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How Not To Suck at Freelancing [TemplateMonster Educational Cards]

"Do good work and you’ll get referred to others."

— Some smart guy, I don’t know

That’s a great piece of advice that lays on the surface. However, how can you find your very first client as a freelancer and start this process of spreading the word about you and your business? That’s the subject of our today’s first issue of the TemplateMonster Educational Cards.


Card#1 — What is this?

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

You witness our new project - TemplateMonster Educational Cards. We believe that this is gonna be one of the most convenient ways to provide you with the answers to any questions you have.

Every once in a while we’ll post a set of ‘cards’ devoted to a certain question or topic. We will fully investigate the subject matter and explain everything in plain words for your best convenience. Ready? Let’s move on.

Card#2 — What’s the problem with the freelance?

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Guess what, pal? Everyone is trying to become a freelancer nowadays and work a few hours a day while drinking coffee and tweeting how cool is that to be a freelancer.

That’s the reason why we want to help you out and explain the step-by-step process of how you can get your first clients as a freelancer. We’ll be your guide in the world of freelancing.

However, here is a small warning for you before we dive into the details: In case you have a normal 9 to 5 job, you shouldn’t leave right away and go to freelance job sites hoping that you’re gonna become rich in a blink of an eye.

Prepare your portfolio while working on the regular job, create a profile page on the freelance job sites and start taking small and cheap projects in order to gain some reputation. That’s the way you do it: slow and steady!

Card#3 — What is the main hassle for the freelance beginners?

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Freelance is not a regular office job, you don’t have a project manager or an already prepared list of clients to work with.

Unfortunately, too many beginners are not ready to pursue this ‘I’m working for myself’ dream and they are simply not ready to hustle.

Here is your checklist if you are trying to get your first clients:

  • Look for clients locally
  • Do Pro Bono Work in Your Communities and volunteer for free projects
  • Prepare a great portfolio website
  • Use social media, start an ad campaign on Facebook/Instagram
  • Review your freelance website's profile and update it

We will walk you through each point of this list in details later on.

Also, keep in mind the possibility to collaborate with other freelancers, it’s much easier to get the project working in a team than by yourself.

Card#4 — Looking for clients locally

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Freelance is not all about the job sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer.com. Ask any friend of yours who's freelancing and they will agree that looking for local clients is one of the great ways not only to get your first customers without visiting the job site but also get truly valuable long-term ones. Well, that’s only if you don’t screw up their project, ha-ha.

Do your research. If you are looking for a writing job, you should check the local magazines and newspapers, newsletters, they may need some written content.

If you are looking for a designer or developer job, feel free to check with the local non-profit organizations and let them know that you can make their internet presence better. Some of them don’t even have a website, how weird is that in 2017?

If you are a graphic designer, you can also work with your favorite clients at Designhill's one to one projects or other crowdsourcing platforms.

This is a very efficient way to spread the word about you in your city while building your very own portfolio.

Card#5 — Get in touch with your previous connections

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

If you worked in a few companies before and now you are looking for a freelance project, feel free to contact your previous firms and offer them your expertise with something you know they are not good at. Or maybe you know how to make something work better since you worked there for some time and you are aware of the problematic moments they are experiencing in the area you are good at.

I believe I shouldn’t remember you that you should check your old contract prior to going forward with this idea? Some companies forbid doing something like that, so don’t be reckless and don’t neglect the research.

Basically, that’s the only possible problem here and in general, this is a good way to get clients.

Check out the Goodemailcopy.com in case the best you can write is:

Hi, dude, remember we used to drink coffee and discuss that John is an asshole? So I'm a freelancer now.

Card#6 — Social Media Shout Out

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Using the social media as a marketing platform is a crucial part of the freelance.

Create and develop your account on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook.

In case you are looking to work as a freelance writer, for example, you should definitely pay attention to your Twitter account. It gives your future clients an understanding of your social media presence level, some of them are looking to get the traffic along with the posts from you, so the well-developed Twitter account will be a big deal.

