10 tips to score your first freelance gig today

Whether you’ve always dreamed of becoming a freelancer and running your own small business, or simply want a side hustle to bring in some extra money, starting out in this exciting space can be daunting.

However, successfully transition to a freelancer lifestyle and you could find yourself living anywhere in the world, working on all manner of exciting projects.

If you’re chomping at the freelance bit, check out these 10 tips to get you in the best possible position on the starting line.

1. Choose your niche

First and foremost, when it comes to freelancing, you need to decide what niche is going to be the best fit for you i.e. what type of freelance work are you going to undertake.

Now, while it can be tempting to choose a niche that looks and sounds appealing based on attractive rates and exciting projects, it’s really best to focus on your strengths. In other words, focus on what are you good at. This sounds obvious but it can be tempting to have a ‘can do’ attitude when it comes to freelancing, this may be a good sentence to add on a CV but it’s not going to get you known as the best in your field for freelance gigs.

For example, however appealing you feel freelance writing maybe, if you’ve got no experience or are particularly bad at grammar you might want to go for something else. Remember almost ANYTHING can be turned into a freelancing career. Think of what you enjoy and what you’re good at, what your friends tell you-you’re good at and run with that. If you’ve always had a penchant for graphic design, own untold numbers of nerdy comics and often been complimented on your drawing work in the past, maybe it’s a freelance niche that could really work for you and bring in the $$$.

2. Create a portfolio

With your niche set, it’s time to create a portfolio. Now you’re probably thinking, how can I create a portfolio when I haven’t actually completed any freelance projects yet? The good news is it’s easy, it doesn’t need to cost you anything and it will even make you better at your niche.

Let’s take the graphic design example again. If it’s something you’re interested in and something you’re good at, chances are you’ll have some homegrown bits and pieces lying about that easily show your talent. We’re not talking about paid work, though of course, you want to include that if you have it, this can be anything from sketches you’ve made whilst at your day job to full-on masterpieces you’ve spent a week of evenings on. Maybe you designed a logo for a friend once, or maybe you noticed someone that had a terrible logo and re-designed it for them just for fun. Gather it all together and take some time if needed, to make some more.

The purpose of your portfolio is simply to give prospective clients an idea of your work and the skills you possess.

You’ll obviously want to digitize any work samples (make them available online), but this is easily done by scanning (or photographing/filming) them to uploading at a free storage solution like Dropbox. That’s a ready-made collection of work examples to show prospective clients. Wasn’t too hard was it?

3. Sign up to freelance gig portals and marketplaces

Okay, so you’ve got a niche and a banging portfolio; now it’s time to get yourself out there and in front of some prospective clients.

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to do this is by leveraging freelance gig portals, websites and marketplaces. These sites are dedicated to matching freelancers with clients looking to have projects completed. The freelancers get to create a profile and showcase their skills, while the latter post gigs, browse through relevant freelancer profiles, and ultimately choose an individual to work with.

Here are some of the most popular freelance gig portals/marketplaces:

  4. Nail your freelancer profile

Your freelancer profile on any of the sites listed above (plus more) is your chance to tell the world all about you. It should include 

information about your experience, the services you offer and contain some examples of your work (links to your portfolio).

Remember, this is your time to shine and really sell yourself to talk up, name drop and boast as much as you can. If you’re not very good at copywriting, consider getting a friend who is or even hiring a freelancer to write your profile for you. A good profile is worth its weight in gold and can be all the difference between getting gigs and not.

Be sure to include a good picture of yourself, too. This helps potential clients put a face to your name and creates a more personal bond from the start. Ideally, this will be a picture that relates in some way to the work you’re selling.

5. Decide your rate

If you’ve never done any freelance work before, deciding your rate can be tricky. After all, how do you know what you’re worth?

The best way to come up with a rate, whether hourly or per project, is to start by looking at what others in your niche are charging. You can do this by browsing the freelancer profiles on the marketplaces mentioned above. This will give you a good idea.

However, it’s important to note, you shouldn’t just set your rate based on what others are charging. At the end of the day, you know how much you’d like to earn and what you need to survive – particularly if you’re looking to go freelance on a full-time basis.

Don’t be afraid to start off with a lower rate to help secure some gigs early on and add to your portfolio if you need to gain some experience and get some notches on your freelance bedpost. You can always steadily increase your prices as your profile becomes more well-known and you attract more clients. Just remember to factor in things like travel, thinking time and expenses as ignoring these can sap at your earnings.

6. Send some bids

You are almost certainly excited to win your first freelance job, but don’t bid on every gig you see online. Instead, be selective and bid on the jobs you’d really love to complete, really take the time to come up with fantastic, targeted proposals.

It can be all too easy to get into a bidding war over a freelance gig and forget your minimum project/hourly rate or send off a whole load of copy and paste responses to jobs. While doing so might help you win jobs, you could end up finding yourself working for peanuts on jobs you’re not loving – a reality that will make you unhappy and maybe even lead to you questioning why you’re freelancing.

Free bonus tip – if you don’t win a bid, there’s nothing stopping you asking why. You’re well within your rights to go back to the job poster and ask for feedback. Maybe you don’t have enough experience yet, or they wanted someone with different skills to yours. Either way, it’s a valuable process and helps you refine your bidding strategy next time around.

7. Remain active

It can be easy to become complacent while you’re waiting to hear from freelance gigs you’ve bid on. But instead of doing nothing in the meantime, use the opportunity to polish your profile(s), bid on some more jobs and/or improve your portfolio.

Winning several jobs and having to prioritize is a much better position to be in than having no jobs at all.

8. Build your reputation with free work

You inevitably know people who have their own businesses. Whether that’s friends, family members or previous employers/colleagues, reach out to them and see if they want to utilize your skills for free.

While you don’t want to be doing too much free work, it’s a great way to boost your profile when you’re just starting on your freelance journey. A few positive LinkedIn recommendations or good reviews on your freelancer profiles can go a long way towards helping you secure more work going forward.

9. Join some freelancer oriented Facebook groups

Facebook may have taken a little back seat in many people’s social hotlist but many work-related groups on the platform are still a fantastic way to stay updated with the latest trends and news in your niche. They’ll help get your profile on other people’s radars, and even find work.

Whatever niche you’ve chosen, you can be sure that there will be several Facebook groups catering for it and if there’s not? Well then there’s an opportunity right there. The trick, though, is to join a group and add some genuine value. Go out trying to sell your services right off the bat and you’ll probably hit a brick wall.

People are much more likely to utilize what you offer if you demonstrate value and knowledge, not smack their screens with a constant sales pitch.

Bonus tip, LinkedIn is a great platform for creating and nurturing professional connections. Make sure you’ve got your own profile and that it’s optimized to highlight your skills and experience. Many social platforms come up in Google search so make sure the first line of your profile states clearly what you do.

10. Build a list

As you complete more jobs, you’ll naturally start building a list of past clients. These people are invaluable as your freelance career takes off. You’ll find (hopefully) that most of your new work comes from either previous clients employing you again, or from word of mouth referrals.

Your list of clients doesn’t need to be in a fancy CRM system or anything like that. Just a simple list of email addresses and names will do. The goal is to nurture the list and see if you can get more work in the future.

Simple email updates in the form of a newsletter about what you’ve been up to will not only keep the people on your list informed but also keep you at the forefront of their minds. And remember that note about adding value, it’s the same here too. Give, give, ask is a good strategy to employ when reeling in the work.

Now go forth and conquer your freelance dream!


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