Your First 5 Freelance Clients

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Have you been planning and scheming how to build your stream of clients once you turn freelance?

It’s great to have long term goals with set paths to achieve them, but don’t overthink getting your first few freelance clients. If you’re thinking about SEO and big marketing goals, you’re doing it wrong right now. Set that aside for a moment and focus on the first clients.

When I joined the ranks of freelancers all over the world I didn’t have any work. I didn’t have a job at the time either, so I guess not much changed.

Most entrepreneurs keep their jobs until they feel comfortable making the transition. I didn’t have the liberty to do this and it was very much quick thinking because I had bills to pay and essentially no money saved. Little did I realize it was about to be feast or famine.

But that’s another story for another time, let’s talk about your first 5 freelance clients and a few ways you can get them in the door.

Why Five?

I wish there were some magical reason I could tell you, but there really isn’t. For me it was a benchmark and turning point to knowing what I needed to do to convert more. My 5 might be your 4, 6 or even 10.

  • It’s enough to showcase in a portfolio
  • Builds a local presence
  • Gets direct client experience under your belt
  • Establishes base time frames for common tasks

How do I get my five?

If you don’t already have a set of clients (from side work?) that you can ask for referrals, there’s a few things you can do to get your first set of freelance clients.

Cold Calling

Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking and I’m overall inclined to agree. Cold calling just sucks. It can work though.

A few ways I picked up clients in the beginning was calling local businesses and explaining what I do and that I was trying to build my portfolio.

If you’re polite, calm, and confident in your skills I guarantee you can at least book a few appointments to talk more. Don’t try to pitch it all at once, just get them in front of you for a short meeting to explain how they can benefit from whatever it is you do.

Friends and Family

Don’t underestimate your friends and family. Let them know what you’re doing and supply them with a decent sized stack of your business cards.

If you have a website (and you should) – get that out there. Post it on social media and ask for friends to share it. Don’t be shy to ask for work, that’s something I didn’t do because I was embarassed for people to think I didn’t have any work. Stupid now that I think about it because there’s definitely no shame in just starting out.

Trust me… Mom will sell you to anyone who will listen.

Networking and Local Business Events

This is another one I’m not really fond of, but let’s not forget we’re just trying to get our feet wet with these first tactics.

There’s few things worse than being stuck at a happy hour with a bunch of people just passing each other paper, but you never know and it might help establish you in the local area. Dig deeper than business networking events, try to find industry specific meetups or events.

You just might meet other freelancers or people who can possibly send you overflow work!

This isn’t the long game

Those are just a few tactics for now. As in right now. Like you should have did them yesterday if you’re new to freelancing and sitting there thinking “oh crap, what now?”

Learn from these first few clients and take note about as much of your own process as you can.

  • What tasks did I underestimate? (difficulty, time, ability to deliver)
  • Similar tasks between projects? Put together some boilerplate to speed up the next one.
  • Were there any contract issues? (please use a damn contract!)
  • Did I clearly communicate payment schedules and expectations?

Treat them real well and ask for referrals.

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