Over the past five years working in the digital marketing space, I have found that freelancers can’t seem to get enough work. I hear it all the time. They’re always looking for more and more work. This baffles my mind a bit because there is just so much work to be had. I think the true reason freelancers are searching for work all the time is because they just don’t have an accurate system to generate leads.
How to Get More Freelance Work
Generally speaking, freelancers are people who work in some creative capacity. Examples include but are not limited to graphic designers, bloggers, digital marketers, social media managers and the like. Maybe you are fresh out of college looking to build your portfolio and get hired onto an agency. Maybe you actually want to make freelance work your full-time income. Either way, finding steady clients is going to require you to put some hard work in.
The Prep Work and Strategy
Many freelancers don’t even have their portfolio together in a single place. This blows my mind because it is your single greatest asset. If you don’t have a portfolio, then you have to put some leg work in. Go create a couple of free pieces of content for clients. If you can’t do this, create a concept project or two. My recommendation is to do free work vs concepts because they can lead in to more work. You can even create your portfolio within social sites like Behance that make it super easy.
Pro tip: If you want to maximize your portfolio as a graphic designer, you MUST “mock-up” the work. Back when I started, Photoshop mock-up templates were hard to come by and we had to physically do it. Thankfully that has changed. Here are the 11 best sites to get free mockups.
I can’t tell you the number of times I had to show my resume/CV to land a freelance gig. You would think with an extensive portfolio and competitive price points my resume wouldn’t make a difference. The thing is, half of winning the bid for a freelance gig is not getting ruled out.
As an entrepreneur who has hired many freelancers, I can tell you from personal experience, one gig you post can easily net you 100 applicants. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to interview 100 applicants, evaluate all their portfolios and figure out exactly which one is best.
That is when I learned about the value of having your resume/CV ready to go. It becomes another tic in your favor when evaluating what candidate to hire for the gig.
Case studies usually come later on in a freelancer’s career and apply to those in the marketing world. That being said, with some creativity you can make some kick butt case studies even not being in the marketing world. If you are fresh out of school, chances are you don’t have results to show. Don’t fret. You will get there in time. This is when you get to pay your dues and make something happen.
The basis of a kick butt case study is simple.
- State the problem the client had.
- State the solution you or your team devised.
- Show the process you went through.
- Show the results that were generated.
Pro tip: Even as a “non-marketer” you can make some awesome case studies. Maybe the results were a super happy client with your designs and an awesome testimonial.
Seriously, you MUST have a contract. Gone are the days of “this is my word and I will do it.” Lament all you want but this is the real world. People will take advantage of you if you don’t protect yourself. I am not saying everyone will, but you could seriously get into problems.
Ok, I am NOT a lawyer. What I am about to say is NOT legal advice. Ask your parents for the money, or go out and make the cash yourself and go get a real lawyer.
That being said, you are probably not going to shell out thousands of dollars for a solid contract. Here is another way to do it. Put into Google: “My profession ‘freelancers contract.’” Download, print out and examine them. Create your own based off the jargon they use. As you get new and interesting clients that show you the weaknesses in your contract, rework it.
Call this your “bootleg-lawyered contract.” Again, this is not legal advice. I am NOT a lawyer, my goal is to help you get something to start.
Guys, the market is super competitive. Want to know how you get a job or a gig faster than your competition? Create your very own personally branded website. Seriously with tools like Squarespace out there, building your own personal brand website is easy. Plus even someone as incompetent as I can design something awesome. Get a friend to take some great photos of you. Go to a site like death to stock photo for stock photo resources.
A personal website is super powerful because it does a few things. It shows off your skill sets instead of telling a prospective employer or client what you can do. You know that saying “Actions speak louder than words”? Well … this shows exactly what you are capable of. If you are a designer, create a kick butt design. If you are a writer, show off your chops.
A personal site gives you a massive leg up from the rest of the competition because it sets you apart. How many other applicants have their own website?
