Not every freelancer automatically has the knowledge (or knack) of how to get freelance clients. But a reliable plan to bring in clients can be the defining factor in your freelance career.
I personally believe the best way to get more clients as a freelance service provider is to stop thinking of yourself as a freelancer. You’re running a business, even if it’s a business of one person right now.
When you learn how to start an agency around your expertise, you can dramatically scale your client base — and your earning potential.
But whether or not you’re ready to build more structure around your freelance business, you need to know how to sell your services. And you have come to the right place.
This article covers seven ways to improve your freelance game and increase your clientele.
Freelance Job Boards and Platforms
Most freelancers who are starting out find their first clients on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and People Per Hour. If you are wondering where to find freelance work, this is most freelancer’s first stop.
These are some of the biggest freelancing platforms, although there are dozens more. Each has unique nuances and, of course, its own set of pros and cons.
Upwork is one of the biggest freelance job platforms, especially in the western world. It evolved from an earlier platform called oDesk.
To find clients on Upwork, all you need to do is sign up for an account, set up your profile, and put yourself (and your work) out there. Their account setup is accessible, and it guides new freelancers through how to appeal to clients.
There are two ways to get work through Upwork. Either clients invite you to jobs, or you apply to specific jobs.
Each job you apply for costs a certain amount of “connects.” While “connects” are refilled each month, this could limit the number of applications you can submit.
The main pro of Upwork is that you get a secure platform with payment assurance. You won’t have to worry about unpaid invoices or chasing after payment.
The cons of Upwork are the high fees (20% of each project to start), and that you have limited “connects” to reach out to prospective clients.
Fiverr is one of the biggest global platforms. In its earliest stages, clients could hire freelancers for “five bucks.” Of course, it’s a freelance market for projects of all sizes and budgets.
A lot of people wonder whether Fiverr is worth it. If you learn the system, it can be. It’s different from Upwork in that freelancers can offer gigs.
For instance, if you’re a full-stack developer, you can set up a gig for mobile app development at a specific price. Clients can then hire you for that exact scope of work and price point.
The pros of Fiverr are its sheer reach: millions of users from around the world log in every day. Fiverr also has internal payment portals for security.
The cons for Fiverr include some restrictions on communication and its 20% fee on each transaction.
PeoplePerHour is probably the third most popular freelance job platform. Freelancers can set up their profiles by category, allowing clients to search through each category.
Whether you do logo design, consulting, development, or any other service, this is a simple way for clients to discover freelancers.
Buyers can also post projects for freelancers to apply. Freelancers can become certified for increased visibility and trustworthiness.
The pros for PeoplePerHour include organized project management devices and a simple quote-and-proposal process.
The cons to PeoplePerHour include 3.5% to 20% fees depending on the project’s size, and some reports of poor customer service.
Searching Niche Forums
While job platforms may help you start your freelancing career with ease, you’ll likely eventually want to extend your reach. One way to do this is to put feelers out for more specific industries through niche forums.
There are many ways to sell productized services by establishing your street cred through forums. Here are some sites you can use, and how to approach each one:
Reddit has megathreads, subthreads, niche threads, and every other thread you can imagine. Though, subspecialized threads are where freelancers want to look.
Subspecialized threads create places for business owners to ask questions to specialists. When they do this, you can give thoughtful answers that alert these people to your existence, expertise, and hireability.
If you post quality content often, you might get some calls or messages inquiring about your freelance services.
Quora has Q&A forums for every industry imaginable. It’s a huge platform where people ask millions of questions every day.
By posting answers to industry questions on Quora, you can achieve the same results as Reddit. You are looking to establish yourself as a credible voice while showcasing your skills.
If you leverage Quora right, you’ll attract the attention of potential clients.
While mainly known for social posting, Facebook is quite useful as a hyper-specialized platform. Public forums are the place to be if you want to amp up your professional game. This includes the potential of finding freelance clients.
One thing to keep an eye out for is that Facebook forums may be by invitation. If they are, be sure to observe rules about advertising your services carefully.
It may be a longer play to gain new clients this way, but the payoff will be worth it.
WhatsApp is steadily gaining traction as a resource for freelancers and the broader job market. Especially for non-U.S.-based freelancers, WhatsApp groups can be a powerful tool to find clients.
On the app, you can search for public groups on the platform itself. You can also search online for which job market groups are active and relevant to your industry.
You may need to request an invitation, but once you join a WhatsApp group, you can start contributing to a discussion and capture the potential clients’ attention.
You can utilize Slack channels to function similarly to Quora or Reddit threads but in real-time. Log on, chat with other users on the channel, answer relevant questions, and make it clear that you’re available for hire.
As of 2020, Slack had 12 million daily users. The company is continuing to expand its integrations and workflow considerably.
