A Beginner's Guide to Finding Paying Clients for Your Side Gig
Freelancing is a great way to earn freedom and flexibility every day while being your own boss.
But when you’re first starting out, you may wonder: How do I find my first clients? How do I make enough money to pay my bills—but not just that, how do I make more money than I would if I got a full-time job?
This article shows you how to get your freelance business started with portfolio-building clients, move on to those clients who can pay your bills, and end up with high caliber, high value clients who pay premium prices for your services.
Your first clients should be there to help build your portfolio. These are the clients who give you a body of work to show to the clients who will later help you pay your bills. Those bill-paying clients are the bread and butter of your freelancing career, and the ones you’ll spend most of your time with. But then there are those high-caliber, high-paying clients who raise your profile.
Ready? Let’s get started!
How to Find and Land Portfolio-Building Clients
Portfolio-building clients are often low-hanging fruit, like nonprofits or friends and family. These clients build your portfolio and reputation as a freelancer in addition to giving you testimonials and more client referrals.
Here are some links to help you out as you get started:
- Ask a Freelancer: Your First Client: This article interviews 11 freelancers on how they landed their first clients.
- How to Get Your First 3 Paying Clients: This article tells you exactly how to find and communicate with your first clients, and explains why you should care more about feedback than money at this stage of the freelancing game.
- How I Found My First Paying Client: A first-hand experience with finding first clients by getting social, talking to more experienced freelancers, and even bartering skills.
- Use Your Current Employer as Your First Freelance Client: This great article on Lifehacker gives an interesting take on how you can begin building your portfolio right now, by using your current job as your first client.
- 5 Freelance Projects That Can Earn You $500 or More: Here are some quick, easy projects that can quickly build up your portfolio and give you client testimonials and establish your reputation as an excellent service provider (even if these projects aren’t directly related to what you ultimately want to do as a freelancer).
Once you land your portfolio-building clients, you can begin building your online presence! Check out some of these links:
- 27 Things to Put on Your Portfolio When First Starting Out: This article gives real examples of outstanding portfolios, and breaks down each section that you should include on your portfolio website.
- Building My Online Portfolio as a Web Developer With Limited Projects: This is a post on StackExchange with a ton of great answers on how to build a fantastic online presence when you don’t have a lot of experience or clients just yet.
Portfolio-building clients may not pay premium prices, but they do have their benefits. Remember that you only need to to take on these types of clients until you’ve settled in and established your business.
Then you can move up to the next tier: clients who pay the bills.
How to Find and Land Clients Who Pay the Bills
So you’ve landed enough clients to build a portfolio. Now it’s time to start seeking out clients who will pay higher prices and give you bigger projects, and even better—pay your bills instead of simply establish your new business.
Here are some links to speed you along your way:
- How to Land a High-Paying Freelance Client in the Next Two Weeks: This article digs deep into several techniques for finding higher-paying clients (including pairing up with other businesses).
- The 15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs: Check out this site for a list of several freelance job boards and resources.
- WorkShop: This is a service that sends you eight to 10 pre-screened, potential clients so you can focus on working on projects instead of looking for customers who are the right fit for your business.
- Where to Find Freelance Clients: This interview write-up gives great insights on what worked and what didn’t for one successful freelancer as he worked to find clients, including what resources he used and how he got referrals.
Working with medium-tier clients has the added benefit of teaching you deeper customer management skills without putting your growing reputation at risk. You’ll also be able to pay your bills and continue to grow your portfolio and begin adding on bigger client names.
Soon you will graduate to the world of high-caliber clients who happily pay premium prices for your tech services.
How to Find and Land High Value Clients
High value clients are buyers who happily pay premium level prices for your services.
This type of client is extra valuable as they send referrals, come back again and again for repeat business, and introduce you to influencers who can skyrocket your freelance business through mentorship and winning testimonials.
Here are some sites that will help you find, and even better—get found—by high caliber clients:
- How to Supercharge Your Influence: This is a free report with specific, actionable tips on building influence so clients, referrals, warm leads, and introductions can find you instead of the other way around.
- Pricing on Value: This article makes the case for why you should begin pricing your services based on the value you provide instead of the hours you work—taking you from commodity to valued consultant.
High value clients aren’t just clients who pay you a lot more money. They are also clients who value your work and consider you an important and beneficial asset instead of a mere service provider.
By finding and taking on clients of a higher caliber, you will catapult your business from beginner freelancer to established consultant with a great reputation for expertise and value.
Create Your Timeline
Here are your action items to go from transitional freelancer (just starting out), to well established, well paid, and highly valued consultant.
Step #1: If you haven’t started yet, begin your transition into freelancing.
Step #2: Find your first clients and begin building your portfolio to showcase your amazing skills and generate business through word of mouth.
Step #3: Begin “upgrading” to higher paying clients with bigger names; clients who can pay your bills (and just a little bit more). Learn client management skills while your reputation is still growing, and begin preparing yourself for the next tier: high-powered, specialized consultant who gets paid premium rates.
Step #4: Build your influence by connecting with other influencers, growing authentic connections with others, and positioning yourself as the high-value consultant that you really are.
Now it’s time to take your first step!
This article was originally published on Skillcrush. It has been republished here with permission. The author, Joyce Akiko, helps self-taught coders know when and how to find their first freelance clients so they can work for themselves, call their own shots, and experience freedom and flexibility every day. Download her eBook How To Transition Into Tech With Self-Taught Skills, completely free.
Photo of creative man courtesy of Shutterstock..
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