What do you need to get started?
Before we dive into the specifics of reaching out to potential clients and landing your first freelance gig, it's absolutely essential that you have certain things in place before you get started. One of them is a small portfolio of work and an account on a portfolio site online. While you may think you lack experience, what you lack is real-world experience. You still need to have some work, either personal projects or the ones done as part of your schoolwork. Chances are that if you are looking for work without experience, you are still an entry-level freelancer which means clients aren't looking for something very complex.
If you are looking to find freelance clients without a portfolio of work, read: What is the easiest freelance career?
How to land your first client?
The conversation of freelancing with no experience is only valid till you find the first client. Finding and delivering for the first client is meant to be that switch from the prospective freelancer to someone who has a freelance career. The next steps will aid the process of finding the first client.
Love your core offering, the money will follow
This point is a prelude to starting your job hunt and will remain constant throughout your freelancing career. Before you start freelancing, learn to love the work you do. Get excited by it, if you don't find excitement, think of specific parts of the offering that seem exciting. At least your core offering, and any other things associated with it. This mindset is not simply for motivation's sake but its your foundation in the freelance world. This will prove to be so much more valuable as you progress.
MUST READ: 3 Best Freelance Jobs for Beginners in 2023
Once you "love" the work that you do, it's natural to learn about every aspect of it. The individual stages that it takes from taking an idea to a finished product. If you work in an analytical field, read about software, technologies, and tools that make something easier. If you work as a virtual assistant, see what productivity apps or tools are available that can ease your client's life.
In a nutshell, I am trying to say that you should be passionate about the things you do so that you have a natural knack for slowly building your skills and instincts to serve within that niche. You can be a freelance writer or a web designer, but if you're not passionate about your skillset, the hustle of finding your first client can often lead you to give up too soon. Even when you are successful, this will be your guiding light. This mindset is important, and the sooner you practice it, the better.
Take your current skillset into consideration
You don't have any experience, agreed but we did go over how you only lack real-world experience. There is a valuable skillset that make you who you are. Both personal and professional experiences matter.
If you are a freelance writer who is an avid Netflix viewer, you are more suitable for freelance writing jobs for companies that review Netflix shows or media in general. If you previously had a full-time job as an accountant, you can probably write scripts for a financial TikTok or youtube channel. Prospective clients are looking for the right fit, so when looking for clients, see where that advantage the opportunity presents for you.
Your core offering can be your services, you can be a social media manager, writer, or graphic designer, and those will largely remains unchanged. With no experience what matters is why you are more suitable for a freelance job compared to someone who is at a similar level of experience. When applying for a freelance job, these specific points will make you a more desirable candidate. A writer who is a football fan, is a far more suitable match for a media outlet covering sport than the one who isn't.
Your network will likely lead to your first job
We have all heard the old schtick of "It's not what you know, but who you know". As old and overused as it is, the impact of a network on your career is profound. Not to take away from the need to be proficient in your chosen skillset, but your network is also equally important.
By network I mean your friends, family and professional colleagues. Let your network know that you have started a freelancing business and you are looking to onboard clients. If you are offering graphic design services, make a small creative or banner to share on your personal and professional groups. If its copywriting, write something witty or interesting. Let go of the notion that you are pleading someone to give you work. You are prospecting and marketing your skillset.
Chances are that someone or the other in these groups is starting a small business or needs help with something smaller. This is a sureshot way to get your first client, rather than going to a job board with no prior experience. When you do find someone in your network, if they are your first client, don't focus too much on the money that you make for that project but rather the experience. Push to deliver the best possible product for your new client, and suggest new services toward the end of the job.
Reach out to other freelancers
If there are some freelancers in your immediate or acquaintance network, reach out to them. If you don't know a freelancer, ask a friend, who does know one, to make that connection for you. You will find that most people have worked with freelancers in some shape or form that they can connect you with one.
When you do meet a freelancer, don't ask them for freelance work right away. Treat the meeting as a compass. This means find out the direction you need to build in. There may be complimentary valuable skills that you can learn, where to find clients, how to build your freelance business to a level they are at. Asking them to be a mentor from the first meeting itself might be too out of the park, so ask them to connect via LinkedIn. If you speak often and click on a personal level, make that jump to seeking mentorship.
Once they know that you provide a service and that you approached them from a position of gaining knowledge, they can share relevant resources, advice on the quality of your work and also send leads your way if they think you can deliver on it. This is simply the first step of expanding your professional network. If you consistently leverage platforms like LinkedIn, you can potentially build to a point where you have clients coming to you, not the other way around.
Know where to look for jobs
Not all job boards and freelancing websites are built the same. Some are more suitable to new freelancers with little to no work experience while others thrive on industry leaders doing most of the work on them. There's no wrong or right answer here, but simply trying them out will lead to the right answer.
Fiverr largely depends on you posting the gig and then waiting for clients to get back to you. Upwork on the other hand allows freelancers to reach out to clients who post jobs on their platform. LinkedIn is also a great resource when it comes to outbound marketing of your services.
Platforms like behance and dribble are a good way for designers to showcase their work and also find new clients on them. Try them all out, and see what sticks!
Know your industry
The best practitioner is the one who knows or understand the industry that he or she is operating in. What I mean by this is not simply searching other freelancers and seeing what they are up to but an in-depth knowledge of the services and skillsets offered as well. Everything that is expected from a professional in your niche, the skills, the knowledge, the degree of proficiency etc.
You should be on-top of news, new tools, dependable techniques and frameworks that inform the everyday work that you do. Overtime this will enrich the quality of work that you do, making you a force to reckon with. This is not very different from studying something, but instead of a book, you enhance your knowledge through online sources, new developments and people that you interact with. And you do this consistently.
This relentless approach to learning will also inform your content marketing efforts in the future when you take freelancing to the next level. Remeber, the goal isn't getting the first client, its to build a profitable freelance business. Play the long game, and pursue long term goals.
Don't stop at that first client
Once you have delivered a successful project for your first client, chances are they still need help with some things. Most businessowners especially first time business owners would hire you for one service and also look for other ways to expand their offering.
Once you are 80% into a project, propose other things that you can assist them with. An example would be to complete a logo design project, to then go into a branding project or if they aren't at that scale yet, maybe a business card design. No matter the experience, you are the professional; if you don't know the next steps, find them out and then deliver. If you delivered well on your first project, the clients will put their faith in you and hire you again. That's how you ensure consistency.
Things to remember
As you make your way through the suggestions mentioned above, there will be times when all your efforts may seem futile. You will have projects fall through and clients who aren't agreeable. Success isn't permanent, failure isn't final. The consistency in your effort, the relentlessness to better yourself and the patience in your heart will shine through if given time. Keep creating, keep iterating, keep reaching out. A fruitful freelance career is closer than you think!
How to get freelance clients with no experience?