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Eight effective ways to land your first freelance clients

By Alexandra Gavril - August 14, 2019

Starting off a career as a freelancer, whether you’re a copywriter, a photographer or an accountant, is not easy.

One of the most challenging parts of freelancing is finding and landing your first clients. How and where do you find them? And how do you convince them to choose you over the other hundreds or thousands of freelancers in your field?

Here’s the thing: it’s not enough to be passionate or great at what you do to have clients knocking on your door. You need to be proactive to get their attention and motivate them to want to work with you.

In this post we’ll share a few tips and advice on how to land your first freelance clients. After that, it’s simply a matter of keeping them happy, asking for testimonials and then finding more.

1. Tell everyone

Family, friends, former classmates, former coworkers, employees from the places you interned, owners of your favourite coffee shops. Tell them in person or send them all a short and personal email letting them know you’re now a freelancer.

Quickly describe the business you’re in, the services you provide and the type of clients you’re looking for. Be brief but specific when describing what you do so they’re no confusion. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what “copywriting” or “social media consultant” mean.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is one of the best platforms to find and connect with potential clients and pitch your services. It’s also the most popular tool that recruiters use to look for freelance professionals. So make sure you take advantage.

Take a few hours to review and edit your LinkedIn profile to ensure it’s up-to-date and appealing to potential clients.

Here are some suggestions to help you to improve your profile:

  • Add a good profile picture that shows off your personality.
  • Change your headline to “Freelance XYZ”.
  • Use the “About” section to tell potential clients about your skills and how you can help to make them more money.
  • When it comes to your former places of employment, try to avoid outlining responsibilities and activities and instead talk about your achievements and results.
  • Ask for recommendations and endorsements from former employers or co-workers.
  • Make sure to select the option that states ‘open to new opportunities’.
  • Don’t forget to link to your website.

If you’re not sure what to write in your profile, you can always check out the competition and see how other successful freelancers in your field are presenting themselves on LinkedIn.

3. Build a portfolio website

If you want to build a successful business as a freelancer, having a LinkedIn profile is not enough. You also need to make your own website so prospects can find your work and services on Google.

The portfolio website you build should tell potential clients what it is that you do and how you can make their businesses better. It should include information about your skills as well as showcase your work, achievements and testimonials (if you have them).

If you don’t know where to start with your site, no worries. We’ve got you covered with this blog post on the must-have elements of a great portfolio website.

Now, an impressive site isn’t enough to get clients. You also need to optimise it to increase its visibility in Google’s search engine results pages and ensure people can find your site online. This post on the seven vital SEO first steps for a new website walks you through the most important elements you need to focus on when optimising your site.

4. Start a blog

You’re not a writer if you’re not writing. And you’re not a web designer just because you have a copy of Photoshop on your PC.

If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to show off your skills and expertise. This means starting a blog, a podcast or a YouTube channel where you share content that benefits your potential clients.

So, for example, if you’re a writer, you might blog about things your potential clients can do to improve the content on their site. If you’re photographer, you can write a guide or create a video that explains how to take or choose the right photos for a product page.

Blogging is not only a fantastic way to show off your knowledge and skills. It’s also an effective way to drive traffic to your site and attract potential clients who might want to hire you.

5. Run a Google Ads campaign

A quick way to get found on Google and send more potential clients to your site is to run a paid Google Ads campaign to promote your services. Unlike other marketing tactics, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising provides immediate results when done right.

Read our beginner’s guide to learn how to get started with Google Ads.

6. Connect with potential clients

Who are the clients you want to work with? Where do they hang out? Is it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Medium?

Find out and make a list. Then take a look at their websites and online presence and see if there’s any useful advice or recommendation you can share that can make their businesses better, as it applies to your expertise.

If there is, then send them a message or an email with your free review and suggestions for improvement.

Here’s the thing: people are impressed with anyone that’s done their homework. So if they engage and use your advice, take the next step and pitch your services.

The key to winning your pitch is to show potential clients that you care about their business and have ideas for making it better. In other words, it’s about being helpful, not salesy.

7. Give freelance job sites a chance

Freelance sites like Upwork, Freelancer and People Per Hour, often get a bad rap. Sure, they’re crowded and the rates are usually low. But if you’re just starting off as a freelancer and don’t have any experience or a portfolio to show potential clients, you might want to give them a try.

Lots of freelancers start off this way just to build a reputation and client base. So if you’re having trouble landing your first client, freelance sites are a good place to start.

8. Use social media to build connections

There’s a plethora of groups that you can join on Facebook, for example, where freelancers in your field hang out, ask questions, share tips and advice.

Don’t hesitate to join these groups, or other communities on other social media platforms. Why? Because most freelancers have been where you are now. This means you’re bound to find lots of useful resources and answers to your most burning questions.

In addition, these groups are often filled with successful freelancers in your industry who might be too busy to handle their workload and might be looking to outsource to someone else. That could be you.

So, make sure you look up and join relevant groups in your industry. Introduce yourself, ask questions and offer to help anyone who could use your time and skills.

In conclusion

So there you go – eight great ways to get your first freelance clients.

If it seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But once you land your first clients and win them over with your passion and skills, you’ll find lots of other ways to grow your client base.

Good luck and tweet us @123Reg to let us know how you get on.