10 Steps To Get Your First Freelance Project [2021]

Starting out is never easy and may take a bit of time but with the right guidance you are on your way to land your first project a lot quicker

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When you go from a standard job to working as a freelancer, many questions always arise, but first of all the first question is how do you get your first freelance job? 

The reality is that it is not as different as you would with any other job, because you must sell yourself as the ideal person for a project. 

The point is to understand how to give that image and for that you must follow the steps in this list, starting with defining your potential client to know where your efforts should point.

1. Define Your Potential Client

The objective of defining your ideal client is to direct all your efforts and strategies towards these people. 

Investing in generating products and promoting your work without having defined and well addressed this point (your ideal client), is one of the most important mistakes you can make when starting to work as a freelance.

If you define your ideal client, you will get an idea of what type of services they usually need and how you can help them solve their problems. 

To find who your potential client would be, you can start by defining how old they are, what niche they operate in, and what their target is. 

By having this clear, you will save a lot of time and effort since you will not be trying things to see what works for you, but you will be able to direct all your efforts to a specific idea.

A good idea is to think about which people you would like to work with even if you do not receive money in return. 

This does not mean that you will give away your services, but in discovering what things you would do beyond money, because you need a deeper motivation than money, especially in difficult starts.

2. Specialize

Advertising yourself as an illustrator that does a bit of everything, for example, will make it highly unlikely that you will get a job anytime soon. 

However, if you promote yourself as a children’s book illustrator it will make you find a group of potential clients faster. 

Clients look for the most trained and best-prepared professionals for their projects, which is why when they hire freelancers, they favor specialists over generalists.

Identify the specialty in which you have the most experience (and that you enjoy the most since you will never be motivated to do a job you hate from the beginning), and develop your skills so that you can identify yourself as a true expert. 

Also, keep in mind that clients do not hire freelancers thinking a lot about their trajectory, they hire those with skills that they do not yet have within their companies.

You will also need to be prepared to adapt your specialty as it changes and the industry evolves: if the technology or language you specialize in begins to wane, you will need to develop another specialty. 

Being adaptable without losing your focus is a key ingredient for a successful freelancer.

Specializing in a skill or market can help you develop your career, or even start a new one if you find that you are passionate about a different area than the one you work in right now.

3. Be Perceived as an Expert

Specializing in a specific skill is the first step to being perceived as an expert and this is key if you want to find clients. 

Clients like to feel that they are talking to the best and although there are surely many other freelancers with more experience than you, you can still convey professionalism to your clients.

To be perceived as a professional you will not only have to work hard and find clients but you will also have to invest in your freelance business. 

These investments have to do with everything that makes you a better professional and with the dissemination of your work, such as a website, a logo, and courses that improve your knowledge in the area in which you are a specialist.

4. Invest In Yourself

Your freelance career is your business and the best way to invest in it is by taking your knowledge to a higher level. 

If you study new trends related to your niche or learn new skills that allow you to expand your range of services, it will mean that you will be able to reach more clients and increase your income.

It is not just about learning new things (which is very important) but also about keeping your knowledge up to date. 

If you work in an area such as web development or web page design, you will know that it is a niche that is constantly being renewed and where from time to time there are new advances. 

If you want to stay relevant to your customers, you will need to constantly update your knowledge. 

This is something that 66% of full-time freelancers do because they consider that it is essential to stay competitive with other freelancers. This is something that will also convey professionalism and confidence. 

If you want to take an online course to expand your knowledge, these recommendations will help you:

Udemy

Udemy uses online content in videos, which are sold in courses conducted by subject matter experts. 

Udemy courses do not have college endorsements or credentials; students take their courses as a means of improving job-related skills. Some courses build credibility to pursue technical certification.

The price range is quite wide. You will find from free courses to some that cost $ 150 but with extreme discounts that can give a final price of $ 15. It all depends on the complexity and extent.

CreativeLive

CreativeLive offers a large number of courses via streaming and they are free. If you miss the time of the transmission, you can still access the content but paying a certain amount. 

