How to find freelance work
Published Oct. 19, 2020 by Andy L. in Finding work
Finding work as a freelancer is a job in and of itself. These days we have the internet to thank for enabling connections with people across the world. Whether finding work locally or online, chances are you have to spend some time sifting through high-quality leads as opposed to ones that aren't worth the time.
This guide states the pros and cons of popular routes many freelancers choose to find work and how a mix could provide the best results in your search for more freelance work.
Use your existing network
Leveraging your existing network often prompts those you know to think about if they or someone they might know needs your services. Your network no matter the size is a good first place to focus on when looking for work.
If the work is there, chances are it is an easier lead to sell your skills to.
As you get more clients through your network this often expands your network at the same time which brings us to our next way to find work, referrals.
As more work comes in you might find your client network grows. This takes time but over time this can lead to some great compounding with regards to finding new work. Past clients might mention you to your friends and family. This leads to unexpected new leads otherwise known as referrals.
Referrals are one of those things that are out of your control. They usually are the best means of finding work. To promote more referrals you might incentivize your existing clients with discounts or other deals to help them share the word about your services. This type of marketing will help you spread the word without really trying which is the best type of marketing.
Online job boards
With remote work becoming more mainstream there has been a massive rise in online job boards. Many boards dedicate to helping you find jobs of certain criteria. Others niche down by category. Some are remote-only.
As a freelancer, finding work on job boards is rather tedious because the jobs you seek aren't full-time. Most job boards don't cater to contract work so that leaves you with even more work to find potential leads on your own. You could spend half a day or more with nothing to show for it as a result.
We created lancer.to to help solve that problem. Having been a freelancer for many years I often scoured the web hunting for work. It always amazed me that there wasn't one place that had only freelance jobs so I built lancer.to.
Other popular places to find work include:
We Work Remotely - Remote-first jobs. You'll need to filter by contract roles
telecommuterjobs.net - basically a craigslist feed (some aren't freelance).
Dribbble - Enable the freelance filter
I would recommend avoiding bidding sites or other marketplace sites that don't have that high-quality projects. Those sites include upwork.com, freelancer.com, and similar. I'll go into more about why I think you should avoid these sites coming up.
Cold calling (Asking people if they need help)
Sometimes asking people if they need a hand with something yields a new relationship. If you don't know who you're reaching out to they might see you as a spammer.
The key to cold-calling is to be genuine. You need to use empathy and reason when soliciting your services so it doesn't come across as spammy.
Sharing value or a recent project you worked on is a great way to get more attention through social media. While it doesn't always turn into immediate work, you create impressions for those that follow you. These impressions can get shared or linked to prospective clients.
If you provide a lot of value online your follower count will rise as a result. With more followers, you get a greater landscape to promote your services. This effort takes a lot of time to build and maintain but it is very much worthwhile.
Strive for one or two main social media channels to target and go all-in on those. You'll see more success with this approach rather than trying to target every social media channel out there.
Tailoring your website to attract leads
Your website is where people go to find out more about you. Those people are prospective clients. You need to give them a very easy way to contact you online or by phone.
A neat trick I used in the past is to display your availability on your website. Sometimes appearing as too busy for more clients drives up the demand to hire you.
You can add a banner or something similar that reads "Currently booked for the summer" if you are booked up. Then once you are available again change it to "Currently booking for the summer. Hire me" to let visitors know. Be sure to include a direct call to action so it's mindless for them to reach out to you.
Little personable things like this on your website goes a long way.
In addition to all of this, your contact information should be front and center no matter where you navigate on your site. You don't want your clients to have to work to reach you.
Blogging or guest blogging
Blogging is a long-term strategy to share more about yourself or whatever knowledge you'd like to share with the world. Providing value through blogging or guest blogging opens a lot of doors over time. With SEO (Search Engine Optimization) being a big driver for popular blogs you can start to establish content that gets noticed and linked back to over and over. This builds trust with your name or blog and leads to people reaching out to you.
When blogging be sure to include your contact information somewhere. Again, you want to make it easy for potential clients to be in contact with you.
Guest blogging on a particular topic is a great way to win clients. I once blogged about creating Tumblr themes for a popular web design blog. I think 50 people reached out to me looking for help. Only a few were decent leads but the best part is I only had to author one blog post to get that much attention. Blogging although time-consuming and a long-term strategy almost always pays off.
Contributing to communities
Being a part of communities allows you to network with like-minded people. Events, conferences, and online communities offer great discussion and knowledge to learn from. Finding work in this way is more indirect but as you see questions get asked to provide some valuable answers and link back to your work, blog posts, or project. This leads people who contribute to the community to your front-door which could result in more work.
The approach here is to ask questions, answer questions, and share value. As you do this over and over your name spreads and people build more trust with you. More trust means the more likely hood of you finding more work when the time is right.
Places to avoid to optimize your time
Earlier I mentioned very briefly of places to avoid online when it comes to finding freelance jobs. Places like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and similar sites don't always have that high-quality of jobs and because of the nature of these sites are extremely competitive. Being so competitive drives down the amount some freelancers charge for their services which means you need to work a lot for very little in return.
Avoiding these sites (unless you're looking for practice) is a must to get anywhere as a professional freelancer. The nature of sites like Upwork doesn't benefit the freelancer at all. Instead, the platform gets a cut of your earnings and the client gets their work done for cheap.
In short, if you can avoid these types of sites you should.
Finding work as a freelancer is work in and of itself. We live in a very competitive world where more and more people are contracting either full-time or on the side. To find work you need to get smart in who you connect with and how. Being diverse both online and offline are great ways to generate a steady stream of work which leads to repeat clients.
If you're looking for work online be sure to give our freelance-only job board a shot. We compile freelance jobs daily so you don't have to. Be sure to subscribe to our email digest to get new jobs delivered to your inbox automatically.