Yep, I am a big fan of Upwork. I talk about it in a video, I go on about it in any number of blog posts, and I’ve even spouted off about it on sites like Reddit–where Upwork is not popular. But you can find freelance jobs–and lots of them!–without Upwork and other freelancing sites.
While your experiences and results may vary, the following are just a few ways you can market yourself to successfully find freelance jobs.
And no, just because I’m sharing this with you doesn’t mean I recommend or endorse these ideas! You have to be a smart solopreneur and evaluate opportunities as they come, and you need to be wary. There are a lot of scammers out there who prey on honest people trying to get by. Then there are those well-meaning clients who will turn into nightmares if things don’t go their way. So as you explore these different avenues for freelancing gigs, be careful, darn it!
Turn traditional employment into a freelance opportunity
Many people hire employees because they forget that freelancers, independent contractors, agencies, and other options exist. Or they don’t know in the first place. Maybe you need to let them know, as this approach has been known to land gigs.
I’ve never tried this, but I’d guess that you’d have better luck if they’re looking to hire someone part time. Investing in an employee isn’t as good of a deal for them then. And if the gig is something with flexible hours (20 hours one week and two the next), a freelancer would be far better suited to work with their variable needs anyway. That would drive an employee nuts!
Find freelance jobs with folks you know
You probably have some kind of professional network, so tap into it and see how it can work for you. Let previous employers, former supervisors, and friendly colleagues of yore know that you are freelancing now and looking for work. Instead of asking them point-blank if they have a gig for you, you may wand to ask for referrals. It’s a bit more low pressure.
Network your way to freelance jobs
Conferences, trade shows, and other happenings where you find target clients can be key to building a freelancing business. People like to do business with folks they know, and being able to meet face-to-face first thing gives you a leg up. But just be sure you follow up on these leads–too many people shake hands, collect cards, and that’s it!
Run your business like a business
As a freelancer, you’re vary much in business for yourself, so set up shop online. This means you have your search engine optimized website and associated social channels. You build an email list. You blog. You create some kinds of content offers to attract leads. As funds allow, you may want to invest in some PPC or paid social or search.
I think this is vital, but I think that this will work best for freelancers who specialize. You’ll be able to get more traction in niches that are less crowded and with less competitive keywords than you will if you are in a space with more noise. Generalists will get lost in the shuffle, and you’d have to do some really amazing work (or have a really big spend) for your business to make a dent. So instead of being a graphic artist (for whatever), you may want to specialize in graphic arts for the restaurant industry… or something like that.
Online job and message boards do have gigs
Yep! There are a lot of places online where freelancers can advertise their services and businesses post their needs. Sometimes actual paid gigs come out of these. But sometimes something else happens.
My big problem with Craigslist or one of the many subreddits dedicated to finding freelancers and/or freelancing gigs (like https://www.reddit.com/r/forhire/ or https://www.reddit.com/r/freelance_forhire/, for example) are the amateurs–clients and fellow freelancers. There are many of these folks on freelancing sites, but they are often even greener here. You’re more likely to find freelancers ready to work for peanuts… often because they don’t really have the skills for the gigs they are trying to get. And many clients here don’t really have the budget for what they need or understand what they’re asking for, so they will lowball big time. Yes, these are the same folks who think freelancers should work for free “for the exposure.”
This doesn’t even go into the flakes, the stiffs, and other folks that are difficult to work with, hard to please, and/or impossible to get money from. But I haven’t mentioned the good gigs yet, either, but there are a few–just not enough for my taste.
Cold calls to potential clients
Cold calls another option. You can get a list of leads and start to call, email, snail mail, or visit them to see if you can sell them your services. Some people see some success with this, but it’s probably not the path you want to go down.
Calling a bunch of folks takes time, and you may turn off more people than you convert to opportunities–people don’t like to get cold calls. Spam is illegal, so you could be breaking the law (and annoying your leads) by shooting out your email “blast.” Direct mail may bet more attention, but it’s not environmentally friendly, as most of it goes directly into the cylindrical file. And visits could go slightly better, but busy managers and business owners probably won’t warm up to you during your unannounced visit that’s keeping them from other work.
Build your authority
If you become known as someone in-the-know, getting gigs will be easy because you’ll have credibility, authority, and a reputation to use to market yourself. Speaking gigs, publishing books and papers, sending out guest posts, and other things to fill out your resume can make you more appealing to potential clients. Of course, these also put you out there, and this alone could be what lets you be found by people who could want to give you money. So forget spending time to find freelance jobs, let them find you!
But what else?!
While there are more options for landing freelancing gigs, and some of them can get quite creative, I think you have the gist.
Regardless of what you try, it has to be something that works for you, your target clients, and your skills. If you want to find freelance jobs, do it in a way that makes sense for what you do. Pick things that will work for (and impress) potential clients. Be sure to select and refine a plan of attack that you will actually follow through on–that’s probably the most important part!