Chapters

The art of freelancing

Hectic’s guide to starting and growing your freelancing career

Chapter 4

Finding work

New projects are your bread and butter, so it’s time to put all of your preparation to work.

There are several schools of thought on finding freelancer jobs, including only taking jobs based on the portfolio you want to build. That can limit the number of projects you can find and lead to a lot of time spent looking for specific work, so we don’t recommend it. You’re not trying to get into art school, after all, you’re working on building a strong career.

Instead, let your work naturally create samples. If you get a job for a specific industry, you can then use that experience to find more work in that industry. You might be surprised by the types of jobs you find, so be open to opportunity.

Where to find clients

You can find clients anywhere, but depending on serendipitous meetings will lead to slow growth. Instead, save yourself some time and work with these tried-and-true methods.

Client-finding platforms

There are dozens of websites that exist to connect clients and freelancers. Some are geared toward specific industries, while others cater to nearly every type of work. They work better for some freelancers than others, but these platforms can be a good place to start.

Pros:

  • Every client is actively looking for a freelancer to hire
  • Payment protection is available for most projects
  • No invoices necessary
  • Easy access to a wide range of clients and projects

Cons:

  • High fees, including both memberships and percentages of your income
  • Moving a contract off-platform can incur hefty fees
  • Greater volume of competition
  • You may be competing against freelancers from other countries who charge far less

Networking

For a long time, networking was the only way to freelance. Before the internet connected people around the world, you had to approach clients to see if they were in need of your services. Now, you can network through social media, business forums, events, and more. Many independent workers continued to find business through networking events, though COVID-19 has diminished the number of in-person events. Though it may look different now, this is still an avenue to connect with clients.

Pros:

  • Easier to form personal connections with potential clients
  • You can make a lasting impression
  • Opportunity to make many connections at once
  • You can get really good at selling yourself to clients

Cons:

  • May be a waste of time
  • Long-term process without immediate results
  • Requires ‘cold calling’
  • Generally requires a significant up-front time investment

Marketing

Marketing isn’t just for big businesses. With options such as Facebook ads, your own website, and social media, you can help clients find you when they need you most.

For these tactics to work, you will need to invest a bit of time in your chosen channel(s). Make sure your website and social media accounts are up to date and active. Create or outsource killer ads. You can also partner with other businesses or freelancers to promote each other, such as writing guest blogs.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Can be targeted to a specific audience
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Customizable to your field
  • Not time-intensive to maintain

Cons:

  • Requires professional accounts, websites, ads, etc.
  • Can be pricey, depending on medium
  • Set-up may be time-intensive and costly
  • More ‘hit or miss’ than other options

How to choose the right jobs

There’s no perfect job. You will find a lot of jobs that are great and others that leave much to be desired. By creating a set of guidelines early on, you can get better at spotting the gems. Your guidelines might include:

  • Projects in a certain price range
  • Clients based in specific countries
  • The quality of the job listing
  • How clients interact with you
  • Work you’re comfortable taking
Should I ‘fake it till I make it’?
Sometimes great jobs include skills you don’t have. If this happens to you, you have three options:
1. Move on to the next project
2. Let the client know that you don’t have the skill and see if they’re still willing to work with you
3. Apply anyway and give yourself a crash course on that topic

All of these are acceptable options with one caveat: don’t fake something you can’t make. If you don’t know anything at all about the skill or you know you won’t be able to do it well, don’t use option #3. Doing so would only create unnecessary costs, delays, and problems for the client. You will almost certainly receive poor feedback and potentially a dock in pay for the deceit and failure. Be honest about your limitations for your sake and your clients’.

Through the years, we’ve created our own guidelines for identifying bad jobs and clients. First, we look for certain words or phrases that could indicate unreasonable responsibilities or expectations, such as

  • Asking for free work
  • Including a long list of responsibilities that don’t fit the position or would require full-time work without an offer of reasonable pay
  • Promising a set price for an unspecified amount of work
  • Outlining specific results that may be out of your control and/or penalties for not meeting expectations

We also pay close attention to a client’s reputation. If they have numerous bad reviews or other freelancers warn against working with them, they’re probably not worth the hassle. It may just be that a specific situation escalated unnecessarily, but keep this feedback in mind.

Another warning sign is bad negotiation tactics. People who try to low-ball or nickel-and-dime you will always do their best to give you the least amount of money, sometimes even by withholding your pay. While it’s okay to hold your ground during a negotiation, clients who are unreasonable during negotiations will likely continue to cause problems.

As always, use your best judgment and listen to your intuition. If you’re getting bad vibes, there’s probably a good reason.

Maintaining your pipeline without overwhelming or overworking yourself

Congratulations — you’re killing it at your craft! But, as the offers roll in and your schedule fills, you may start to feel the pressure. How can you maintain all of your projects and clients at the same without failing?

Start with a great system

Organization starts with the tools and processes you use. With Hectic, you can view and manage your projects on both a broad and detailed level. Quickly check on the status of all of your projects or use a list view to see where you’re at with your tasks. You can also use a calendar view to measure your availability.

Rather than creating your own combination of tools to track your work, use a tool made just for freelancers. We created what we had always wanted to find and then used feedback from other freelancers to develop the perfect system. Stay on top of your pipeline with ease, eliminating stressful uncertainty from your freelancing business.

If you’ve been stressed out over managing your work or have been looking for a new business management tool, head over to Hecticapp.com to give us a try!

Schedule ahead

When you were in school, did you ever wonder if your teachers or professors knew that their classes and homework were just one of many? Your freelancing work can feel the same way.

As much as you want to help out your clients, stay aware of your limits and potential burnout. Start with a realistic evaluation of your upcoming workload. Scheduling out your work helps you keep healthy work hours. It also ensures your best efforts, rather than something done in a crunch.

Negotiate longer deadlines

You might get pushback about the timing, but that’s just an opportunity to get more from the job. If you can complete the work by the requested deadline work, offer a faster turnaround in exchange for an additional fee. This both protects your time and reminds clients to respect its value.

Learn to prioritize projects

There are many different ways to prioritize your assignments, such as:

  • Timing - Which project is due soonest?
  • Cost - Do you want to give one job more focus because of a higher price tag?
  • Relationship - Do you care more about some clients over others?
  • Scope - Will one project take longer, so it needs to be started first?
  • Resources - Do you need more information before you can start working on a specific task?

As long as you complete your work on time and to your client’s satisfaction, there’s no right or wrong answer. Determine what allows you to do your best work and improve your prioritization as you go.

Say no

<tweet-link>When every project means more money, it can be hard to turn any work away. For your well-being and the quality of your craft, however, sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do.<tweet-link>

The longer you work for yourself, the better you will get at knowing when a no is needed. Just don’t forget that you can always try to negotiate before you flat-out refuse. And, when you’ve declined the job, don’t let anyone bully you into changing your mind. You made that decision for a reason. Stick to it.