How to Find Freelance Clients: Part Two

By Debbie Dragon on 13 May 2009 (Updated 28 September 2010) 4 comments

Last time, "How to Find Freelance Clients: Part One" discussed some of the things you would need to do to prepare for freelancing.  In Part Two of this article, we'll cover where to find the actual clients who pay freelancers.

Where Your First Client is Hiding

Everyone has a different level of comfort with marketing activities. Some people become freelancers in hopes of not having to deal with the public as is necessary with most other professions. Despite the fact that you might work from your home or a small one-man (or woman) office; you will need to network and market yourself to become successful.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a rock out there that you could just turn over and find your first client's hiding place?

Instead, you need to do a little investigation to find your first client; and probably step outside your comfort zone at times.

Freelance Bidding Sites: One possible place to find your first client is through the use of freelance bidding sites. These sites are similar to auctions, in that a buyer posts the specifications of the work he or she needs doing; and then multiple service providers/freelancers place “bids” to complete that work.

Freelance bidding sites are controversial among the freelance community. Some freelancers swear by them, and get most (or even 100%) of their clients through the use of these websites. Others refuse to use the sites because of the tendency for the work to be on the low end of the pay scale when compared to the freelance industry pricing as a whole.

As a new freelancer, you might find the bidding sites to be an easy way to land yourself your first client or two, gain a testimonial from a happy client to add to your growing “proof” pile, and make a few dollars in the process.

Some of the bidding sites are free to use as a service provider, but you'll pay a fee if you land a job through the site (typically a percentage of the project price). Other bidding sites require a membership fee from providers, or a pay-per-bid price.

Take a look at a number of bidding sites to see the types of jobs that are posted, and which bids are being selected as the service provider. Not surprisingly, buyers who use freelance bidding sites are often after the lowest price; but there are buyers who use the sites for convenience and make their selection based on who they feel can provide the best quality within their deadline and price range. When you are reviewing the bidding sites and projects listed, also look to see what the winning bidder is including in their “bids” - how they are worded, what type of information they include and what they leave out, whether they are well-crafted or casually written introductions about their freelancing skills. Try to model your own bid responses on the style of bids that seem to be winning projects.

Using freelance bidding sites is a bit of a numbers game; you might have to apply for (bid) a number of jobs before you “win” one. As soon as you win a project, do your best (even if the project pays less than you intend to charge your clients moving forward) as you are starting your reputation as a freelancer with this first client.

Examples of freelance bidding sites you may want to try:

www.rentacoder.com (I found my first freelance clients here)

Getafreelancer.com (affiliate link)

Elance.com

Odesk.com (affiliate link)

www.guru.com

 

99Designs: Are you a designer? 99Designs.com is a site which allows prospective customers to request their logos, web design, t shirt designs and other design needs as a contest through the site.  You can register for a designer account with 99Designs and start entering your designs to open contests.  If chosen, you win the contest fee.

Direct Contact: Use the internet to find businesses who typically use the services you offer. For example, you could contact marketing agencies to offer your graphic design skills for their brochures, business cards, and direct mailings. If you are a web developer, instead of looking for a new business without a web presence to help them get online with a site – try contacting existing web design businesses that seem to be doing very well to see if they have a need to outsource any of their work. You can make initial contact via email or contact forms on the websites of the businesses you decide to contact – or you might phone them directly. Both options are free (with the exception of your time) and are very effective for drumming up your first client (as well as finding clients regularly!)

Ask Everyone You Know: Don't be afraid to let your friends, family and co-workers know that you're starting a freelance business and ask if they know of anyone who might need your services. Word of mouth and referrals is by far the best type of marketing there is, and these people are all included in your “warm market”. If a friend refers someone they know to you, you already have the trust of that prospective client simply because their friend referred them. Having the trust of your prospects is key to turning them into paying clients.

