So, you’ve decided you want to be a freelancer but you can’t help but wonder – who actually hires freelancers?
You’ve read all the success stories online and you can’t wait to create a life for yourself where you call the shots, get paid your worth, and take naps whenever you want. Maybe you’re just starting to dip your toes into the freelance waters or maybe you’ve already started freelancing on the side. Either way, there’s one thing you can’t stop stressing about…
Finding and securing clients.
The thought of sending cold emails and “selling” yourself to strangers almost makes your current day job seem appealing again (even though you know deep down that your goal is to make this freelancing thing work so you never have to work for a boss again).
And everyone online makes it seem so simple: just start freelancing on the side, gather enough work to quit your 9-5, earn six figures, and enjoy your dream life, right?
I’m not here to burst that bubble because while it isn’t easy, it actually IS achievable. In fact, the freelance job market in the US grew by over 25% in just one month in 2020. And with so many companies and brands looking to spruce up their online presence, now is a pretty good time to be a freelance creative.
So as a freelancer (who hires freelancers), here are some of my top tips on how to connect with potential clients:
Who hires freelancers, anyway?
You’d be surprised by how many people hire freelancers. Think of your favourite product-based and service-based businesses. Maybe it’s a trendy furniture shop or your local hair salon. Do they have an online presence or a recognizable brand? If so, they likely work with freelancers. Essentially, anybody with a brand (or who wants to have a brand) hires freelancers – from individual professionals to solopreneurs to non-profits. Whether you’re a writer, designer, coach, strategist, or anything in-between, the possibilities are endless.
Now that you know who hires freelancers, here are some tips on how you can connect with them:
1. Tap into your network
I know what you might be thinking…
Jasmine, I don’t know anyone.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Believe me when I say that you probably know more people than you think – from friends to old coworkers to your neighbourhood barista. Spread the word that you’re starting to freelance and are in the market for potential clients.
Your university roommate that got a new job eight months ago is still talking about it at every opportunity possible, so why shouldn’t you give your exciting new venture the same energy?
You might not come across any leads right away or you might have a new prospect eager to hop on a call with you as early as tomorrow. Either way, letting people know what you do can result in tons of advantages down the road, even if you aren’t reaping the benefits instantly.
Now before you go drafting a whole bunch of emails and texts to everyone you know, there are a few bases you should cover in preparation:
- Have a general idea of who your ideal client is
- Know what services you want to offer
- Create an onboarding process (It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be efficient)
2. Join online communities and events
Wanna know a secret?
Facebook isn’t dead!
Yup, I said what I said. I still use it religiously (for business and marketing purposes) and can vouch for its benefits.
Nowadays, it takes only a few moments to connect with someone – practically anyone – just by tapping a few buttons on a device. Actually finding community though isn’t as common on other platforms.
You know those family get-togethers your parents force you to attend? From the awkward ‘hellos’ with people you barely know to the aunts that won’t stop asking what you do for a living, you probably wish you had a good enough excuse to get out of it. But when you’re there, you fill up on your fave home-cooked meals and have surprisingly decent conversations with your wiser, older cousins. Even though you would never admit it to your parents, you usually have a great time.
Well that, my friend, is exactly the power of a good Facebook group – inspiring and comforting once you’re in, but kinda cringe-worthy before you’re there.
Want to find who hires freelancers online and connect with women from Toronto that are also freelancing? There’s a group for that. What about a place where you can chat with Canadian creatives that are launching and growing their businesses? There’s a group for that too.
Joining groups is crucial, but if you want to secure clients, you’re going to have to take it one step further than just scrolling. So before you click the ‘Join Group’ button on 20+ Facebook pages, here are a few tips for getting the most out of online community groups:
- Connect with people in your niche
- Engage in posts that relate to the work you do
- Add value by posting a juicy tip that shows your expertise
Once you’ve started to get your feet wet, you might come across freebie webinars or events for fellow freelancers. This is another great way to use online spaces and meet new people – just remember to brush up on your networking skills.
3. Offer up your services
I’ll be honest, I haven’t applied to a “traditional” job in a minute, but I do have my fair share of not-so-pleasant memories. Specifically, the application process. The listings usually say you need years of experience… but the catch is that you can’t get experience without experience. Ironic, right?
Well, the same kinda goes for freelancing. If you want to attract new clients, you need to show people what you’ve done before.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or already have a few projects under your belt, extra credibility can take you a lot further, faster. Offering up your services in exchange for a testimonial or work that can be showcased in your portfolio might be the leverage you need to establish yourself as a reputable freelancer.
I don’t recommend working completely for free, so it’s important to use your discretion and decide what you’re comfortable with – but I also know that sometimes making short-term compromises can result in long-term gains.
4. Use social media as a marketing tool
The pressure to pump out quality content regularly is at an all-time high, so my advice? Remind yourself that showing up online doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to post four times a week on multiple platforms.
Using social media as a marketing tool has plenty of advantages. For starters, if you’re not running ads or boosting posts, it’s completely free. That being said, it’s easy to open up an app and suddenly lose three hours of your day (I can’t be the only one, right?), so it’s important to approach social media strategically.
Try to think about where your ideal clients spend the most time. Are they corporate professionals sharing posts on LinkedIn? Small business clients creating Reels on Instagram? Creatives trying to reach a new demographic on TikTok?
Figure out who you’re trying to hook in and why – then use that to your advantage. Show up on the platforms that you know your potential clients are already hanging out on and use your profile(s) as a way to showcase what you know and what you do.
Landing clients can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re just starting out in the freelance world. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be moving in the right direction.
Just remember that every successful freelancer you come across online started somewhere – including me. I promise the work of securing clients does get easier, especially once you’ve built your confidence and determination.
And if you ever need words of encouragement or advice from someone who gets it – I’ve got you. I’m on a personal mission to save freelancers from making the same mistakes I’ve made, so rest assured that you’re in good hands.
My weekly newsletter, Freelance Curious, is jam-packed with stories and lessons about freelancing, content marketing and my business journey. You’ll also get links to a few previous sends right away when you subscribe.