Unless you already have contacts, finding your first client can be daunting when you start up as a freelancer.
While there are many skills and virtues you need to freelance successfully long term, what you need to find your first freelancing clients are the 4Ps.
We’re not just talking about your physical presence here, although a little charisma, clean clothes and some attention to hygiene and tidiness are handy if you’re going to meet potential clients face-to-face. No, we’re talking about the importance of having a presence wherever it matters – whether that be:
- Online (social media, your own website, relevant industry websites, industry forums, freelance marketplaces)
- In print (trade publications, local or national magazines, flyers)
- In person (conferences, seminars, business-to-business consortiums, local business support groups or networking events).
Put simply, to offer you work, potential clients must know you’re there!
You need to do your research on pricing and then add a dash of realism, adjusting pricing to take into account your current level of expertise and experience and the strength of your existing portfolio and testimonials.
Ensure you don’t set your bar too low, though, and review your pricing regularly, bearing in mind that your cost of living and the costs of any supplies and services you need in your work are probably rising too.
Most importantly, remember that dithering or backtracking over pricing smacks of unprofessionalism; clients want to have an idea of costs upfront and will expect you to be able to supply that information. Speaking of which…
If you want people to respect the work you do, be keen to hire you and pay you a decent rate for the work you do, then you need to act professionally at all times – because you’re selling them a professional service.
If you look like a bumbling amateur (achieved by dithering, lying about your abilities, poor communication, bad timekeeping, substandard work, a lack of online presence and answering your phone with “Yeah, what?”), then don’t expect to attract clients or keep the work coming in. Don’t expect to be well-paid for it, either.
Unless you’re unbelievably lucky and/or had hordes of potential clients just waiting for you to free yourself from the yoke of employment, getting that first client and building up a client base will take time and effort.
It can be very easy to give up and if you’ve not taken the sensible precaution of putting aside money to form a financial safety cushion, it can be all too tempting – particularly if a new employment opportunity comes up.
But if you want to freelance, you must persist. Persist through the lean and uncertain months, persist through the learning phase and persist through the jobs you take, from necessity, for less money than you hoped.
Yes, getting that first freelance client may not be easy. But then, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
Good luck in your search for freelance clients worth having!