I knew I wanted to freelance since I was 16. My favorite subject was art, and while painting was my favorite, I quickly fell in love with graphic design, writing, photography, and all sorts of other ways I could express creativity.
What I didn’t know at age 16 was that freelancing was a very viable career option. Freelancing tends to have a stereotype of being unpredictable and unstable. But you know what? Freelancing came SO MUCH easier to me than internships, full-time jobs, etc. And now that I took freelancing up full-time, I’ve never felt more stable or more sure that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Many people ask how I got clients. When I was first getting started, it was very casual, one-off graphic design jobs that were likely referred to me by my mom (Thanks, Mama J!). As I got more and more serious about freelancing, I built a website, blog, and social media pages, knowing this would make me way more credible and hopefully, get my future clients to really trust me as a business owner.
While I did apply for very popular sites like Upwork and People Per Hour, I will fully admit that I NEVER had any luck with these platforms. To be honest, I never completely set up my profiles and used the platforms exactly how they were intended to be used. I guess I didn’t take them very seriously because I knew there was a better way:
Social media marketing.
I started using my social media channels (primarily Instagram and a Facebook business page) to drive traffic to my blog, where I created several posts that shared what I did, what I cared about, what I could offer to business owners, and results I could help them achieve. Now, maybe this came a little easier to me than it will for others, because I actually started a business that was almost EXACTLY what I was doing in internships and full-time jobs after college. I graduated with a Mass Communications degree, which was heavily focused on marketing, journalism, advertising, graphic design, and all of the other fun things that go along with that. 🙂 So, I actually used work from those internships and jobs to build my portfolio and share what my expertise was in.
I’m very grateful for the experience and opportunities I had in the marketing world leading up to me starting my own business full time. These experiences not only helped me build my portfolio, but they caused me to realize that this industry is very much in-demand. This gave me a huge amount of confidence that freelancing could be a very good “end goal” for me someday. After spending 2 years in a corporate marketing department and 1 year in a marketing agency, I took my business full-time and haven’t looked back.
The thing that allowed me to match my income and take my freelancing business full-time was undoubtedly a reflection of the value I shared via social media. I wasn’t afraid to give away “secrets” for free. I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there (okay, I totally was. But I did it anyway). I wasn’t afraid to share some of the amazing results I was helping small business owners achieve. I wasn’t afraid to ask for testimonials… And boom, it just kept snowballing.
And as I’ve been able to grow my online platforms beyond my local area and group of “friends and family”, I’ve had business owners inquire to work with me from ALL across the country. Some of my clients are local businesses that I will occassionally meet in person, while others are thousands of miles away from me, so we only communicate via email, phone, and video calls.
I know that’s not the flashy, easy answer you may have been looking for when you clicked on this blog post, hoping to find tips and tricks on how to find the best clients. I truly just put myself out there, promoted myself, shared my expertise, and hoped for the best.
3 major takeaways:
– Create social media channels for business and start creating content that speaks directly to your ideal customer. Answer questions they have. Teach them things they want to learn. SOLVE something for them.
– If you’re choosing to create a personal brand like I did (highly recommend!), don’t be afraid to post pictures of yourself. Did I feel lame for always posting headshots and selfies? Yes. Do I still feel lame for doing that? Yes, sometimes. Ha! But, remember that people connect with PEOPLE. We don’t connect to stock photos or photos of items without a human element.
– Be consistent. It may take several months of sharing free value before a client ever decides to reach out to you for help. The more consistent you are, the more your ideal clients will begin to trust you and think of you as a thought leader in your industry.
Don’t let anyone tell you that freelancing is unstable and unpredictable. It may not be as easy and cozy as a 9-5 with benefits, but this is by far, MY FAVORITE part of my career so far. And I don’t see myself ever, ever, ever going back to a cubicle.
For more advice on how I took my “side gig” to a full-time career, check out my blog post on that HERE.
Good luck! I’ll be rooting for you!
Psssst… If you found this helpful, save the graphic below to Pinterest! 🙂