How to Find Freelance Clients - Part One
With the number of people getting laid off increasing daily, it's no wonder why more people are looking at freelancing or self employment options to make ends meet. Once you hang your “open for business” sign, the hard part begins! Finding clients to pay you for your products or services can be the most challenging aspect of starting and running a business. After all, without clients buying what you have to offer, you certainly can't remain in business for long.
Getting your first client will accomplish a few things for you, business-wise. First, you'll of course have a client who is paying you, which is necessary for earning a profit and is the life blood of all businesses. Second, that first client can very well open the door to many other clients, through referrals and word of mouth; and can even turn into long term, consistent work – even if you thought it was a one-time project. Once you're ready to start your freelance business, what steps do you need to take to find your first client – and then every client after that?
Regardless of the type of freelancing you do, the process of getting your first client is similar across all industries, and will require focus and discipline on your part to make it happen!
Prepare to Prove Yourself: As a new freelancer, hanging your “open for business” sign isn't enough to prove you are capable of providing high quality work. Prospective clients are weary of new business owners, and many will prefer to work with experienced freelancers in your industry. How do you prove your abilities if you've just started out?
Previous Work Experience: Before you decided to go-it-alone, chances are you were employed by another business at some point in time. Perhaps you are still employed, and are looking to freelance on a moonlighting basis until your business takes off and profits. Either way, think back to any work you have done for your employer which is an example of your abilities. If you are looking for freelance writing clients, you can probably dig up a letter or manual that you worked on for your employer. As long as it isn't confidential information, you can probably use this type of writing as initial samples for prospective clients. If you are a freelance graphic design or web developer, anything related to your line of work that was completed for an employer may very well be sufficient to prove your abilities in the field.
Do Some Volunteer Work: If you don't have anything suitable to use as samples to show your ability to do the work, consider volunteering to help a nonprofit organization. Create a website, develop logos or graphics, or write marketing materials at no charge; in exchange for using the item(s) you create as samples of your work.
Build a Portfolio: Many new freelancers, particularly those in the creative industries, feel trapped in a catch 22 when it comes to building a portfolio! How can you have a portfolio if you haven't had any clients, yet? On the other hand, who is going to hire a writer, artist, or web designer without seeing a portfolio of your best work? The solution is to get to work creating a portfolio that shows off what you can do – and keep adding to your portfolio as you develop more samples. For individuals who haven't had any clients yet, it's an opportunity to come up with your own creative pieces to include. For example, you will need business cards, a web site, and other items for your business – you may as well start your portfolio out with the creative pieces you'll need to start and run your own business. Whatever your area of expertise is, do the work and include in the portfolio. Proving your ability is essential for clients to trust in your services and have confidence to hire you. As a new freelancer, you won't have testimonials of happy clients to back up your own claims of expertise, so your best option is to have samples of work you've completed ready to show off whenever you have the opportunity to communicate with a prospective client.
Once you have samples and/or a portfolio ready to go – where do you start finding prospective clients? We'll discuss this in "How to Find Freelance Clients: Part Two".