled as one: interviewing, researching, writing, editing, proofreading, publishing the book to Kindle. But I would also add writing a press release announcing the book, a Kindle book description, Kindle formatting, and book formatting for other platforms like Scribd and Kobo. So, it’s not just ghostwriting.
Even though these are technically all separate skills, they can easily be bundled as a single offer because they all work together to accomplish the client’s goal.
So, while you may take a few jobs here and there that interest you, I would say the fastest way up the ladder is to niche-down your services and charge a premium for the service you offer that takes care of your customers’ needs.
This one’s important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s important because you can grab a few clients a month from social media just by posting about what you do in a cool, low-key, creative way.
The other reason is for the sake of transparency because if you can match your online personality to your professional brand persona and make the “you” people see online consistent across all of your channels, you’ll win their trust.
These days, just about every company is on social media, and you should be, too. But be on social media to further your business and build your reputation, not to complain about politics or comment on raunchy content you see on Twitter.
#6 Learn how to sell yourself
Being able to tell people why you’re valuable is one thing, but I find it’s even more important to know your business or your discipline like the back of your hand, and always be willing to offer a knowledgeable word of advice to people who need it. From my perspective, you don’t have to do much convincing when people already see you as their friendly, neighborhood expert.
#7 Learn how to choose the right clients
Oh my goodness… not every gig is a good gig. Some clients are the LIVING WORST!! They will nag you and micromanage you and penny-pinch you… [eye roll]
So, just as clients do a trial run with you, always have the mindset that you have the right to do a trial run of your clients to weed out the bad from the good.
Sis, there’s no shortage of work. I have freelance clients who are slow pay, but a joy to work with. I have had clients who pay well, but no amount of money in the world will keep me working with them because either the job is unethical or they are just a pain in the neck.
Before sending a proposal, learn how to select jobs based on your skillset and the best clients for your mindset. Be professional in everything you do and ensure you add value to the client with your work.
#8 Overdeliver (and get those referrals!)
Care about your clients’ success. If you do, you’ll overdeliver all the time. That means making good on what they’ve hired you to do, but throwing in a little extra when necessary. Prime example: I was recently asked to create a capabilities deck and write a press release announcing a new program headed by some local movers and shakers.
Well, for the capabilities deck, I created 4 different versions of it, and for the press release, I created the main press release, then wrote three additional press release because I figured creating a separate press release featuring the arrival of a different thought leader (there were four of them) would most likely result in each thought leader sharing the press release with their respective social networks. More coverage.
And I didn’t charge for the extra work. I just did it because I wanted the client to have a good experience with me (and because I don’t think she really knew how she wanted the deck to look).
Whatever you do, make sure it exceeds your client’s expectations. This way, they are going to keep coming back for your services. Deliver your BEST work. Add as much value as you can. And you’ll keep work coming in.
#9 Have a website
Not a Linktree. Not an Instagram account. Have a website – a platform that you control and that’s searchable by search engines, and that you can create to look any way you want.
You ever hear a merchant complain about Amazon stealing their idea or launching a line that’s almost exactly what they’re selling? Uh, that’s because when you sell on Amazon, you’re on AMAZON’S website – not your own. So, set aside $20 to get hosting (if you go with Hostgator or Dreamhost the SSL certificate comes with hosting) and build a website of your own.
#10 List your business with Google
Google is the world’s largest search engine and these days, about half of all searches are voice searches, meaning people aren’t at their computers typing in stuff. They’re asking their phones or Fire tablets or Google Nest Hubs for a “ghoswriter in Atlanta” and whoever has their website up and optimized and has listed their business with Google are the most likely candidates to be mentioned.
#11 Join Facebook groups
Facebook groups are a great place to get visibility for your business, and more importantly, to find out what your potential customers actually want and need. For instance, there are a bunch of groups on Facebook that are built around solopreneurs and ecommerce professionals promoting one another’s businesses. And that’s cool, but as you’re promoting what you do in those groups, you should be also tailoring an offer to group members.
For instance, I’m a member of several black business groups on Facebook. But instead of introducing myself over and over again, I may post something like this:
Seems simple enough, right? This was one of my most popular packages a few years ago. And to this day, if I ever need to make a quick buck, I can post this in some Facebook groups for a few days and get a new client probably within the week.
#12 Cold Emails
Do you believe you have skills that can help grow a specific business? Put together a list of 100 companies that you know (from research) use the services you offer. Find out who you would need to contact in the department where you want to offer your services and contact that person via email, not asking for a job, but offering them an opportunity to get more done or add an editor to their arsenal, or build a faster website or whatever your selling point is.
#13 Partner with other freelancers
I learned early on that every web designer needs someone who can write content because MOST of the time, their web client needs something to go on the website. Partnering with other freelancers to mutually refer work or to offer clients packages that include both your services is a smart way to go because if gives you an opportunity to broaden your offering without having to do more actual work.
I wouldn’t say partner with someone who does exactly what you do, but complementary services like the web design + writer thing would be super helpful.
#14 Search traditional job listings to find the work (not the job)
You may or may not know that I’m a firm believer in looking for the work, way more than I am in trying to get hired for a position. Last summer, the content marketing department at the agency where I work got so busy trying to pivot our content strategy as COVID rolled over the earth that we literally had someone whose entire job ended up being uploading blog posts from Google Docs to Squarespace. Literally.
Because it needed to be done and I had more important things to do than to spend 2.5 hours getting the screenshots just right in the newest blog post. There’s no way we would ever post a job title for a Part-Time Blog Post Uploader. But it ended up being something we needed to get done, so we asked one of our high school helpers to do it.
And we paid her for it.
But this is just one example of how companies have work that needs to be done that they don’t bother marketing. So, one smart thing to do is to go through the job listings on Indeed and Craigslist and do your research off-platform to find out who is the most likely person to be hiring for such a position and contact them directly with your services, not looking for a job, but looking to lighten their load while they look for a permanent candidate.
Which you may end up becoming.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. is around 6%, and jumps into the double-digits in black and brown communities. I’m not trying to say getting a job is easy. What I am saying is there’s work to be done and you may have to shift your thinking a bit if you’re going to find it.
Hope this has been helpful.
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