Many creatives who are getting started in their freelance careers run into the same problem.
They struggle to get those first few clients.
Sadly, many people give up at this stage and never follow through on launching their freelance career.
They give up before they ever build momentum and get going.
My goal with this post is to teach you a few techniques that will help you land your early clients and motivate you to stick with it.
The truth about getting started
It's hard. It's really hard.
When you don't have a portfolio of past projects and you don't have a pipeline of projects waiting at your door, it can be really challenging.
But here is the thing.
Anyone who is a freelancer started out in the same boat you are in.
They started out with nothing.
It will take time, hard work and dedication, but I promise it will get easier.
Once you build the initial momentum in your freelancing career, it will become easier to get new projects and keep your pipeline full.
In the meantime, here are a few things to remember when getting started:
1) Appear more experienced than you are
Build a website. Design some one pagers. Get professional business cards.
Don't over invest in these early marketing expenses, but having a professional presentation of you and your services will do wonders to establish credibility with potential clients.
2) Seek out clients in your existing network
If you have any existing network, this is possibly one of your best resources to tap into for early clients.
Think of everyone in your rolodex who you know both personally and professionally.
Are any of them potential clients for your services?
Are any of their friends or colleagues potential clients for your services?
If so, then ask for a meeting. Find out what their problems are and see if there is anyway you can help them.
You will be surprised how even close friends can become amazing clients when you simply just ask for the work.
Many creatives avoid this route because they are afraid of offering their services to people that they already know. Instead they fight this uphill battle of trying to win over complete strangers to hire them.
While entering into a professional relationship with past colleagues and friends can be odd at first, think about it this way:
If the service you are offering can really help them, then you are doing an injustice by not offering to work with them.
3) Live networking events
You don't need to be overly sleazy with sales networking tactics. Instead head to each event and make a few decent connections. Let them know what you do and ask if they know anyone who may be looking for the services you offer.
One thing to remember. At these types of networking events, everyone is there to network.
Don't be bashful. Approach new people, have fun and you will be surprised at the connections that can come from it.
4) Apprentice with an established professional
One phenomenal way to get your career started is to apprentice with an experienced professional. Often these types of arrangements can pay off in terms of wisdom received and paid clients as well.
A friend of mine Maggie Appleton was getting started in her freelance career. At the time she was just out of school and didn't have many clients or experience under her belt. She decided that she would apprentice for one month under a well established designer.
In that one month, she learned a significant amount from her mentor and her mentor also ended up referring her to her first three large clients which jumpstarted her career.
5) oDesk.com & eLance.com
Previously I wrote a post called How to make $1000+ per week on oDesk and since then I have received e-mails from several individuals who landed their first clients by utilizing oDesk.
While oDesk and eLance are not for everyone, this can be a great place for some individuals to practice their skills and build a portfolio.
6) Ask for the work & stop working for free!
One trend I see across many aspiring freelancers is that they are all giving away their work for free.
Often a prime prospect within their existing network approaches them, and they are afraid to ever ask for the sale.
You can't keep working for free. You will never build a successful freelance business that way.
Ask for the sale.
If the service you are offering is really worth it, people will pay.
Don't give up
Early on, take what you can get. Your first few clients may be less than ideal, but they will get some cash in the door and expand your portfolio.
It will be hard at first but don't give up. As you get further into your freelance career and you build out a marketing system and sales pipeline, then everything will get significantly easier.
Soon, clients will be coming to you asking for you to hire them.
But until then, push through the hard times and do whatever it takes to land your first few clients and build that initial momentum.