How to Get Your First Client as a Freelancer – A freelancer is an independent worker, a self-employed professional that works for basically, whomever he or she wants. They have full freedom and control over their activity: they set their prices, they can fire clients whenever they want, and they can choose to work where and whenever they want (depending on what service you offer of course). When you are a freelancer, you are your boss, and you can become one with almost any skill that can be offered independently. This skill might be video making, writing, copywriting, counseling, video editing, voice-over, coding, social media management, and much more.
First, you need to have your skills in place. So, no matter what you want to offer, you must know how to offer that service. However, if you fake that you do have a skill which you don’t, you still might find a few clients, but they will give you bad reviews, and your new image and reputation as a freelancer will be destroyed and thus your career will be disappointingly over.
To find clients, you need to obsessively work on developing your skills to the point where you are 100% confident that you can bring value to the marketplace. As soon as you do, you’re ready to start looking for clients, and in this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to find clients on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, or any other freelancing platform.
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How to Get Your First Client as a Freelancer
What Is A Freelancing Platform?
A freelancing platform is nothing more than a website that bridges freelancers with people who need their services. To better explain this to you, here’s Robert. Robert is a video editor, he’s 18 years old. Robert has been editing videos and making short films for the past few years, but now he’s ready to start offering his editing skills to the marketplace and make some money.
Robert isn’t extroverted he’s rather introverted. He doesn’t like calling businesses, talking over the phone, or having stressful face-to-face meetings.
However, that’s not a problem here because he can find clients in a much more effective way.
So he starts by creating an account on one of the freelancing websites (let’s say Upwork for example). After having registered, he goes to the “find work” tab, and he finds a bunch of posts of people looking for someone like him. It is literally like his Instagram or Facebook feed, but there are no cat videos, those are all businesses and individuals looking for someone to help them with their editing.
Robert can send proposals to any of those posts, telling potential clients why he’s a great fit for the job, he can talk about his experience, and his past projects, and just sell himself as the best option. If they think that he is a good fit for the job, they will hire him and pay him through the freelancing platform. And here’s how to Get Clients.
So, now you know how a freelancing platform works, and how you are supposed to find your first client, but here’s the thing. You will probably start by sending a large number of proposals to a lot of jobs, in the hope that someone will give you an opportunity. But before you do that, I want you to understand something: nobody trusts you. And why should they? You have no track record on the freelancing website, you have no positive or negative feedback, you have nothing. It’s very hard to get a client for this specific reason: you have no credibility.
So the question now is; how do you build that credibility? To become successful on freelancing platforms like Upwork, or Fiverr or any other freelancing platform, you need to sacrifice a little, especially in the beginning. Your priority or let’s call it “mission” is simple, Get Positive Reviews. As soon as you start looking for clients and hopefully you do land some, your first goal is to get great reviews.
These great reviews will be the feedback that will help you find new clients, it’ll be a little credibility point added to your profile and image. You need that to find future clients, so here’s what I want you to do. When you get your first client, don’t just do what they ask for, you have to over-deliver and even give them a discount. This client has to love you so much that they have no choice than to give you a 5-star review with compliments all over it.
To make sure that you get that feedback and overdeliver for nothing, literally ask for it. You could say something like “Since I’m new on Upwork and I’m looking to get clients, here’s a special offer. In exchange for a positive review (if well deserved) I’m going to give you a discount on our first project” and boom, you got yourself a happy client. But that’s not it. To craft a decent proposal that grabs their attention, you need to do more than that.
How To Write A Winning Proposal
Put yourself in their position: you are looking for a video editor, you post the job post and immediately dozens of freelancers send proposals to convince you to work with them. This is overwhelming, and they are reading through a bunch of “Hi, my name is this and I can do this… A, B, C, D, blah… blah… blah… You get the point. You see, in a sea of proposals that look the same, you have to somehow stand out. Instead of creating a generic, boring introduction, craft something interesting, maybe even entertaining, and offer more than just quote on quote “why I’m a good editor”.
