Getting started as a freelancer is tough, but totally doable. Once you understand how to leverage your network and build a reputation, your life will be marginally easier. At the very least, finding clients will be more manageable. Follow along as I lay this out for you.
Leverage Your Network Like A Boss
Presumably, you already know some professionals in your industry of choice. You may already be a member of a professional organization in your field, but if not, find out if one is in your area. Join it and attend meetings regularly. Chat up other attendees. Let them know you’re looking for clients and where your industry strengths are.
Are you active on social media? Search Facebook for a job board group in your industry. For example, I’m part of a tech industry job board in my city. I can browse it daily to look for freelance jobs I can apply for, and usually a person to contact in relation to those jobs.
Do you attend meetup groups? If not, look for some groups related to your industry. You may discover a number of informal groups, with overlapping group members. Fortunately, this means you don’t have to join all available groups, only the ones that fit best with your schedule. Be aware that some groups are less active than others; therefore, try not to waste your time joining inactive groups. Look for rapidly growing groups with recent meetings.
Potentially Leverage Your Network of Friends
Another source of clients could be your friends, but take this advice with a thousand grains of salt. Mixing friends or family with business is a dangerous and volatile combination that could go wrong at any moment. Proceed with caution!
If, however, your industry expertise could help your friend achieve their own business goals, consider it a tentative green light. For example, one of my friends runs a small baking business in her spare time. I build websites. We have discussed the possibility of my making her a website. Currently, that idea has gone no further than a conversation in which we decided that she did not need a website right now. In the future, she may ask me to build her one, or she may not, but the idea has the potential to be reality.
Social Interactions Are Tricky
You may try some of these methods and they may not work for you. That’s OK. My suggestions are based on what’s working for me, but your network is different. You can build from my tips and eventually you’ll find out how to leverage your network your way. Work with your strengths. If you’re an extrovert, meetup groups and professional organization meetings might work better for you than spending time on social media and job boards.
Remember that it takes time. You won’t build a client base in an instant; it might take months. Be patient with yourself and don’t give up – eventually, you’ll have a network that works for you.