Without a doubt, the question I get asked the most about working for myself is how to find work as a freelancer.
For anyone considering freelancing; already dipping their toes into it as a side hustle with their full time job, or are freelancing full time but struggling to get their business off the ground…this one is for you.
But hang on a minute – I haven’t even been freelancing for 6 months, how can I impart wisdom on how to find work as a freelancer? Well, because the past few months have gone particularly well and I’m starting to feel like I’m in the groove of being my own boss now.
Like all emotions as a small business owner, this is likely to change at the drop of a hat…or rather a drop off of work. That’s just the nature of the beast.
These are the ways that I have personally managed to find work as a freelancer. I am a freelance copywriter, blogger and social media manager but I think that most if not all of these tips should be relevant for any kind of freelancing creative.
Putting yourself out there
As the age old adage goes, it’s not always what you know – it’s who you know. I think for many of us the dream is to work from home and have the jobs come pouring in, but it doesn’t work that way. Or at least it doesn’t for me!
The idea of networking and meeting people might make you feel uneasy – it did for me. But I quickly found my footing with the right sorts of networking events by filtering out the wrong ones.
Picture this. One of my first networking events I’m dressed in jeans and a smartish blouse because that’s me. You won’t catch me in a pencil skirt and heels because I want to be comfortable in my skin when chatting to potential clients. I walk into the hall and am immediately struck by the ratio of older men in suits. I knew straight away this wasn’t my crowd. Still, I stuck around and spoke to a few people who only seemed interested in themselves. I went home that night and made a mental note to never go to an event like that again.
On the flip side, I had started going to Mumpreneur networking groups. The first one I went to I was naturally massively put off the name. I’m not a mum, and I’m not sure mummy businesses are my target market. I had these visions of the businesses all being focused around children which is fine if you like children and want to work in that niche but uhhh that ain’t me folks.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sure, there were a few of those sorts of businesses but a whole lot of others! I’ve even managed to secure small projects with a photographer, therapist and a lady who makes amazing textile accessories. Through this particular networking group I’ve also secured larger projects via word of mouth as well.
Finding networking groups in your area
- Google! Search for “business networking in [your area]” – think wider than your immediate area though if you have access to transport
- Check out First Friday Network and see if there’s a group local to you (for those who are Southerners…although there may be a Northern equivalent). Unfortunately my local First Friday stopped taking place before I had chance to go but I am planning to go along to ones slightly further afield later in the year.
- Go on Meetup and search for business meetups near you. If there isn’t one, create one! You do have to pay to create a Meetup but the site does give you an idea of if there is local interest
- Go along to a local Chamber of Commerce meeting – you can go to 2 for free before deciding if you want to join.
- When you go along to one local networking group, get speaking to people to find out what other groups they go to.
Want some tips on going along to networking events to find work as a freelancer? Check out my Freelance vlog from back in October when I had just started networking.
Utilising your existing contacts
I didn’t exactly start emailing, texting or calling everyone I knew when I decided to work for myself. Instead, I shared something on Facebook and I continue to talk about my freelancing journey here, on Twitter and Youtube. I was also able to update my LinkedIn profile to more openly talk about the fact I was self-employed and trying to find work as a freelancer.
Luckily for me, this led to a few past contacts reaching out. Someone I had worked with in the past, a few colleagues I used to work with when I worked for an agency…they suddenly saw I was a valuable resource for supporting them.
Just a quick tip: if you’re still working full time but want to live the side hustle life, make sure there’s nothing in your contract that prevents you from doing any additional work on the side. This is particularly important if your freelance work is in the same realm as your day job!
How to spread the word:
- If you can, post on your Facebook profile and even update your Work information to let people know what you’re doing. Set up a Facebook page for your business as well so you have a presence on the platform. Only do this if you have the time to regularly update it though! When I was working full time and doing client work on the side, I wouldn’t have had time to manage a Facebook page so only set this up when I was more actively trying to find work as a freelancer.
- As with Facebook, update your LinkedIn. I got one of my biggest client projects to date just because they were an existing contact and saw me posting regularly on the platform.
- Speak to friends and family face to face – when you’re letting them know what you’re up to just casually slide into the convo that you’re giving freelancing a go!
