I’ve been freelancing for around 12 years. I usually say I find work through sheer luck, but that’s not really true. While often opportunities appear to come from nowhere, I do have a simple formula = consistency + showing up.
Let me explain this in some more detail:
- Consistency – always offer great service & communication. This doesn’t mean always being available to clients, but setting clear boundaries & expectations from the start & enforcing them. I’m always upfront and expect clients to be too, that way we create a good relationship and obtain mutually beneficial results.
- Showing up – it’s easy to feel you are invisible, particularly when you work from home. Showing up is about reminding people that you exist, not necessarily in “salesy” way – more of this later.
Where to Find Work
Okay, let’s get to the whole reason you’re reading this! Where do you find work? It’s going to vary depending on what industry you work in and services you offer, so I can give you some ideas that work for most people and also some that are more specific to digital marketing as that is where my skill set resides.
- Networking – like it or not, the old adage of “people buy from people” holds true. Traditional networking can be as simple as arranging a meetup with other local business owners using a site such as meetup.com, to chamber of commerce breakfast meetings, local women’s business groups to national organisations such as BNI and 4N. These events can be very daunting, but with the right mindset (which should not be a sales mindset – this is a major turn off for most people,) and testing a few different groups to find the one which is the right fit for you, they can be a great source of support, friendships and referrals. I have my own favourite group, which is a local one, and what I like most about it, is the sense of community.
- Linkedin – This can be a great source of enquiries but you really need to make sure that a) Your linkedin profile is optimised b) You start posting content on there c) You interact with other people’s post on Linkedin d) Make meaningful connections i.e. research the kinds of people you want to connect with and why connecting with them is mutually beneficial. It’s basically “Networking” again, but taking the conversation online. Optimising your profile is a whole topic by itself, so take a look at my recommendations below for further reading.
- Facebook – It’s only in the past year that I realised that Facebook is an awesome source for referrals but not in the way you may think. We’ve all gone down the route of setting up our business page, posting to it, sharing it to our personal profile and asking friends and family to like and share. Was it successful for you? I thought not. The gems are hidden in facebook groups. Seek and find your tribe of other freelancers on various Facebook groups (see below), connect, share, network…
- Twitter – this is about knowing your hashtags. Search out the freelance ones relevant for you (there may be just one or two relevant – #freelanceppc #ppcfreelancer for me), add it to your profile and set up an alert.
- Other freelancers – they are you allies, not your competitors! Connect with other freelancers in the same field as you and complementary fields. You’ll find them in all the places above. The majority of my work comes from my freelance network.
- Collectives – these are a growing area. Basically, a group of freelancers get together and pitch themselves as a single business entity. The advantage is, you can usually go after bigger pitches. The disadvantage is that it takes time to build a team you trust.
- Agencies – it’s worth contacting agencies within your sector, either local or further afield to see if they have a list of preferred freelancers and would they add you to it. It saves them paying a recruitment agency additional fees if they already have you on file. I get chunks of work this way (usually to cover holiday or peak seasons.)
- Online Job Boards – it is worth researching different online job sites to see which advertise freelance roles. I’ve refined mine down to a couple. I don’t personally find much work from them mainly because I do want to only work from home. If you’re happy to commute, there do tend to be more roles available.
- Mentoring/Mastermind Type Groups – if you start going to networking groups or join any freelance facebook or linkedin groups, you will come across a lot of business coaches. I’ve done the whole business coach thing. I’m not saying it’s not worth while, but finding the right coach at the right time, at the right price is a minefield. One to one coaching is not right for me or how I run my business. It is not my goal to grow my business X amount, my goal is to sustain my business which does still require me to generate new business. Which is why I looked into online mentoring. The group I’m in is an online community called Atomic. There is ongoing training by Andrew and Pete, an annual conference called Atomicon, and a supportive Facebook group where we share knowledge and help each other. I also looked at Janet Murray’s membership group but felt that Andrew and Pete were a better fit to me personally.
What About Specialist Freelancing Sites Like Upwork / PPH / Fiverr/ Freelancer.com?
Most people try these when they first start out freelancing. It’s an easy option, you don’t have to look too hard for work. The hourly pay rates are abysmal. My advice is don’t waste your time. You do get the the odd person who builds up their work portfolio, and commands a decent hourly rate but you can be sure they’ve worked for peanuts for a long time before they got there. Do yourself, and the whole freelance community a favour and work for a decently hourly rate. Accepting these low paid jobs (which in the end, often work out at less than minimum wage) sets a precedent that companies think it’s okay to pay way below average rates. It also has a terrible impact on your own self worth.
Networking – I highly recommend Andy Bounds. He’s great at helping you approach networking in the right way. You can sign up to his weekly email, or his Jelly Effect book is also excellent.
Linkedin – John Espirian is actually a copywriter by trade, but his Linkedin blogs are so helpful. Follow him on linkedin for all the latest tips
Collectives – The Hoxby Collective is one of the main growers & shakers. They do have a recruitment process which helps ensure quality and a shared team ethos. (If you do apply, could you do me the enormous favour of letting them know I referred you, so I can get a Hoxby High Five – it’s just a public thanks, something we freelancers don’t get very often!)
Job Boards – apart from a local one, Indeed advertise freelance roles quite regularly.
Atomic – Find out more about Andrew & Pete’s Atomic program (please note, this link is an affiliate link. If you join, I’ll get 50% off a months membership – yay!)