Finding Your Niche: That Little Thing Called Finding Freelance Clients
Starting a freelancing career can be intimidating, not to mention downright confusing. Today I’m continuing my 4 part series sharing some lessons I’ve learned over the past 3 years, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and what I’ve picked up along the way!
Have you ever experienced when clients (or boss) love your work, so they give you more, and you have a hard time saying no, only to realize that you’ve probably taken on more than you can handle?
I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this as an explanation of the last few weeks and why it’s taken so long to get this post up.
It's also an example that you may be feeling clueless and have no idea where to actually start, but if you’re a faithful worker and keep reaching for the next step, you’ll find your way.
And that clueless feeling never really stops, sorry.
Mad skillz? Check.
Portfolio? Got ‘em.
Motivation to work hard and try something new? Yep.
Now onto the hard part, finding your first client!
How to Find Freelance Work
There are so many ways to find work as a freelancer, and it largely depends on your preference and experience. As I mentioned in my first post in the series, I began on oDesk making pennies compared to what I can charge now. (And let’s be real, pennies compared to what they should have been paying their writers.)
Soon I was able to work with some clients I had connected with both online and in real life, making slightly more. Let’s say quarters.
Then there was a year break or so in there where I was focusing on other jobs and finishing my degree, then started back up once I graduated. Each client provided me a great experience, and the opportunity to grow.
Looking back, I can see how head client was a stepping stone to the next, bigger opportunity.
Like when some random guy messages you on Twitter about some possible work and even though you’re not totally sure it’s legit you roll with it and it ends up being the best opportunity you’ve had. (True story, don’t discount the power of Twitter and a good social presence.)
Where to Find Your First Freelance Client
Your first freelance client may not be your ideal choice, but I’m a firm believer in small steps to build on experience. I found mine on oDesk, and now that it’s combined forces with Elance (now called Upwork), they could still be a good option.
Caveat to that, though, because many people expect to not pay you very much. Know your worth, people. Even a n00b freelancer deserves more than $5 for a three-page essay. (Which is what I found to be the trend on oDesk.)
Another option that I’ve had some success with is ClearVoice, which is a newer platform and is very hands-off. Where you may need to spend hours trolling Upwork for decent jobs, and bidding, and going back and forth, ClearVoice sends you opportunities based on your interests, rate, and experience and you have the choice to accept and reject.
- Social proof on your profile (You add links to past work and they show the metrics on how it’s performing.)
- Even if you don’t have past published work, you can show other work.
- Clients generally know a writer’s worth, and are willing to pay for your knowledge and expertise!
- As the platform grows, I’ve been getting some pretty laughable, low ball offers.
- Their interface is a bit glitchy, and while annoying it’s not enough to outweigh the benefits.
Freelance job boards have a variety of postings in different niches, and they generally do pay fairly well, although it can vary. It’s also fairly time consuming.
The Problogger jobs board is also a place to start, and while I’ve heard good things from others, I haven’t personally had much success with it. (As in, none. I also haven’t tried very hard, so take it for what it’s worth.)
And then there’s good old fashioned networking. I met a client through a conference planning committee, which turned out to be a good experience and I learned a lot about different industries and working with different industries from what I had previously worked with.
Unless you’re in the cornfields of Ohio (I went to college there, so I can make fun of it.;), there are networking events. Even if you are in the cornfields of Ohio, there are most likely some in nearby cities.
Something to remember...
One major piece of advice I’ve read that I want to pass onto you: don’t be desperate. Networking should be a continual process even when you don’t need clients, because you never know when someone may reach out. Everyone can see that person pleading for clients, and it’s not likely to help their chances.
Create intentional, organic relationships, and that’s when business relationships will grow.
It may take a while to build up where you want to be, and I want to stress that’s okay! Or, you may land a great client immediately, and that’s okay too. Each freelancer’s path is different, so forge your own, and don’t be afraid to get creative with it.