The price range can go from $ 29 to $ 199 but the platform also offers great discounts.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is a LinkedIn platform where you can access a large number of online courses and hone your professional skills. 

If you are already a premium user of LinkedIn you can access it for free, but if that is not your case, it has a cost of $ 24.99 per month.

eDX

eDX is a non-profit, open-source online learning platform where anyone can participate in thousands of courses, diplomas, and micro-masters at the best universities in the world, such as Harvard or Berkeley. 

You can also opt for the option of obtaining a certificate and the cost of this modality ranges from $25 to $ 300.

Skillshare

In Skillshare you will not only find hundreds of courses on various topics and skills, but you can also share your knowledge or creations with the platform community. 

When you join they usually give you a free trial period and then you start paying $ 19 per month.

5. Have a High-quality Portfolio Website

A portfolio website is an essential and key tool for freelancers. All clients observe it before hiring and, on almost all occasions, whether they decide to work with you depends on the impression that the portfolio generates on them and what you manage to convey with it. 

Through your portfolio website, potential clients will have an idea of your level, experience, and professionalism. 

When you make contact with a potential client, you can pass them the link that directs them to your site, in which you will already have everything set up, presentable, and organized to positively impact them.

To have a dynamic website, it is a good idea to blog and post regularly, relevant to your market. 

This will help you to constantly show that you are a specialist in the subject and that you are up to date in this regard, which will cause people related to your work to come closer.

Source: examples.com

Aim of a Portfolio Website

The objective of having a portfolio website is to increase your online presence so that people can easily find you on the web and have a practical and simple way of showing your work to potential clients. 

Having a website where clients can view your work will also help you accomplish the following:

Build Credibility

You need to make your clients understand that you are the right freelancer for what they need and in your portfolio website you can include things that increase your credibility. 

Not only will you achieve that by adding the examples of work you have done but you could also show the process of your work so that clients can see how you usually work. 

So they will see that you are a professional person, who has worked following a particular method or way.

Source: The Write Life

Build Trust

When a client looks for a freelancer, they also need someone they can trust because they will be investing their money and time in that person. 

Being a freelancer you will hardly know your client personally, so you must take care of building trust through online means, and for this, you can include testimonials from your some section of your website. 

If you do not have work samples to show yet, you could generate something for a friend or family member and use that for your portfolio. 

Every time you finish working for a client, ask them to tell you about their experience so that you can publish it on your website, so clients will trust others to recommend your work.

Source: College Info Geek

Show Expertise

Something that will also improve your image will be to check the knowledge you have and that you can do by showing certifications of studies or courses that you have done and also telling your work experience. 

When customers see this they will realize that you know what you do and that your knowledge is valuable and verifiable.

6. Network

One of the fields in which it is vital to surround yourself with colleagues is undoubtedly the workplace. 

Networking consists of forming a group of professional contacts that at some point will help you get a job or have new professional opportunities or perhaps attract clients. 

That network of contacts will open doors for you in the world of work because they can introduce you to clients, recommend useful things, inform you of job offers, get you involved in projects, among other things.

Online Groups

There are many platforms on the internet where you can find online groups on specific topics. 

For example, very general groups aimed at freelancers and others focused specifically on your niche. Facebook is a great place to find these types of groups. 

There you can interact with other users and generate alliances, those are groups where you can participate by commenting or posting things, and interacting in that way will make your colleagues know you and take you into account. 

So remember that it is not just about belonging to the group but about participating in it.

Platforms

Some platforms are specifically for growing your network and LinkedIn is one of them. 

It is a great possibility to expand your contacts. 

You will meet the contacts of your contacts and in turn the contacts they have. 

Apart from that, you will also find out about job opportunities and you will be able to read, share, and generate useful content that helps you or other colleagues in your niche. The options are endless.

Seek a Mentor

When you start a new activity, it is best to have someone to guide you. Just as when you start practicing a new sport you have a coach, the same you can do with your freelance career. 

