Horkey HandBook Blog

How to Get Your First Freelance Client

15.5 million! That’s the number of self-employed Americans, according to Fast Company.

And all of these 15.5 million people at one point had to look for their first client, right? But how do you get your first freelance client?

We get this question a lot around here, so we’ve decided to let some of our past (and future) guest posters answer the question themselves. You’ll see that they all have two things in common:

  1. They got their first client by taking action.
  2. No matter how low-paying their first client was, the freelancers always worked up from there.

Here’s how these eight established freelance writers got their first clients.

1. From LinkedIn

— Sarah Greesonbach – Founder of B2B Writing Institute with a forever free-foundations course on B2B Writing. <–affiliate link

My first client after being laid off as a copywriter was a good old fashioned cold LinkedIn connection! I found the founder of a different local marketing company and asked if he needed writers. He brought me on for random writing assignments (an interview here, a blog article here) for $30 an hour. I was so grateful!

Over the past three years, I’ve switched to project pricing and raised my rates (and gotten WAY better at what I do), and he’s still one of my clients today.

More by Sarah: How to Write for B2B Clients

2. From the Local Newspaper

— Amber Mae Weston – AmberMaeWrites.com

My first paying client as a freelancer was the local newspaper. I saw an advertisement for correspondents, applied for the position, gathered some samples from my work on the college newspaper and got an interview. I was hired on the spot. I worked for them for about a year and then quit when my family moved out of state.

Four years later, when I decided to get back into freelancing, I found that the local newspaper didn’t have any openings. Instead, I went to Indeed.com and typed in “freelance writer.” Within a month, I was hired for a position writing blog posts for a marketing company and the businesses they represented. The first month or so is the hardest, once you figure out how and where to pitch it gets a lot easier.

More by Amber: How to Pitch Without the Right Samples

3. From a Writing Job Board

— Janet Berry-Johnson – JBerryJohnson.com

I found my first paying client from the ProBlogger job board. The gig involved writing a few blog posts for a CPA Exam Review company. The ad was a few weeks old by the time I came across it, but with my professional background, I knew it was a topic I could handle well. I emailed my pitch and links to a few blogs I’d written for my employer and heard back from them right away. The gig didn’t pay very well but it was easy, they paid quickly, and it gave me the confidence to pitch more jobs and pursue freelance writing as a career!

More by Janet: From 30 Days or Less to Forbes Contributor in 2 Months

How do you get your first freelance client4. From Indeed.com

— Kate Bialowas – Layered Indulgence

I got my first paying client through a freelance writing ad on Indeed. I had applied to the same ad a few months earlier and didn’t end up getting the gig, but decided to try again and landed it the second time.

I remember having to write a sample article and send in pitches. I definitely undersold myself, but was just happy to get a paying client! If I could give any advice, it would be not to undersell and ask for what you and your time is worth, even when you’re just starting out!

More by Kate: How I Went from $200 to $2000 as a Freelance Writer

5. From a Content Mill

– Laura Harris – LauraHarrisWrites.com

My first paying client was in a content mill called TextBroker. I earned $5.06 for a 500-word personal finance article. The first taste of currency was thrilling, but I couldn’t even out-earn my babysitter. That’s when I got some training, ditched TextBroker, learned to pitch editors, and found paid gigs on Google and job boards. Today, my rate is ten times higher and I have more work than I’ve ever dreamed of.

More by Laura: How I Got Published on Scary Mommy

6. Through Old Fashioned Networking

— Brittany Berger – Blog Bolder

I go to a lot of networking and educational events here in New York City. A few months after moving here, I had just decided to start a new freelance writing business, and was telling someone about it at a dinner event. This event was a totally casual thing at a bar, completely low pressure, and not even focused on talking business.

But that person happened to be a consultant with one client in particular who was a perfect fit for what I was looking to do. We connected on LinkedIn there at the bar, he sent an intro email later that night, and I was hired the next morning. Honestly, it wasn’t strategic at all – just great timing, but it goes to show how easily you can find opportunities when you put out there in person, which I’ve used more strategically since.

Check out this Freelancer Spotlight for more insights into Brittany’s business tips.

7. Through Word-of-Mouth

— Lori Rochino – Lorirochino.com

I got my first few clients through both word-of-mouth and job boards like Craigslist and Monster.com. One of my friends was an editor so I jumped on an opportunity to write for a business magazine when she mentioned she needed help with features and profiles on successful entrepreneurs. The other opportunities I got were for copywriting for product review websites. The “starter” clips helped me build confidence to continue seeking out new assignments, including those of my “dream” outlets.

Lori is our next guest poster in the How I Got Published On series. Keep an eye out for her tips on how to get published in YFS Magazine next week. 

8.  From ProBlogger

— Kasia Radzka – Writerly Pursuits

When I first dabbled in freelancing I went crazy with a content mill. Bad idea, although at the time it seemed genius and it paid. Then I started sending out queries to print magazines without much success (two articles out of about 100 queries!) before I realized there was a space online that actually paid for writing. After doing Gina’s course I gained more confidence and started pitching.  My first real paying client came from ProBlogger.

 
There you go – eight great ideas for finding your first freelance client. Which one of these have you tried? How did it go?
Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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