After learning your creative craft, learning how to find freelance work is perhaps the most important skill you have to master when you’re self-employed.
It doesn’t matter how good a designer, copywriter or (insert your chosen profession here) you are, if you struggle to find new jobs and bring home the bacon.
When work is scarce, it can be demoralising, demotivating and more than a little worrying. So we’ve put together a quick blog to help teach you how to find freelance work.
Set Time Aside:
The first thing you have to realise as a freelancer, especially when you’re starting out, is that work isn’t going to just fall on your lap. You’re going to have to hustle to even be in with a chance of landing some work.
With that in mind, try to set aside at least an hour each day dedicated to finding new prospects. This might be an hour in the morning spent sending emails and making calls, or an hour in the evening socialising down the pub.
However you choose to go about it, the important thing is to try and consistently throw out feelers. Doing this means you have a much higher chance of spotting the good jobs early on.
It should also hopefully result in a steady stream of work, rather than being offered three jobs at once after a work-hunting blitz — two of which you have to turn down because you can’t take them all on.
Use Social Media:
Social Media is not only fun, it’s informative and can be rewarding for freelancers looking for new work. Tweeting, pinning, sharing, liking and linking - here at Thrive we can’t get enough of it.
When using social to find work as a freelancer, don’t shove it down people's throat. Don’t pitch yourself or your work. You have to be smarter than that, and a lot more subtle.
We’ve done a number of tutorials now on how to use social media to showcase your talents and find more work - so check them out. And the number-one rule to keep in mind when you're posting on your social sites if you want to get more facebook likes, re-pins or re-tweets is ‘be a resource’.
Pick Up The Phone:
In the good old days, before email, newsletters, and social media, this was the freelancer's bread and butter. It was his main means of getting a job.
He’d pick up a phone, call up a design company or ad agency and do his best to blag his way past the receptionist to secure a conversation with the head of creative (this usually involved carefully navigating one of two questions: “is he expecting your call” or “does he know what it’s regarding”).
If you made it passed the receptionist's careful scenting process it was game on. All that was needed then was a ten-minute appointment while they looked over your portfolio and you answered a few questions.
It was a process that required, skill, confidence and finesse. In a way, it was kind of a vetting process in itself. And it might be old school, but it still works.
In this day and age, it’s easy to hide behind technology, but that’s not how to find freelance work. Picking up the phone and making the effort to get in front of people is.
If there’s one thing recruitment agencies know, it’s how to find freelance work for you. They’re generally very motivated too, because they get a slice of the pie every time they find a freelancer work.
And generally speaking their cut doesn't come out of your pocket. You set your rates, and anything they negotiate above and beyond is paid for by the client who’s hiring you.
Make sure you use one who understands your business and specialises in the creative industries.
When you’re thinking about how to find freelance work, a method that’s often forgotten about (or at least overlooked or ignored) is sending out a newsletter to past clients and future prospects.
It’s actually a really good way to keep you at the forefront of people’s minds and first in line when work becomes available.
My absolute favourite type of work as a freelancer is repeat work. That is, work for a client you’ve already done work for before. There are a number of reasons I like this kind of work - the first being it comes to you; you don’t have to chase it.
Furthermore, it’s usually quicker and easier to do (as you have prior knowledge of the client and their business), it removes a lot of the unknowns (like are you going to get paid), and reassures you you’re doing a good job, as repeat clients must have been happy with the work you did before.
So if you do good work and build up enough of a rapport with your clients, finding freelance work might not be too much of a worry. Because once a client finds a freelancer they like and trust, they tend to stick with them.
Our final suggestion is going to be controversial, and in all honesty, we don’t recommend that you use them - but you can’t write a blog entitled ‘How to find freelance work’ without at least mentioning them. Yup - we are of course talking about freelance job boards. Some of these sites are little more than content mills, and they not only lower the worth of your craft, they drive down freelance prices as a whole.
You often hear horror stories from freelancers who end up getting paid a penny a word for articles or - worse still - end up owing money to the site, after being made to do rounds and rounds of amends (which they are then charged for).
If you’re just starting out or haven’t had any work in six months, you might be desperate enough to try one of these sites out. That’s up to you. You got to do what you got to do.
But if you do, you do so at your own risk. Thoroughly research the sites you’re thinking of using and remember - if you use competiton-based sites you’ll be harming not only the freelance community but the creative industry as a whole.
The Caveat to The Jobsite Rule:
However, that said, thankfully, there are now a few exceptions - one of which is Contently. Like a lot of people, the guys who started Contently were sick of these sort of sites taking advantage of desperate (or even just keen and naive) freelancers. And rather than sit there and take it, they decided to do something about it. Their website states:
“When Contently launched in December 2010, we declared war on SEO "content farms" that exploited writers and created content for robots instead of people, stating in our original manifesto that "in two years the content farms will be dead, but good content will not."
Contently is now a thriving business and they kind of ‘broker’ deals between freelancers and clients, which include (to name but a few) Coca Cola, Google, American Express, Vice Magazine, Vanity Fair and Nat Geo. In fact, they have a lot of these guys on retainer.
These clients then get to pick and choose from the network of 40,000+ freelance writers, graphic artists, photographers, video producers and photographers using Contently, who then guarantee a fair wage for a fair day's work. So if you’re a freelancer and you’re good at what you do, it’s certainly worth checking out.
And there you go, that’s about it. Hopefully, this blog goes someway to answer the age-old question: How to find freelance work? If you have any other tips you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them.
This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.