You get to control your brand. If you want to set yourself up as an expert in a field, crafting your own personal brand website around that field is an amazing way to do it. Plus when people Google you, you have a nice piece of online real estate. Google Austin Iuliano and you will see my site as one of the top hits.
Your personal branded website can host all your most important pieces of information. It can become your central hub that you build your online empire from.
Later on, I am going to share with you exactly where to look for work. That being said, you will have to pitch to get the job. A really good pitch should give the potential client all the information they need to make a decision, provide your contact information and position you as an expert.
Additionally, every client wants to feel special. They want you to take the time to learn about them and show them that you care about them. Your pitch template should have a place or two to customize and let the potential client you have actually read the pitch. This doesn’t have to be much, a few sentences work.
The template I use came from my good friend Andy Nathan, an amazing copywriter and awesome business contact. In an article entitled “How I Earned $15,000 from the Problogger Job Board, he shares a great template and a nice strategy.
Here is the Template I use:
Hey (client’s name)
My name is (your name) and I am following up on your request for a (name type of writer/position needed here). Based on your description I believe I should be able to exceed your expectations.
I am a digital marketer and content creator.
Here are a couple of articles I wrote recently to give you a feel for my writing style:
- I write for 3 different authority sites in the entrepreneur, small business and social media space
- I have written blog articles that receive over 2300 social shares and 10,000+ views
For my entire portfolio and to learn more go to [url of your website]
Case studies can be found at [insert link to case studies]
Finally, attached is my resume. Feel free to call me [insert phone number] or respond via email with further questions
Thanks so much!
Now that you have all your prep work done, get ready to start looking for that work. There are tons of different places to find some freelance work. I want to share with you the best and worst places.
How to Get More Work as Freelancer
Where to Look for Work
I have tried almost everything in my day to find work. I went to every professional mixer imaginable for over a year. I joined referral groups. I made cold calls. By far the best place I have found for freelance work is online. (I almost hate to give out some of these amazing resources, because it is just going to make it harder for me to get work.)
Before I share with you some awesome resources, let me explain a core concept. Fish where there are fish. I am a “lazy marketer” and I hate going to 142 mixers in one year spending $3,643 in membership fees and getting $0. Instead, I would rather spend $0 about 15-minutes a day and close much more business.
The jobs online are all over to varying degrees of success.
This is the bottom feeder; the troll of the internet. 8 out of 10 times most of the listings on Craigslist are not worthy of attention. You will notice because they will say things like “MAKE MONEY FAST WORKING FROM HOME.”
Watch out for those sorts of posts.
That being said, there is good work to be found on Craigslist. Granted it is usually underpaid — $10-15 an hour — but if you are just starting out, it is worth a look. You just need to master the search function on Craigslist. Stick to the metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Austin, etc. Make sure you click the telecommute box and your respective industry.
What will appear is a bunch of jobs that can be done offsite. Graphic design, writing, social media posting. This work isn’t high strategy top dollar type work. It is the work you resort to when you need money and you don’t mind doing mindless crap.
Upwork is the next step up from Craigslist. Professional blogger Carol Tice wrote an awesome piece on Upwork. The challenge that most people have with Upwork is that there are many low paying jobs such as “write a 1000 word article for $10.” Sadly, there are many people who will continue to take this type of work. Trust me. If I lived in India I might even think of doing that type of work. I don’t know what it translates into but it can’t be much.
With a little know-how however, Upwork has become a place where I receive daily leads and a few thousand dollars a month for simple work.
Upwork works great if you remove the jobs marked “$” and “$$.” I only go for the jobs rated “$$$.” These are the people who are willing to pay for the top-level, expert work. It might be tough to land your first couple of jobs because a lot of jobs require you to have a completed project in Upwork. But that is easily rectified if you take a lower paying job.
Pro Tip: Grab the RSS feed of your favorite Upwork search and apply it to the IFTTT recipe Andy Nathan posted in the Problogger article, you can have all the new jobs emailed to your inbox. That is two automated prospecting systems for free.