Find someone you trust and appreciate their work, that has more experience in the industry and is willing to help you. 

With the advice of that person, you can avoid committing rookie mistakes and follow effective recommendations that have already paid off.

Another very important thing is that you do not forget about your work connections after creating them. 

Something interesting is that 70% of people have found work in a company because they had some contact there. So maintaining the right relationships can bring you many benefits. 

Do not make it seem like you only sought someone’s support for a specific project. Do not burn those bridges as they will benefit you in the long run for other projects and jobs.

7. Market Yourself

If you have just become a freelancer, do not panic if you cannot attract clients at first. It is normal, nobody knows you. To attract clients you need to promote your work. 

The competition is very strong and the opportunities will not come alone, but take heart! you can achieve it. 

Marketing your own brand and business should always be on your to-do list. 

Although it may seem tedious, it is something that you must activate because it is what will allow you to continue doing what you do. 

There is no use in trying to create incredible services or products if you do not tell anyone how incredible they are.

Start Blogging

If you decide to write in a blog you should know that it has to have a purpose and you cannot write about just any topic. 

You should focus on topics that would interest your potential clients. 

For example, if you offer brand identity services for entrepreneurs, you should talk about topics that might interest them: brand identity and design, entrepreneurship, and social networks.

In some articles, you can mention and include links to your services or products only if it is relevant to the topic of the article. Another good idea is capturing the emails of your readers. 

You can include a downloadable resource in some of your articles and ask for an email in return. With this, you will have a database of potential clients. 

To increase the traffic on your website you can optimize your posts using SEO. 

Having specific keywords on your site and your blog posts will allow your page to appear at the top of search engines. 

It takes some time to build effective SEO; especially in competitive fields. However, if you do it right, your page traffic will increase.

Guest Blog

This part is closely linked to networking. Once you have colleagues whose work you like, they can support each other by generating content for each other’s blog. 

The benefit of this is that you will send an audience to their page and the people who read your article on your colleague’s page will also be invited to visit your website. 

This is a great idea to increase your online presence and reach a different audience.

Whatever your job as a freelancer, be it, web designer, or accounting; find out what type of clients you are targeting and what they are looking for on the internet to find help and advice. 

Then, offer guest posts that have to do with what your target audience is looking for. 

Take advantage of this opportunity to offer super quality content. Show off. Remember that you are trying to woo an audience that does not know you.

Social Media Advertisement

It is very easy and very cheap to create an ad on Google with which to attract valuable traffic to your website or receive more phone calls.

With a good choice of keywords and a well-worked original copy, it will be difficult for people interested in your service not to click on your ad. 

You can also use platforms like Facebook or Instagram to place your ads. You can start with a small amount of money for a couple of days and then consider investing more in it. 

The good thing about this strategy is that you can segment the audience to which your advertising will reach. 

By showing your ad only to people who are your potential customers, the chances of them visiting your website or wanting to purchase your services will be greatly increased.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is the strongest way of finding new clients. 

The reason is that although through other means such as advertisements you can find more diffusion, the word of mouth is more effective because it usually occurs when a client recommends your services to another person, which generates trust in the other person and more possibilities to hire you immediately. 

In fact, for many freelancers referrals are the main source of best clients. 

Clients will always prefer working with someone they know in some way rather than undertaking projects with a stranger.

8. Be Proactive

When you work as a freelancer, being proactive, and having initiative becomes essential in your work dynamics. 

Projects do not come easily, you need to look for opportunities and have a lot of initiative to get a job. 

When you work in a company it is easier to be clear about your responsibilities and tasks to perform and if you are freelance, the opportunities do not come alone. 

To be proactive you must also learn to manage your time well. If you do not set your priorities and get distracted by other activities, you will hardly be able to focus on your work. 

You must respect your work schedule in order to achieve your goals.

You must work hard to find clients and build a trustworthy name. One idea to be proactive and get clients is to join freelance work platforms. 

