It sounds idyllic. Be your own boss, set your own hours and work from the comfort of your own home-office (couch). But the reality of earning a full-time living for freelancers is that it takes a lot of time, talent and effort. While the idea of ‘if you build it they will come’ works a treat on the silver screen, waiting for your next client to come to you is not the route to success when it comes to freelancing. Possibly the most stressful aspect of freelance life is not knowing where or when – if ever – your next gig is going to materialise, this is one of the most daunting prospects. So if you want to find those juicy contracts and achieve the mecca that is the retainer, you’re going to have to get pro-active. Here’s a quick look at some suggestions of where to look for business and how to promote yourself in the fiercely competitive world of freelancing.
You want to get paid for your work, of course. But everyone starts somewhere. And offering your services for free is a fantastic way to build your portfolio, which is something, every freelancer, however established, must have in order to compete and prove to prospective clients that they are up to the job. It’s also a great way to start making contacts which may turn into paid gigs in the future. Smaller charitable organizations and trusts are often crying out for help, and offer a priceless opportunity to flex your creative muscles.
You need to do your research. Check out the competition and search for ways to beef up your CV and portfolio in order to be a contender. Checking out the credentials of others within your field who might be applying for those precious freelance roles, and finding out what they are capable of is the first step to making sure you’re better than them.
Start a blog
Blogging is an excellent self-promotion tool that may, just may, bring the mountain to Mohammad. Make it interesting, relevant and inspirational enough and you’ll attract new contacts while first-time customers will enjoy your updates, follow your work and hopefully develop into long-term clients.
Your own back yard
Unlike large corporations, which often have their own in-house creative department, small local businesses will often need to hire external contractors. You may consider a flyer drop round your local shops and service providers. An advert in a local paper is a cheap and inexpensive way to promote your skills – and who knows, your local newspaper or magazine may even be looking to commission a freelancer for themselves. Make sure you follow up any action with a brief telephone call or pay a visit to introduce yourself in person.
You may have a particular area of specialist interest such as food, technology, motors or design. If so, find out when the next trade show or public conference in your field of interest is taking place and head down there armed with a sharp suit, a flyer and a business card. Conferences are an excellent place for schmoozing potential clients –make sure you ask for their business card in return so you can follow up at a later date.
The World Wide Web, it’s a jungle out there. The Internet is at the same time the very best and worst place to find freelance gigs. A word of warning, not everyone online is who they say they are. You’ll have to scour through ads from scammers before you hit upon a gem – but they are out there, so be patient. There are also plenty of editorial auctioning sites to try, some of which require joining fees, so make sure you are truly committed before you sign up.
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