10 Reliable Ideas For Finding Freelance Clients
At some point, every independent creative asks himself where to find clients. You probably already have some work that you did before, and with that, you can build a portfolio. Or you may know which design area and direction you want to take. That's where you can start your search process. That's right: start with you, your portfolio, description of services that you provide or want to provide, or skills that you have.
There are several ways to monetize your creative skills. You can find a remote job, find clients, or build a creative business.
For a remote job, you just need to have a portfolio, CV, and references from someone you have worked with before. It's good to have not only a job history but also a project's history in your CV. This is because you may have only one or two jobs in your portfolio, which doesn't tell much to your potential employer. Basically, the process is pretty similar to how you apply for a job in a local company, but it happens online via video chat and with the help of your online portfolio.
As for clients, you need to focus on people to whom you can provide your services.
You can start building your portfolio with three works that you did before or by creating three hypothetical projects just to show your expertise. Your portfolio shouldn't consist only of images; it doesn't sell itself just like this. But we'll talk about that in details a bit later.
The next stage of preparation is understanding who your client is, what kind of business he does, and in what area. Maybe it's more important where he's from than it is where you live. The most important kind of problems clients can have involve knowing what is missing in their business. But this is a tricky question; a client may not know what problems they have, or they may know the problems but not have enough knowledge in this area to thoroughly identify, understand, and deal with it. That's where your expertise can help, and that's what your commercial offer can be based on.
Selling Experience Not Hours Of Work
I thought it will take you a couple of minutes to do this. Why should I pay thousands of dollars for just 10 minutes of your work?
You're not selling just your time if you're professional or at least have some experience in something.
Olympian champions don't just participate a couple of hours or one day in a challenge. They put in themselves years and years of hard training. Professional boxers don't fight for one hour and paid millions for just this hour. So, consultants, designers, developers and similar shouldn't be paid taking into account just hours that they spend.
However, we shouldn't calculate experience of each human all the time. We can just believe or we can check a background of a certain person.
To make this concept simple let's figure out what we sell. It doesn't matter what specialty do you have. What matters is the amount of experience you have and often that this experience related to problem solution on which you're trying to sell.
If you want to sell your experience then you need to show it. Build a portfolio with examples of your work in the past. Every designer knows the meaning of the word portfolio. Of course, it's different if you are a software engineer or, let's say, consultant. I believe everyone can build his portfolio no matter what kind of specialist you are.
Having portfolio is not the only thing but one of the main selling materials.
Become An Expert
Your portfolio is not the only and maybe not the main thing that shows you as an expert. You can share your knowledge by creating content through a blog, and you can start writing right from the first day. It doesn't matter if you are just starting out, you can share your experience because there will always be who have a different experience or started even earlier than you.
Networking & Self Promotion
Do you have friends freelancers? Are you working on co-working spaces? Talk to people you know or who simply nearby. Maybe they need your services, but they don't even realize that you have time and looking for a project.
In one of my previous jobs, guys from my team had a side project that they wanted to develop, and they needed a designer. Obviously, I was the guy who they asked to help them with their project. Because nobody else has been related to design in the office.
Pro Bono Work
Consider working on fun projects for your portfolio or even creating a piece of prototype or content for potential clients. This is something that brings value and shows your involvement right away.
Share your process with people who related to the project or idea you're working on. This will be a good opener, and you'll not need to sell your service at all.
Yes, it takes time and efforts, and in most of the cases, it will not be a 100% guarantee that you'll land a dream client in this way. So it should be something you're excited about, and you see how you can use it in your content, marketing strategy, or portfolio.
Stay Connected With Old Clients
Good business has permanent clients, and freelance business shouldn't be an exception. You shouldn't forget to build trust with your existing and future clients. Make awesome things for them, be nice, show your expertise and if you are good enough, you like the project, and a client likes what you do you can sign up on a long-term period and have a stable income. That's less stressful than moving from one new client to another and if you agreed on part-time work and you have a time for other projects you can try yourself for even bigger gigs without of fear of not getting a job or a project. Or even start making your products in spare time.
Find Your Niche
I bet your clients want something specific and they will find the designer with an experience that is related to their project.
Clients usually want something specific, and they're looking for someone who is the best at it. So focus on one thing that you like the most, create content and portfolio around that. The more focused you are, the easier to find the right client.
