So, you’ve decided to take your first steps into the world of freelancing. That’s great!
I’m going to share with you what is probably the most essential aspect to becoming a freelancer – and that’s how to get freelance clients.
In fact, generating a reliable stream of clients is one of the biggest challenges freelancers face. I’ve seen the same questions repeated online time and time again:
“How to get graphic design clients,”or “how to get freelance writing clients,”and so on.
It’s crucial to know how to find freelance work because, let’s be honest, without freelance clients, you won’t be doing any freelancing.
But don’t stress. With a little know-how, finding freelance clients can quickly become a worry of the past.
In this article, I’ll walk you through how to get clients as a freelancer quickly – from where to find them, how to win them over, and how to set yourself up for long-term success.
Ready? Let’s get right to it then.
Where do you find freelance clients?
I often recommend starting out your freelancing career on an freelance jobs marketplace.
Why? Because freelance platforms provide a secure and simple way to find paying clients quickly.
Every freelancing site works a little differently, but they all serve the purpose of helping freelancers find jobs—whether by helping clients find you, helping you find clients, or both.
Here are some freelance sites I think are great for finding valuable clients.
With over 30,000 job opportunities, FlexJobs is a great place for freelancers to find clients in their niche fast.
One reason they’re a favorite freelance site of mine is that you won’t run into any scams on there.
The unfortunate truth is that freelancers have to carefully weed out scam opportunities, both in-person and online. But FlexJobs hand-screens every job on their site to ensureno scams and no spam.
They’re a paid, premium service that matches freelancers with guaranteed legitimate, valuable clients.
As one of the largest freelancing platforms, Upwork is a great place to start finding secure connections right away.
There’s a near-endless amount of opportunities available for beginner and expert freelancers both. And you get to set your own rate.
But keep in mind that their high popularity also means high competition, so it’s necessary to stand out to win clients.
If you’re already an expert in your field but want to find freelance clients, Toptal might be a great option for you.
Toptal works to pair the top 3% of freelancers with lucrative clients. Because of the elite nature of their site, you will have to go through a rigorous approval process.
But once you’re in, you’ll be able to work with big-name clients, like Gucci, Udemy, and Shopify.
SolidGigs is another favorite of mine. With them, freelancers can hang back and relax, and they’ll find the best opportunities for you.
On the hunt for new clients, this is about as good as it gets for freelancers.
And, not only do you save time with their service, but you’ll also be provided with training to improve the skills necessary to win clients.
Like the other sites listed (and almost all freelancing sites), SolidGigs comes at a cost. But rather than convoluted fees, they have a straightforward subscription plan.
There are multiple freelancing sites out there that you can leverage to find and land clients quickly. If you want to see more options, I list out 21 of the best freelancing sites for you here.
In the search for how to get clients as a freelancer, freelancing sites are a great option to get tons of new job leads regardless of your experience level.
People you know (aka your network)
Start spreading the word about your freelance services to any family, friends, former classmates, or professional connections you might have—you’d be surprised what a little word-of-mouth can do for your freelancing business.
In fact, according to Edelman and Upwork both, the majority of freelancers find work through their friends and family.
They already know you, which adds a crucial trust factor. People are much more likely to hire someone personally connected or recommended to them when they need a service.
Once you start sharing with your current network, your message will inevitably expand into their networks, too, presenting you with more opportunities.
Don’t overlook the value of social media when searching for clients. Your potential clients are likely already on one or more platforms, providing you a free and easy way to reach them.
It’s also a great way to meet and connect with other freelancers in both your field and related fields who could refer clients to you or add you onto one of their projects.
Let’s go over the different social media networks you can use to your advantage.
As a site built around making professional connections, LinkedIn is a great tool to find clients regardless of your field.
You’ll have the option to fill out a professional profile (which can serve as a resume), post compelling samples and case studies of your work, and build a solid network that can quickly turn into new leads.
It’s a good idea to take their skills tests and optimize your profile as a freelancer so that clients can easily find you.
And you can further establish trust with potential clients by receiving skill endorsements and recommendations from past clients or colleagues.
Twitter is another helpful tool for freelancers to attract new clients.
You can use the platform to share useful tips, information, and industry news to establish authority in your field.
It’s also a great place to start interacting with companies you’re interested in freelancing for.
As always, be sure to keep your profile professional with your portfolio and contact information linked. The greater your professional presence online, the more you can get in front of new clients who need your services.
Since Instagram is primarily a visual channel, it’s an awesome place for graphic artists and designers to showcase their abilities.
To appeal to Instagram’s algorithm, make sure you post consistently and do some hashtag research to reach more people.
