Where do you get started?
Well, considering that the three most important words in the world of freelancing are – clients, clients and clients, we may as well get started there.
Freelancers work based on the demands of their clients, and without clients, a freelancer would be just another couch potato.
Finding clients is the ultimate goal for freelancers, but before you even you start looking for clients, there are 8 things you must do.
Let’s take a look at them here, and in the next article, we will cover the basics of how to find the clients. Here we go –
#1 Create a Portfolio
One of the first things potential clients will ask is, “Have you ever…?” or “Do you have references?” or “Do you have links to some work that I can see?” These are all very good and necessary questions that clients have the right to ask and you should be prepared to answer them.
If you’re just starting out in your particular niche and don’t have anything you can show for it, provide the client with a portfolio of work that you’ve done in another niche. If you’ve been in the game a while, you should compile a list of links to work that you’ve done before, and choose to showcase the best ones that you want other people to see.
#2 Create a Website
If you really want to impress and bring in the big game, you should consider purchasing a domain name and create a website. A website that contains your portfolio, a list of your services, a list of what you charge (we’ll cover this in a bit), testimonials, a link to your blog, links to your networking sites (also covered in a bit), and a way to contact you can make you look professional and get some instant credibility. That could be a big edge over a chunk of your competition.
If you have never set up a site before, this may seem intimidating. But believe me, it is a lot easier than it sounds. Websites are really cheap. Domain name from a site like 1and1.com costs less than $10 a year and purchasing them is a breeze. Your domain name can be as simple as your actual name, or it can be something catchy that also focuses on your professional services, for instance: drawntoexcellence.com for an illustrator, or writerperfect.com for a freelance writer, or designed2rock.com for a web designer or graphic designer.
You can set up the site yourself on a free platform likeWordPress or have someone do it for you. If you do it yourself, your only cost to worry about will be in the range of $30 – $50 per year for web hosting fees. If you have someone else design the site for you, it may cost you an additional $500 – $2000. If you choose to go with someone else to design the site for you, remember to insist that the site be on wordpress and ask your designer to help you pick a premium template. The advantage of using WordPress is that, you can easily learn how to use it and handle the administrative aspects yourself.WordPress is the most popular platform out there with a thriving community which will help you come up to speed quickly. And it offers the best balance in terms of cost, flexibility and ease of use.
#3 Create and Maintain a Blog
While this is not a “must”, it would definitely be beneficial to create and maintain a blog. If you’re the best at what you do, you need to show that to other people. A blog that focuses on your chosen industry will show people that you’re staying on top of the things that matter to them, and it shows what you are capable of. This is especially important if you’re a freelance writer.
Also, a blog with constantly changing content can help you immensely in getting your site to show up in search engine results, thereby creating a new channel of visitors and potential clients.
If you are looking to create a blog of your own, Making Sense of Cents has a very easy to follow tutorial.
#4 Register on Freelance Sites
Okay, this is a no brainer, but there are actually people who overlook this step. Before you go looking for clients, register on several freelance websites. Here is a list of some of the popular ones –
Many of these sites are free to sign up, but they all require a fee for any work done through the website. Often times, freelancers will find clients through these websites and take the work ‘offsite’ in order to bypass the fees.
#5 Create a Client Contract
Even freelance workers deserve the protection of written contracts. Before looking for clients, you need to sit down and create a contract that covers the service you are offering, the price agreed upon, the client’s details, the project details, and any actions you will take if the contract is broken.
No, you don’t have a client yet, but you can create a contract template that you will fill in with all the pertinent information later. When you get a client, if you aren’t under contract through one of the websites above, you must email the client the contract, request their signature, and have it sent back to you, either through the fax machine, or an online faxing service. In the event that you do not have a contract, at the very minimum ensure that all the terms of the project are in written format in an email.
#6 Set Your Pricing
We finally come to the most enjoyable part of all money making ideas (or the most dreaded one, depending on who you ask) – figuring out how much to charge. The best way to create a fair list of fees is to figure out what other people in your niche are charging. It’s best to look at people on the same skill and experience level as you. You probably won’t get the $120 an hour on your first project like a seasoned professional could get, but you can set that as your goal over the next 3 years.
Using what others are charging their clients as a base, you can either choose to charge by the hour, or charge a fixed rate per project. Freelance writers often charge per word, or per page on larger projects. If you take 2 hours to do a simple task, you might want to consider a per project price just because clients don’t want to pay you for slacking off or incompetence. If you can crank out 3 articles an hour, you need to charge a per word rate so you can get maximum returns for your skills.
#7 Register with an Online Payment Site
That brings us to the next important task – register with an online payment system where you’ll receive payments. Though there are several different payment systems, the most common one is www.PayPal.com. The advantages of using paypal are that it has come to become one of the universally accepted payment systems and your future clients will likely feel comfortable using it. Another advantage is that paypal keep records of payments sent and received, which comes in handy around tax time.
#8 Determine Your Hours
The beauty of working freelance is that you can choose to work whenever you want. If you wish, you could set up regular work hours per day, and take your weekends off like any other “regular” job. Or, you can choose to work just 3 hours a day if you have other obligations. If you have time to spare, you could also go10 hours a day and establish yourself. While this may be flexible, you should still think about it before you take on clients, so you will be in a position to provide accurate estimates to the client of when a project can be completed. Delivering a project within a predetermined time schedule is one of the key aspects of having the client come back to you for their next project.
These 8 simple things are all necessary to creating a persona that will snag clients and keep them happy in the long run. Now that you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to move from ‘getting started’ to ‘getting clients”.