Starting off as a freelancer was a daunting task to me. It takes a lot of perseverance and motivation. You have to be focused, hard-working, and in love with what you do. Otherwise, it is very hard to keep doing it everyday without cracking under the pressure. Today I am going to share some tips I learned and experienced while I was on my way to my first client, and ultimately how I got my first client. It took some time, some practice, and a lot of hard work and promotion, but it happened and I haven't looked back since.
If you decide to truly take the leap and start a career doing freelance design or development, you better be ready to get serious. Start by planning it out. Organize your day so that you can get work done, promote your work, and find new clients. Here is a small sample schedule that might be of use to help you decide yours.
- Wake up, have breakfast, prepare for the day.
- Start my computer, keep up with social media pages, check email, etc.
- Start working on some design work, whether his is client or personal.
- Take an hour or so to do some reading, research, learning.
- Have some lunch :D
- Get back to work with design and/or development for an hour.
- Write and work on products for my design resource store.
- Read a little more (30 minutes).
- More design work.
- A little more work, emails, then relax til bed.
Keep in mind this isn't my schedule, just something I came up with as a day to day thing. It is probably not ideal for everyone, but it can be good to space your time out and do different things so you don't get burned out.
After you have planned out your days and started working hard. It is time to develop a plan to get that client.
For a designer, especially when first starting out it might be hard to find clients. So what I did, as a freelancer still looking for new ways to diversify my income, was to write articles about design. I had a unique skill and people were interested in hearing about it, so I started to write for some websites. Tutorials are a great way to earn sites like psdtuts+ pay upwards of $100 per tutorial. If you can write a few of these a month, that will be a very nice income that is on top of your freelance work.
This is also part of the marketing plan. By writing you are getting your name out there and your knowledge is visible to the world. People will see how much you know and will likely share this helping you promote your name. Another way I suggest marketing is to make and sell products on sites like CreativeMarket and Envato. Not only can you make a decent income on the side from your products, but it can also lead to clients. For me this was an excellent way to get some new clients. Some users saw my UI and photo action work and loved it. So they contacted me and hired me to work for them. It was great because I was already earning from products, but was able to leverage that and gain new clients as well.
Finally be sure to market your work with a nice clean portfolio. Be sure to explain exactly what you do. Don't add useless information. No client cares about your hobbies and your favorite drink. You wouldn't put this information on your resume, would you? Exactly, so keep your portfolio nice, informative, and displaying all your best work. After you have this consider having a twitter and/or facebook fan page. Gain some support and this can be useful when promoting your new side projects, your site, or your work.
Take the Initiative
When I started designing, I had the obscure idea that clients would come to me. Boy was I wrong! Sure, once you have a big name and a following you will get tons of clients emailing you, but not until you have some work to back that up. Starting out, it is ok to search for clients and take the initiative by emailing them. I did this and was able to land a few repeat clients! Some clients don't know they need a new design until they come across your work and fall in love with it. Surely don't spam people, but never be afraid to take the first step!
Keep Working Hard
That's really all there is to it. You have to work hard and be willing to leave your comfort zone a little, but the rewards are surely worth it. Keep staying devoted and perfect your craft. By becoming a true expert in your field, the clients will start to find you. Referrals will come in, and your freelance business will build up. Stick with it!
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