Ask FreelanceSwitch: First Clients and Conferences
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, this week, we have two questions from the same freelancer, answered below. We’re looking at landing a first client and attending conferences. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to email@example.com.
I’m just starting as a freelance website designer/developer (depends on how you define the job), and I mean just starting out. As in I’m still working at my full time job and still trying to find that first client, even if its for free.
So, I have a few questions for you:
1. How do you find that ever important first few clients? Do you just walk into their business with a proposal in hand saying, “So I see you don’t have a website.” Do you go onto job sites, like FreelanceSwitch, Elance and Odesk, etc, and try to find jobs? (This hasn’t worked yet either, sorry don’t mean to sound like I’m venting. You’re the good guys trying to help people, for which I thank you.)
2. I’ve seen several places on FreelanceSwitch suggest going to conferences. Where do I find things like this? I live in Kansas City and haven’t seen anything announcing this. Is there a website or newsletter I can sign up for regarding these conferences?
Again, I don’t mean to sound like I’m taking any of my frustration out on you guys, and I do thank you very much for the help you’ve provided. Also, if these questions have been answered already then I apologize for asking them again.
Landing that first gig is tough and it’s even tougher on job boards because you don’t have a portfolio that you can use to ‘prove’ to a prospective client that you really know what you’re doing. You can usually pick up a few really small projects that way, but nothing that will translate into full-time freelance income.
If you have a very specific sort of client that you’d like to work with, it’s easier. You can start networking with the goal of connecting with specific people, researching their needs and so on. You can attend events that you know they’ll be at, so that you can connect with them before walking into their business with a proposal (not an effective approach without a prior introduction, unfortunately). Talk to your own contacts and see who they know that need your services. Generally, getting hooked into a network is crucial.
A network is going to do a lot for you in terms of finding conferences to go to, as well. There isn’t, unfortunately, one website or newsletter that collects all sorts of conferences in different places. A lot of them you simply have to know the right people to hear about.
In many cities, though, there are people stepping up and creating lists about specific types of events. Startup Digest, for instance creates a list of events in for several different cities that are useful for startups. There’s a lot of overlap in their lists with what freelancers are interested in, by the way. You’ll likely have to do a little digging to see who is collecting information in Kansas City — the sites collecting events in cities like LA get coverage, while smaller cities get less coverage.