If you’ve recently decided to take the plunge and work as a freelancer, you may be at a loss regarding your first steps. Compared to traditional employment, freelance work opens up a world of opportunity – but with that freedom comes a certain amount of uncertainty. How do you find gigs? How do you know if you’re being paid fairly?
There’s a lot to learn, but don’t worry – we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about booking your first gig to work as a freelancer. Let’s get started!
Identify Who is Looking for Freelancers
The first step to booking your first gig is understanding your talent and the type of businesses or individuals likely to require your services. If you’re a web developer, for example, you might want to focus on small businesses that don’t have an in-house development team. Or, if you work as a freelance writer, you might target companies who produce content but don’t have the resources to handle all of it in-house.
No matter what your skill set may be, there’s a client out there who needs your help. It just takes a little bit of digging to find them. Some of the most common freelance jobs nowadays include:
- Graphic design
- Social media marketing
- Event planning
- Administrative support
- Business consulting
- Website development
- Financial analysis
Once you’ve determined that your services are indeed in demand, it’s time to get the ball rolling.
Set Yourself Up For Success as a Freelancer
Before approaching clients, you must have all your ducks in a row. This includes everything from getting your portfolio together to understanding the legalities of freelancing. Once you’ve got all of that squared away, you’ll be in a much better position to book gigs – and get paid for them!
Here are a few key things you should do before reaching out to clients:
- Sign up for a freelance platform: The fastest (and easiest) way to get started freelancing is by signing up for a platform like Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour. These platforms allow you to create a profile and list your services, making it easy for potential clients to find you. Most of these allow you to showcase your work in some fashion, doubling as an online portfolio of sorts.
- Know your worth: It’s essential to have a good understanding of your skills and experience before setting your rates. Use sites like Glassdoor to research what others with your skill set are making, and then set a rate you’re comfortable with. Don’t lowball yourself, but also be realistic about what you can expect to earn.
- Understand the legalities: There are a few key legalities that every freelancer needs to be aware of, such as getting paid on time and understanding your tax obligations. An LLC can also be a good idea, as it can help protect your personal assets in case of any legal issues.
- Get organized: Things can get hectic quickly once you start booking gigs. Consider investing in a good project management tool like Trello to help you keep track of deadlines, deliverables, and client communication.
- Determine how you will get paid: Of course, you’ll want to get paid for your work! There are a few different ways that freelancers can get paid, such as through PayPal, direct deposit, or check. If you opt for a freelance platform, all payments will likely go through them.
Be sure to understand the fees associated with each payment method, as well as any potential currency conversion fees if you’re working with international clients.
Booking your First Gig and How to Communicate your Value
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: how to actually book your first gig and work as a freelancer. The process will vary depending on whether you’re going the direct route or using a freelancing platform, but there are a few key things to keep in mind no matter what.
Identify Gaps and Needs
It’s time for some brutal honesty. Freelancing is a cutthroat business where nobody will give you a gig simply because you need the money. You have to identify a specific gap or need that you can fill and then market yourself as the perfect candidate to do so.
For example, let’s say that you’re a photographer. There are literally millions of others out there vying for the same gigs as you are. So, what makes you different? What can you offer that others can’t?
Maybe you specialize in a certain type of photography, like food or event photography. Perhaps you have a unique style that sets you apart from the rest. Whatever it is, make sure to highlight your unique selling points (USPs) in your portfolio and when reaching out to clients.
Keep in mind that it’s not just about what you can do; it’s also about what you know. Learning the ins and outs of your chosen field, and staying up-to-date on industry news and trends, will make you a more valuable freelancer. Not to mention, it will make it easier to identify those needs that you can fill.
Once you know what needs you can fill, it’s time to start reaching out to potential clients. Depending on your industry, this could mean anything from sending cold emails to social media networking. There are also plenty of job boards out there that can help you find work. For example, writers can visit Problogger regularly and apply to listed posts.
This part will be a bit easier if you use a freelancing platform. The platform will do most of the legwork for you, presenting clients that might be interested in your services. You just need to ensure that your profile is complete and accurate and that your proposals are compelling.
Cold pitching can be a great way to find work, especially if you’re just starting. It involves reaching out to companies or individuals you think could use your services and offering them outright.
For example, a graphic designer in the fashion industry might search Google for “clothing brands in the USA” and list out a bunch of companies in need of a new logo, website design or marketing materials. Most of these companies have their team info on their website, so the designer can easily find the email address of someone in a hiring position.
The next step, and perhaps the most crucial, is learning how to communicate with potential clients. This involves everything from how you present yourself online to how you interact with clients during the pitching process.
First and foremost, remember that you are now a professional. No matter how friendly or casual the client may be, always maintain a level of professionalism in your communications. That doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself, but it does mean refraining from using slang, emojis, or unprofessional language.
It’s also best to be clear and concise in your communications. Clients are busy and don’t have time to decipher complicated language or read through pages of text. Get to the point as quickly as possible, and be sure to answer any questions that they may have in a timely manner.
If you’re writing an email, the subject line is especially important. Make it clear what the email is about so the client can easily see if it’s something they’re interested in. And don’t forget to proofread everything before hitting send. A few typos can make you look unprofessional and damage your chances of landing the gig.
This next part cannot be overstated: always follow up with clients. If you don’t hear back from them within a reasonable timeframe (i.e., a week or two), reach out and inquire about the status of their decision. Many times, clients simply forget to respond, and a polite reminder can go a long way.
Finally, never underestimate the power of face-to-face communication. If you have the opportunity to meet with a potential client in person, take it! Whether on Zoom, Skype or in person, meeting face-to-face will help you build trust and credibility with the client.
Direct Leads to Your Portfolio
It’s crucial to understand that your portfolio is one of your most valuable assets as a freelancer. Not only does it showcase your skills and experience, but it’s also a great way to demonstrate your USPs. If you don’t have one already, now’s the time to create one.
Gather your best pieces of work (ideally with accompanying testimonials), and make sure your portfolio is easy to navigate and looks professional. A simple WordPress site will do the trick!
There’s always a sort of “chicken or egg” situation when it comes to portfolios. You need work to fill your portfolio, but you need a portfolio to get work. If you’re just getting started, consider offering your services for free or at a reduced rate. This strategy will allow you to build up your portfolio quickly while also impressing potential clients with your skills and dedication.
Once you’ve set it up nicely, make sure to share your portfolio far and wide. Add it to your email signature, post it on social media, and include the link whenever you pitch your services to a potential client. The more exposure your portfolio gets, the higher your chances of landing work as a freelancer.
In short, there are several different ways to find work as a freelancer. It’s all about being active and proactive in your search while always putting your best foot forward. By following these tips, you’ll be landing your first gig in no time!
From there, it only gets easier. The more clients you work with, the more your portfolio will grow, referrals will start rolling in, and it will become easier to commit to full time work as a freelancer.