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You’re ready to start freelancing and secure your first client as an independent, but there’s only one problem: you don’t have any previous client projects to lean on!
When you’re in the early stages of your freelance business, you might not have a portfolio of work you can show potential clients. But not to worry! We all have to start somewhere. There are plenty of ways you can showcase your skills and expertise without having any projects or case studies to show for it yet.
Here’s how to secure your first client without a freelance portfolio.
Reach out to your network
When you’re ready to dive into the world of freelancing and land your first client, one of the first steps is to reach out to your network.
Your network includes anyone you’ve worked with throughout your career: managers, co-workers, and collaborators. It also can include friends and family. Your network is essentially anyone who can attest to your skills and experience and is open to making an intro for you!
When sharing the news or reaching out to people, the key is to be specific with your ask. Let your network know exactly what type of client or work you’re looking for, and give them a refresher on your work background.
Whether you make an announcement on social media or reach out directly to individuals, let them know you’re open to working in X industry, you offer X services, and you’re available to take on new clients starting on X date.
Create mock projects
If you don’t have any projects to lean on, then make them!
A mock project gives you the freedom to create something that showcases all of your skills.
For example, let’s say you’re an SEO consultant and you want to secure clients who need their websites SEO-optimized. Build your own website if you don’t already have one, and treat it like a client project. Apply your SEO skills to optimize your own website and improve your search rankings. Use your own website as a case study that you can present to potential clients.
Whether you build your own website, design a brand identity for a made-up company, or create a mock social media strategy for a brand you love, make it clear that the project was not for a real client. Transparency is key to building relationships.
Love it or hate it, social media remains a valuable tool for making connections and building a personal brand.
Get active on social media to grow your network and promote your services. And since you don’t have any projects to share yet, you can share tips and insights for your industry as a way to position yourself as a thought leader instead.
Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to get started if you want to share insightful content. Community Slack groups are also a great way to make connections on a more individual level.
Take a certification course
Another way to build credibility and showcase your expertise without any projects in your portfolio is to get certified.
Certifications are a great way to level-up your business and allow you to prove that you have the skills and knowledge even when you’re just getting started.
If you’re in marketing, HubSpot Academy offers certifications for a range of marketing topics like digital advertising and social media marketing. There are also SEO certifications from Moz, developer certifications from Adobe, and a range of offerings from Google, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning.
Team up with another freelancer
Building up your business can take some time, so it may be helpful to ease into client work by teaming up with another freelancer.
Partnering with a fellow independent allows you to gain experience with client work without having to necessarily secure the client yourself.
For example, if you’re an SEO consultant, try to make connections with website designers and developers who may want to bring you on for a website development project that they’ve already secured.
Plus, once the project wraps up, not only will you have something to add to your portfolio, but you may have created a partnership out of it, too! It’s a win-win.