Freelancing can be a great way to make money, but landing your first client can be a challenge. We reached out to successful freelancers to get their ideas and suggestions for others who want to get started.
As of 2019, 57 million Americans were freelancing (source). With millions of employees temporarily or permanently losing jobs in 2020, those numbers are almost certain to increase.
While freelancing can be an excellent way to make money part-time or full-time, many people who are interested in freelancing are held back by not knowing how to land their first client. After all, getting started is usually the hardest part.
If you’ve considered freelancing or tried it and failed to find clients, this article will provide twenty different ideas that you can use to get that first client onboard. Once you have even a single client, you’ll feel empowered to continue moving forward and continue growing your business.
Don’t worry about how you’ll find enough work to earn a full-time income. For now, just focus on landing that first (or next) client.
Not sure what service to provide? See our list of 25 services you can offer as a freelancer.
How to Land Your First Client as a Freelancer
1. Focus on a Specific Niche
One of the best ways to stand out is to specialize your services and focus on a particular niche.
Andrew Herrig from The Wealthy Nickel said, “If you’re looking to land your first client as a new freelancer, I think one of the best things you can do is niche down and target people only within your sphere of influence and area of expertise.
“This is a little bit counter-intuitive, and most new freelancers I see will go after anyone and everyone just to land their first client. However, by choosing a niche, you are making yourself more of an authority to potential clients, and you are also gearing your message specifically toward their pain points. It is better to reach a small, targeted audience with an extremely relevant message than a broad audience with a weak message.
“For example, I started running Facebook ads for my wife, who is a real estate agent. As I experimented, I gained more knowledge specific to the real estate industry and what works best, which allowed me to offer those same services to other real estate agents. I could talk to them specifically about open house ads, or coming soon listing ads and give performance statistics, which resonated with them much more than if I was just a generic “Facebook ad manager”.
“As a new freelancer, being a big fish in a small pond can help you find more clients in a shorter amount of time by helping you stand out against all of the other generalists marketing your same skillset.”
While specializing in a particular industry, like real estate, is one option, another option is to take a focused approach in terms of how you are finding clients. Baidhurya Mani, a course creation expert from Sell Courses Online said, “When I was starting out, I found most of my first 25 clients from a single Facebook Group. I designed my services around this online platform called
Teachable and so, I joined their official FB Group where I would spend quite a bit of time answering other users’ questions. This helped me position myself as a Teachable expert and as a result, a lot of clients would just reach out on their own asking for help.”
2. Don’t Get Discouraged
Building a freelance business takes time. You may have to approach many potential clients before you land your first one. That can seem discouraging, but it’s not out of the ordinary. Those who have success likely had to work through the same setbacks.
Mark from Financial Pilgrimage said, “Freelance recruiting is a tough business to crack given the high bar to build trust with a client. This advice applies to freelance recruiting but also to many other side hustles.
“My advice is to be prepared to hear the word “no” often.
“Whenever anyone asks me how to get a client as a freelance recruiter, my advice is to contact 100 potential clients and be prepared to get less than 10 responses, maybe 2 or 3 serious inquiries, and land one client if you’re lucky. If you get your mindset right upfront about negative responses it will help motivate you to keep moving forward. After all, as a freelance recruiter, it only takes one great client to make a lot of money.”
Nick Bennett, a PPC service provider at Growmeo said, “Follow up and be persistent. Rarely will you ever close a client on the first call. Timing plays a big role in this. You may have initially emailed or called someone who may be genuinely interested in your service, but it was simply a bad time for them. Following up on that initial outreach will greatly improve your odds of earning new clients.”
3. Create the Right Mindset
Along the same lines as the previous point, you need to have the right mindset in order to have success in the early stages of freelancing.
Michael Leonard, a freelance content writer, writing coach, and consultant from Inspire Your Success said, “The best tip I can offer is to have a clear goal for your business and work on creating the mindset to achieve that goal before anything else. Do everything you can to think, act, and FEEL as if you already have that goal accomplished.
“The sooner you can get your mind on board with what you want to achieve, the sooner you will find success as a freelancer. This will make the entire process easier to take action, learn new skills, and put yourself out there.
“Also, with the right mindset, you’ll be okay with the inevitable rejection that writing and entrepreneurship can bring. With a winning mindset, you can reframe failures, learn from everything, and keep going until you hit your freelancing goals.”
4. Leverage Your Blog
Your blog can be an invaluable marketing tool. Starting and maintaining a blog requires time and effort, but it can result in more clients and higher rates.
Tom Crowe, an SEO consultant from Tom Crowe Digital said, “My biggest tip for freelancers looking to land their first few clients is to write blog content that offers insightful tips and ideas to your target audience. The more niche the target audience the better, and the trick is to write content that offers real value and gets shared in the industry.
“This is a tactic I pursued when I started out, I found a common problem that clients faced where I could offer advice, wrote a very comprehensive article, shared it on specialist Facebook groups and forums, and acquired a steady stream of inquiries for the next 6-8 months as a result.”
In addition to a blog, your website can also be a home for your portfolio. Freelance writer Nikola Roza said, “Create a simple portfolio site, built on self-hosted WordPress (because it’s more professional), with 5-10 of your best writing samples. Then, when you email cold pitch for work you can show them your samples, instead of telling how awesome your writing is. This will instantly set you apart from most other would-be freelancer bloggers.”
Melody from The Course Consultant said, “Create a portfolio and a marketing plan that highlights the solution you bring to your customers. Make sure to use social proof and testimonials, even if it’s from a previous employer or beta tester client.”
For a step-by-step guide to starting your blog, see our article How to Start a Blog.