Freelancing is a great way to live a lifestyle you control. Whether you freelance full-time as your own boss or moonlight in the evenings, freelance jobs provide you with control over how you work.
One of the biggest challenges to freelancing is getting gigs. You might be great at writing, designing logos, or language translation. But selling and marketing? Not so much.
Here are some ways to get good freelance jobs.
What to avoid
Major freelance marketplaces promise to make it easy to find jobs, but they might not be a good long-term source of work. Sites like UpWork and Fiverr have plenty of opportunities but in many ways might feel like a race to the bottom.
On these sites, you will often compete with other freelancers from countries where the dollar goes further. That’s great for them (it’s one of the ways the internet is helping people across the world), but it makes it challenging to earn a living wage if you are in an area with a high cost of living. The cost of living difference also makes it difficult to spend time sending proposals for jobs. If the cost of your time is higher, then the cost of making proposals is higher.
Many employers on these sites are hunting based on price rather than quality. Price is a central feature of the marketplaces use to attract people looking for help. In fact, one major freelance site advertises in its investor presentations how cheaply its customers got work done.
The net-net is that people can get work done cheaply through these marketplaces, but the quality of work is often lacking. If you care about your work and do a great job, it will be tough to succeed merely by taking jobs on these sites, and the projects may not be ones worth displaying on a portfolio.
Remember, Fiverr’s name was chosen because you could initially get work done on the site for five bucks. That should tell you something. So, while these marketplaces can be a good way to get your feet wet with freelancing, you’ll eventually want to find ways to source freelance jobs yourself.
Finding better freelance jobs
Getting better-paying jobs requires a bit of upfront work. But if you take the time you were spending responding to requests for proposals on marketplaces and spend it on other prospecting activities, you should be able to build a good client list of well-paying jobs.
Here are some ways to find clients without an intermediary, or at least one with workers’ goals in mind.
LinkedIn is the top social network for business. People use it to network with other people, find jobs, and find people to fill jobs – including freelance and part-time roles.
To get the most out of LinkedIn:
- Refine your profile to focus on the type of work you do. If you’ve switched careers or industries, focus on the one that is most relevant to the work you’re trying to find.
- Add a note at the top of your profile that says you are open to freelance opportunities.
- Comment on posts other people make that are relevant to what you do. You shouldn’t directly promote your services unless people ask for a direct referral. Instead, try to add to the discussion by showing your expertise. If you impress people, they will click on your profile.
- Add your own posts that display your expertise. It’s OK to post about work you’ve recently done (if your client agrees). You can also post commentary on articles about your industry, or write your own thoughts / opinions about your business topic. Tag other people or use hashtags in your original posts to get wider distribution.
Create your own website
Potential clients will take you more seriously if you have a professional website. This is especially the case for web developers.
Thankfully, even people who aren’t web designers can easily create a website with tools like WordPress or the Namecheap SiteMaker.
If you’re a designer, upload examples of your work to a portfolio page on the site. Writers can add links to stories they’ve written. Basically, whatever you do, show off how great you are with your website!
Take a few minutes to add a testimonials page with comments from happy clients. This can go a long way in building your credibility.
Oh, and with your new website, make sure to add a professional email address using your domain. Clients will take you more seriously if you use professional email instead of a free service like Gmail or Hotmail.
Use high-end marketplaces
While some freelance marketplaces are a race to the bottom, others focus on freelancer quality and higher pay.
For example, WordPress developers on codeable.io are screened by the marketplace. There are just over 500 developers on the platform, so you’re not competing with too many people. The platform sets expectations for $ 70- $ 120 hourly rates and explains to clients why it’s worth paying more for good developers.
Another service that focuses on quality of work (and higher pay) is Toptal. It screens each client with a phone call to determine what they are looking for and sets minimums for each project. It often places freelancers in longer-term relationships.
Ask for referrals
One of the best ways to build your client base is to ask your current and previous clients for referrals. Referrals from satisfied clients carry a lot of weight with prospective clients.
It can be hard to ask for referrals if you aren’t used to selling. Build the ask into your process. For example, send a satisfaction survey to your clients and add a question that says, “Would you recommend me to your friends or colleagues?”
If they say yes, send a follow-up email and ask for referrals.
In the end, build your own book of clients
When looking for freelance clients, relying on marketplaces or other platforms for all of your work might seem easier. But getting clients directly, and nurturing those relationships, will pay larger dividends in the long run.
Put the ideas in this post into motion and you should start seeing results in short order. Building a full book of business takes time, but finding clients yourself rather than depending on marketplaces is a great long-term goal.