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How to Get a Freelance Job
In these days of low salaries and high unemployment rates, it can be difficult to make ends meet. As a result, more and more people have begun freelancing, or at least looking into offering their services on a freelance basis as a side hustle. Here are some steps you can take to get your first freelance job or increase your business and help make freelancing a viable career path for you.
Define Your Ideal Job
This may sound obvious, but in order to get started freelancing, you really ought to know what you want to get out of it and what you have to offer. First, answer these questions:
- What services can I provide? Writing may be the first freelance job people think of, but there are tons of other jobs out there that you can do on a freelance basis. I've been a freelance editor for ten years, and I know of graphic designers, computer programmers, photographers, interior decorators, housecleaners, and teachers who make their livings freelance. Just about any skill you have can be leveraged to provide a service people need on a freelance or contract basis.
- How much should I charge? If you're just starting out and freelancing on the side of your day job, or your spouse's income already supports your family, you can afford to take some low-paying jobs while you build your reputation. If you provide the sole support of your family, do some math to decide which jobs are worth your time and which aren't before you start looking.
- How many hours do I want/need to work? Do you want to freelance full-time or part-time? If part-time, how many hours per week can you devote to working? Don't forget about time you need for paperwork (billing, taxes) and hunting down new clients.
Freelancing is the pefect lifestyle for some people, but make sure you know the pros and cons before jumping in with both feet.
Networking to Find Freelance Jobs
Even in the digital age, there's nothing like good, old-fashioned networking to get you a job. You can (and should!) use your contacts and friends on LinkedIn and Facebook to find leads, but the single best thing you can do is meet people and offer them your services in person.
- Call former colleagues to see if their employers are outsourcing any work that you can do. (This is how I get most of my editing jobs.)
- Join your local chamber of commerce and attend networking meetings. Don't just shake hands, though — be creative in offering your services. If someone mentions designing a new website, mention that you do web copywriting and would love to help them out (if it's true, of course). If you do graphic design, bring along some sample logos or corporate branding work you've done to show anyone who asks what you do.
- Talk to the people you see all the time. Maybe the owner of the independent coffee shop you frequent is looking to do some advertising; pitch him your services as a writer/designer/photographer (or whatever relevant skill you have). Chat with the folks at church and at your kids' soccer game. Someone out there needs your skill to get their work done!
- Don't forget to hand out business cards (or virtual business cards) to your new contacts. They need a way to get in touch with you AND remember what you do.
Find Freelance Jobs Online
Finding freelance jobs online can get a little hairy. There are plenty of jobs out there, but many pay an extremely low rate, making them not worth your time unless you're just trying to make some pocket change on the side. Here are some of the more popular sites to search:
Freelance Job Site
plenty of jobs posted, but pay is often abysmal
guaranteed payment; higher-paying jobs are hotly contested
tech-heavy job listings
don't forget to check out gigs as well as jobs
this site gets many bad reviews; use it as a last resort
In addition to the general freelancing and employment websites (don't forget Monster and CareerBuilder), plenty of career paths have niche job websites (such as Mediabistro for writers and social media marketers) that also list freelance positions.
Your last resort for landing a client for your freelancing business will be cold-calling (or sending unsolicited resumes). The success rate for this is extremely low; you'll multiply your chances a thousand times by sending your resume to someone you know instead.
But if you're absolutely desperate, decide which company to work on. Find out who does the hiring of freelancers (it's probably not human resources), and target your pitch directly to that person. Show what you can do, but don't be pushy or obnoxious. This person did not ask for your resume and does not owe you a phone call or email if she is not interested in your services. Overall, you'll still be better off if you can make her acquaintance some way first (LinkedIn counts!).