Industry Job Boards
These are the job boards specific to your niche. By far, I have found the highest quality leads on the job boards. These are people who are actively looking for the best talent and they know that it costs money. They understand the value of paying top dollar.
Asking top level talent to work for free or for exposure is like kicking a hornet’s nest. You won’t like the end result. Industry job boards are by far the best place to get high-quality work. The downside is that it is highly competitive. If you are mediocre in your profession, you will have a tough time getting work.
Some of these job boards can be turned into RSS feeds and sent directly to your inbox with the IFTTT trick I showed you earlier. This won’t work for all job boards. Some you’ll have to check manually. Just bookmark them and peruse through them quickly. They are not updated as regularly so you can easily see new job offers.
Some examples of niche job boards are:
- Writing/Blogging: Problogger
- Design/Videographer: Behance
- Growth hackers: Inbound.org, hackernews, growthhacker.com
Heck, even accounting has a job board. Do a little research and find all the job boards you can apply to.
Yep, Indeed and Monster the job hunting boards are killer places to find freelance gigs. Yes … these two sites have a ton of full-time gigs where you sell your soul for that steady paycheck. That being said, there are SO MANY opportunities if you know how to use the search function the right way.
First off, are the remote or “work from home jobs.” In either of these sites, search for your job with the work from home or remote as the location. You will see a small selection of jobs that are ripe for the picking. Give me those sweet sweet gigs no one is competing over!
Second, check out the job descriptions that are “remote possible for the right candidate.” These are the companies that could potentially need a freelancer but not know it. They think they need to hire someone full time. It is worth throwing your pitch-template at them and see if there is an opportunity. If they really like your work and you can sell them on being remote … boom, you’ve got yourself a new client.
If you are remote, you’ve gotta have a great command of your time. That and perform better than they expected. Therefore this route isn’t for the faint of heart or the slackers in the world. That being said, it is a completely viable option.
Over-flow work is when agencies get too much work so they can’t handle it all. This is a great place to be in as an agency… unless you are losing work and profits because you have no way to fill it. That is where you come in, my handy dandy freelancer.
Make a list of every agency in your immediate area and the biggest metro area near you. Reach out to those agencies with your portfolio and offer to do their overflow work. Granted, not every agency is going to want to do the work to give out overflow work. But all you need is one or two agencies to start sending you some work.
Over-flow work is one of the few examples of online opportunities where I would say you should stick to your immediate area. Some agencies will want you to come in and do “on-site freelance work.” They will want you there working for them in their immediate area.
These on-site freelance assignments can turn into a full-time gig if you do a great job. Whether you want something like that or not is up to your discretion.
Temporary Recruiters and Placement Services
The secret to landing the overflow work from agencies and that “choice portfolio” with all the big brands, is through using creative temp recruiters (agencies). Landing those big name clients is only really possible if you have the connections. Those connections happen to be through creative temp recruiters.
They are in charge of finding freelancers and other creative professionals who are extremely talented and pitching them to the brands and agencies.
Imagine this. You are running a big name agency and one of your top designers calls out sick four days from a major deadline. What do you do? Miss the deadline? Heck no! You call up your local temporary creative recruitment office and get someone ASAP.
That recruitment office calls up its database of freelancers and fills the spot. Recruiters take the time to vet creatives and hold relationships with big brands.
Get in the databank of your local creative recruiters, and start having them pitch you to the top talent. Even if the work is a part time gig for two weeks, it is worth it. One: you will be on the radar of a big agency for overflow work. Two: you can get some big names on your portfolio. Three: you get paid to do some easy work.
The challenge is recruiters only take the top 20 percent of all applicants. However, if you’re worth your salt and you can get in with a number of recruiters, you will have it made. Someone I know has six different recruiters working for them at any one time. They are getting pitched every day for various top brands.
To get more work as a freelancer does take a bit of prep work. That being said, with a little prep work you can have consistent leads sent to you every single day.
Is there any other way to get more work as a freelancer? Leave a comment with your best tip.
Freelancer Photo via Shutterstock