Establishing yourself in a freelance industry is not an easy feat. Only last year, in the US alone, there were 57 million freelancers, with the numbers growing fast in the first half of 2020. Which means that competition is harsh and to acquire clients might be tough. This, however, is not aimed to discourage you and put you off from pursuing a freelance career.
Quite to the contrary.
We are here to help you establish yourself as a successful freelancer in your field and help you acquire clients. You’ll agree that after making a decision to venture into a freelancing world, it’s not as easy to find clients that will support your career. That’s where we come in. Here are 5 tips (and a special bonus one) to help you get started and land your first client!
But before you go read on, we wanted to make sure you get the most of our advice by focusing on what is relevant to you, so we listed the tips below:
- Tip #1: Boost your online presence with a personal website
- Tip #2: Network and ‘tell your people’ what is that you do now
- Tip #3: Include blog as a part of your personal website
- Tip #4: Gear up your social media platforms
- Tip #5: Give freelance platforms a chance
- Bonus Tip
Each tip is explained in detail, with a couple of sentences on its importance and ways you can achieve the best results. Since the competition in the world of freelance is harsh, we’ve added a piece of extra advice for each step to boost your chances of successfully acquiring clients.
Tip #1: Boost Your Online Presence with a Personal Website
Nowadays, a secret to establishing yourself at any given field revolves around strengthening your online presence. And by strengthening your online presence, we don’t refer solely to your presence on social media platforms. What we actually mean is building your brand through your personal website, which will give you an upper hand and set you apart from the competition.
We’ve asked .MEer Brent Galloway, freelance product designer, how important was his personal website to acquire clients. This is what he said:
“My personal website is the foundation of my freelance business. I built my website to work for me—It helps attract new clients and it’s how I stand out online in such a saturated market. The way it works is my blog posts drive traffic to my website, then with well-placed calls-to-action and a strong, curated portfolio, that traffic is turned into clients reaching out to hire me.”
Why is it so important to have a personal website in order to acquire clients?
We are all aware that a prospective employer or client will google us first in order to get a better understanding of who we are. What you might not know is that Google search results that come up largely depend on you. By creating a personal website you can reinforce your online presence.
Not only you are taken more seriously and seen in a more professional light, but having a personal website controls the search engine results after someone looks you up online. Thus, when someone searches for your name online, they’ll see your online portfolio among the first results.
Having said that, it’s important to understand that our offline and online personas are slowly merging, and the one increasingly impacts the other.
What to include on your personal website?
You can easily get carried away with the idea of what should be on your website. And as a result, end up creating something that is too complex and confusing. Or perhaps you are finding it difficult to come up with the important things to include on your personal website. No worries, we’ve got you covered!
1. Information on what you do
When a visitor lands on your website, it should not take them more than 20 seconds to know what the website is about. That is – what type of freelance work you do. How to pull this off? Create 1 to 2 sentences (also known as hero text) that will capture the attention of the visitor and tell them what type of work you do. This should be accompanied by a short bio (a paragraph at most).
2. About Me
‘About me’ page should answer all the questions someone might have about who you are, what your credentials (if applicable), professional and personal achievements and communicate what you have to offer.
Yes, we agree that putting together a concise and well thought out about me page is easier said than done. In order to help you, follow these 3 awesome hacks, and you’ll create your ‘about me’ page in no time!
3. Your Portfolio
Here’s where you show the world (read: potential clients), just how amazing your work really is! Include examples of your previous work (if you don’t have any, create your own project!), projects you worked on, companies you worked with. Anything that will show how good you are at what you do. After all, you want to acquire clients, so focus your portfolio on the type of work you’d like to do.
4. Social Media
Social media platforms, in general, can serve as a great tool to reinforce your personal brand, share your expert thoughts and advice, and reach new audiences. So, don’t forget to put your social media buttons on your website, but also make sure all your social media accounts have a link pointing to your personal website. Same with email!
5. Contact Information
Contact information is one of the most valuable things on your website. However else you’d acquire clients if they cannot find your contact info? Even though traditionally these pages don’t have much content, make sure that whatever content you create is inviting.
Also, a great tip would be to create a personalized email address. It’s one of the best ways to appear credible and stand out at the same time.
When used effectively, testimonials can drastically improve the number of requests you get for your work. Ask your former colleagues, clients you’ve worked with to share some words on your work. But make sure the testimonials sound genuine and not as if you yourself have written them.
7. Call to Action
One of the most important things your website must contain (besides contact information and your portfolio) is a call to action (CTA). This is a short sentence that invites the visitors on your website to hire you. CTA should be clearly visible at least on your home page, portfolio page and contact page. Make sure you personalise it!
