By now, you must’ve read my previous post about the things to consider before working as a freelancer full-time and I’m assuming that you are reading this because you’ve finally made up your mind. Congratulations, you’re now a freelancer! But not until you get clients.
One of the hardest thing in freelancing is getting clients. Some days, the life of a freelancer can feel like you’re spending more time client-hunting than actually working. Time is money, and you owe it to yourself to use it wisely.
However, you don’t have to be overly sales-y and be annoying, flooding all social media channels through ads and burning all your money. In this blog post, I will share what I did to land on my first three clients, and how my freelance gig grew from there.
Most of you probably don’t know, I’m a Filipino graphic designer based in the Emirates. My first job in the UAE was in a production company and I admit, the pay wasn’t so good. So in order to survive and cover my personal wants (hey, you need to treat yourself sometimes!), I decided to work as a freelancer on the side.
The first thing I did was put up an ad.
I posted my advertisement on a site called Dubizzle, it’s basically an online marketplace in the UAE that’s almost the same as OLX or Amazon, and it was titled “Freelance Graphic Designer Here”. On the body of the ad I listed the things that I do, and of course my contact details. And just the following day, I received a call from a start up events company.
That was the first gig that I had in the UAE. I’m actually lucky because the owner is really generous. He pays more than what was agreed, and we often go out for dinner. He’s almost like a friend rather than a client.
The second and third client I had came from the word of mouth.
My aunt was living in the UAE that time too, and she got connections. She introduced me to the Marketing Manager of a certain hotel in Abu Dhabi. From that moment until the time of this writing, I still receive some works from her. Though these days the work she gives is less than what it used to be, maybe because I already moved to Dubai and it’s becoming hard to meet her to discuss projects.
The third client I had was from Client No.1. His colleague’s wife runs an eyelash business. I created the brand for her, the marketing collaterals, as well as social media posts.
That’s how I found my clients. But there is absolutely some other ways to land on a client of your own.
Sites like Upwork and Freelancer are a great place to find clients overseas. Upwork has users that requires a wide range of design services, from creating a social media post to developing a whole new brand. The only take-away from this method is that you will be competing with a lot of experienced designers on the platform who already built their profile.
There are also some sites like 99designs, designcrowd, and 48hourslogo that crowdsource designers through a contest. The client will basically post a contest with a prepaid prize money. The designers will then submit their works based on the brief, giving the client hundreds of option on their plate. Though I personally don’t like this method (I will discuss why on my future post), this is a great way to build your portfolio if you’re just starting up.
Network in person.
Yes, I know. Most of us creative people are introverts. We dread going into meetings. But most businesses start with networking.
Attend events and conferences that are relevant to your interests. Or, maybe more importantly, ones that are relevant to the interests of your potential clients (e.g. if you’re a graphic designer, going to local business owner meetups). Just don’t forget to bring your business cards!
I call it shamefully shameless plugging. Once your portfolio is built and you’re confident about it, share it online. Join groups relevant to your industry and showcase your works there. But remember to not spam them as this might ruin your image as a creative.
You see, these are just some few ways to get a client for yourself. It’s different for each people though. I know that the first step is always the hardest and the key here is to be consistent, proactive, motivated, and a can-do attitude. You will hit a lot of dead-ends along the way, looking like your effort isn’t amounting to something, but as long as you put your name out there, there will always be someone who will see it, and who knows, that someone might be the only client you’ll need for your freelance career to bloom.
Have something to say? Let me know in the comments 🙂