Going freelance is a huge, rewarding step – but it’s also a challenge.
You know you can do the work (perhaps you’ve just left a related job), but you have bills to pay and you need some money coming through the door. So, how do you get your first freelance clients, and how do you go about building a sustainable client base?
There are three main things to think about:
Though you’re an expert in your field, having to take on a number of other roles can be daunting. We’ve broken down how you can approach these three areas.
It’s a common problem: you’re the best in your field, you know your job inside out, but you don’t know how to sell yourself. You’ll need to learn quick!
First, make sure that your online presence is ship-shape. This means building a great website (check out our guide to creating a website for your business for a step-by-step introduction), building up a social media presence and, if relevant, leaning about local SEO If you have a bit of money to spend on online advertising, you might also want to try out Google Adwords.
You’ll also need to learn how to pitch. It’s really important to be able to talk to potential clients not only in a way that they understand, but also in a way that makes them excited about your work and its potential impact on their business.
Think about what makes you unique: how do you stand out from your competitors? Where do you add value? Play these factors up, while still remaining honest and realistic in your pitching.
Pricing is a vital consideration for any freelancer looking for clients. Price yourself too low and you will look suspiciously cheap, too high and clients will be put off. Research is key here. Try to look at what your competitors are doing, and base your pricing on what you find.
As above, though, make sure that you identify where you can add value to a project, and build this into your price. Often, potential clients won’t simply look for the lowest quote: they’ll look for the one that offers the most value.
There’s one golden rule of freelancing: you’re only as good as your last job. Once you’ve learned the basics of marketing and pricing, it’s important that you also deliver on your promises.
Learn to manage client expectations. If something’s going to be delayed, explain why at the earliest possible opportunity: do not ignore it and expect that it will go away. Dialogue is key, and by keeping up open channels of communication with your clients, you can help to smooth over potential problems on the way.
So, now we’ve covered the basics, we're going to look at some specific industries to give you an idea of how these ideas can be put into practice in the real world.
There’s a broad range of specific channels you can use to get clients as a freelance makeup artist. Once you’ve thought about the more general steps above, you might consider trying to establish yourself on YouTube. The rise of beauty vlogging has been rapid, and tutorials and other makeup-related videos can be a great way to get your name out there.
You should also think about signing up to some of the websites designed specifically for the modeling industry. Platforms like Model Mayhem and Behance help to connect makeup artists and other creative professionals with potential clients, and these can be a goldmine if you spend time crafting a great profile and promoting it.
Perhaps the most important first step in getting freelance clients as a graphic designer is to work out where you want to specialise. There is a huge choice of fields in which you might work as a graphic designer, but rather than spreading yourself thin, try to identify the niche you want to fill. By doing that job brilliantly, you can be the go-to person for potential clients in need of similar work.
Once you’ve decided on your niche and got your portfolio set up, you need to get out there and make yourself known. You could be the best freelance graphic designer in the world, but unless you also know how to sell yourself, you’re going to struggle.
Think about what makes you unique, and play on that. Try, wherever possible, to set up face-to-face meetings with potential clients, perhaps people you know from your previous job, and learn how to sell yourself. The art of the pitch is just as important as the delivered work.
If you’re unsure of yourself, try rehearsal pitches on family and friends. You need to be able to present yourself and your ideas as professionally as you would execute your work.
Getting clients as a freelance web developer has some specific prerequisites, as the first port of call for potential clients will give them an instant idea of whether or not they should hire you. It’s vital that your own website is a work of art, and that it is optimised both for mobile and for search.
You should also think carefully about where you can add value in a crowded field, or where you can extract the most value from a large market. For example, if are a WordPress ninja you’re at an advantage, given the popularity of the platform across the web.
However, remember that you need to be able to explain technical aspects of your job in a manner that is easily understandable by the layman and, crucially, you need to be able to explain why potential clients need what you’re selling. A good rule: if you can’t explain it to your parents, your pitch needs tweaking.
How have you found life as a freelancer? Let us know in the comments
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