An extra tip: Nurture Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is your ticket to success. You should build your personal brand around the work you do, but also leave a trace of your personality in that work. The key thing to remember is that, when creating a personal brand, you’re just unveiling your true self to the world. Your personal brand should reflect the real you, not some imaginary, perfect, and, therefore, non-existent person.
In the interview with another .MEer Nodari Kobakhidze, freelance game developer and designer, we asked what in their opinion was the most neglected part of any personal website. Nodari told us the following:
“Showing your personality. Many of the websites are just there to give you details, many neglect and don’t fill their website with their personality. Anything from your writing manner to what kind of pictures/videos appear on your website can have bits of your personality in it, which makes a website feel more like a someone’s home than just an online CV.”
Tip #2: Network or ‘Tell Your People!’
Starting a new career path? Well, congratulations! Now go and spill the beans to everyone you know. If you are not feeling confident enough, start small by telling your friends and family, but make sure they spread the word too. For example, you can tell them that you’ve begun freelancing and that they can find more information on your website. By telling those closest to you, you’ll get to practice explaining what it is that you now do, hence perfecting your elevator pitch.
Why is networking important to acquire clients?
We get it, networking is not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s certainly not the majority’s favourite pastime either. Sure it can be awkward and time-consuming, but establishing long-term relationships that can benefit your career is vital for your success.
Besides improving and gaining your conversational and negotiating skills through networking, you’ll be learning the most important skill when it comes to holding an effective conversation – listening. Everyone appreciates being heard, and the more you network, the more you’ll learn the importance of letting others speak and when to join in and give your perspective.
Networking is not about exchanging your contact information. It is about creating those long-lasting connections that will help you knock on the doors, acquire clients, learn about the industry happenings and exchange opinions. It would be wise to remember that freelancing can be a lonesome career path, so getting to discuss the current happenings or sharing tips is not only helpful to others but to you as well. After all, it feels great to share your thoughts with someone.
Where to network effectively?
Forget about being shy and not having the courage to approach someone and introduce yourself. Networking has always been, and always will be the best way to get your foot through the door. You probably didn’t expect to hear this, but: network online!
There are multiple platforms where you can meet fellow freelancers or potential clients. You no longer have to think about networking as a face-to-face event. You can attend conferences online!
Depending on what industry you are in, different platforms would attract your attention. Some general ones are Meetup, SharpNetworking, Tribemine.
And some you wouldn’t expect:
– Quora: Here you can answer various questions and build your reputation.
– 1 Day Business Breakthrough: A place for business people whose field of interest is the internet.
– Relevant Facebook groups: here you can share your opinions, ask questions, meet clients, get offers and so on.
– Relevant subreddits like r/freelance
– Also relevant LinkedIn groups
A something little extra: “Tell your people”
This might sound strange, but you can build a successful freelance career solely on local opportunities. Contact all your acquaintances and everyone you’ve ever worked with to notify them you are open for business opportunities. You can do this through email or LinkedIn message. There is no shame in letting everyone know you are freelancing now, as this could lead to fruitful cooperation.
If you notice you could improve your network, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, check your local Chamber of Commerce, or your local BNI chapter. Another thing you can try is checking out Meetup and Eventbrite. Also, try googling [your city] + events/businesses/entrepreneur/job opportunities.
Focus on the prospects you can acquire through your network and the local community. Whatever your field of work is, take a hard look at the current state of your local community. How can your skills work to their advantage? What can you contribute to local businesses? Analyse the problems the businesses or individuals are facing nowadays and how you and your freelance work fit into that picture.
Tip #3: Include a Blog in Your Online Portfolio
If you are wondering how a blog can benefit your freelance career and help you acquire clients, you are in for a treat. Tell us, how often do you turn to a well-established person in your industry field and read their articles on the internet?
A lot? We thought so.
Now, why wouldn’t that be you? You have the knowledge, experience (and if not, then it will be great to follow your progress and see how things are done from the beginners perspective), and the necessary tools. All you need to do is begin to blog.
You can share your articles on social media and other appropriate platforms in order to gain more visibility and exposure. It’s important to keep in mind that those who visit your blog or read the articles you’ve shared, will see great content and be greeted by a cleverly placed call to action inviting them to contact you if you can help them professionally.
What to blog about?
Let’s use a banal example to help you understand how important it is to think about the type of content you are sharing with the world.
Say you are an independent (freelance) contractor who builds treehouses. In your articles (which are accompanied by amazing visual samples of your work – this applies regardless of the industry you work in), you will not write about how to build a treehouse. Instead, you’ll write content more appealing to those who would contract you to build a treehouse for them. For example, How to make sure your treehouse is safe for your child? or What you need to know when employing an independent contractor for treehouses. These articles will contain keywords and key-phrases that your potential clients will google, hence stumble upon your content and ultimately contract you.
