by Infinite Beta
How to kill your freelance demons
Struggling to land the best freelance jobs? Use this solid advice from those who’ve been there and done it.
With freelancers accounting for 35% of the US population and soaring globally, it’s getting positively Hobbesian out there. Whether you’re dipping your pasty copywriter toe or are a seasoned development guru, there’s plenty of work for everyone if you know where to look.
Keep the work flowing with these tips from a grizzled freelance copywriter with plenty of experience in the freelance world.
Hello, World Wide Web?
Unsurprisingly, the internet has quite a lot to offer a freelancer-in-training. But with so many pay-to-work pyramid schemes, and sites promising $10,000 for an article, it can be hard to sort the fact from the too-good-to-be-true.
Perfect for the newly minted freelancer lacking a substantial portfolio, job sites like Freelancer.com, Upwork, and Lancelist tend to offer low pay but plenty of variety. Aim for companies who are willing to put you on a retainer rather than one-off jobs which won’t translate into regular work.
Workout app developer? Korean food blogger? There’s a directory for that.
Yep, forget about the Yellow Pages, the internet also has a plethora of directories for every career calling your grandparents don’t think is a real job. There’s usually a joining fee, so it’s good to shop around.
Show your beautiful face
From your hairdresser to pub landlord, it’s easy to forget that everyone is a potential client or client’s friend or partner. Approaching local businesses can be a great way to kickstart your portfolio and get recommended to other, more inspiring contacts.
When the clients ain’t biting, a little shameless self-promotion can do — not wonders, exactly, but something good.
Keep an eye out for local business meetings/artisanal bakery takeovers and offer to do a talk on your latest success. Whipping out the laser pointer is a great way to get noticed, and you’ll probably meet some kindred spirits at the after party to kick those freelance lonelies.
Whether it’s a local blog, podcast, or reality TV, getting interviewed can help raise your head above the parapet (in a good way). Take every opportunity to get up on the podium. Just don’t forget to include a contact, repeat your name, and let people know you’re available for hire.
Mine your contacts
Urgh. I know. Cold calling is about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist in the 1950s, but it’s a useful start to a freelance career. Send a personalised introductory email explaining what you can do for their company/incubator/dictatorship.
Here’s comes the crucial bit: follow up with a friendly phone call a few weeks later.
Researchers at the University of Michigan recently found a 40% decrease in empathy among certain populations, correlating with an increased use of technology. We’re so used to hiding behind screens that any human touch will really make you stand out. If you tend towards anxiety, you can write out responses to common questions to quell the nerves.
When the wide sweep won’t cut it, consider asking for a letter of introduction. Is it quaintly old-fashioned? Yes. Does it work? Yep. Whip out your feather quill the next time you see your influential ex-boss and ask for a glittering intro to someone you really want to work with.
“Where can I see your work?” is probably the most common question for creatives, after “Can you do it for free?” and “What kind of hat is that, anyway?”
You can also make yourself useful to the people who might hire you by writing what they really want to know in a blog.
Starting a blog may feel daunting. What can you add to the maelstrom of online “advice”? Stick to what you know, post some snappy tutorials, an article or two, and research your potential clients’ needs. It’s a long-term strategy rather than a short term fix but, as you move up the rankings, there’ll be a lot less sweaty jostling for jobs.
And, of course, through it all you need to maintain an enviable social media presence. It’s best not to hound prospective clients on their personal Facebook page. But, if you happen to bond over a mutual love of Star Wars dog costumes , well, where’s the harm in that?
On the subject of social media, Twitter can be a surprising treasure trove of new clients. Simply search “freelance _____ wanted” and DM away! Like experimental oil drilling, most of your messages won’t turn anything up, but it just takes one right swipe to get the $$$ flowing in. (Yeah, I mixed that metaphor — and so what?)
Use your passion
Love cacti? Offer to guest blog on a houseplant site. Got the climbing bug? Promote your video skills with a Go-Pro tour of the Cairngorms. Your genuine enthusiasm will shine through and you’re getting noticed by experts in the field.
Guest posting on your favourite blogs is a fabulous way to build your reputation for providing amazing content. And, by connecting with fellow bloggers, you’ll also bust the loneliness by talking to someone, anyone, other than Leonard the cat.
Finally, think outside the bubble…
Win a competition
I’m thinking more “Copywriter to the Queen” than Crufts, but whatever works. Competitions are time-consuming, but a win can catapult you into the line of sight of the great and good.
Go straight to the middle men
If you’re a copywriter, talk to web design-only companies and let them know you’re available. So when their client starts moaning about a lack of content, you get a new client, and they get the brand spanking new copy they were hungry for. Win-win. Ditto design gurus, app wranglers, and code whisperers.
Find your own tree-house
Freelancing can get lonely. Regardless of your chosen niche, there will be some oh-so-specific extravaganza for you. Learn from the finest in your field and make crucial contacts at conferences, meet ups, café groups and workshops. And if you can’t find anything nearby, why not set up your own?
Don Draper, I presume?
Once you’ve reached true fame, you might consider using an agent or talent scout to help you hit your stride. “It’s all right,” you’ll murmur, sipping an Old Fashioned. “My agent will handle this.”
Do you have a tried-and-tested method for scoring mega dollah? Are you currently the smuggest laptop owner in Antigua? Please, share your secrets below…