Based on my own experience, plus that of three current freelance professionals, below are five tips for finding and landing freelance work. Are you a freelancer? How do you find gigs? Share your tips in the comments.
Though freelance job boards Freelance Switch Krop are Sologig and more the number one way freelancers we talked to found work was via networking. “The secret is networking, never stop doing it. Get it right once, the stream just keeps flowing,” says freelance creative director Dann Petty. “Never stop networking, seriously, just don’t stop. Don’t talk about yourself at all and always ask questions about the other person,” he advises.
“I find my freelance work through a mixture of social networking, referrals and offline events,” says Natalia Sylvester, a freelance writer and owner of Inky Clean, who recently made the move from Florida to Texas. With the move, she relied heavily on social networking to find a new client-base. “Getting my new business name out there as quickly as I did, not just locally but online, wouldn’t have been possible without social networking through Twitter, Facebook and blogs.”
Bob Aycock, a CMO who does freelance marketing work, also uses social media as a key tool for networking and finding jobs. “A lot of my freelance work is from referrals. However, I’ve actually been able to get quite a bit from folks that I am connected to socially,” he says. “Utilize your social networks. You are probably connected to a lot of people, whether it be through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. And these people are connected to other people.”
Of course, the most creative proposal in the world won’t land you a gig if it’s not what the client is looking for. That’s why it is important to be precise and include only the relevant information. “One thing that I’m continually surprised to find helps me stand out is the simple act of following instructions,” says Sylvester. “If a job posting asks for two writing samples in the body of an email and a certain keyword in the subject line, then I include that. It turns out, not a lot of people do.”
Sylvester also advises freelancers to take some time to research potential clients before going after a job. “I don’t apply to postings blindly, and I don’t reply to everyone who calls for a freelance writer, because I know that my ideal client has a specific profile,” she says. “If I do decide to contact them, I’ll refer them to work samples that are more significant to their niche, and I’ll try to somehow even if just through an anecdote make it clear that I’ve taken the time to learn about them.”
Petty takes being precise to another level and cuts out the minutiae that can weigh down a creative proposal. “If I’ve learned anything about proposals, it’s ‘the less you say the better you stand,’” he says. “Don’t waste your time on the details of a proposal keep it quick and simple. I always write my proposals as if they were to myself; how I would like to read them.”
According to Petty, “To sell yourself as a freelancer, you need to sell your own personal brand, not just your work.”
In the social media age, where everyone’s voice has been amplified and personal branding has become paramount, that’s actually quite prescient. Aycock similarly utilizes social media to sell himself and make sure his potential clients know who he is. “Whenever I reply to a job posting, I make sure I include a link to my About.me page. Most of the freelance work I do is for social media work, so I always want folks to be able to find me online and see what type of social networks I use on an everyday basis,” he says.
The freelance job market, like any area with available work, is extremely competitive. Standing out from the crowd is an imperative for landing work. According to Petty, that means getting creative and being willing to go the extra mile.
“It’s easy to be different and stand out when replying to a gig post, just don’t do what the other guys will do be creative. I tend to write my emails a little different and with a lot of my own personality [so that] if I didn’t sign my name in the email, you’d [still] be able to tell it was me,” he says.
Petty also makes his proposals stand out by doing things his competition might not be willing to do. For example, for web design work, his proposals are entire web sites dedicated to helping him land the project. “My proposals not only stand out more than any others, but they show how determined I am by making something different than just a plain PDF,” he says.
Yet every point made in this post might ultimately be moot without exhibiting passion for your work. People who hire freelancers are looking for workers who are going to get the job done well and go above and beyond expectations. They want someone who shows a clear love for their craft and will positively create something jaw-dropping.
For Petty, showing passion is about taking risks. He even offers to fly out to meet clients at their location when starting on a new job. “It’s a tough job, but always remember: No risk, no reward,” he says. “Clients usually find freelancers because they want more creativity, so be prepared to deliver more.”
“Get out there and let people know what you are passionate about,” says Aycock. “If you aren’t letting people know what you enjoy learning about or working on, they’ll never think of you as someone to hire.”
Social Media Job Listings
Every week we put out a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we post a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
- Director of Social Media and Online Communications at Lumentus in New York, NY.
- Digital Strategy Consultant Humana in Louisville, Kentucky.
- Front End Web Developer at Excela Marketing Services in Los Angeles, California.