How To Get Clients as a Freelancer: 6 Tips To Win Contracts
When you work as an independent professional, you freelance for clients instead of being a full-time employee for just one company. Freelancers work on a contract basis and spend part of their time pitching their services and looking for new clients. Some clients may become long-term relationships, while others only need one-off projects, depending on the services you offer.
People choose to freelance for greater control over their schedule and the projects they work on. Many freelancers work from home and enjoy setting their own work hours and choosing where they want to work, whether it’s a home office one day and a coffee shop the next. As an independent professional, you can do exactly the type of work you like best and become an expert in your niche. As you build your reputation and gain experience, you may be able to charge more for new clients.
When you're new to freelancing, the first hurdle is getting clients. Landing your first client is a huge milestone and helps you establish credibility and begin to build your portfolio. The goal is to build a relationship with each client, so a one-off project turns into repeat work, and clients are so happy they recommend you to their colleagues.
How to get clients as a freelancer (tips for those new to freelancing):
- Find your niche
- Polish your portfolio
- Work on your professional pitch
- Use social media to your advantage
- Keep competitive
Find your niche
How do you find clients as a freelancer? Find your niche! Clients look for independent talent with demonstrated performance in specialties that fill their current skills gaps. Think about what you enjoy doing most and then research to see if it's an in-demand skill.
Let's say you have experience working in marketing or graphic design. Both are broad industries. Building a reputation as an expert marketer or graphic designer is more challenging than if you focused on a specific niche and perfected your skills. Instead of marketing, consider specializing in social media content or SEO or as a graphic designer concentrating on logos or corporate presentations.
When starting as a freelancer and looking for clients, consider who would need your services. Why would a client hire someone with your skill set? What are they looking for? Knowing who your clients are and what their goals are can help you find clients as a freelancer.
Networking is a way to get clients as a freelancer and connect with other independent professionals. Once you build a community with other freelancers, you can refer clients back and forth when your schedule gets too busy or if you work in different niches. Even if you work remotely, you can network with virtual or in-person events. You never know where you may find your next client.
Word of mouth
Make sure your friends, family, and even previous coworkers and employers know that you're accepting clients and looking for work as a freelancer. Many companies of all different sizes and industries need freelancers to help with their projects. Start local and see if those closest to you have any leads.
Where to find networking events as a freelancer
Find other freelancers and even clients at networking events. Try attending local in-person or virtual events. Networking events are a great way to meet others and expand your personal network. Even if you don't find a new client at the event, you may meet someone who knows a client they can refer to you. Having a community of other freelancers can also help you feel more connected when working from home. Connect with other freelancers by joining:
- Upwork events
- Local in-person and virtual events
- Professional organizations
- Facebook groups
A change of scenery can do wonders for creativity and productivity as a freelancer. Venture out to a coffee shop that’s popular for remote work or try out a co-working space. These are considered "third spaces," based on a theory from sociologist Ray Oldenburg. The first space is the home, the second is the office, and the third spaces are where people connect and socialize with like-minded individuals.
Many of these co-working spaces have social areas like cafes or coffee stations and even host events you can attend. Try going to these places regularly or just once a week on a schedule, start recognizing familiar faces, and strike up a conversation. Most people go to these co-working spaces to feel social and network (unless they've reserved a meeting room and are trying to work by themselves).
Online tools like Upwork
Create a network of other freelancers on Upwork, whether you want to collaborate on projects or ask for advice. If a client invites you to submit a proposal for a job that doesn't fit your skills or schedule, you can refer another freelancer.
On the Upwork Community page, you can find events, meetups, help forums and blogs and join groups of other freelancers just like you. This is a great place to connect with other independent professionals and expand your professional network.
Polish your portfolio
How do you show potential clients and new connections what you do best? Through your portfolio. Create a home for your best work so others can see samples of your skills and learn more about your experience. Make sure your profile is up to date with your latest projects, certifications, degrees, and any new skills.
Your Upwork profile has a space for your freelancer portfolio and client reviews. When you submit job proposals to clients, if they like your proposals, the next step is to review your profile and see your portfolio. Pick your best projects and make sure they're front and center, so you're showing off your best work. Add relevant skills to your profile and keep your profile current so the right Upwork clients can find you.
