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If you’ve used recent months of lockdown and furlough to start your freelance business idea, that’s great! But how do you find freelance clients when everyone’s tightening their purse strings?
Lots of businesses are feeling the pinch at the moment, with redundancies and furlough schemes placing constraints on their finances. Unfortunately, this can have a knock-on effect on the freelancers that work for them too. Freelancers might have projects cancelled or postponed, or might find that they’re being asked to accept lower rates than usual. Finding freelance clients in this kind of market might seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be this way.
Below we’ve set out a few things that you should think about to ensure you don’t need to compromise your own worth (and the amount you’re being paid) in these potentially tough times.
You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but it’s vital that your website, online portfolios and social media channels are up-to-date and include all your recent work if you’re going to attract the kind of clients that you want. Here are some questions that you might want to ask yourself:
If you’ve got some down time between jobs and whilst you’re waiting for work to come in or for people to get back to you, this can be a perfect time to get these essential aspects of your marketing up-to-date.
Even though traditional networking meet-ups are not currently taking place (and we have no information on when they’ll start again), you don’t have to forgo networking completely. Here are a few ways that you can keep your foot in the door and make sure your name and services are still in people’s minds whilst we’re socially distancing:
If you’ve got a decent audience, why not host your own virtual networking event? Set a theme and a date, and invite those that you know within your industry to get involved. This can be a great way to get to know new people and potential clients, and position yourself as a leader in your field at the same time.
You need confidence in yourself and your offering if you’re going to pull in clients that pay you the right amount of money in a post-Covid work environment. One way to do this (a very important way) is to be clear on your prices.
To do this, you should set a day rate based on what you would be earning if you were employed by a company. From this, you can work out your hourly rate. You can then weigh up whether the work that comes your way will be worth your time.
For example, if your hourly rate is £20 per hour, your day rate (based on a standard eight-hour day) should be £160. If you know a project will take you two full working days, you should charge £320.
If the client believes that this is too much for their budget, you’re very much within your rights to stand firm. Use the following to politely remind them of your fees:
“Thank you for coming back to me on this. As a freelancer my day rate is set at £160 per day, hence the pricing I’ve set on this project. Do you have any flexibility within your budget? I’d be very happy to discuss this further.”
If they come back with a compromise or with a price that’s close to your day rate, it’s up to you to decide whether these terms are going to work for you. If they aren’t, you should walk away (and never accept a job that’s far below your day rate – it won’t be worth your time).
Sometimes, you’ll find a client you really want to work with who just doesn’t have the right budget. This happens a lot with charities and startups in particular. Here, it’s a good idea to consider asking for other ways to receive benefit in return for a reduced fee. For example, if it’s a charity, ask if you can have an article about your work for them put on their website. Or, if it’s a startup offering software, request free access to it. Perhaps there is a direct skill-swap possibility too. If you’re a graphic designer, for example, perhaps you could work with an accountancy firm for a reduced fee in return for your tax return being completed pro bono!
It’s always a good idea to have someone else on your side, especially if you’re looking to find new freelance clients in budget-conscious times. Contacting recruiters and getting on their books can provide you with long-term project and contract work, which you can work on at the same time as any other freelance projects that you have on the go.
There are lots of benefits to finding work through recruiters, including that potential clients are very unlikely to try and underpay you when they have to go through someone whose job it is to ensure that that doesn’t happen. Once you’ve found work through a recruiter they are more likely to put you forward for other projects in the future, too.
The main downside of working via an agency is that, typically, they set your rates. You may have to accept a lower daily rate in return for guaranteed regular work. Alternatively, some agencies take a percentage from your fee when they place you – if this is the case, raise your rate! Agencies are, however, most often paid by the client – so they’ll be charging the client more than your day rate to make a profit themselves.
Working for free is something that many people will tell you never to do. It’s something that we wouldn’t encourage in general, either. However, there can be some occasions where it might be helpful to you. These are very specific though, so don’t let anyone take you for a ride!
One of the common misconceptions about freelancing is that everyone is super-competitive with each other. You may be surprised to learn there are lots of supportive online communities for freelancers! Many will share referrals from clients, or share larger projects with the freelancers they know.
Our Magpie Messageboard is a great place to start! Jump onto the self-employed forum to ask your burning freelance questions – you’ll be answered by other Magpies, the MoneyMagpie team, and vetted experts.
Feeling inspired? Perhaps you’re looking for guidance on the technical side of going freelance. Try these articles to get you started!