You can also easily use the app to connect with other freelancers and reach out to brands and agencies looking to hire someone with your creativity and skillset.
While Reddit works a little differently than the other social media platforms mentioned and is typically anonymous, it’s still an extremely helpful resource for getting freelance work.
Here are some subreddits (forums within the site) you can follow to find freelance clients:
You’ll find these mini communities have hundreds to thousands of members—each with their own uses and rules. It’s incredibly easy to join them and start interacting.
You can make use of certain forums by creating invaluable posts that compel people to reach out to you, and, on others, you can look through hiring listings and send direct chats to apply.
The human element of in-person networking events makes it significantly easier to create a lasting positive impression with a potential client than online.
Search Google for networking events in your city, check out social media groups, and look at apps like Meetup and Eventbrite. There are sure to be some (or a ton) of events depending on the size of your city.
These are great to take advantage of to make genuine connections in your industry, opening up doors to new projects.
Another great place to find freelance clients is local businesses.
Make connections in your community — see what problems they’re currently facing and put together a tailored proposal on how your services can help.
You never know, your local bar might need new menus designed, or your dentist may need better SEO for their site.
You’ll face significantly lower competition (perhaps even no competition) reaching out to local businesses over talking to potential clients online.
How to get freelance work: 4 steps to landing your first client
Now that we’ve covered where you can find freelance clients, I’ll go over what you need to do to actually win them over.
1. Determine your skillset
First things first, you want to have a great understanding of your own skills in order to highlight them effectively.
While most people have a general idea of their main service offering, many make the mistake of skipping over determining their skills and then struggle to pitch themselves successfully.
A huge part of getting clients falls on your ability to package and sell your skills effectively.
So, brainstorm the hard and soft skills you’re strongest at, and write them down. Hard skills will be things like computer languages, SEO, or writing, whereas soft skills are things like communication and time management.
The hard skills are what you’re going to sell — they’re the answers to the problems your future clients are having, but you’ll play up your soft skills in the process to really stand out.
2. See what opportunities exist for you
Now that you have a complete grasp of what you can offer, you’re going to figure out exactly how you should present those skills to clients.
This is when you’ll start researching what opportunities currently exist for you.
So, instead of pigeonholing yourself into a niche based on what youthink is in demand, research what jobs areactually in demand. This way, you’ll be able to accurately determine how you can position your skills to appeal to them.
One of the easiest ways to do this market research is to scroll through listings on freelance job sites in your broad field.
Pay attention to the types of jobs posted, their advertised rates, popular industries, common problems clients face, and what skills they’re asking for.
And look closely at the keywords they use because you’ll want to match them.
Basically, the idea here is to get a thorough idea of what clients are looking for before spending time making a portfolio or pitch that falls irrelevant. Use your research to guide how you tackle the next steps.
3. Start creating a portfolio
So, now that you know what’s in demand with current clients, it’s time to start building your portfolio.
This step tends to inspire serious procrastination, but building your portfolio is actually pretty painless. I promise.
All you really need to show is one to two extremely targeted samples to win over your first freelance client.
And thanks to your research, you already know exactly what paying clients are looking for. Use that information to guide how you make or choose your sample.
So, if you’re a writer who sees that email copywriting is currently a hot job, look at what a given client is asking for and create a quick portfolio piece that addresses their problems.
I talk about this technique more in my article on becoming a freelance writer, but you can follow this method regardless of your field.
To further optimize your portfolio sample, create a case study alongside it to explain your approach to thewhat, why,andhow. And if you’re putting together a case study on a sample from previous work experience, make sure to include what end results you achieved.
Now that your targeted portfolio piece is done, you can send it over to the client who inspired it with a killer pitch (which I’ll talk about how to do below) — and now you’ll have an in-demand portfolio piece to present to others as well.
The key thought here is this: don’t spend months putting together a large portfolio of samples that might not appeal to anyone. Instead, create short, targeted samples and will actually get you started freelancing right away.
And once you start doing freelance jobs, that’s when you can (and should) gradually build your portfolio as you go along and the work is fresh on your mind.
4. Craft a winning pitch
Whether you’re in-person or online, you want your pitch to be brief and to-the-point (it’s called an elevator pitch for a reason) about what value you can bring to the client.
Your potential client is way more concerned with themselves, their goals, and their issues than they are about you and your accolades.
So, start off by empathizing with the problem they need to solve or the gap they need to fill — which you already researched in step two — not with your 4.0 GPA or entire work history.
Then connect the dots. A simple yet incredibly effective base formula for your pitch is this:
“I help X do Y by providing C.”