- Look up if there are any local online business listings for your area. A simple Google search for ‘business listings in [your area]’ should return some good results. Most of these are free, so get creating!
Building a website
I don’t really need to tell you how important it is to have a website for your business to find work as a freelancer – but I’m going to anyway! It doesn’t need to be overly fancy, but it’s a great place to sell your business and add a portfolio of work if you have one.
I built my website on WordPress as it’s a platform I know well. It also helps that it’s the same platform the majority of my clients have so I am very familiar with their sites if I ever need to access the back-end (ooer).
I got a plugin which let me use a drag and drop builder to create the site. It took bloody ages, but I spent a lot of time on it in the early days when I didn’t have work coming in developing the site so it had the bare bones I needed to start promoting it.
Some website tips:
- Don’t go overboard in the beginning and spend too long on the website – stick to the core pages. Home, About, Services and Contact. If you have testimonials already from past work, whack those on a Testimonials page too.
- When you have more time and an established portfolio, start adding the work to your website to show it off. Make sure to get clients permission first, as well as a cheeky review to go with it if you can!
- Make it easy for people to contact you. You may feel a bit sceptical about adding a phone number to the site, but you may be putting clients off if all you offer is an email address and/or contact form. I personally have my mobile number on the website and have only had one issue where a potential client called me in the evening – I don’t answer my phone to unknown numbers after 5pm!
Searching for work online
So I haven’t had a whole lot of success with this tactic, but a fellow local freelancer who is a website developer swears by it so I’ll share it here in case you have the same luck!
He uses Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to search for phrases such as “need a website” or “looking for someone to build a website” etc etc. He has scored work from clients across the world from doing this but I wonder if the reason it hasn’t worked for me is because the demand for copywriters isn’t quite so high? But give it a go and see what comes up!
Another popular choice for finding work online is bidding sites – but I personally avoid them. It’s a divided opinion but I wasted time in the early days bidding for work on Upwork and after having an hour call and spending 2 hours on a proposal for someone who ended up working with a “mate” instead in the end, I started spending my energy elsewhere.
However, if you do need to build a portfolio from nothing and are looking at securing any kind of work to do so, then Upwork, People Per Hour and Fiverr are popular options. Just be wary that they do also take a percentage of your earnings which y’know, sucks.
Quick fire advice when trying to find work as a freelancer online:
- Don’t waste too much time pitching for jobs on bidding sites. They are often for low pay and the juice ain’t worth the squeeze
- Try searching on Indeed for Freelance/remote work. You can sometimes find companies and agencies looking to outsource work. Full disclaimer: I haven’t *yet* found work this way but I haven’t spent a lot of time doing it.
- Search on Google for local agencies and contact them directly. Again this isn’t something I’ve spent a long time doing, but I have (apparently) been added to a couple of rosters for local marketing agencies should the need to outsource come up.
- Search for Freelance Facebook groups (I recommend Freelance Heroes, although mostly for advice) – every once in a while these sorts of groups will have posts from people looking to collaborate or outsource.
Offering to work for free
Eek! This is the ultimate in controversial opinion and I only mention it because it’s how I started.
I was working in a job I hated, and I desperately wanted to be doing something that allowed me the freedom to be more creative. It was one day when shopping in town that I visited a shop that has recently opened, and got chatting to the shop owners about social media. They didn’t have a budget to pay (although they did give me a free hashtag light which is one of my fave things I own!), but they just needed some help keeping their Facebook and Twitter pages updated.
Long story short (you can read a more detailed version of the story here), the couple who owned the shop referred me to their son who was able to give me my first paid job. The beginning of my journey to find work as a freelancer – and the rest is history!
Some guidance about volunteering your time:
- Only work for free doing something you genuinely enjoy and will help build your portfolio.
- Limit the time you spend volunteering so it doesn’t eat into the time you could be using for paid work!
- Try and ensure the project is time limited – offer to do the work for free for a certain timeframe otherwise it could drag on and it’s sometimes hard to pull the plug later on!
PHEW. My tea’s gone very cold now so I think that’s probably enough…
So that’s how I find work as a freelancer, with a few tips to get you started. It’s not easy to find work as a freelancer in the beginning, but it does get easier once you start getting into the groove of meeting people, promoting what you do and getting those initial testimonials in!