8 Tips for Landing Your First Client as a Freelancer
To help you kickstart your freelancing career, we’ve gathered the best tips and strategies from experienced professionals, including marketing consultants and founders. From creating clear tiers of offerings to staying persistent and determined, here are the top eight tips these experts shared on how to land your first client as a freelancer.
- Create Clear Tiers of Offerings
- Focus On Personal Branding
- Use the “Try Before You Pay” Model
- Find Work on Platforms like Upwork
- Build Portfolio and Network
- Engage in Online Communities
- Leverage Personal Connections
- Stay Persistent and Determined
Create Clear Tiers of Offerings
Since the pandemic, the number of freelancers has gone up, and therefore, so has your competition. Individuals have leaned towards working from home and the flexibility this offers, so instead of going back to the office, many have set up shop on their own.
Because of the increasing amount of competition, this means that it’s likely someone will offer something similar, if not the same, as you. To stand out amongst the crowd, you need to ensure your offering is clear. Put together 2-3 tiers of offerings that can cater to all budgets and types.
Different tiers of clear offerings showcase exactly what your client will get for their money and show you are clear about what you do and how you can help.
Having a strong offering also helps when networking, sharing it on social media, and as a CTA on your website. You can get straight to the point, making it quick and easy for people to understand what you do and get them on board.
Learn it, share it, and be proud of it!
Balance passion-driven work and flexibility
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Freelancing is the best way to balance passion-driven work and flexibility – giving people the opportunity to have full autonomy over their career and how they want to work on a day-to-day basis. Whether you’re working at home or on-the-go, freelancers can choose the projects they want to pursue, then craft their work experience around it. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to travel the world, spend time with your family, and manage your own schedule.
As we continue to navigate a volatile economy plagued by layoffs and firings, independent work is a great vehicle for financial security. By not being tied down by a singular employer, you can take on more projects, be your own boss, and further develop your own service offerings with new skills – such as AI. With businesses relying on freelancers more than ever before, freelancers today can expand their horizons and work on projects of all shapes and sizes.
Focus On Personal Branding
Whether you like it, personal branding goes a long way. While many strategies focus on landing as many clients as possible, this one is all about landing the right ones.
You are amidst countless freelancers, and surpassing them all solely based on expertise is impossible. Instead, your key lies in differentiating yourself by aligning with your ideal clients’ core values.
How? Define your brand values, fashion a captivating strapline, and devise a content strategy tailored to your dream clients’ preferred platform.
By cultivating a strong personal brand and executing a consistent content strategy, you offer potential clients an opportunity to understand ideal projects, how you like to work, and the people you enjoy working with. The more of the right clients you get from the start, the easier it is to build and maintain in the future.
Freelance Marketing and Communication Specialist, Mel Sharpe
Use the “Try Before You Pay” Model
In the early days, I offered a “try before you pay” model to gain long-term working relationships. Back then, many of the custom home builders I wanted to work with already had relationships with lower-priced design sources.
The work they were getting was very substandard, causing problems and losses through errors and omissions my work would never have. So, first, I proved my work would save them money and keep their clients happy.
Then, I offered to design a house with no obligation to pay if they did not accept the design once they reviewed it. However, the understanding was that they had to pay an agreed-upon fee if accepted.
This worked well for me, as for years now, I’m booked solid with paying work. So, find potential clients with problems you can solve. Offer to work with no obligation for the client to pay unless they accept your work once presented. Be clear about the terms in writing. And last, over-deliver with outstanding work. Soon enough, clients will line up.
Find Work on Platforms like Upwork
For your very first client, there is no reason not to use a platform like Upwork. Make sure your profile and portfolio are in good shape, and start with competitive rates. Approach potential customers with the recognition that you’re trying to build a reputation on the platform.
This honesty allows them to better understand your currently low price. Ideally, target new customers that have the potential for future business and referrals. You can get an idea based on either the size or activity level of the business on the platform.
Build Portfolio and Network
My best strategy for landing your first client as a freelancer is by creating as much social proof of your skills as possible. This starts by building a nice portfolio for your work. Even if you have nothing to show as your previous projects since you never had a client, no problem, you can still create your work samples by practicing regularly.
If you are a content writer, voluntarily write blogs on trending topics. If you are a graphic designer, make free logo designs for companies to add up to your portfolio. This will build proof of your talent. Meanwhile, keep networking, asking for referrals, and being active on professional platforms like LinkedIn to make people know about your services and offers.
Engage in Online Communities
Online communities are a great way to showcase your expertise and find your first client. You can see topics where people need regular help. I recommend spending a little time each day answering questions in a few active communities. Your profile in the community should link to your website or LinkedIn if people want to learn more.
Do not just cold pitch or respond to questions with your paid services; focus on genuinely adding value. Community members will notice that you are an expert, and if a job/need is posted, you’ll have credibility when you respond or they might think of you first and reach out.
A few places I recommend finding online communities:
- Facebook—search for topical groups or business groups local to a city
- Search for topical events on Meetup or Eventbrite and see if the host has an online community
- Join online groups for your passions not related to your freelance work (book clubs, fan clubs)—you never know who you might meet!
Leverage Personal Connections
Your first client doesn’t have to come from the other side of the world—in fact, it’s often easier and more beneficial to start with clients that are close by. Reach out to your network of friends, family, and colleagues and let them know you are now offering freelance services.
These people are also more likely to trust you and want to work with you because they already have a relationship with you. Once you’ve connected with a local client, it will be easier to expand your reach and build up a larger network of clients, especially if you delivered a great product or service.
Local networking events and meetups are also great places to get connected with potential clients. If you can, attend a few of these events in your area and introduce yourself as a freelancer. These days, many networking events also have online components, so you can even find opportunities to connect with potential clients from the comfort of your own home.
Stay Persistent and Determined
The best tip that I would give is, don’t give up. As simple as it may seem, it is hard to follow. I got my first project in a marketplace after bidding on 150 projects, and within 3 months I quit my job, and after 3 more months in freelancing, I saw the peak of my journey that I could only imagine. Only if I would have given up after 50-70-100 bids, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
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