You can now find and join different chat rooms or groups on public channels. The purpose of some of these channels is networking, which is the perfect opportunity for freelancers.
WeChat groups are similar to WhatsApp or Slack, but for users in China. That said, there are plenty of English-speaking WeChat groups.
You can search for groups by criteria, find Official Accounts that are verified businesses, and gain invitations to join a discussion.
Since freelancing is most often a non-location-based activity, it may be a good idea to cast your net wide by participating on this platform.
Don’t Overlook Social Media
One resource no freelancer can afford to ignore is social media. If you’re wondering how to build a client base, this has to be part of your play. Each platform has its own potential.
Your social profiles, such as Facebook, can be an important source of lead generation and social proof. You may even want to set up a separate professional account or an agency page.
You should already know that, as a freelancer, clients are going to vet you. One of the first things a potential client will probably do is look you up online.
You can collect reviews and ratings, post-business-related content, and communicate through FB Messenger with potential clients.
Considering that you may already have many friends and lengthy history on Facebook, it’s a good idea to cross-post business content to your personal profile. You never know who you have connected with who might hire you one day.
LinkedIn is an obvious choice for making professional connections. The platform is all about business networking. You can enhance your LinkedIn usage by writing articles, reposting from prominent/authoritative industry sources, and interacting with other people’s posts.
There are also messaging features and work availability updates. For freelance agencies, there is also the option of company LinkedIn pages.
One thing most people don’t recommend doing is the “cold pitch” through LinkedIn DMs. However, you can be friendly, helpful, and publicly post your interest in finding new freelance clients.
Most of the world’s most prominent business leaders are active on Twitter. As such, Twitter will likely be a source of social proof for you as a freelancer.
Twitter helps gain exposure since it is easy to search for content related to your industry. Though, it is limiting in the amount of information written in a single post.
In other words, clients may find you because of the hashtags you use or content you post, but they will need additional info to move forward with the hiring process.
Keep your finger on the pulse of what is working for you on Twitter, and be sure you’re strategic about how/when/what you post to capture future clients’ attention.
Instagram is becoming a more commerce-driven platform every day. Staying on top of that shift can work in your favor as you search for freelance clients.
Anyone who works in digital marketing, social media marketing, or any other graphic service should be active on Instagram.
You can join Instagram pods for growth and networking, or use DMs to connect with potential clients.
Be sure to set up all of your linking and have an optimized profile to catch the right people’s attention.
Pinterest isn’t just for interior decorators and crafters. In fact, like any other social media platform, Pinterest functions like a search engine that can enhance your credibility.
There are plenty of ways to sell your freelance services to viewers on Pinterest. If you are already posting creative visual content on any other platform, consider cross-posting it on Pinterest.
For each pin, you can drive traffic back to your professional website and promote lead generation.
Medium is a platform for publishing written content. You can use tags to get views and claps, which both contribute to increasing your engagement. The more reads your Medium articles get, the more visible your profile becomes.
CEOs, thought leaders, and executives go to Medium for insightful articles. If you write quality articles, you can gain a following that includes people who may hire you for freelancing.
To succeed on Medium demands being confident enough. This means expressing your bold ideas and unique take to the world. The right client will value it and hire you to do more of the same.
YouTube is the world’s biggest social media platform. Millions of videos get billions of views every single day. This can mean that it’s hard to get seen, but it can also mean it’s a great way to stand out.
If you create thoughtful YouTube content that is high quality, you can effectively showcase your talents as a freelancer and attract new clients. There are a lot of good reasons to become a YouTuber.
Gaining subscribers and promoting your channel can be a powerful way to build your client base.
Referrals and recommendations are some of the best ways to gain more freelancing clients.
The beauty of this is that clients who come to you this way already trust you, because someone they know trusted you.
This is the immense value of building good relationships and staying connected to previous employers and clients. There are a few networks you should always keep in mind as possible sources of new freelance clients.
In addition to asking past clients to post reviews or provide testimonials, you should keep in mind that satisfied clients are a great source of referrals.
If your lead pipeline is a little dry, you can always do a friendly check-in with past clients and let them know you’re looking for work.
Even if they don’t need your services, they may know someone who does.
Chances are, you haven’t always been a freelancer. If you have a history in the corporate world or traditional work environments, old employers can still be a good source of referrals.
More and more, traditional businesses are outsourcing talent. Your new agency may meet a need at a time when an old employer is ready to make the transition or start a new project through outsourcing.
Even if they aren’t in the market to hire someone like you, they probably have a network of other businesses to whom they could refer you.
Friends & Family
Don’t underestimate the people who are in your personal network. These can be a valuable source of freelance leads.
Friends and family already want to support you. Be sure they know when you’re looking for freelance clients and see if they’ll help you get the word out.
