It’s an age old story, whether you’re looking for full-time employment or contract work. In order to land a job, you must have experience. Seems simple enough, except that in order to gain experience you must first land a job. This vicious cycle has affected even the most skilled among us, and although 80% of companies plan to substantially increase their freelance workforce in the coming years, booking your first gig can be a challenge. Especially if you aren’t sure where to start.
Save yourself from the headaches of beating your head against a wall, and check out this quick guide to landing your first freelance job.
Assess your skills
You can’t expect a client to pay for your services if you haven’t figured out what you’re selling. It’s time to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and take an honest inventory of your strengths. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What are you good at?
- What are you great at?
- Which of your skills comes the most naturally?
- Which skills could use some polishing?
- How many other people are selling the same service?
- Is your list too humble? Too ambitious?
As a freelancer, you have to convince every client that you are the right person for the job, there’s no room to be wishy washy. Once you have a true assessment of your strengths, own them 100%. Be confident.
Find freelance clients
Once you know what you’re selling, the next step is to figure out who is buying. Do a little bit of research and figure out who your target audience is, and where they look for help when they need it. Start small and work your way up.
If you are unsure of where to look, turn to your own personal network first. Sometimes getting meaningful experience means emailing everyone you have ever known, and asking if they need help building a database or redesigning their website. Nothing beats real world experience, so don’t be afraid to do a few pro bono projects to get your feet wet. The credibility you’ll gain will be just as valuable as cash in the end.
Put yourself out there
As intimidating as it may be, actively building relationships and growing your network of potential clients is crucial to freelancing success. It can be tough to stand out from the crowd when you don’t have much experience, so the more personal connections you have, the better.
It may take sending fifty emails and writing a hundred project proposals before you get your first gig, but don’t be shy about communication. If no one bites, chalk it up to experience and hone your pitch.
When you are writing a proposal, it’s important to keep it simple and to the point. Don’t just use a generic line with a link to your previous work, your proposal will just blend in with the fifty others the client has to sift through. The first line should grab attention, and the pitch should be personalized to the project you’re bidding on. If they do bite, it’s probably because you included these important points:
- Responses to specific points within the project description
- Links only to relevant pieces within your body of work
- A realistic timeline for completion
- Clarifying questions
Most importantly of all, if they ask you a question, respond in a timely manner.
Be patient, persistent, and positive
Even experienced contractors with great ratings and huge bodies of work are passed over from time to time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back on your first attempt. Building a successful freelance business won’t happen overnight. Be patient and persistent.
Keep your communication with prospective clients professional and positive, remembering that every interaction can turn into a future working relationship. Even if you aren’t hired for a project now, you’ll have made a good impression for the next one that comes up.
Don’t forget that the first job you’ll get will be the hardest. Once you have booked a paying client on a reliable platform, it will be much easier to leverage yourself as an accomplished freelancer and turn your expertise into a great source of additional income. Start today!