In 2020, there were around 2 million freelancers in the UK – and that number is growing year-on-year. It’s why you’ve probably found this blog post while asking the question ‘how to find your first freelance clients’; so many people are doing the same thing!

That’s for good reason: it’s an awesome career choice. I made the leap into independent work several years ago, and I’ve never been happier, wealthier or more in control of my professional destiny.

In that time, I’ve learned how to get more stuff done in a day than I ever thought possible. In turn, that has made my time more profitable while still enabling me to have a personal life.

This isn’t a dream. It’s why 61% of freelancers enter this world out of choice; they want to carve out a career under their own rules, terms and desires.

It’s why I’ve created a SkillShare class designed to help you find those all-important first clients as a freelancer. You can sign-up for a free 14-day trial of SkillShare, below:

Fancy a preview of that class? Read on!

How do freelancers find clients?

If you’ve just entered the world of freelancing or you’re planning on doing so, there’ll be one overriding question on your mind: how do I find my first client?

The good news? They’re out there, waiting for you – right now.

Even better news? You don’t have to spend any money on pay-per-click advertising or give your time away for free to find them.

You just need to lean on some tried-and-tested, sensible tactics which are used by thousands of successful freelancers – including me.

These tactics are focused on:

  • discovering something you enjoy doing and which has value for others;
  • discovering an audience that’s willing to pay for your skill;
  • developing a pitch which makes you interesting; and
  • recognising the value of your time.

If you’re fed up with asking yourself “how do I start as a freelancer”, and can’t be bothered to head over to SkillShare for my awesome video class (I won’t hold it against you), here’s some free advice.

How to find your first freelance clients – 5 methods

Is freelancing difficult? Yes, but in a completely different way to a ‘difficult’ day at a regular job – trust me.

This is because you’re in charge of your ability to make money. In fact, the main difficulty you’ll experience as a freelancer is finding the ability to say “no” to the multiple clients you begin to attract.

Here’s how to find your first freelance clients.

1. Find your niche

Identify your passion.

For me, it was writing; I knew, long ago, that I had a skill for writing and that it would be of value to others.

When identifying your passion, think about the problems you can solve. For instance, if you’re highly skilled with a digital pen, most businesses would pay good money for your ability to design logos and websites.

If you’re not sure whether or not your passion is capable of making money, head over to Google and type it in. Look for common search queries relating to your skill – you’ll be amazed by how many people need it.

2. Create an opportunity with your current employer

If you’re still employed but want to jump into the world of freelancing, your current employer could hold an unexpected key into that world.

This happened to me. I began running the marketing arm of the company I worked for, learned multiple tricks of the trade, and eventually went part time for that company while spending the other 50% of my time on my side gig.

It wasn’t long before I made the jump entirely into freelancing – and brought my old employer along with me as a client. It was the start of a journey which helped me make a full time living from writing.

And guess what: they’re still a client to this day, five years on.

You need to be careful with conflicts of interest, of course, but think carefully about how you can introduce your skill to your current line of work, and how your employer might turn into a future client of your own (this happens so often).

3. Develop your pitch

You’ve heard the term ‘elevator pitch’, right? It’s basically a way to introduce yourself and the problem you can solve during a short elevator ride.

My elevator pitch is:

“I’m Mark, and I help businesses tell their story with words, audio and video. I’ll help your business reach a specific audience and keep them engaged with your brand. Do you have any trouble reaching your audience?”

That’s it. And it works.

What’s your elevator pitch? It should include your name, what you do, what’s in it for the person you’re talking to and a call-to-action (CTA).

4. Create the simplest of websites

Don’t hire a web designer when you first start out as a freelancer. Instead, do the following:

  • sign up for a free account at Canva; and
  • sign up for a free website at WordPress.

Use Canva to create a new logo (there’s loads of templates you can choose from), and WordPress to create a simple website. You won’t spend a penny doing so.

Your website needs the following pages:

  • Home
  • About me
  • Blog
  • Contact

That’s it. You can explain everything you do on the homepage, and you can get fancier with your branding when you start bringing in real money.

5. How to find your first freelance clients via third-party websites

I’m a huge fan of freelancing websites – they’re how I got started.

The trick is to find one which best suits your skill, and to retain clients directly.

PeoplePerHour, Upwork and 99designs are three examples of freelancing websites which have ready made clients waiting to pay you for your services. Give them a go.

I also mentioned retaining clients directly, and this is vitally important. Some of my best clients are those who I found on PeoplePerHour, but I now bill them directly. That means I don’t have to pay any more commission to PeoplePerHour for return work.

I don’t game their system or pull any tricks – it’s all about effective client management and keeping a keen eye on your costs.

Although… you’ll have to watch my SkillShare class to find out how. And I won’t apologise, because you can grab a free 14-day trial of the brilliant online training platform below.

How to get your first freelance job

Ready to get your first freelance client?

I’ve thrown all of my freelancing experience into a brilliant, easy-to-follow online course. It delves deeper into the topics above, and more, and it’s perfect for new freelancers or anyone who’s struggling to find their next client.