You’ve decided to strike out on your own as a freelancer, and you’ve found yourself stuck in that same catch-22 you experienced when you were searching for a traditional entry-level position: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience.
Landing your first freelance job can be a frustrating situation. But, unfortunately, it’s also a relatable one. Many companies don’t want to take a chance on someone who’s really green. They’d rather find someone who’s proven to be successful before.
So, what do you do? How can you manage to land your first freelance clients and start earning some income—even when you’re new to the game?
7 Tips for Landing Your First Client as a Freelancer with No Experience
1. Prioritize Experience over a Paycheck
You’re likely deciding to freelance because you have a passion for your craft, no doubt. But, let’s be honest—you also want to earn some income. Whether it’s a side hustle or your new full-time career path, you need to rake in some dollars in order to make this whole thing worthwhile.
That’s more than understandable. However, even if you have years of experience in your field, it may be difficult to demand a high price tag for your services when you’re just starting out.
To combat this, make an effort to prioritize the experience over how much it will earn you. That publication may pay a low fee. But, will a byline there give you more exposure in your chosen niche? That web development project’s budget might be lower than you hoped, but will it get you some much-needed contacts in your field?
It can be tough to resist the temptation to turn into one of those cartoon characters with dollar signs in your eyes, but make your best effort to stay focused on the big picture—rather than the digits on the paycheck. It can eventually pay off.
2. Consider Your Existing Skills
You don’t have any experience as a freelancer. But, that doesn’t mean that you have zero valuable skills to bring to the table.
Think through what unique experiences you have that could help you pitch yourself to prospective clients and stand out from the other freelance competition out there.
Perhaps your background in the healthcare industry would make you the most suitable fit to take photographs for that hospital’s new promotional materials. Or, maybe the fact that you’re a self-proclaimed Excel whiz would qualify you to write for that Microsoft-oriented blog.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and identify those unique traits and special skills that will make prospective clients take you seriously—despite your lack of traditional freelance experience.
3. Create a Website
Having a website for your new freelance business will serve as a space for you to showcase your portfolio of work and as a way for potential clients to find you. It can provide a quick and easy way to present a bio about yourself, what kind of projects you want to take on, your pricing, and your contact information.
And you don’t need to be a web developer to create a website. Many platforms, such as Squarespace and Wix, make it easy to choose a template and get up and running.
4. Lean on Your Network
You’ve heard that old, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know” cliché. And, as much as it might make you roll your eyes, it can actually be a huge benefit to you when you’re trying to get your freelance career off the ground.
Why? Well, because word-of-mouth marketing could be just what you need to get some potential clients to take a chance on you—even though you don’t have years of experience to your name. When you’re recommended to clients by someone that they trust in their own network, you’re far more likely to get your foot in the door and make an impression.
So, reach out to your contacts and let them know that you’re freelancing and you’d appreciate any recommendations. You never know who your acquaintances might be connected with!
5. Meet with a Fellow Freelancer
Take your networking into the real world and consider finding a mentor or securing an informational interview with someone who is already freelancing. A career mentor is an ongoing relationship where you can regularly meet to talk about your freelancing ups and downs. An informational interview is likely to be a one-time get-together to talk and ask questions of someone who’s doing what you want to do.
Either situation can provide you with a great way to get advice and tips on how to break into the freelance world. While your motivation for talking to a mentor or scheduling an informational interview should not be to ask for referrals or a job, you never know what could result from making these connections.
6. Know Where to Search
Finding freelance jobs can go three ways: you contact a potential client directly to offer your services, a client reaches out to you to request your services, or you use a job board to find open listings.
Using a job board to find freelance work is where things can get dicey. Job scams abound in this field. It’s estimated that for every one remote job listing, there are 60-70 scams. And with most freelance jobs also being remote, you can see how the potential to get scammed is high.
You need to be adept at researching companies and understanding the legitimacy of the job board you’re using. Popping on Craigslist to find a freelance job may score you some actual leads, but it can also be chock-full of junk.
This is why using a job service like FlexJobs can be so valuable. We go out and scour the internet and our partner employers to find real, legitimate, and scam-free freelance jobs. We verify the employer is legit, and we summarize and categorize each posting we find. This allows you as a job seeker to easily search through our 50 job categories to find a freelance job that fits your needs without worrying if the job is a scam.
7. Understand Your Chosen Industry
You’re excited and eager to get your freelance career rolling. But, as enthusiastic as you might be, it’s important that you understand the potential of your chosen industry.
Is it a competitive landscape where you’ll run up again tons of other freelancers wanting the same gig? Do companies even hire freelancers in your area of expertise, or do they stick with employee roles? What is the average rate of pay, and will it be sufficient for you?
Understanding the growth rate of your industry will help guide you on who to contact and where to focus your freelance job search.
Start Your Freelance Job Search
Becoming a freelancer with no experience can present a unique challenge. But, it’s certainly doable! Implement these tips, and you can be well on your way to scoring your very first freelance gig.
And be sure to use FlexJobs to start your search. Our trained research team adds new freelance jobs to our site daily, leaving a steady source of potential job leads that are safe and vetted to be scam-free.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
This is a version of an article that was originally published on September 27, 2017.
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Kat Boogaard, FlexJobs Contributing Writer
Kat Boogaard is a writer specializing in career and self-development advice. In addition to being a contributing writer at FlexJobs, she’s also a staff writer for The Muse, a columnist for Inc., and a career writer for The Everygirl. Her…Read More >
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