10 Simple Steps to Landing More Gigs
We know all about the rewards of working as a freelancer. Flexible schedules, a variety of projects, little or even no commuting. But this lifestyle doesn’t come easy.
Finding success as a freelancer requires a steady stream of paying gigs. Obtaining new business through referrals is great, but referrals alone won’t keep your schedule packed with paying jobs, especially when you’re just starting out.
Online classifieds such as Craigslist and the FreelanceSwitch job board are great places to generate new business leads. In this economy, the competition for work is fierce. To stay ahead, you must combine two key elements in your approach:
- Quantity: The more jobs you respond to, the more potential leads you create.
- Quality: Present yourself well and stand out from the crowd.
Here are some tools and tips to help you land more freelance gigs:
1. Keep a Polished Resume & Portfolio
Make sure your resume is up to date and in tip-top shape. Create a PDF version to attach to your email cover letters (more on this below). If you have a website (which you should), make sure it’s updated and presentable. Show off your attention to detail by creating a well-designed and professional web presence.
2. Write Effective Emails
Take the time to craft a well written and concise email cover letter to use as your response to online job postings. It should include a short pitch about you (similar to your “elevator pitch“), along with a link to your website or online portfolio.
Try out various approaches and phrasings. See which emails generate the most responses. Once you have perfected your email cover letter, use it as a template for future emails. That brings us to the next tip.
3. Use Gmail’s “Canned Responses” Feature
If you use the Gmail, turn on the “Canned Responses” feature. In Gmail, go to Settings > Labs > Canned Responses, and click “Enable”. “Canned Responses” allow you to save the body of an email as a template so you can quickly insert your message in future emails. If you don’t use Gmail, you can simply save your email in a text file for easy cut and paste.
Do not send the same generic email response to job postings. The job poster will sense this immediately and trash it. Here’s what to do next:
4. Personalize and Tailor Your Message for Each Job
Read each job post in its entirety to gain as much information as you can. Extract as much information about the job and employer as you can. Then use this information to enhance your email cover letter. Modify or add to your email template with a note about why you are a perfect fit for their specific need.
For example, if the job post is for a t-shirt retailer in need of a website, you might mention that you specialize in e-commerce web development. You could also provide a few links to online stores you built for other clients.
But don’t stop there.
5. The Importance of Email Subject Lines
A single post in a popular job board can generate hundreds of responses in just a matter of days or even hours! It’s easy for your email to get lost in the mix. It might not even get opened. Stand out from the crowd by crafting a subject line that’s relevant and speaks to their specific need.
If the job calls for a copywriter who can work on-site in New York City, you might use the subject line: New York-based Copywriter.
If it’s a blogger seeking a web designer to create a custom WordPress theme, you could try the subject line: Web Designer (WordPress Expert!).
6. Maximize Your Job Search With RSS
Many online job boards offer RSS Feeds for job search results. This can be a powerful tool in your job hunting arsenal. Search for a keyword that applies to you, such as “composer”, “HTML”, or “designer”. Then add the RSS feed for that search to your feed reader of choice. Mine is Google Reader.
With Google Reader, you can view multiple feeds at once by grouping them in a folder. Doing so allows you to search several job boards simultaneously. This is the best way to stay on top of the most recent job postings from across the Internet, giving you a head start against the competition.
7. Extend Your Reach Beyond Local Jobs
Lots of freelancers have the ability to work remotely via email and over the web. So why limit your job search to your local city? Expand your reach by going after jobs in other markets, even internationally.
RSS feeds are very useful here, especially for Craigslist job hunting. On Craigslist, you can’t search across multiple cities in a single search. But you can combine Craigslist search feeds using your RSS reader. Choose 10 major cities and visit the Craigslist sub-site for each city. Search the “Gigs” or “Jobs” section for your keyword or field. Then grab the RSS feed for each of the 10 city searches. Group these 10 feeds in a folder in Google Reader. Now you can view Craigslist job postings from all 10 cities at once!
Here’s a look at my nation-wide Craigslist job search:
8. Persistent, but Respectful Follow-up Emails
Once you are in a dialogue with your potential client, you want to keep the discussion alive in hopes of closing the deal. If they don’t respond to you in a few days or a week, send a short follow-up email as a reminder that you’re available to address any questions or concerns they might have. New clients often need a little extra motivation to get them to pull the trigger. Hopefully your extra effort will result in their business.
If you still don’t hear back from them, don’t sweat it. Move on. Do not send additional emails. Do not add them to your newsletter without their permission. This will only annoy them and ensure that they won’t consider you for future projects. It’s also a waste of your valuable time.
9. Don’t Stop Hunting For Your Next Gig
The key to remaining busy for the long-term is to continuously be on the hunt for your next gig. That means keeping up your job search efforts even when your current plate of work is full.
Don’t put off your job search just because you’re swamped this month. If you do, you could quickly find yourself in a slow period. Avoid this by always keeping new business leads active and moving forward.
Remember, it often takes a few weeks (if not months) to close on a lead. You need to balance your time between working on actual projects, and pursuing new business.
10. Professionalism, Honesty, and Confidence
Professionalism – Communicate clearly. Return every email and phone call promptly. Compose emails with proper spelling and grammar. Always offer a positive and constructive attitude.
Honesty – Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Display your expertise where applicable. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make something up. Assure them you will look into it and get back to them. Then do it. Be yourself, and earn their trust.
Confidence – Speak clearly and definitively when conversing with potential clients. Draw on your past experience, and address each of their questions with straightforward and informative answers. Show them that you have what it takes to meet all of their needs. Then exceed their expectations.