How to get my first freelance project?
Starting, building, and sustaining a freelancing career is a big task but the rewards it provides, far outweigh the struggle it demands. Finding your first freelance project is always one of the greatest challenges that a newcomer faces.
Written By Scott LuscombeQuestion? Talk to Scott
How to get my first freelance project?
Stepping into the freelance world can be full of uncertainty, let's make sure that finding that first freelance project, isn't.
Starting, building, and sustaining a freelancing career is a big task but the rewards it provides, far outweigh the struggle it demands. Finding your first client as a freelancer is always one of the greatest challenges that a newcomer faces.
While finding your first client might seem daunting, there are ways that you can put yourself in the best position to get hired. Once you deliver your first project, finding freelance jobs becomes easier with every project you deliver. Taking something from zero to one is hard and hopefully, after this, it becomes easier.
Selecting your Freelance Career
Selecting your freelance niche is one of the first steps toward finding your first freelance client. This might seem counterproductive as you may want to learn multiple skills within varied niches in order to qualify for more freelancing projects, but it rarely works that way. I personally began my career over 20 years ago as a graphic designer but over time I have jumped into freelance copywriting, web development, digital marketing, and a wide range of services for clients.
When you are selecting your Freelance Niche
When selecting a freelance niche, what's helpful is to see where you fit into the timeline of a project. If you are a freelance copywriter and you write for digital mediums, you will most likely work with website projects, especially in the early stages. In those stages, you will be working with a marketing director who manages and runs the project and a graphic designer who would be building the visual elements of the site. You could be involved in the initial phases of setting up a sitemap wherein you plan pages. If you are a designer, you will likely be receiving a copy from a copywriter, then handing off your work to a developer to build it out.
The people next to you on the timeline of a project are your prospective clients and the ones next to them are your clients too! These are the people you wanna connect with. People very rarely work on the end-to-end execution of a project, for your first project, you will likely be a piece of a puzzle working within a team towards a common goal.
If you are unsure about a niche, read 3 Best Freelance Jobs for Beginners in 2023
Outreach through LinkedIn
Now that you have a fair idea of what your niche is and are armed with a skillset to deliver. It's time to start prospecting. Prospecting and outreach will be the greatest method to seek potential clients. Lean hard into this and seek the roles of people you want to reach out to. This would likely be through LinkedIn.
When looking for potential clients on LinkedIn, there are 2 ways to go about it:
Reach out to People actively seeking Freelance Help
You would likely want to begin in the search section of LinkedIn wherein you put in your designation combined with "we are hiring", "looking for", "looking to hire" etc. The phrase for the search should look like "Freelance Copywriter we are hiring". From here search for posts that mention a job post like this and reach out with a solid proposal template via LinkedIn.
View Freelance Pitch and Proposal Template
Building New Connections
LinkedIn is a social site and who you know, really translates to what you know. This won't lead to new freelance work immediately but think of it as sowing the seeds for future work. With the older posts in your search and also the roles of people on that timeline, seek to form a LinkedIn connection with relevant people. Make sure that you don't alienate them by pitching directly but rather sending a note of who you are and how a connection with them can mutually benefit both parties.
These connections will see your work and proof of work with other clients which can lead to a freelance job down the line.
Platforms Matter, but not as much as you think
Platforms are a great way to gain visibility for your freelance work and let clients know that you are open for hire. When starting out, it can be daunting to pick a platform that will get you your first freelance job.
You can use any social or freelance platform to grow as a freelancer and consequently create a freelance business. This could be Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Upwork, or Fiverr. Yes, social platforms can really be a goldmine if you are willing to put in the work for it. When starting out in your freelancing career, I advise that you focus on one platform and branch out to others when you see some growth.
Using Professional platforms
In the world of freelancing and especially with digital skills, Upwork and Fiverr come to mind as the two behemoth freelance marketplaces.
