Oh, the gig economy.
Love it or hate it, research shows that the future of work is freelance. Especially in Toronto, where the number of people who described their job as “temporary” grew by 40 per cent between 1997 and 2013.
Coupled with the rising cost of living in this city, and it’s not surprising that more people are looking outside of traditional employment to make money.
Prior to starting my business, I dabbled in the wild wild west of freelancing as a writer. As a former Journalism student (shout-out to Carleton!), I’ve been accepting money in exchange for words since my second year of university.
And pretty much since then, I’ve been getting questions about how I find freelance gigs. I even was once asked by one of my Journalism teachers how I managed to sell one of my stories (which was concerning and a sad reflection of the state of the industry, but I digress).
Over the years, I’ve scored gigs from a variety of different places and now I would love to share my insights with all of you. Whether you’re unemployed, side hustlin’, or looking to launch a business, keep reading to learn all my go-to tips and tricks for finding freelance jobs in Toronto.
1. Join Facebook Groups for Freelancers
Despite what the kids say, Facebook ain’t dead yet. In fact, it’s one of my favourite places to network and find freelance gigs. For my Toronto-based peeps, Bunz Employment + Entrepreneurial Zone is a great place to find jobs of all kinds, as well as connect with like-minded individuals who, like you, are trying to figure out this freelance thing.
If you are female-identifying or a creative professional, I would also highly recommend the following groups:
- Freedom Lifestyle
- Rad Connectors
- Freelancing Females
- 1…2…Freelance: A Community for Creative Freelancers
While finding jobs is great, what I also love about these Facebook groups is the community aspect. A lot of the people I’ve met in these groups have become my friends IRL and it all started with a comment on a post.
2. Attend Networking Events
I know, I know, networking events get a bad rap. However, there’s still so much value in meeting people in-person and connecting face-to-face. Even if your work is mostly done online, it’s hard to build the same kind of rapport with a potential client from behind a screen.
In a big city like Toronto, we’re fortunate to have our pick of the litter when it comes to networking events so I find it helps to focus on a particular niche. For instance, I’ve found attending events aimed at female entrepreneurs has been much more beneficial for me then going to bigger functions.
3. Reach Out to Old Contacts
The end of a contract, job or assignment doesn’t have to mean the end of a working relationship. Keep a list of the clients and contacts who know, like and trust you and check in periodically to see if they are interested in your services. Sometimes, a quick email is all you need to do to stay top-of-mind.
Of course, it can be a little awkward to reach out to someone you don’t communicate with regularly so it’s important to be as tactful as possible. Be specific with your request, and if possible, try to start off your email by congratulating them on a recent win or offering to help them out with a free strategy call. This way, the email is less about what you can get from them and more about how you can help them.
4. Send Some Cold Emails
This tip is last for a reason – it’s probably the hardest way to establish a potential working relationship. Business professionals receive an average of 84 emails a day, so it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.
However, it can work… if you do it well.
The most successful cold email I ever sent came from a place of genuine admiration. I loved the company, had been following them for a while, and read their newsletter every month; anecdotes I made sure to include in my message.
I also kept it short and sweet, only including a few short sentences on my background and experience. Lastly, I added my personality. And since I had been following the company for some time, I was familiar with their tone of voice and knew that a little humour could go a long way in helping my message resonate with them.
The result? I got a reply… two months later. But that reply led to an in-person meeting, which then led to a number of freelance assignments.
While cold emailing can feel a little like shouting into the void and hoping for someone to holler back, a well-written, personalized message plus a healthy dose of patience may just lead you to the client of your dreams.
So there you have it, folks! The freelance life is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, perseverance, and if you’re a writer like me, a lot of long nights in front of a computer screen. But the freedom of getting to live life on my terms is 100% worth it.