You’ve put in your two weeks, let a few friends and family members know that you’re going freelance, and now you’re ready to get to work. But there’s only one problem: you don’t have any clients yet.
When you’re starting a freelance business, finding your first client can be the biggest initial hurdle. It’s something many freelancers struggle with at first, but there are several opportunities to land new clients if you know where to look.
If you need a few ideas, here’s a list of places to look for your first freelance client.
1. Social media
If you’re active on social media, each platform offers different advantages when looking for your first client.
- LinkedIn: Professionals on LinkedIn frequently turn to LinkedIn to ask their network to connect them with freelancers for a project — especially during a tumultuous time in the corporate world where layoffs are happening left and right and hiring holds are in place.
- Twitter: Twitter is also a go-to platform for people to look for freelancers, especially freelance writers. The casual atmosphere of Twitter also makes it easier to send a cold DM to connect with a potential client or collaborator (respectfully, of course).
- Instagram: Active on Instagram? Let your followers know that you’re taking on new clients! Instagram is the best outlet for creative independents who do visual work like branding, graphic design, or content creation because you can easily show off your work.
2. Job boards
Just like you’d turn to a job board when you’re on the hunt for a full-time job, you can also use a job board to find your first freelance client.
If you’re a member of AIGA or another professional association, these organizations often have job boards for members to browse. You can either see if these companies have any listings for freelance projects, or reach out to pitch your freelance services.
3. Slack communities
Slack communities are the modern-day networking event.
These online communities offer a place for freelancers to connect, refer work, or collab with one another — not to mention build a network, which can be hard to do when many of us work solo and remotely.
Did you know Wethos has a Slack community? Join us to connect with fellow independents.
4. Your network
One of the easiest places to find your first client is through your existing network. Referrals are huge for freelancers, as they give you an instant connection and help to establish credibility.
The best way to get a referral for your first client? Let your personal and professional network know that you’ve taken the leap to freelance and are taking on clients. You never know who may be able to make a connection for you.
5. Former employers
If you’ve recently transitioned from full-time to freelance, your former employer could potentially be your first client.
As long as things wrapped up on good terms, you could see if they’d be open to you doing some freelance work with them as you get your independent business off the ground.
Ask any long-time freelancer how they got their first client, and there’s a good chance that many will say they worked with an agency.
Working with an agency can have several benefits. For starters, you don’t have to try to find clients on your own. Another perk is that you don’t have to deal with all of the additional parts of running an agency like client communication or business development — but you can learn how they run in case you ever want to move from solo to studio.
7. Cold outreach
See a client you want to work for? Sometimes the best way to land a client is to reach out directly.
Research your ideal clients, make a list with details about the company and contact information, then start reaching out.
A curated newsletter is like a job board and a community all in one. There are several newsletters run by freelancers and creatives that curate opportunities for a range of disciplines and roles — some full-time and some freelance — that can help lead you to your first client. Here are just a few examples:
- Kat Boogaard’s weekly newsletter: A free weekly newsletter curated by writer Kat Boogaard that shares both writing and non-writing freelance gigs from around the web.
- Words of Mouth: A donation-based weekly newsletter that shares opportunities across design, the arts, education, information, and the built environment.
- Opportunities of the Week: A paid weekly newsletter curated by writer Sonia Weiser that shares freelance pitching and writing opportunities.
- Ilovecreatives: Another free weekly newsletter that shares job listings, events, and creative happenings.
9. Local businesses
Even though independents can work with clients from anywhere in the world, sometimes it helps to land a client if you have a local connection.
This is the exact approach designer Bailey Thibodeaux took to land her first client when she made the leap toward working independently.
Reach out to small, local businesses in your area that you could offer your services to as a way to build up your portfolio and support your community in the process.