How to Land Your First Freelance Client (and Build Your Business)
If you are struggling to land your first freelance client, don't worry. We have all had to start somewhere. Below is exactly how I landed my first client and how you can land yours too!
HOW LANDING MY FIRST FREELANCE CLIENT BEGAN
I'm pretty sure that everyone who heard about my "dreams" of becoming a full-time freelance writer thought I was out of my mind.
I've learned that the idea of making money online is mystical to people. Which is odd, considering nearly everything we do in modern times is related to some remote process or another. Having everything "in-house" is expensive for most businesses. Office space (think extra room, electric, office supplies, etc..) is expensive. So is benefits and keeping full-time employees when you don't need them.
That's why freelancing is an incredible option for both the individual and the business. Here is why:
- It allows you to work with more than one business
- It allows you to set your own schedule
- It allows you to work from anywhere (including home and on the road)
Essentially, it allows the average person to have greater control over their career and their time. As more companies transition to remote work, hiring freelance workers on contract is becoming a popular option. It very well could be the option for you!
According to a report cited in Entrepreneur, the freelance business grew by over 500% between 2010 and 2014. Three years later, it's still growing.
This means that over 53 million Americans are freelancing.
The best part? You could easily be one of them.
HOW I BEGAN FREELANCE WRITING
Starting a blog was my entrance to the freelance world.
I actually have had three of them. I failed at two of the three. Like miserably failed. Even the third (this one) has almost entirely changed from it's original design to the one that is successful now.
It's this third and final one that opened my world up to the side hustle.
It started because my obsession with blogging was costing me money. My obsession with it's design was overwhelming, expensive, and honestly quite hopeless.
Simply put, I had to change my mindset and my attitude or this "great idea" of mine was going to break me.
To pay for this new hobby of mine, I turned to freelance writing.
WHAT PIVOTING MEANT
To gain freelance work, I started by putting more effort into my blogging content and less into my blog's appearance, design, and purpose. I started writing. Funny how new bloggers get so caught up in the the end result that they forget that they have to write to get there.
I was that new blogger.
I eventually figured out that I had to treat my blog more like a resume instead of a project. I would spend an hour every night improving my content. That was it.
No new projects. No new appearances. No new ideas.
I'd only make my current content better.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I FOUND AN AUTHORITY SITE
After things were "tidied" up, I decided I needed to get my name out there. This meant being a contributor on an "authoritative" site. It also meant applying and begging to be on these sites.
If you aren't familiar with these, these are actually websites that generate HUGE amounts of traffic. Think Huffington Post, Forbes, or Lifehacker.
You want to write for these companies for a few reasons:
1) Exposure for your blog
2) To gain "follow" back links - which are a huge benefit for SEO
3) To gain clients straight from the platform
If you are interested in SEO be sure to read this post here.
I ended up getting my first opportunity at Lifehack (they did allow backlinks), writing on psychology and personal development topics.
Although it did provide a little bit of traffic to my blog, it looked incredible on my resume.
Keep in mind, it was my blog (and I suppose a bit of my academic experience) that landed me my job at Lifehack. Lifehack helped land me my first freelance writing job. My first freelance writing job turned into numerous freelance jobs... and on and on it goes.
Do you see the benefit?
HOW I FOUND OPPORTUNITY
After developing a portfolio, it was time to finally get paid.
Now there are a few ways you can get work.
However, at that time, I was terrified of cold pitching (therefore not an option). I also refused to try content mills (think sites like Upwork) because these paid incredibly poor at first and I didn't have time for that.
That left me with one option: job boards.
Not as good as cold-pitching companies, but not as bad as low paying content mills.
Of course I wanted the best job board I could find.
So I went straight for Contena. If you aren't familiar, Contena is an academy, job board, and coaching service all mixed into one.
The thing about Contena is that it's useful but costly. Like really costly.
Although having a coach was beneficial, it definitely didn't justify the cost. The job board was a quick resource, but everything could be found elsewhere if you want to put the time into it. Keep in mind, taking the time means finding the work for free.
The worst part of applying to jobs was competing.
At first, I applied to TONS of opportunities. My resume wasn't up to par and my pitch was weak. Once I improved both of those, I landed my first job.
Let me tell you, it was the BEST feeling in the world (in fact, you can read about how it led to me leaving my job here).
Here is how I landed it:
I sent an intro email explaining why I was qualified. I included 3 links. These links included:
- a blog post
- an authority site
- published work from my full-time career
I then attached a link to my email and offered to write a test article.
Before long, I knocked out the test article and signed my first W-9 (taxes to get paid).
Keep in mind, it was a lot of work to get hired but once I had my first job, I had others.
Thankfully, I enjoyed the process.
Let me start by saying that they never end.
Freelance writing is challenging. Some clients will try to rip you off, some client's will never be happy, and some will simply make you want to cry.
However, those are definitely the minority. When you do make a client happy (and receive your pay check) it's rewarding.
However, avoid the following mistakes I did:
- I wrote far to much for free
- I didn't ask for testimonials
- I was way, way, way to shy.
If you want to make writing work - then make it work. Write on your blog, apply to a million jobs, take chances, reach out to people, and be ready to be rejected. Just remember, it helps you grow.
Also remember that if you can do good work, it keeps people happy. Do good work.
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