The Catch 22 of Freelancing:
How to Land Your First Client

Man and woman discussing in front of laptop

Trust is the most valuable currency in freelancing. Unfortunately, you don’t have much of it while looking for your first client. It also happens to be the answer to Google query, “What are the biggest problems freelancers and their clients face.”

Freelancers differ from employees. Not just because of the work hours. Successful freelancer has to wear many hats. Be a jack of all trades, as they say. But most importantly. A great freelancer has to be reliable and trustworthy. If you say you will deliver, you deliver. No matter what.

Did you notice I didn’t mention anything about skillset? That was intentional. Top-notch hard skills don’t make you a good freelancer. Communication, punctuation, and people skills do. Anyone can buy a book, online course, or read a manual to a new, shiny framework or graphic design software. Continuously delivering slightly above expectations, that’s harder.

Trust is a big problem in freelancing. It’s an even bigger problem for freelancing newbies. Your potential clients have little reason to trust you. You can’t blame them. 

  • Are you gonna deliver on time, or ever?
  • Will you cover all the scope?
  • What about any future issues, bugs, or complaints? 

They don’t know.

Of course, this goes both ways. Will you get paid after investing hours, days, or weeks into a project? You can only build trust with actions and time.

There are, however, some things you can do to improve your chances.

So. What can you do to increase your chances of landing a client next time you present yourself and your work?

Online presence

Man checking the news on a tablet

CVs and cover letters are cute. But they are not gonna cut it when it comes to freelancing and getting your first client.

Remember – clients are taking a risk when hiring a new freelancer. The amount of time and resources invested in picking the right candidate is not negligible. The amount of time and resources invested into picking the wrong candidate, having to repeat the process, is even bigger – while the work is just piling up.

In other words, there has to be a mutual attraction from the beginning.

Here are some things your future clients should definitely find when they Google your ass. (and they will)

Personal website

Pencil created heading CREATE

You may think the age of personal blogs and websites is gone. Lost in the 90s and early 2000s and replaced by unified experience on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks.

It’s not. With more online freelancers than ever, it is crucial to differentiate yourself.

One great piece of content is all that separates you from booking your calendar full one year upfront.

Create your online business card on About.me. Start a new WordPress blog. Start a new Ghost blog. Build your fancy site on Carrd. Make your website from scratch. It’s up to you. The important message is to build something of your own.

Social media

Woman taking selfie

No. We don’t suggest you make your last romantic getaway or island hopping albums public—nothing like that. On the contrary—make your social accounts as private as possible. 

But! At the same time, make it reasonably easy for people to find you. It makes you look more legit.

Why? Because what do you do when researching someone? You look them up online. It gives you the confirmation you need before starting any business with them. Your first client will do the same. And not just the first one.

Showcase

Candy showcase

The perfect job for your website. Slam a Showcase link to the main menu and make a list with all your recent work.

Use external services to host if needed, based on your industry. YoutubeVimeoInstagramGithubMedium. You know the drill.

This can be your recent client work, cool side projects, university projects you are proud of, content you made during your last gig. Careful with the last one as there could be some copyright issues depending on your contract.

Don’t have any recent work? Make some.

Look for websites in your niche with weak copy, bad graphics, or slow loading time and remake them on your own. Create a valid social media strategy and offer it to a local restaurant that is clearly struggling in this area. Maybe they will be excited. Maybe they won’t.

The great thing is that even if not interested in your work, you now have content for yourself. Worst case scenario = you just built a personal portfolio.

References and recommendations

We can safely skip this part. No one cares what your former boss, director, or HR thinks about you and how much you scored in the latest quarterly productivity company-wide competition.

Going the extra mile

I strongly encourage you to create an extra account for your professional alter-ego and share your journey here.

Things you’ve already learned on the way and other niche-related bits n bites. You will eventually attract your own audience, which will help you immensely.

Pick the platform typical for your industry.

Marketer? Probably give Twitter a shot. Photographer? Instagram, or maybe YouTube/Vimeo. Coder? Github. Designer? Dribble. Translator? Translators café. You get the idea.


What is your advice for freelancing newbies? Please comment.

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