Some fields and industries, like graphic design or writing, are easy to create portfolios for because your output is highly visible. However, having a website for your services that explains the past projects you've worked on and your specific role and contributions in any skill area can help you get clients.
Work on your professional pitch
When you meet a new client or find a project you're interested in working on, offer your skills and services with a pitch. A solid professional pitch is essential to getting clients as a freelancer. Clients on Upwork post jobs, and as a freelancer, you can submit a proposal with your rate and a pitch.
Project pitch and proposal
When sending a pitch or proposal, you want to explain why you're the best person for the job and add any relevant examples. A winning proposal starts by showing that you understand the client's needs and illustrating why they should choose you over other candidates. Then highlight your most recent experience and skills that will make you successful–include certifications, past projects, degrees, and anything else that demonstrates your expertise. Attach samples of your work that are more relevant to the job. Finish the proposal by asking if they can set up a time to talk with you about the project.
Another important item you need to have ready is the elevator pitch. Explain who you are, your experience, and why a client needs your skills in about 30 seconds (75 to 100 words). The elevator pitch is perfect for when a potential client says, "So, tell me about yourself" during an interview. The purpose is to let them know a bit about you and show that you're qualified for the project.
Use social media to your advantage
Social media is a powerful tool that you can use to get clients as a freelancer. You can establish your position as a thought leader by posting regularly with helpful and informative content. Sometimes the easiest and quickest way to contact a potential client is through a DM (direct message) on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Businesses often have inboxes flooded with emails, but their social media messages typically have less clutter, and you may get a quicker response.
Promoting your freelance services on social media gives clients another way to find you. Some social media platforms, like LinkedIn, are designed for professional networking. On Instagram or Facebook, you can choose to use your personal profile or create a separate one for your freelance services.
LinkedIn is an excellent professional platform for finding and attracting new clients. Make sure you click the "open to work" box on your LinkedIn profile and add #opentowork and #freelance[your niche] to your headline. Post your latest projects that you can share on your feed, and make sure your profile is up to date and has links to your portfolio.
You can use Instagram as a mini portfolio if you work in a visual field like graphic design or content marketing. Show off your best work and use relevant hashtags to attract clients. You can direct potential clients to your Instagram page if they want to see more work samples.
Facebook is great for posting links to articles, websites, and longer pieces of content. You can follow companies and individuals and create a business page for your freelance services. Post projects and have your friends and family share them; you never know who may see them! Some freelancers run ads on Facebook (and Instagram) to promote their services. Encourage clients to leave positive Facebook reviews on your business page.
Keep learning and improving
The first client is often the hardest to get. When you're first starting out, you may need to charge less and work extra hard to build your reputation. Each new satisfied client helps improve your portfolio. Positive reviews and client testimonials build trust with new clients and can help you land more projects. Here are some quick tips for getting new clients as a freelancer:
- Stay competitive as a freelancer by upskilling and adding each new skill and certification to your profile and portfolio
- Follow up with clients about projects if you haven't heard back in a reasonable time (The squeaky wheel gets the grease)
- Ask clients for a review and feedback after a project ends
- Do your best work every time to get repeat clients
- Be mindful of your workload and avoid taking on more projects than you can handle
- Show your personality and get to know your clients; building relationships is key
- Have an idea of how much you want to charge for each type of project
- Check Upwork or other job boards regularly and quickly submit your proposals
- Respond to clients as soon as possible; good communication is super important
- Start a blog to show your expertise in the industry and boost your SEO
- Be patient but also persistent; dedicate time in your workday to spend applying for jobs and talking with clients
- Don't be afraid to cold call (email or DM) dream clients and pitch your freelance services
- Find the best freelancer tools for productivity and organization
Set your freelance career in motion with Upwork
Make Upwork your home for freelancing. Upwork is the world's work marketplace, where everyone from startups to the Fortune 500 goes to find the best independent talent and build lasting relationships. See what jobs are available right now and start your career as an independent professional today. Everything you need is right here, from creating a portfolio to getting paid.