Freelancing usually means that you work in your own lane, and use your skills for specialized work. This may also mean that you work with other people who bring different specialties to a project.
Think of web development. A project like that may require a full stack developer, graphic designer, copywriter, marketer — you get the idea.
The people you work with on these projects can easily be a great source of referrals.
Let Clients Find Your Work
In addition to rocking social media and polishing your network skills, you need proof of the quality of your freelance work in the form of a portfolio.
Gone are the days when a resume would suffice. Though it may seem tedious, building a portfolio can become a massive benefit in grabbing clients’ attention.
There are plenty of ways to create a portfolio that can help you close leads. For all of your hard work to pay off, consider one of the following:
A portfolio website has a few advantages. It’s immensely customizable, and it lives on your domain.
This means that you can make it look however you want (on-brand) and contribute to your site traffic. All common site-building platforms—Wix, WordPress, etc.—have templated portfolio pages.
You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from an official blog. In fact, consultants, coaches, analysts, and more can build client trust by speaking to relevant industry issues.
The ideas you set forth will demonstrate your competence and compel future clients to reach out.
Portfolio Accounts on Third-Party Platforms
If your freelance work is something like video production, graphic design, or even website development, consider hosting your portfolio on a third-party platform.
There are platforms like this for photographers, website designers, copywriters, and more.
Using The Classic Direct Outreach
The entrepreneurial reality of freelancing is that you must have a sales mindset. Sometimes, this means that you’ll need to do direct outreach.
A classic sales technique, direct outreach is exactly what it sounds like: going to someone and making a pitch. Even if it feels a bit, well, direct… it can be effective.
When looking at how to get freelance clients, there are a few ways to contact potential clients directly.
Direct mail was one of the earliest forms of large-scale, direct-to-consumer marketing. Of course, these days, email outreach has largely taken its place.
Despite the fact that our inboxes are overloaded, email outreach still works when it’s done right. Aim to be helpful when cold emailing. Don’t send generic pitches that will end up in the trash folder.
Spend some time researching your prospect and let them know how working with you would benefit their bottom line.
The in-person pitch may be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply in-person networking with an ask.
Even though it shouldn’t be scary, it’s worth practicing a little to make sure you don’t sound too stiff. Plus, it helps to be confident that you are communicating clearly and concisely.
DMs may be the happy medium between asking someone to hire you (to their face) and sending them an email (that might get buried). With a direct message, you may have a better chance of connecting, since it’s less formal and more conversational.
A DM can happen on any online platform. It is a simple way to get in touch with potential clients and let them know how you can help.
Networking, networking, networking!
The relationships you build as a freelancer can get broader than just your one-on-one connections to former employers, former clients, colleagues, and friends.
Industry-related networking is still happening all of the time, even if it’s virtual more often than in-person.
Networking is easier than it used to be. Consider these outlets.
Going to Coworking Places
Most freelancers don’t have a physical office. Mix up your work from home life by heading to a coworking space. Many of these include some common areas.
Rub shoulders with people in your industry or other industries. You never know who you’ll meet and what opportunities they may provide.
Attending Industry Conferences
Industry conferences are standard in a ton of fields. Some are happening virtually, and others happen in-person.
Either way, you can head to happy hours or group chats to make meaningful professional connections.
Being Active in Industry Forums and Group Talks
Just like using general platforms like Reddit and Quora, there are social platforms within industry-specific networks.
If you’re an accountant, be active with the IMA. If you’re in marketing, login to the Marketing Institute.
These groups work for varying types of freelancing jobs, and it could be a huge source of untapped connections.
Guesting (Blogs, Podcasts & More)
Finally, the interchange of networking for freelance jobs is essential. The connections you make with other professionals can happen in real-time, online.
Be open to lending your voice in guest blogs, podcast appearances, Instagram live or Facebook live videos, online summits, and more.
This contribution has the double-impact of generating goodwill with a colleague, while also getting your name in front of future freelance clients.
And finally, the best way to get more clients is to transform your solo freelance service into a thriving agency. Sign up below to learn how.
FAQs for Aspiring Freelancers
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to get freelance clients.
Where to Find Freelance Work?
Freelance work can be found online through platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. You can also find jobs through referrals, professional networks, LinkedIn, and social media.
How Do I Market Myself as a Freelancer?
Market yourself as a freelancer by having a professional portfolio, optimized social media profiles, and investing in industry-specific networks and activities.
How Can I Attract Freelancers?
If you are an agency or business person and want to find freelancers, look for them through your personal and professional networks.
You can also search online through social media or job platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or even LinkedIn.
How Do I Get My First Freelance Project?
Find your first freelance project by doing two things:
- Tell your professional and personal network that you are looking for work.
- Post your availability and interest on freelancing job platforms.