Becoming a freelancer is intimidating – for a start, how do you know whether you’ll find enough work?
As with everything in life, freelancing doesn’t have guarantees; however, you can still swing Lady Luck in your favor by incorporating some methods to help you find jobs when you need them. In fact, by following the advice outlined below, I have generally found most of my work as it fell into my lap! (Or at least, it always feels that way.)
Does that sound like something you’d like to start happening in your life? Pull up a chair, and I’ll divulge what I’ve found to help the most. Who knows? Perhaps those freelance gigs will start falling into your lap as well.
1. Help People
Before we get started, you should educate yourself on the dangers of free work. There’s a fine line between pro-bono help for exposure, and letting people take advantage of you. That said, offering help in meaningful ways can play to your advantage, without detracting from your bottom line.
The idea centers around offering sage advice – not doing actual work for people. One example of this might be pointing out the right resources to begin a project, rather than offering to take it on free of charge. You’re still being genuinely helpful, without doing all the heavy lifting.
Here’s an example of how I helped a friend stuck in a tight spot coding:
Checking his code snippet and pointing out the error took me less than three minutes, but it saved him a huge headache!
Being helpful is a two-part deal. Firstly, it shows you in a positive light at the forefront of people’s minds. Secondly, it sets you aside as the authority on the topic you’ve helped them with.
This is how I’ve become the go-to resource for anything about web development, professional blogging, and lifestyle in my social circle. Later, when someone asks them, “Where can I hire someone with these skills?”, I’m the first person that pops into their mind.
How to Do It
This technique applies to both your online and offline worlds. The method is straightforward, but requires you to keep your eyes open for the chance to be useful:
- On your social feeds, provide actionable advice (relevant to your skills) instead of scrolling by when someone asks for help.
- Pay attention in real life! If you hear someone struggling, gently offer a few recommendations that make their life easier.
2. Let Your Skills Be Known
You’ve already begun the process of establishing your worth by offering helpful advice. The trouble is, people don’t know you’re a freelancer taking on that kind of work unless you tell them. We aren’t all natural salesmen, but you’ll have to learn how to move past the feeling that you’re being pushy.
Consider that you’ve already built a reputation of being helpful. There is a low chance people will find it rude or shocking when you let them know you’re available for hire.
That said, there are a few basics to avoid sounding like some spam robot got a hold of your Facebook profile:
- Avoid writing in ALL CAPS.
- Avoid magnificent declarations of your ability.
In a nutshell, be classy and be real. That’s all it takes. These are your friends and family you’re talking to.
With tactful self-promotion, my social circle connects my helpful expertise with my availability for work. This has landed me long-term, ongoing contracts through personal recommendations.
One such story involved an acquaintance of mine recommending me to a client of her own for web work at the end of 2012. What started as a small project turned into ongoing website, logo, and graphic design for the next four years – and he’s still one of my most reliable clients yet! Not to mention, he loves being able to support my wild adventures around the globe.
How to Do It
There are a few ways to let people know you’re taking on work without screaming “Hire me!” every few seconds:
- Share a recent project you’re proud of. At the end, announce your availability for more work like it.
- Share an insightful article or book related to your work. Comment about how it ties into the work you do.
- Share a portfolio piece, and ask for feedback.
Meanwhile, cover your bases by listing yourself as a freelancer in your social media titles.
3. Be Proactive in the Community
By now, you’ve got a solid reputation as a resourceful freelancer within your social circle. This is useful, but relying on your friends to source 100% of your work isn’t feasible.
It’s time to take all the above advice to the next level.
Don’t count on your existing profile connections to land you enough work. Become proactive in the community by taking our first two encouraging ways out into the general public. In other words, start being helpful and available to your industry’s online community. There are two approaches I’ve found useful.
The first is outreach – i.e. actively seek out people asking questions. I’ve done this through forums and social media, though Twitter has netted me the best results. Looking for an example? Through messages like the following, I landed a custom plugin development gig that netted over $1,000:
The second approach is passive content creation. I used my infrequent blogging habit to my advantage. By writing helpful WordPress tutorials, I attracted readers attempting to solve problems I had the answer to. Some readers turned into clients after they came back with more questions, only to hire me to handle the problem in the end.
You can see in this tweet, I even refer to one of my tutorials as part of the solution:
How to Do It
Getting started is all too easy. The hardest part is coming back and doing it again, and again:
- Use Twitter search to find people asking questions about the type of work you do. Answer those questions.
- Write tutorials! Did you just figure out a difficult problem within a project? Isolate the steps required to reach your solution and share them. There doesn’t need to be many posts on your blog – just incredibly useful ones. As a bonus, when a future client is looking you up, they’ll see you know your stuff.
Going freelance is a big leap of faith, especially with the fear of finding your own work. While you can never know the future, there are a few ways to encourage people to always send leads your way. To recap:
- Offer actionable advice related to your freelance work.
- Let people know that your skills and expertise are available for hire.
- Become proactive in your industry’s community.
Over time, you’ll find that jobs keep popping up, even when you least expect it. And sometimes, they’ll appear when you need them the most!
Do you have questions about anything discussed in the post? I’m curious to learn about your experiences and would love to help you execute these habits successfully in your own life, so let us know in the comments below!
Image credit: geralt.