Three tips to getting your first freelancing client

Ever since I wrote about how to get started with freelancing, one question I keep getting is: “how do I get my first client on-board?”

It isn’t always easy. After all, with countless consulting groups, agencies and other freelancers out there, not to mention networking events and personal connections, getting your name out there and standing out from the crowd can be a daunting task.

Here’s a list of three things which helped me most when landing my first client:

1. Be Google-able

If you’re a freelancer in this day and age, you need to have some sort of web presence, even if what you’re offering has little or nothing to do with the digital realm. If Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or blogging isn’t your thing, just set up a simple, easy to read website (services like Yola offer free web hosting and don’t require a lot of technical know how) with an example of your work. Being Google-able goes a long way when it comes to street cred.

2. Be open-minded

Yes, I’ve found clients off of Craigslist and websites such as Elance, and I’m not ashamed to say it! In fact, my first ever paying client came from Elance and I still work with her today. She has connected me with many other opportunities and clients, too. Websites like CL and Elance have bad reputations, and while I’m not saying you should go to meet a prospect at his or her home or accept a job for $3.50 an hour (many freelancing websites have such reputations, and sometimes justly earned), I am saying that you should give these sites a chance. Be discerning, because there is a lot of junk to wade through on these sites, but there are also some gems out there.

3. Be available

You have no idea how many leads I get that just don’t pan out. I would say about one in 15 leads actually becomes a paying client. Many times this is the natural way of the world; business visions are misaligned, budgets don’t work, etc. However, every once in a while I land a job simply because I answer an email promptly or have the ability to take a call without much notice. A focused and attentive attitude is always appreciated and goes a long, long way even in the prospecting stages of a project. I realize this isn’t always possible with a busy schedule, but as much as practicable, practice availability.

An extra tip: I hear, “I don’t have a portfolio,” as an excuse not to get started a lot. How do you think anyone starts out!? Put together a small portfolio that shows people how darn talented you are. Use projects from school, or even your own website or blog (if applicable) as part of your portfolio. Think outside the box and I promise you’ll realize you have more to show than you think.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you’ve gotta start somewhere! If you’re a freelancer, or just starting to freelance, where did you start?

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared here.

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