How to find work as a freelancer

In this blog post I’ll write about finding work as a freelancer.

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First off, some tips:

  • If possible, I’d advise you to start freelancing as a second job. Don’t make it fulltime right from the start. Get a job, and work as a freelancer in your spare time. After you earn a  good income from freelancing, you may consider quitting your full-time job. Details.
  • See the image above? There’s the computer, but there’s also an iPod and a phone. On the PC there’s Microsoft Office, but there’s also Facebook. It’s easy to get lost doing things which aren’t useful for your job when you’re a freelancer. See the dog? It’s easy to put family & pets on top of your preferences, and ignore real work. Avoid this.
  • You should know your values, and try to balance things. It’s not easy, but you should balance health / money / family / relaxation in a good way, whichever that may work for you.
  • How much to charge? It’s a big mistake to consider a full-time job with around 40 hours per week and determine, from that, what you should earn as a freelancer. One hour as an employee is a totally different thing, price wise, from one hour as a freelancer. Details. More. More. A calculator.
  • Get a good accountant, or at least know very well the accounting system in your country.
  • Be organized, you’ll have to deal with bills, contracts, receipts. Know the system well.
  • Have a good productivity system. This is a starter. Read more.
  • Network. With people doing freelancing (you can start a club in your niche – freelancing in architecture design for flower shops – or general – freelancing club; you should be out at least a few times a week) or, in general, just network.
  • You might consider not freelancing at all.
  • You should have a proper machine to work on. Decent PC / laptop / Internet connection whatever tools you need.
  • Secret for success in business: differentiate, do what you say you do, over-deliver. That’s pretty much it.
  • While I don’t agree that working 10,000 hours will miraculously turn you into an expert, there’s this rule. I’d add to it that you should mostly focus on deliberate practice, rather than just aim for 10,000 hours of work.
  • After you get some work, do continue to improve your skills. Be better, in order to develop further.
  • You should probably get a debit card & a PayPal account, even for Romanian work.
  • Read more: 1, 2. In Romanian.

How to find work in the beginning?

  • First of all, make at least a profile on LinkedIn (for clients with German-based businesses, try XING, for French, try Viadeo). If possible, depending on your business, also have a portfolio web site.
  • Let people very close to you know you do freelancing.
    • From family to close friends, let them know that you do X, and you are actively looking for jobs. That’s it. No need for pressure. Tell them you offer these services. They might have the initiative to ask people themselves (“Hmm, I know one guy who does films, you say you write scripts, I’ll send him an email”), or they might remember you at the right time (“Oh, you’re into film industry? I know someone who …”).
  • Let people in your community know you do freelancing.
    • This is rather tricky, and you should know the difference between spamming random people who don’t need your services and just be open. There are simple ways to announce people (changing the professional status on LinkedIn, having an email signature which states you are looking for work in X field), or you can get more aggressive (direct email / messages). Avoid mass-anything, that goes into “spamming” category, and it might actually do you more harm than good.
  • Find jobs online.
  • Do cold calls.
    • Let’s say you’re good with writing. Find some industries / businesses which need quality writing. A PR company should have 100% quality texts. But they probably only hire people with expert skills (find this out, I’m just saying). On the other hand, a medium size company which has a blog also needs quality texts, but they can’t afford someone to write them from scratch. But they possibly can afford to hire someone to read a bulk of 10 messages and have them checked. A company which writes projects might consider increasing the cost of writing a project with only a small margin of the total cost, but ensuring that the project is in proper grammar / language. Find people like these. It’s not hard. Send them a small note – “I see you write projects, I can help you with grammar checkups”. Try to differentiate – find your best skills and state why you are better than others. Lots of people are into translations – lots of work, lots of repeating work, similar quality (or hard for the business owner to tell apart). If you can find a differentiating point in translations, use it. I’m thinking more into slogans – go to a company and sell them this idea – “I can make you a slogan which will increase sales by 3%. This profit should cover all of my expenses in two months time”. And do this – do the slogan, have it implement it, monitor profit increase (sometimes, you should monitor month-by-month, other times you should monitor September 2013 to September 2012; anyhow, monitor it somehow). See if you live up to the claims. Two months later, get the profit and leave them the slogan. When you sell 20 slogans like this, ask for your profit in advance, and offer to reimburse if you don’t live up to the expectations. Main idea – find something where there is no competition. Don’t swim were the sharks are (red ocean), find a place where you own the pool (blue ocean) – more on this.
    • Let’s say you’re good with graphic design. Find out people who need this service. From a small company who does leaflets, to any medium size company which has a web site and a logo, they all need graphic design. Contact them. A small email to establish a meeting. A phone call to ask for more details. Differentiate – there are lots of companies who have a decent logo, and an OK-ish web site. They don’t have a global design – logo + web site + business cards + document template + email template + company interior arrangement. Lots of companies could benefit just from knowing this from you – it would be useful even to know that they need some unity in the design of any document from the company – be it online, or printed, or even in the company design itself.
    • Try to find jobs by using social media. On this. More.
  • More ideas.

How to find work after you’ve done some work, already?

  • Always ask for references / recommendations / reviews. Let people recommend you on LinkedIn, ask for reviews on freelancer web sites.
  • After a while, ask past clients (do this rarely) if they need any further work in your field or they know someone who might need so. Getting recommendations like these should land you good jobs.

Author: Olivian Breda

I work as an Internet marketing freelancer, specializing in SEO and Usability audits and creating WordPress web sites. See my LinkedIn profile.

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