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.
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
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!