It seems apt that in my first week as a freelancer I should share with you guys the journey of how I got my first clients and how that has ultimately led me to the point where I could quit my job and become my own boss (which totally, totally still feels surreal).
A few people asked on Twitter how I got to this point too, so hopefully I can shed some light on it – obviously with the caveat that there is no “right” or guaranteed way of getting clients as a freelancer that works for everyone, this is just how it happened for me.
Rewind back to 2015 – the year that The Force Awakens graced our cinema screens, and the year that the raging debate of the blue and black dress (because yes it was blue and black) took over our social media feeds.
2015 was also the year that I started doing some volunteer work for a local shop in Worthing, helping them build their social media platforms free of charge because a) they were lovely people, and b) I wanted some more experience in doing social media for a business as it was something I wasn’t doing quite as much as I’d like in the day job. Now people tell you not to offer your professional services free of charge, but it was because of this that I got my first paid freelancer client!
The shop owners’ son ran his own business as a plumber and he needed some new copy for his website. We met at a local pub to chat it through and tbh I was so nervous but as soon as we got talking about what his business was and what he needed, I knew I could help. It’s a good feeling.
From there, I created the copy for his website and through this process got introduced by email to his web developer. It wasn’t long before the web developer had some more projects for me and in all honesty, I owe the success of where I am today to him.
My other clients have come from the small amount of Twitter networking I’ve done so far (which is very little, so to have gained a client already is pretty exciting!), and I’m in the process of diversifying the way I find new clients by signing up to networking events and really beginning to piece together my website so I can start promoting it here, there and everywhere!
On top of that, I’ll also still be working on a contract basis for the charity I previously worked for. This is going to be a big help as I get the business off the ground and will still keep some regular income coming in which is always a bonus!
Now I’m no longer living the side-hustle life and juggling a FT job with this work, it’s a lot easier to work up into conversation with friends, family and just about anyone who will listen that I now work for myself as a freelancer. We’ll have to wait and see as to whether that leads to anything, but I’ve already had offers of connections with other web developers and business owners…so fingers and toes crossed this can lead to some more work.
In a nutshell, that’s really how I managed to get to this point. I’ve been incredibly lucky but have also worked pretty darn hard to squeeze everything in. From client calls in noisy cafes, to late nights and weekends finishing off projects, balancing it all has been a struggle. I’m now well and truly looking forward to keeping my working hours as normal as possible and navigating the labyrinth that is running your own business!
Just as a bonus to round things up, here’s a few tips to help you out with getting your first clients as a freelancer…
Don’t be afraid to talk about what you can do for people. Whether you’re selling a service or product, people will only know about it if you tell them.
When I first approached the shop about my social media skills, it was off the back of me taking a look at their social channels and knowing I could help them grow. It’s easier to broach this when you aren’t asking for money, so it’s a good way of getting that first boost of confidence and that all important testimonial when you start to approach potential clients for your business.
There are some amazing Facebook groups out there for freelancers, and many of them will allow you to post any questions you have and the community will come flooding in with great advice.
I personally recommend Freelance Heroes as it has been the most friendly, and it’s also predominantly UK-based freelancers so the more technical questions around tax etc are more relevant.
Whilst it’s rare you might find a client in these groups, you can at least get some great advice on how to find them and how to work with them.
So if you’re planning to sell services such as copywriting, blogging, social media etc, you may be tempted to use bidding sites like Upwork or Fiverr. It is my personal view that these should really only be used for portfolio purposes and not for real income.
The jobs are poorly paid (plus the cut that the site takes as well) and often require a lot of work for little return. I’ve managed to avoid them so far, and intend on keeping it this way as I’d sooner write my own samples than be paid a pittance for large projects. But hey, that’s just me. You do you.