Freelancers do not have it easy. And when they are just starting out, it’s scary stuff. But if you focus on just a few activities and approaches, you should find that it isn’t too long before you get your first one or two clients.
I’ve put together a very quick list of ways to find and get your first freelance clients. The whole thing can be managed online too.
(1) Go to Craigslist
Yes, I’m being deadly serious. Craigslist is full of some of the most ridiculously pointless stuff on the planet. It’s also full of weird requests and scarily strange people.
But you can find your very first freelance client on there.
Note that I used ‘client’ and not ‘clients’. I certainly would not recommend scouring the platform to find a set of clients. It’s way too hit and miss for that. But if you’re just starting out, and you need some work, believe me, it can help.
Stay safe, and always work out the job specifics before you commit to anything. Draw a contract up if you need to. But use it if you’re panicking because you haven’t got your first client yet. Because once you’ve got that first client…
(2) Hit the job boards
Again, this is not a career-building move. Far from it. But I do know freelancers who have made hundreds of thousands just off these sites alone.
And there is a clear reason for this.
Every single job board, from Upwork to People Per Hour, and everything in between, is based upon freelancer reputation. This means that if you get some work on there you should be doing your very best to get a great review.
Get enough great reviews and the number of jobs awarded to you rises, until you are soon in a position where you could find yourself with a respectable side-income.
And that’s where I would keep it. On the side.
You could go all out, and try for that hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that does mean spending your life on the platforms, investing considerably in ‘credits’ or ‘bids’ (the usual currency on the sites) so that you can keep pitching.
As a step up from Craigslist, it’s a great idea. And it means you should soon be building up a sizable portfolio.
It takes time to get to the end of this stage of the journey though. But of course, nothing in life is for free.
(3) Ask for referrals
All this time you should have been producing your very best work. Even though you will have been most likely working for well below industry rates, you will have been creating stuff that makes clients smile, and feel like you’re very much indispensable. That’s all the time, every job, day in and day out.
Because to move to the next level you need to start asking for referrals from the client base you have built up so far.
This is one of the keys to great freelancing careers. No matter what skill you have, there are always clients out there who have friends and colleagues who want your stuff too. But they almost always never recommend you unless you ask them to.
It’s not hard to do. It’s not rude or insensitive. Your clients know you need to eat, they will be happy to recommend you to other clients. However, the big thing here is quality. It obviously makes absolutely no sense to ask for a referral from a client who thinks your stuff is just ‘okay’. It has to be exceptional.
And that’s it
Those three steps are what you take to get your first few clients online as a freelancer. It is exactly what I did to get my first clients. I guarantee if you follow those three steps, you will be well on the way too.
As a bonus idea, check out Ryan’s cold email templates. It’s just more for your toolkit.
I’ll dig deeper into these client search steps in the future. I’ll also continue to cover how to keep clients too.
I do know that this stuff works. And if you’re serious about starting a career, you should do the same.