It can be daunting to start a freelancing career, especially if you don’t have any contacts yet. I know this is a reason why many of the women I talk with are afraid of jumping into freelancing full-time. But don’t worry, I started my freelancing journey without any contacts, so you can too! In this blog post, I will outline how you can market yourself as a freelancer to find your first clients.
Who do you want to work with?
So you know what you can offer a potential client, but who do you actually want to work with? This is a part of the equation that often gets overlooked, because we tend to think about money first. But actually working on projects that fit your business goals and what you want to do is just as (if not more) important! Are you going to offer your services to a specific niche? Or to a specific industry? Or are there companies that you admire that you would like to work with? Write them all down, either on a paper or in Asana, and start reaching out to these companies. Well, maybe read until the end of the blog post for how, but you know what I mean 😉
Once you know what kind of clients you want to attract, it might become clearer for your which platforms you should use to market yourself to those clients. We are so fortunate today that it is easy to connect with people from across the world. You are no longer limited to clients just in your city, state, country, or even region of the world! Most of the clients I work with, I have only met through video calls- crazy right? Social media is especially great for freelancers as it gives you a digital storefront where you can present yourself and what you offer. If you have identified your clients as being big corporations, you should be active on Linkedin, highlighting industry insights and projects you have worked on. I wouldn’t be afraid of connecting with and reaching out to HR managers at companies and asking if they are looking for freelancers. You might be surprised to learn that big corporations also work with freelancers.
If you are specializing in social media (for example as a social media manager), I would definitely have a professional Instagram and Facebook page that you can refer potential clients to, so that they can see what you have to offer. Depending on what your speciality is, you might even be able to substitute social media for an official website! Personally, I have a website, but I have found that most of my clients now come from LinkedIn and word-of-mouth. As I am not a web developer, I find it much easier to update posts on Linkedin than coding a website, and I wish I hadn’t invested so much time and effort into my website when I first started out, because honestly, it’s not always needed.
Be ready to present
So you have your list of clients that you would like to work with, but why should they work with you? It is SO important that you have sample work ready to highlight what you can do. Ideally this would be of work you have done in the past, but if your work experience is limited (or if you are changing specialties), feel free to make some samples of work that you can showcase. Remember: this is a way to present yourself, so make sure you are doing it in a professional manner and think about what your portfolio says about you as a person. In addition to highlighting previous work (ad campaigns, social media work, copywriting assignments, past design work, etc.) add a little information about yourself. Add your work experience, type of work you are offering, and your rates, but don’t be afraid to also inject a little personality. Recently, I had a few calls with potential freelancers and when I asked to see portfolios, only one had one ready, and it was essentially just a word doc with some images (this was a graphic design position). Needless to say, neither of the three interviewees got the job. Moral of the story: if people are investing in you, they want to know that the investment is worth it- show them that you are!
Always be closing
You’ve sent off your portfolio and asked for an initial call and the potential client has said yes- great news! Before you meet with the client make sure you know their business and how you can help them. Refresh yourself by studying their website, their products or services, as well as how you might add something that they are missing. In the call, be professional, courteous, ask them about the challenges and opportunities their business is facing. Make sure you show them that you are interested and that it isn’t just another gig for you. When they ask about your rates (and they will ask), be prepared to respond confidently because you know you are worth it. After the call, send them a follow up email thanking them for their time and tell them that you look forward to hearing back from them. If it takes them a while to get back to you, make sure you reach out again to just follow up so you stay on their radar.
Build out your network
While the goal is to have repeat-customers, the truth is that with freelancing you never really know. There is some risk involved, so you will have to always (at least partially) be on the look-out for new clients. I’ve found it really helpful to surround myself with other small business owners and freelancers as they can refer me to new clients, or will ask me to work with them on projects, which is always great. If you’re not already, make sure you check for networking events in your city to meet other freelancers. I’ve also learned that business cards are a good idea in case you meet someone interesting in your daily life. I met a contact on my last flight to the US and was kicking myself when I didn’t have a business card.
I know it can be daunting to market yourself, especially in the beginning. But remember that you have a lot to offer- otherwise you wouldn’t have embarked on this journey!
How do you market yourself to new clients? What have you found to be the best way of meeting new clients?