There you can actively search for clients, find your first job, gain experience, and generate labor alliances that extend over time.

Job Platform

There is a wide variety of freelance platforms you can choose from, but to choose which one to start with you should compare several first. 

What you should take into account when choosing a freelance work platform is the type of work you do, since there are platforms focused on specific niches such as writers, web developers, or graphic artists. 

These platforms also usually charge a percentage for each payment you receive and although this may discourage you, on the positive side you have that many of these platforms protect you from scams, make sure you receive your money and you can create a reputation that will help you achieve more customers.

Here is a list of job platforms you can try:

  • Upwork 
  • Flexjobs 
  • Fiverr 
  • Freelancer.com 
  • FreeUp 
  • 99designs

Cold Emails

Cold emails are messages that you send to people who do not know you. 

Sending cold emails is not easy; it is common to abandon a cold email strategy during the initial phases because of being discouraged or assuming that it does not work too soon. 

But before you give up, do not forget that sending cold emails can be a crucial part of your sales funnel.

One strategy that you can implement is to try to identify what is the need of the company or client to whom you are going to write. 

For example, if you are a graphic designer and you see that their logo looks dated or if you are a copywriter and you notice that their website has many grammatical errors. 

By identifying a need, you can respectfully tell them what you noticed in the email and show that you are very interested in helping them improve their business.

Through a cold email, you can introduce yourself to someone, suggest your services, or tell them why it is convenient for them to hire your services. 

It is like knocking on their door, greeting them, and trying to sell them something. For that same reason, there is a way to do it and a series of recommendations that will surely be very helpful.

Tips To Keep In Mind When Sending A Cold Email

  • One of the most relevant factors for a cold email to be read is the subject. Actually, 36% of recipients open their emails only based on the subject. If you do not receive responses, try sending the same email with a different subject.
  • Personalizing email is essential. Include the name of your potential client, check their company, and the services and products they offer. 
  • Introduce yourself briefly and take action. Talk about the benefits the client could get from hiring you.
  • Try to discover the main weaknesses of your client and refer to them in your email.
  • In addition to cold-writing your email with empathy, you should research the recipient before sending it.

9. Invest Time in Proposals

Every time you send a proposal to be accepted in a project, try to take care of every detail so that they notice how interested you are in the job. 

When you send a proposal, you must make sure it fits that business and their needs, so you will communicate that they should have you on their team.

Attention to Detail is Important

The first and most important thing before you start writing is that you pay attention to the needs of your client and the description of the project. 

To do this, look at how it has been described. Every word is important, so read carefully. You will not be able to write a good proposal until you fully understand what your potential client wants. 

These details will catch the potential customer’s attention and you will greatly improve your chances.

Useful Tips 

In addition, the project description will also help you define the tone with which you should write. If the client writes in an informal way, you should do the same. 

On the contrary, if the client uses a more professional and serious language, you will have to write formally.

The description will help you know a little more about the company you could start working for. 

Go a step further and do a little research on her and her work. Perhaps you can refer to the project that has most impressed you or collect ideas to see how they could improve.

It is very important to add specific details about your work and your vision for the project. Mention the steps you would take to complete the job or even better, accompany them with a timeline.

10. Have the Right Mindset

Keep in mind that getting started is often the hardest part. 

Surely there will be a time where you think that being a freelancer is not your thing, but remember that if many live from this, you can too! 

You must be persistent when looking for clients and not be discouraged when you receive negative responses as it is part of the process. 

If you stay constant, you will surely soon find your first clients with whom you can start working. Be patient and do not stop working hard, you will soon see the result of your efforts.

Landing Your First Project Is A Matter Of Time

Increasing your online presence and being proactive is the key to getting your first freelance client. 

Everything consists of letting your potential clients know that you are there and that you are the best option for them. 

You will be the best option if you invest in your freelance business, learning new skills, creating your portfolio website, promoting your services, and taking the time to write your job proposals. 

If you make an effort to get potential clients to know you, soon you will get your first client and many more.

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