With Fiverr, you are subject to a more inbound approach wherein you set up a profile, add projects, and wait to be discovered. This can often be a slow time taking process which means the first client will take a long time to come in if it even does. As for Upwork, it would require a large portfolio and proof of work for you to be approved and a whole lot of proposals before you are able to establish trust as an effective and low-risk option for clients.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that it's not possible to leverage these platforms for seeking freelance jobs but rather the effort required to land your first job will be quite high.
LinkedIn on the other hand proves to be a great resource for new freelancers as people openly post jobs in their profiles and comments within posts. You can use these warm leads to send an introduction and proposal to prospective clients. On LinkedIn, you are highly likely to get hired as well because your previous experience is visible to the client at a glance and they can vet your skills then and there.
Using Social Media Platforms other than LinkedIn
When it comes to social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok; content creation is your best bet to move forward to seeking clients on these platforms. If done correctly, you can share your personal work, projects, and the impact generated with your viewers in a visually interesting manner. Alot of freelancers have grown entire businesses out of these platforms.
Bare in mind that even if you aren't using professional platforms for outreach, you will need a professional structure to interact with leads, convert them, invoice them and deliver for them. The source has changed, but the structure hasn't.
Crafting the Perfect Pitch
When people are looking to hire freelancers, irrespective of the platform, they receive multiple requests, proposals, and cover letters. At this stage it is absolutely essential to communicate your offering, pricing, and initiation steps from the get-go, saving your prospect time especially when they have to go through multiple messages. I have created the ideal Freelancer Pitch and Proposal template for this exact purpose.For new freelancers, you will need to show some social proof in addition to the freelance template to truly convince the prospect of your ability.
Begin with a short and succinct introduction about who you are, and what you do, followed by a line that reaffirms your expertise:
Hi, I am XYZ and I am a Graphic Designer with 3+ years of Design Experience with a US-based Agency. I can complete your XYZ design project successfully.
Next, build into one relevant past experience and describe it in the most succinct manner possible. This step is crucial for seeking new freelance clients when you don't have an expansive track record:
Last year, I worked with ABC Company to create social media designs for Instagram and TikTok, with my support they were able to bring the Lead Acquisition cost down by 40%. View my work for them here: Add a link to your portfolio
Next, build on the offering to provide them with the pricing for the kind of support they will get:
For your project, I have a range of prices for different requirements. 1. Starter (2posts/week) for $200, 2. Intermediate (4 posts/week) $350, and 3. Social Rockstar (5 posts/week) for $400.
Breaking down pricing like this helps the client understand right away what they will get and how much it will cost. This may cause a few clients to ignore your proposal but that's good as it saves time on your end, so you don't chase empty leads.
Last but not least is how to get started with the project with a CTA. You still don't need to be salesly but rather suggestive with this.
To get started, I need a 50% deposit, and can begin after we connect and discuss your requirements. Depending on your requirement, I estimate the completion for the first month's creatives in 8 days from the day we begin.
For one-time jobs, make sure you provide a solid timeline and some middle steps in the process as well.
You can get started with a more concise template once you build a little more background and social proof as a freelancer. Until then provide these small bits of information to convince the prospect of your abilities to onboard, manage and deliver a successful project.
Create work Irrespective of you having a Client
When it comes to the early stages of being a freelancer, a lot of practitioners miss the ball with this one. Creating work and driving results is what gets you, clients. You need to constantly work on your business and passion projects to create tangible pieces of collateral, to then showcase on your profiles. This is a way of showing proof on your profile of what a problem was, what did you create, and how it solved the problem.
Take the liberty of sharing the work you created to all the platforms in a content piece that seems ideal for that platform.
Freelancing jobs are posted on the internet every day, across websites and platforms. Finding your first freelancing client can be daunting but it's the first key step toward building a freelance career. This is what allows you to build systems that you know to work towards converting prospective clients into paying clients.
Niching down into one offering followed by focused effort on one platform with a dependable pitch template and relevant work is what will land you your first job. Relentless focus through these stages will help you find your way through.
How to get my first freelance project?