Use Social Media
You can create a specialized Instagram account. Post your work results and work in progress shots. Share stories about your work and development process.
Share your thoughts in a conversational way on Twitter and engage with people who related to projects you're interested.
Use chats and online communities. You can comment on posts of others, chat with people who might be interested in your work or if they work in the same niche as you, but don't have time for new clients and they can give your contacts. I'm not joking. I used to have one client in this way. I participated in a design chat, and it was the right time and the right moment.
You can even start a vlog or just post videos about your process of work.
It might seem a cliche, but cold Emails still work really good. However, it requires a sophisticated approach. You can't just shoot around and expect someone to be interested in your services. The more concrete you are, the better. It means that you should have a niche, you need to be specific with your offer and do not be a generalist.
For example, freelance designer generalist knows how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, does several designs a year for commercial purposes, designs for fun.
A freelance designer who is more specific has a huge experience in one area and several areas related to it. He's an expert, and his portfolio mostly consists of work in one category like branding, UX design, Illustrations or something else. But just one of these.
Now when you know about demonstrating your expertise and the importance of choosing a niche you might have a question where to find clients. That's probably the most favorite questions of freelancers or who consider becoming one.
I do not recommend to focus all your efforts on freelance websites such as Upwork and Freelancer. You can do this as well, but invest less than 20% of the time there.
I used to spend tons of time on these platforms and even found good clients there, but after some time your rating on a platform like this doesn't mean much. The more popular a platform becomes, the harder to get good clients and the only way to compete with new freelancers is to lower your rate. Which is not good for you as a specialist. You are not supposed to lower our standards. You're worth more than $150 UI designs, $250 websites or $25 blog posts.
Here are some good places where you have more control in a way you want to communicate with your potential clients.
- Angel List
- Remote Ok
- We Work Remotely
- Smashing Magazine Job Board
- Hacker News
- Working Nomads
The only downside of these job boards is that often you'll be asked for an interview and it will look like an actual job in a company, maybe even full-time. However, some of them can be part-time and on terms that you can set-up together with a client. So you can have a flexible schedule, and the only thing that will matter are solutions that you'll be bringing to the table. So it's all about what you negotiate. Of course, some of the companies who post on these boards have strict policies and a company culture that in most of the cases you can't negotiate much. They just work like this, and they need someone who'll fit in their workflow.
Another downside is that the majority of these job posts will connect you with HR managers, but it's not the right person to talk with about collaboration. There are many factors. Believe me, I've spoken with dozens of HR managers, and it's hard to convince them that you have the right skillset even it's not that important before they will send you to someone who actually is a decision maker, like art director, product owner or CEO. Do not spend time on HR gatekeepers and try to get straight to a manager-level person in a company.
A little bit about the content of your cold messages. Don't try to push your service right away. Nobody likes it, and it looks spammy. Be a human, suggest some value first and then chat for a while. Try to build a conversation or even schedule a quick call if you feel that something will work out.
As for the value, it can be an article with mentioning the company or a person to whom you write your cold email. Or it can be a website or app analysis from the design perspective, or maybe tips of how the product can be optimized. It can be anything where you can show your expertise without actually offering something and asking for a job.
Yes, it's not an easy job to find a client in this way. You can spend days, weeks or even months before landing a project. Anyway, it worth the efforts. Even if you have a conversion of 4-6%, it's good enough. Your efforts will be paid off much better than on freelance platforms.
Why Clients Choose The Designers They Work With?
- They see work in your portfolio that looks like the work they want to be done.
- They found the designer on social media because they have a large following.
- They've read your blog and found out that you are someone they want to work with.
- They've seen your case study on the Internet, and they like your process of work.
- You've been recommended by their friends or colleagues.
- They've worked with the designer before.
Start Small, Aim High
You don't need to offer the most significant service package that you could provide right from the start even if a client wants to change everything. Figure out the smallest thing that can be done in a short time. So the client can see the value you can bring for him without risking too much of hiring someone new if they are not 100% sure of it.
You never know where your next job will come from. So just start telling what you do in every way is convenient for you. Shut up your laziness, try different approaches and resources. Things will definitely work out in a way that works best for you. Do actions and see what's happening. This is how we learn.
Hey, I have more info on the remote work and freelance in "The Remote Book." Check this out: