Freelancing is great! You work when you want, how you want, at what you want – and then clients pay you for it!
Ah… clients. And where might we find these rare, reclusive creatures?
Online Freelance Marketplaces/ Hiring Platforms
Most of these sites tend to offer two or three methods of finding clients and work. You can apply or pitch for jobs that clients have posted and often advertise your services, too – sometimes with the option of offering a specific priced package, e.g. ‘I can design a fully responsive WordPress website for your company for £X”.
Some of the most well-known marketplaces are Upwork, Guru and PeoplepPerHour, but you can find a useful list of many more here. Be aware that the way these sites are run varies greatly. They can be a great way to find new clients, but there is a cost involved, so bear in mind that the money you make through them is not all yours -and some sites take a hefty chunk.
You may also find that certain sites charge a fee if you don’t earn a certain amount a month or don’t win a certain number of jobs, making life difficult for new and/or part-time freelancers.
Some sites have different levels of membership that incur a monthly fee, some take a percentage of your earnings or a fee per job and some combine these approaches. Look carefully at the terms, conditions and fees and what’s expected of you as a freelancer.
Some sites also insist that you download software allowing the client to view what you’re working on whenever they want. You may be fine with this – I’m not. I didn’t go freelance just to work and to take breaks to someone else’s schedule. If I wanted to turn up to my computer at a specified time every day and be under the constant surveillance of a boss, I’d be an employee.
A note of caution: some sites show you the prices other freelancers have proposed or ‘bid’ for projects or prompt you to adjust your quote based on those of other freelancers (often while concealing those amounts from you). Don’t be tempted to constantly undercut everyone – it’s not always the cheapest quote that wins the project. Quote a fair price, taking into account your level of expertise and the time and effort involved, and then ensure you convince the client you’re worth it.
Job Boards and Forums
These may be generalised or industry specific. Many list remote working and/or short-term contract jobs as well as more regular types of employment. Some are easier to search for these kind of opportunities than others, so beware spending hours searching through hundreds of jobs all requiring conventional full-time employees.
Referrals & Networking
Use every connection you have through families, friends or ex-colleagues and beg testimonials and referrals from people you’ve worked for previously. One word of caution here: if your freelancing career puts you in competition with a previous employer (or a current one, if you freelance part-time and are employed in the same industry), then beware poaching clients or using privileged information.
Not only will this give you a bad name, but there may be terms and conditions written into your employment contract that set out rules about these situations. Some ts & cs bind you into agreements months or even years after your employment ends and a previous employer may take action against you for breach of contract. If you signed it, you must be prepared to stick to it.
Advertising Your Services
You need to think on several levels when planning any advertising, while carefully considering who and where your clients are, what they see, what they read and who they connect with. Think about local advertising, print advertising in industry-specific magazines and advertising on the web (including your own website, paid advertisements and social media platforms).
This may seem bold, but how about contacting potential clients directly? Send samples, make enquiries, and if you see something in a company’s leaflet, on their website or in their work that you think you could do better, let them know – not by criticising, but by sending them your own version or suggestions. Remember, the worst they can say is no and you’ve lost nothing except a little time.
Always aim to build up a good client base so that you’re not dependent on just one or two for your income. Happy hunting!