Try eBay: eBay.com is not really designed to market yourself as a freelancer, but if you type in “freelance” in the search box on eBay.com, you'll find a few hundred people who are advertising on eBay. It only cost a few cents to list an ad, so if you can figure out how to present yourself to potential eBay users, you might be able to benefit from the hundreds of thousands of visitors the site receives each week. Keep in mind that most people are visiting eBay to buy products, not services, but there have been freelance writers and graphic designers who have done very well for themselves by adding an auction listing for their work. You can sell web content articles for $10 or $20 a piece; a single logo design for $50 – whatever service you offer as a freelancer can be listed on the eBay in an auction format. It may not be the best long term strategy for incoming business (although never say never!) but you may be able to find yourself your first client with a little auction posting of your own.

Job Sites: Even though job sites are primarily for full time and part time positions, many online job listing sites include jobs for freelancers; sometimes classified as “telecommute” or “contract work”. All of these terms basically mean the same thing – you're working from your own home or office and you're not considered an employee of the company for tax purposes. Try searching the major job sites and classified listings for jobs that are in your area of expertise and are offered on a contract, telecommute or freelance basis.

Here are a number of sites to help you get started on your search:

www.craigslist.org (under jobs category for every state and city of the US, you can find your industry and then view the listings for free. Apply to any that are contract or telecommute that you can do).

www.creativeheads.com

www.monster.com

www.careerbuilder.com

www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

www.freelanceswitch.com

www.problogger.net

www.allfreelance.com

www.allgraphicdesign.com

www.webprojobs.com

www.krop.com

www.sologig.com

www.authenticjobs.com

www.freshwebjobs.com

www.designcrowd.com

www.freelancers.net

 

In "How to Find Freelance Clients: Part 3", I'll give you some tips for applying for the freelance work found online.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I'm so glad you wrote this article. I for one, am not a freelancer but I will be doing it soon once I get my business going on the side. I actually work for a social outsourcing site, called VOIS.com(Virtual Outsourcing Is Social) as moderator or catalyst and boy, I'll tell ya, I get all kinds of opinions on how well or how terrible outsourcing is for them. The truth is that, that most of the members on such sites are sellers and a majority really are from india, not that it's a bad thing, but they will do the work for the cheapest price. I have also received messages from Buyers on the site that will not deal with anyone out of the nation becuase they feel uncomfortable conducting business with the seller. It's a mix! Vois.com is actually free, and does not have any walls or boundaries.

Guest's picture
Lucille

The bidding sites are really worthless. They drive down prices and your competing against people in other countries where the average wage due to currency differences is a fraction of what the average wage is in the US. Your better off putting the time into sites and networking that cater more towards professionals trying to cultivate a career rather than lowest bidder ones.

Debbie Dragon's picture

I do actually agree that the quality of the jobs being posted on most bidding sites have gone downhill.  6 years ago, I started my freelance business through the bidding sites.  The reason I still recommend them is because ... 6 years later, I still have a number of the clients I connected with through the sites initially.

You'll never compete on price with people working from other countries where the US dollar is worth so much more - but there are still a number of buyers/clients who want what a native-english speaking, US worker can provide and they are willing to pay more for that service.  They may be using the freelance bidding sites for the same reason a freelancer is - they're new to the world of freelancing and not sure how to connect with workers and not because they hope to find someone to do the work for a few pennies.

I definitely agree that freelancers need to be putting their effort into other networking opportunities, and establishing themselves as professionals in their industry.  Just saying that I don't label the freelance bidding sites as completely worthless, because every now and then you will find a fair priced job, and you just might make connections that lead to bigger and better.

Guest's picture

Great post, Debbie, but I was surprised by the lack of social media resources. Maybe you are planning this for another post? For the past few years, I've gotten almost all of my referrals either through word-of-mouth or social media. In fact, despite the constantly waffling opinions, I've found Twitter to be a valuable part of my social media marketing efforts. It's allowed me to connect with folks that might not be so accessible. LinkedIn has also become a primary tool in my freelance marketing efforts as its so easy to connect with professionals that I can collaborate with or assist. I, personally, have found freelance auction sites a complete waste of time, particularly for any type of web design/development folks.