Keeping your LinkedIn account well-polished and up to date is a must if you want the recruiters to knock on your door and ask you to work with them. Don’t forget to keep the work samples are up to date and include your best pieces of work.

And, of course, post all the information about your freelance activity in your social media profiles. Let your friends, colleagues, subscribers and other connections know that you are open for business. Give them a chance to look at your work examples and attach your contact info. Pin this post or tweet once you're done with the ad text.

Make sure you get the most out of your Instagram account. A great example would be Ales Nesetril’s profile. He also has a book on how to approach Instagram properly, so you can definitely learn something from this guy.

Card#7 — Start a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Speaking of the ads!

I believe it’s very important to utilize such tool as a Facebook/Instagram ads properly. They have very flexible options on pricing and they give you plenty of setting for targeting the correct audience.

Your first client will come way faster than you think and, trust me, that’s a great thing to invest in. Basically, that’s an investment in your successful freelancing future.

By the way, Freelancer.com offers you a chance to become an affiliate. Once someone takes a job after using your link, you get the commissions paid to you. Advertise the coolest job offers and get money for the projects finished by someone else.

Card#8 — Working on your portfolio is possible even without real clients

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for a job as a designer, as a developer or someone else, it is always possible to fill your portfolio with something. How is that?

No real clients? Work on your own projects for the non-existing companies and add it to your portfolio for now. The main idea here is to showcase your skills, your style, and consistency.

Here is a great example for you: Artemiy Lebedev - the post-soviet designer who is running his very own studio successfully for 20 years now. Here is what Artemiy says about getting the first portfolio ready:

“I called all my relatives and friends and told them that I am a designer and if they need something for their business, they should contact me. That was my statement showing everyone that I’m not a schoolboy anymore, I am a designer and I’m their friend!”

“Of course, they wanted to see some of my works and my response to that inquiry was very simple. I made up a few companies, created the branding materials for them, logotypes and website layouts. I wasted a week or two to get my portfolio ready.”

“Time went by and I switched the made up projects with the real ones. Now I have more than 3 thousand works in my portfolio... Real works. ”

Card#9 — Give out the discounts and get the testimonials

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Your first clients are not intended to be the ones you score big on. Giving out the discounts and working on low-cost projects is something you should be ready to do.

That shouldn’t frighten you, this is just the beginning and this generosity will pay you back in double once you get yourself a pool of clients.

Don’t forget to get the testimonials from each and every client, let your happy clients speak for you and their words will advertise you much better than yours.

Card#10 — Update your job site account

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

This is the easiest one to do. Make sure your account showcases you as a serious and skilled professional.

Add all the necessary links: to your portfolio, to your social media profiles, add the testimonials and even add a video presentation if you have one or ready to prepare.

Testimonials are crucial, highlight them and select the best ones. This is how your good business speaks for you, that’s how you’ll get referred to others.

Many freelance job sites offer you to take some tests and get the certificates along with the additional points to your account. Don’t neglect this opportunity to stand out from lazybones.

Card#11 — Cover Letter is always a good thing

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Don’t ignore a chance to start your interaction with your possible employer on your terms. Cover Letter is a great chance to introduce yourself properly and set the course for your further conversation.

There are plenty of Cover Letter examples on the internet, review those guidelines and go for it.

Also, I definitely recommend you going with the exclusive Cover Letter for each and every client. This is your statement, highlight the problems of the client’s business and explain to him how you can fix that, what you can offer him on your end.

This approach is much more effective than using the same text or not using the Cover Letter at all!

Card#12 — ‘Three’ is now your magic number

How Not To Suck at Freelancing

Once you landed the first client, you should definitely be happy and proud of yourself.

However, you should keep in mind the following:

One can be a fluke, Two can be luck, Three clients are a solid ground.

Keep on working and enjoy being your own boss. Let us know how it feels once you get to that point in your freelance career.


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Alex Tkachenko

Creative writer passionate about WordPress and all that technical stuff. Meet Alex in person on LinkedIn.

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