You’ll see this formula time and time again because it works. It speaks directly to your target client, telling them the value you can bring them and how.
This is a great opening pitch, especially in person. However, you’ll want to be prepared to expand on it further, and have your sample and any testimonials ready to back up your words.
When pitching your services online, the basic idea is the same, but you’ll be laying everything out at once.
Here’s what that will look like:
- Describe who your target client is
- Identify their problems
- Put the value they’re looking for into words
- Position yourself as the solution to their needs
- Provide testimonials to support your claims
- End with a compelling call to action
Be sure to tailor this pitch to each unique client, and you’ll be able to get your first client in a flash.
After you’ve worked with your first handful of clients, if you still feel like you could be selling more or biggest projects, then sign up for my Selling for Freelancers to learn the exact steps you need to take to do just that.
Tips to grow your freelancing business for long-term success
Establish multiple streams of freelance job leads
Now that you’ve worked on a couple of projects and have a good pace going, it’s a great idea to set up some reliable methods of sourcing clients to avoid any gaps from contract to contract.
While you’re still in the beginning stages, you’re going to need to take an active approach to achieve this.
With that said, you don’t want to overwhelm and weaken your efforts by trying to set up too many methods of getting clients at once.
Focus on setting up one-two job lead streams at first, such as creating a compelling freelance website profile and going to in-person networking events, and go from there.
The proverbial line “keep it simple” applies as much here as it does anywhere else. Basically, you want quality before quantity.
Do what works for you, your industry, your skillset, and your personality. Go where your clients are—where you feel like you can shine—and optimize your presence.
Then, start growing from there.
Ultimately, to really elevate your freelancing business, you’ll want to establish several reliable streams of freelance jobs coming your way. The goal here is to have clients passively coming to you.
Grow your reputation online and off
To establish an effective, stable influx of clients wanting to work with you, it’s important to build a great reputation for your freelancing business.
There are a couple of ways you can do this too.
One of the best ways to set yourself apart and establish credibility is to create value and build trust by sharing helpful content online.
If you build an encyclopedia of useful information online, you’ll effectively kill two birds with one stone.
First, you position yourself as an expert or authority in your industry.
And second, by taking the time to develop this online body of work, you’ll also continue sharpening your skills, building your knowledge base, and keeping yourself up-to-date, so that you can truly and confidently position yourself as a cutting-edge provider in your market.
So, how do you go about this?
This can take a couple of different forms. One of the most practical and impactful methods of growing your reputation online is to create a blog.
But if a blog sounds daunting or writing isn’t your preferred modality, you could start by creating a professional social media account that favors pictures and clips with short blurbs of useful information.
Make sure you write, post, or speak about topics that your ideal client is looking for that clearly shows how you can add unique value to their objectives. And if you have comments turned on, you can automatically build a testimonial bank.
Speaking of testimonials, perhaps the best way to establish credibility as a freelancer both online and off is by developing advocates for your work.
Having previous clients or colleagues vouch for you and your work is crucial for propelling your growth and creating a passive flow of incoming clients.
In fact, 41% of freelancers claim they get their new clients from past referrals. And you can do so too.
Ensuring you make a good impression every time (even with a client that doesn’t end up hiring you) can have a lasting impact that will help grow your presence long-term.
Build your own marketing funnel
Finally, the key ingredient to ensuring you never run out of clients is to create your own marketing funnel.
This will set you up successfully for years to come by helping you build your brand intentionally and own your freelancing services without having to rely on external marketplaces or constant, active job lead acquisition to keep working.
If you want to get clients coming directly to YOU, then you’re exactly who I made my Marketing for Freelancers course for!
By now, you’ll have a solid understanding of where to find freelance work, how to successfully position yourself to clients, and how to keep a steady flow of clients consistently coming to you.
The simple fact is, you need clients to have a successful freelancing business.
In the beginning, you will have to put in some extra effort to put yourself out there, but over time, you’ll find that you can ultimately build your reputation as a trusted expert in your industry.
Let’s go over what we discussed one more time. Follow this, and you’ll go from landing your first freelance client to achieving a successful freelancing business in no time:
- Pick two to three client-building streams from the list above.
- Take the time to thoroughly brainstorm your skills.
- Do market research. Start tailoring your skillset to fill the needs of what your ideal client is actually looking for. There’s no point in building an offer that no one is looking for.
- Take the time to hone your portfolio and your pitch.
- Establish your authority online and deliver a great experience to your clients every time to get referrals coming your way.
- Finally, build your own marketing funnel, and you’ll be unstoppable.
If you’re still craving more information on the steps you need to begin your freelancing journey, you can learn all about how to start freelancing here.