One of the most difficult obstacles freelancers face is landing their first client. How do you get a client with no references or freelance experience?
Today we have seven work-at-home women who have been there sharing their first client stories.
Sara Wagers, Online Business Strategist, Virtual Biz Partner
It was 2011 when I started my business but at the time it was a little side hustle in addition to my full-time job. I had set up a profile on hiremymom.com and came across a great ad. The client was an entertainer (juggler) and needed some general admin help with a coaching program he was creating. He contacted me to give me a test project because he loved my proposal, but my internet was down. First time in years! They were laying new lines and it ended up being down for about 2 days. But I was honest with the potential client, and he said just submit it when the internet is back up.
So I did and landed the client. I had no website or anything at the time. Only a nice LinkedIn profile. And my honesty was one thing that impressed him, he felt if I was honest from the beginning that I would be long term.
In fact, to this day I still work with the client on projects and just met him for the first time today at ICON conference 🙂 We now have more of a partnership.
As a freelance communications and marketing professional, I landed my first client through Elance (which has since become Upwork). Although my master's degree and six years' experience likely helped land me the job at Doubledot Media, I think ranking in the top five percent of Elance's relevant skills tests set me apart from the competition. Employers appreciate seeing measurable statistics that corroborate the skills you claim to have, so take advantage of these opportunities on the freelance websites you may be using. Securing that first job really opened the flood gates for my business, and over a year later, my first client is still the client I serve on the most regular basis.
Naresh Vissa, Founder & CEO of Krish Media & Marketing
I got my first big client while I was in graduate school at Duke University. A director at the largest private investment publisher in the world used LinkedIn to find me. In his introductory message, he stated, “We aren’t acquainted, but I found your profile on LinkedIn and wanted to reach out to say hello… I want to see if you had some time to get on a call to discuss an opportunity we have in the works that may be of interest to you.” The firm wanted me to help start an entirely new division: an online radio station. They hired me as a project manager while I was in school. I worked remotely but traveled a few times back and forth between Durham and Baltimore.
Amber Sawaya is Partner/Creative Director at Sawaya Consulting
Your first client will most likely come from someone you already know that wants to give you a chance. This has been the case for both of my big freelance launches.
My very first freelance client (way back when I was 19 and still in college working towards my design degree) was from my mother’s work—I was hired to produce a brochure.
My next big break was several years later when I was ready to leave the corporate world and my husband’s old boss hired us to build a website for his company. That was our jumping off point on a long and successful business.
So — how do you find those people? Here are my three best tips:
- Tell everyone you know that you are starting to freelance and ask them to keep you in mind if they need your services. Post this on Facebook and Twitter, not in a spammy way, but enough to get people to notice you.
- Have business cards and a website ready. Make it easy for people to find you. You can start with a free WordPress or Wix website. just enough to put up your pitch, contact information and show any work you have already done. This is something you can share to Facebook — and make sure to re-share when you have a new project posted. You can get high quality, cheap business cards from moo.com or overnightprints.com — both have the ability to design your card on the website.
- Be very clear about what your services are and who you can help. Saying, “I’m doing design freelance” won’t trigger most people to remember you. Saying, “I’m building websites and focusing on small businesses that are ready for a site refresh” will help you stick out when a friend-of-a-friend mentions that they need a new website.
Beth Bryan, MomCo App
To get started, I joined a Hera Hub, a women-focused networking community that offers coworking spaces for entrepreneurs. I immediately met people that needed my services. Within a week of joining Hera Hub, I met Jillian Darlington, the CEO and Founder of the MomCo App. After spending 3 weeks with her, I knew that I had to be a part of MomCo. I believed in her and I could see the value that the MomCo App provided to moms and small businesses. I knew that the work that I would do at MomCo would make a real difference and loved the idea of helping make moms lives easier. I was then faced with the choice of staying a Virtual Assistant or taking the entrepreneurial route at MomCo..or I could always go back to Corporate America too. I went with my gut. I decided to invest in MomCo and follow my passion of helping other moms. I am now the COO and Co-Founder of MomCo. Had I never made the choice become a freelancer and try something new, I would have never found MomCo and be living out my true passion. I highly recommend people take risks once in a while…it may just turn out to be the best decision you ever make!
I started freelancing just over a year ago. I actually got my first freelance gig through Instagram. Stroller Traffic, an online publication for hip moms of kids ages 0-3, posted that they were looking for freelance writers for their Los Angeles edition, and on a whim I decided to apply. I had zero freelancing experience at the time and had never written any journalism pieces, but I had been blogging for about a year and a half, so I used a few of my blog pieces as samples. I really didn’t have high hopes, as I assumed they would have lots of applicants who were actually qualified, but low and behold I got hired as a regular freelancer after submitting a few sample pitches and a sample article. It’s a wonderful gig and I’ve been able to parlay my Stroller Traffic work into more freelance jobs.
Interestingly enough, right before I got hired by Stroller Traffic I almost closed down my blog. I didn’t have very many readers and I often felt like, “Why am I doing this every day if only five people are reading it?”, but it’s completely because of my little ol’ blog that I got the job. It provided me with a plethora of writing samples and is definitely a big part of why I continue to get freelance work.
Jennifer Peaslee, The Savings Opportunity
One day I got an email from one of the newsletters I'd subscribed to – the blog owner was looking for someone who could write some coupon posts at the beginning of each month. It sounded like so much fun! I knew a lot of people would get the email and reply so I was very thorough in my email, explaining about my story, my personal couponing journey, and the idea that if I could do it on my own then ANYONE could, and I'd love to help them get there.
I got the job (in fact, I still work the job today)! It was only a few hours each month (and since has expanded), but it got me very interested in becoming a full time freelancer, so I did some research and found the Elance platform. That of course started with a first freelance client too. Elance is very reputation based, and I didn't have any ratings or reviews and I started at level 1. I ended up getting hired for a very small editing job, but no job is too small when you're starting out. I ended up doing two versions – light editing and heavy editing. The client loved the ‘heavy editing' file, gave me a 5 star rating and an awesome review, and it went from there – this client became a repeat client and other clients jumped on board too, happy with my ratings and my rate. Some people even saw my published work online and contacted me by email personally to see if I could write for them.