Ask FreelanceSwitch: Finding Clients and Taking the Leap
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at getting clients and taking the leap. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m so interested in freelancing and just don’t know how to find clients. I know about sites like Elance but it’s tough competition as well as getting noticed. What advice would you give to someone just starting out, needing to find clients and to stand out from the crowd.
My specialties include desktop publishing, social media, and internet research.
Getting clients is the most important part of freelancing: without them, we literally don’t make money. At the most basic level, a freelancer has to be able to show the value of her work in order to land clients. In my opinion, it’s very hard to do that on sites like Elance — not only are a lot of other freelancers trying to do the same thing, but there are a lot of inexperienced freelancers there.
Instead, you need to think about what type of clients you want to work with. You listed three fairly different skill sets, but you may find some clients who want all three. Who are those clients? What sort of projects do they need completed? Where do those type of clients spend their time? You need to get your name and portfolio in front of the right kind of prospective clients. If you know where they spend their time, you can contribute to the publications they read, meet them at the right networking events and even attend their industry conferences.
In the meanwhile, since such a client strategy can take some time to build up, check out what agencies (public relations, advertising, web design and so on) are in your area. Ask if you can schedule some time with them to show what you can do for their clients. Agencies are often in search of a spare pair of hands that they can bring in when things get busy. You want to be that spare pair of hands.
After living a life as an indoor designer and part time freelancing, when do you know that you are ready to go ahead and embrace your freelance life? Additional info: I have a wife and two very young kids.
In an ideal world, you know you’re ready to freelance full-time because you have built up plenty of savings to see you through the transition and you’ve already got a couple of clients ready to hand you projects. That sort of set up is enough to reassure most freelancers that it’s going to work out, especially when they need to take care of their family.
If you don’t have that sort of cushion, there can be other indicators. Personally, I started freelancing full-time after a depressing job hunt, followed by a brief stint of even more depressing employment. If I had stayed at that job, I would have lost my mind. But I knew I could freelance, so I jettisoned the job that was making me miserable, despite not having any savings or more than one client lined up. It worked out fine, though the first couple of months were rather lean.
Freelancing full-time is a personal decision. Some people just have a hard time feeling comfortable taking care of all the details that go along with freelancing and find that they’d rather let an employer do the hard bits. Other people start freelancing full-time and realize that it’s the perfect fit for them. If you feel it’s the best option for you and you feel comfortable with your finances, I’d say go for it — at least try it out.