In the case of the video editor, you might tell them what software you use, and what technique you apply to achieve high-quality color correction and grading. Tell them why your audio is always crystal clear, and how you can make his audio decent too, without the need of an extremely expensive microphone.
Secondly, remember to stay relevant. If you copy-paste proposals here and there, you will fail. This is because you won’t be listing relevant points that will help them in their specific situation. So, offer as much value as you can, choose well-described jobs to personalize your proposals, and tell them what type of person you are. But a winning proposal is still not enough. You need that credibility, and you can use your profile to enhance it.
Crafting A Winning Profile
So, the client will read your proposal and they’ll say “interesting… but let me check their profile”. And that’s where you need to be flawless. Since you have no reviews, all the rest needs to be on point, from the profile picture to your bio. The picture needs to be professional, but don’t overdo it or you’ll appear like a pushy try-hard. Keep it simple, a nice picture of you smiling should be enough. This is the image the clients will have of you, and it’s important that they can see your face.
This way, they won’t only associate you to “some words on a screen”, but to an actual human being, and that helps build a strong professional relationship. When talking about yourself, use the same philosophy that you’d use for the proposal. Don’t just talk about yourself and how good you are, actually describe your experience and how you can help clients.
Keep it alive and entertaining. Also, make your portfolio so full of content that they will struggle to go over all of it. This will prove that even though you don’t have experience on that website or even with clients in real life, you do have the skills to get the job done. Here’s a mistake I see a lot of people make when they’re just getting started. To get more clients, they think that it’s a good idea to tell people that you can offer almost anything. That is wrong, instead of appearing as a jack of all trades but master of none, you have to specialize in a very specific field.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it will give you more clients than if you tried to reach everyone. There’s one principle that is widely used in sales, it’s called “aim narrow, reach wide”. You have to aim for a very specific audience, and then reach as many as you can from that category. This will also make you appear as the perfect person for the job.
Let me give you an example. So, you’re a video maker, but not just a video maker, you create and edit footage specifically for restaurants. Here’s Josh, and he’s the owner of a pretty successful Italian cuisine restaurant. He’s looking for someone to create a b-roll sequence for his business, and he’s presented two options. He can either choose you, a specialized restaurant filmmaker, or any filmmaker that does any footage whatsoever. Guess who he is going to choose.
How Upwork Works
So, up to now, I’ve talked to you about how generally speaking, freelancing works. But To give you more perspective on the business model of freelancing websites, I am going to describe to you the business model of Upwork. To make money, Upwork charges freelancers a 20% fee for every completed project. This means that if you are given a project for $100, you are going to receive $80 since 20% goes to Upwork. This might seem like a lot (and it is) but that’s not the only way Upwork stays profitable.
Upwork also charges a small monthly fee to both clients and freelancers for their plus subscription, which offers a few advantages here and there. Upwork, in particular, is very well-designed in my opinion. To avoid spam, and stop people from just copy-pasting proposals everywhere, every freelancer has a limit on the number of proposals that you can send. You have to use connects (which are like credits) to send a proposal, and it might be anything from 2 to 4 to 5 connects per proposal. This isn’t too much, it’s acceptable, but it will be a problem at the beginning since you’re going to send proposals to a lot of people. And, in the case, you deplete your connections you have to buy more. This is very good for clients since freelancers are forced to only send proposals to jobs that are worth it and that they have the skills for it. It stops spam, and that’s why Upwork is so powerful.
Many websites do this, but Upwork is particularly good if you want to be protected and find high-quality clients, both short and long term. As you can see, it isn’t that hard, but you do have to work hard to get your first clients. From there, you can start setting your prices, get big and more important clients, and work on awesome projects. Until then, you’ll have to learn from every mistake and always aim to improve your proposals, your profile, your portfolio, and more.
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