Sure, as you become more established in your field, you can write educational content too, however in the very beginning try to focus your attention on your target audience: paying clients.
An extra tip: SEO to bring in more traffic (and acquire clients!)
In the blog about section, we’ve touched upon the importance of enriching your content with keywords and key phrases your target audience will type in search engines. Now, how is that beneficial for you? Placing keywords like ‘freelance marketing consultant’ or if you want to go local (recommended too) ‘freelance marketing consultant Seattle’ throughout your content (not randomly!) is a place to start. To learn more about it, check out our 2020 SEO trends.
Tip #4: Gear Up Your Social Media Accounts
We’ll go on a limb here and say you have at least one social media account. And we are almost 100% certain we are not wrong! But simply having a profile on social media accounts, and not actively participating in discussions and sharing content might not be so beneficial for your freelance career.
Earlier we spoke about networking, we mentioned a few social media platforms that are ideal for sharing your content, answering questions others might have, and generally, spreading the word about your skills and capabilities.
How can social media help you boost your freelance career?
Listen carefully, especially if you are new to freelancing, social media is your new best friend. This is your outlet to share what you can do, but also to make connections and follow the work of others and scout for possible opportunities.
There are countless Facebook and LinkedIn groups or Reddit subreddits dedicated to freelancers in every area and industry. Some are private, others are open to join. And you should join!
You’ll often find that these groups have posts like “I am looking for X to do Z.” Connect with them, send them your online portfolio along with an inquiry!
Our Secret to Acquire Clients Through Social Media
Always be on the lookout for possible freelance openings (or otherwise). We are not joking. In fact, this is experience talking. More often than not, in these specialised freelance groups, you’ll come across people looking for freelancers to do some work for them. Or you’ll learn of a new place where you can search for work. Either way, these groups and subreddits are a goldmine you should not overlook!
Tip #5: Give Freelancing Platforms a Chance
You might have had the intention to join one or some of the freelancing platforms from the very beginning, or you are weary and unsure if you should give them a chance. Well, as much as it is true that the competition on these platforms is fierce, it doesn’t mean it is impossible to find work. However it is important to check each and every single one of them (well maybe not every single one, since there are a lot of freelance platforms), but you should weigh your pros and cons. You never know which one would suit you the best and help you acquire clients!
Recently, we’ve listed the best freelance platforms you should consider. Although the freelancing platforms differ one from the other in terms of functionality and types of offers, all of them essentially are an online space for job ads where depending on your level of skills and preferences you bid on an offer.
Before You Go: Bonus Tip
Our bonus tip would be to knock on every single door (metaphorically speaking too – send those emails!) and inquire about every single opportunity. Leave no stone unturned. Have your website ready to show for your skills and expertise, and wow them with your determination to collaborate. Keep your eyes on the price, i.e. acquiring clients!
To top that here is some advice from seasoned freelancers who share their thoughts on starting out in the freelancing world:
If you could press restart on your career, and start out again, what would you do differently?
“I wish I worked more on my online presence and being more consistent with sharing my work, instead of constantly trying to re-brand and re-invent myself by using and abandoning various social media networks, constantly trying to find my “style” and create the “next big thing”.
What really matters is practice, and work. Have a little faith in what you make and what you share, but also bear in mind that not everything you make has to be shared with the world.”
Luka Zaric, graphic designer
If you could share one piece of advice to anyone who is starting out in the management and marketing business, what would you say?
“Keep a portfolio, don’t share it only in resumes and documents here and there. Think about your brand, record your achievements, think creatively how to showcase it and include numbers to prove results. Don’t think about a portfolio when it’s too late to recover your artefacts. Stay hungry for new learning opportunities and always think transferable skills from one project/work to another.”
Anita Valentinova, Product Management and Marketing Expert
The most famous excuse for not creating a website is ‘I am a designer/writer/etc, not a developer’. Could you share your experience/hacks/tips when you created a website?
“Well, I am as far from being a developer as you can get, and for long I’ve been struggling to push myself to sit down and create a website which would represent me. Having a website not only sets you apart from your competition and makes you seem more professional in the eyes of your clients, but it also gives you more space to showcase your personal brand.
Sure, it might seem hard to create your online portfolio, but there are many free or affordable online platforms for creating a website on your own.
I was pressed with time to create a website, so I chose Dribbble’s playbook. It is a simple and easy way to create a website and show my work with a contact button on it.
For designers, who want to express more through their website, but don’t have any experience with building websites on their own, I suggest using WordPress or Webflow platforms. I know I’ll use this crisis to focus on building a website through Webflow.”
Ognjen Bulajic, web designer
We are wishing you the best of luck and hope you acquire clients!