If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you’re likely to have one question straightaway: where can I find clients?
Not being able to find work is one of the most daunting parts of being a self-employed freelancer. Luckily, though, there is a tonne of work out there for those who are bold enough to strike out on their own. Often, freelancing can feel more stable than a traditional career path – especially if you have multiple income streams that you can rely on, rather than just one. Also luckily, this is true of most industries that hire freelancers.
So, where do you look? In this article, we’ll introduce you to a few different routes that you can use to find clients. Let us know if you’ve found work in a way that we’ve missed…
- Job Boards
- Mine Your Network
- Freelance Communities
- Your Website and Online Portfolio
- At Conferences
- Social Media
Job boards – the Reed, Monster, Indeeds of the world – are ten a penny, and you might need to sift through a lot of irrelevant postings before you find work that’s appropriate to you. They can still be useful, though. Just make sure your email alerts are filtered so you’re only seeing the jobs you might want. Freelance journalists should keep an eye on Cision, where hundreds of roles are advertised. For the wider media, Mediargh and The Media Mentor are good options.
You might not think you’ll find clients for your freelance work through recruiters, but hear us out! If you’re looking for longer term gigs (maternity covers, for example, or one-off projects that might take a few months to complete) this can be a great option.
Recruiters can really help you out when it comes to things like pay and contracts. Best of all, they’ll find the opportunities so you don’t always have to. Taking on contracts can be a great option if you want a reliable income stream for a few months. Look for recruiters that specialise in temporary contracts, and be clear about the kind of work you do (and don’t) want to do.
Freelance journalists across the land have been singing the praises of Freelance Writing Jobs, the weekly newsletter by writer Sian Meades-Williams, for a while. Landing in inboxes every Thursday, FWJ lists all the best (paying) opportunities of the week – from in-house poets to editors laying out pitching guidelines for their glossies. Sign up if you’re a writer of any kind. Look for similar initiatives within your own industry if you’re not.
Journalists should also check out journalist Anna Codrea-Rado’s The Professional Freelancer, a newsletter with a wealth of invaluable advice and relevant musings.
This is the time to make sure everyone you have contact with know that you’re self-employed and open for business. This includes the random connections on your LinkedIn profile, and extended family members. Spread the message widely, and don’t be afraid to reach out to old colleagues or acquaintances who might be able to help. Meeting people for coffees to update them on your work is a great way to stay in touch. You never know, that person from your old job could introduce you to a potential new client or spark the best idea you’ve had all year…
As the freelance workforce grows, more and more groups are popping up to support both the newly self-employed and those with existing experience. Across the creative industries, the culture of community is rife. Everything from advice on finding clients to financial management (and even just the company of others in a similar position) is being freely offered.
Look for Slack communities within your industry, and check out organisations like the Society of Professional Journalists, Women in SEO Tech, and Freelance Heroes. This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg.
You’ll probably have heard a million times that you need to display your best work online via your website and online portfolios. But it doesn’t make it any less true! If you display your work clearly and your story is engaging, and if you’ve got details of how you can be contacted displayed prominently, you’re on your way to having clients coming to you rather than the other way round. If you need to, invest in a graphic designer to get your website looking as professional as possible. You won’t regret it!
When it comes to online portfolios, you know better than us about the ones that are best suited to your specific industry. Do your research, and make sure you’ve got profiles and work displayed on the general freelance portfolio sites (Behance, The Dots, Underpinned) as well as the ones that are more specific to your sector.
Conferences can be great places to meet people within your industry. That can include potential new clients as well as those in a similar position to yourself. Even virtual events, which have largely replaced face to face ones in 2020, can be a great springboard for conversations. It’s time to get involved…
Finally, we couldn’t end this piece without giving a shout-out to the behemoth of freelance opportunity that is Twitter. In journalism circles, editors with a pitching budget often head straight to the timeline to shout about the opportunities they have, what they’re looking for, and how you can contact them. Is that the same in your industry? Maybe – and you won’t know unless you’re paying attention. Believe us, the time you spend scouting for new clients on Twitter is rarely wasted!
We hope this has given you some inspiration on where to find clients for your upcoming freelance projects. If you’ve got an idea that we haven’t talked about, we’d love for you to share it. Let us know over on the forums!
Need more help setting up your freelance business? Read these articles next!