If there’s one sticking point in the joyful process of freelancing, it’s in the looking. Being able to work for a myriad of different clients, gaining exposure to different aspects of your chosen industry, and doing so from the comfort of your own home office, nearby coffee shop, or design studio, is a freeing experience that allows many creatives to do what we do best: create!
As great as the work is when offers appear on our lap – or in our inbox – it can be more difficult when we’re trying to hunt them down, competing with dozens, sometimes hundreds of other applicants for one gig and worrying about our individual or family finances when projects get lean.
Time is a freelancer’s most valuable resource outside of their own creative ability. Project management, invoicing, and calendar scheduling can all steal from that time pool, although apps like AND CO are giving you the opportunity to streamline those processes and delegate them while you focus on the big picture like job searches.
Here’s a look at the top 10 ways to find freelance work.
10. Find Freelance Work Through Online Marketplaces
Upwork is the reigning champion here, although embroiled in a public relations nightmare after announcing a large fee increase. Not only does your profile afford space for portfolio pieces, but you can add in your LInkedIn profile, take tests to prove your mettle, and take jobs either on a flat fee or by the hour. Elance is now part of Upwork and will soon vanish, but other sites like SoloGig are trying to take some of Upwork’s market share with more favorable conditions for freelancers. Strength: Diversity of jobs and a payment system that offers protection for work done. Weakness: Constant tweaking of interface often leads to unwanted changes and unforeseen downtimes.
9. Obvious but Underrated: Craigslist
Craigslist might be infamous for other kinds of first impressions and meetings, but it’s a cheap, casual way for businesses and individuals to advertise jobs they need done informally in a hurry, and there’s a function that allows you to tick ‘telecommute’ as your preferred method of searching. Strength: Most of these jobs want you to start immediately. Weakness: A lot of these listings are scams.
8. Less Underrated: LinkedIn:
For reasons known only to LinkedIn management, it’s nearly impossible to realize that LinkedIn has a job board just for freelancers, which you can check out here. Strength: Total transparency for who’s doing the hiring, plus they get instant access to your profile. Weakness: LinkedIn seems to be hiding the search for some reason.
7. Start-ups are a Great option:
Anyone who’s ever worked for a start-up or founded on themselves knows that cost control is usually paramount, as the founders are using their own money or an angel investor. Usually, when they’re building their company, they’ll seek out people to do one-off or occasionally recurring jobs in areas they aren’t versed – such as website design, marketing, branding, etc. Strength: Opportunities to work in an area you’re really passionate about. Weakness: Often startups are looking for volunteers or promise payment later.
6. Temporary Agencies
What are temporary jobs but opportunities for freelancers? Wisely, several firms have pieced together that companies and corporations often need creative talent, but only on a limited basis for big projects, conventions, or special circumstances. One of the best examples of this is Creative Circle, which has an active job board but also representatives whose job is to market your skills to employees. Strength: These are real opportunities from real companies using a third party to get talent. Weakness: Competition is fierce.
While not every option is suited for freelancers, the 2016 list of best agencies is a great place for you to begin your search.
5. Local Publications
Whether you’re an ad designer, a writer, a photographer, or a graphic designer, local publications are always in need of a hand, and are more than willing to pay nice sums of money for spot work. Strength: Great hard copy additions to your portfolio. Weakness: They often take a long time to pay, as they have to wait until their advertising revenue comes in.
4. Former Employees and Employers
Assuming you’ve left a former job on good terms, there’s no reason you can’t keep on working for them on a freelance basis. Plenty of companies would rather pay a little extra in contract fees to someone who already knows their processes. Strength: Familiarity makes these jobs easy in general. Weakness: Usually they come because someone you know still works there; when those people move on, they can dry up.
If you struggle with reaching out to old contacts, check out this article from The Ladders. From the perspective of the business, it makes a ton of sense:
From the perspective of an employer, we are a business that has hired back a few former employees that have worked out quite well,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, a company that helps organizations incorporate. “We made sure to provide extensive clarity and detail with regard to the position and expectations, but we found ‘the talk’ prior to re-hiring to be a very successful approach. The former employees already know the business, so training is minimal, and therefore the hiring process becomes more efficient than hiring a brand-new employee.”
So, reach out!
3. Your Own Website
If you have a business, your business should have a website that’s searchable for the services you offer. In the age where anyone can claim to do anything based on the convenience of the Internet, having a professional looking website is a key to establishing credibility. Strength: Can be done quickly and cheaply (or free) with resources like WordPress. Weakness: Without proper SEO terms and good content, your site risks getting drowned in the ocean of the Internet.
2. Your own Blog for Free
People won’t know what you’re doing and what you’re about if you don’t tell them. I’ve made a point of highlighting cool projects I do on my blog as a way to promote my clients’ work and to get my name out there. There’s nothing more gratifying as a freelance than to get a cold sale from a person who read your blog and reached out to you. Best of all, there’s countless free options, so this is ideal no-cost marketing of your skills. Strength: Organic advertising that costs nothing more than your time to write it. Weakness: You must keep your blog posts professional or risk alienating potential clients.
1. Rely on Referrals
There has never been better advertising than word-of-mouth. If you and a client agree you’ve done a great job, drop them a line or ask them if they know of anyone else who needs your service, and if so, could they refer them to you. Make sure you have your contact information easily accessible to them. I did one job for a fashion designer in New York City who referred me to a friend of hers who was a 5th Avenue CEO – I’ve been helping him with refining his resume and portfolio ever since. Strength: People will hear about you from their friends and business contacts. Built-in trust is huge. Weakness: If you fail to live up to the referral’s expectations, you may lose two customers instead of one.
No matter how you pursue your freelance opportunities, the best strategy is to be transparent, honest, and courteous to all employers, in hopes that one job becomes many more down the line.