How to land freelance job opportunities

30 Jun 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Are you thinking about starting a freelance career after university? Here, post-grad and freelance writer Hazel shares her top tips on how to get started.

Working 9-5 isn’t the only way to make a living – trust me, I avoided it for three years now.

And while a full-time job can give you a certain type of security, working for yourself can open up opportunities to work on all sorts of projects, from anywhere in the world.

From being able to travel and work at the same time, to being in command of your own hours, it’s a lifestyle that can be hard to walk away from once you get used to it.

So, if you’re thinking about starting your own freelance career, don’t let fear hold you back.

From one freelancer to another, here are some of the top ways you can get started on building up that client list.

1) Create an online portfolio

One thing I always find when I approach people about doing work (or if they have approached me), is that I often get asked if I can share my online portfolio, or examples of my work, so they can check out the quality of what I’ve done to date.

By having this readily available, you can demonstrate you’re already ahead of the game, as well as stay in control of what your potential clients get to see.

Sometimes, people might ask you to do some ‘sample’ work for them and honestly? It’s a waste of time for both sides, especially if they decide not to use you. Having an online portfolio means you can politely decline to do this, while being able to show ample examples of your skill at just a few clicks of a button.

2) Join networking groups

Once you start running your own business, you’ll quickly realise that contacts are absolutely vital if you want to build up that client list.

Join both online and in-person networking events if you can and get your name out there. People are more likely to buy from (or recommend) those they’ve already built a relationship with, so make sure you’re turning up regularly and cultivating those key connections.

3) Build an online presence

So much of what we do involves social media these days and being a freelancer is no exception.

Once you’ve started making those key contacts, connect with them on platforms like LinkedIn and make sure you’re regularly posting to keep yourself at the forefront of their minds.

Running social media accounts can be a pain, but it’s a very necessary part of marketing yourself.

4) Find a niche

It’s very easy to commit yourself to every job going, especially when you’re starting out and you’re worried about building enough clients to pay the bills.

However, a niche can really help when it comes to making yourself that ‘go to’ contact people use in a specific industry.

Essentially, making yourself an ‘expert’ in a particular field can go a long way towards building your freelance portfolio, as well as meaning you can commit yourself to a field you’re particularly interested or knowledgeable in.

5) Contact people you’d like to work with

Do you have a dream to work with a specific company? Even if they haven’t got jobs going, get in contact with them and let them know you’re available for work.

Share your portfolio and give them an idea of how you could help them up their game. You may get nowhere, or you may even get offered a job; who knows if you don’t try?

6) Make a list of useful contacts

Sometimes, we forget that we actually already have some really useful contacts up our sleeves, or we know we do but feel like we’re taking advantage if we reach out.

Put those feelings to the side, though – you run a business now!

Check in with your friends and family who have their own businesses and see if they’re looking (or know anyone else who is) for someone in your line of work. You might be just the person they need.

7) Market yourself

I can’t emphasise this last point enough, and it’s something we can all too easily put to the side when we’re busy.

But marketing, and I mean continuous marketing, is so important to a successful freelance career. From upping your game on social media, to placing ads in magazines and newspapers, there are so many ways to get your business out there; you just need to find the right way for you.

The final word

Getting paid clients is always a huge barrier to start with, so don’t feel too despondent - it can take lots of time to build up freelance work.

Even three years later, it’s still a learning curve and I pick up new tips all the time. The key is to not give up too quickly and do something that makes you passionate. It’s going to be hard work, so you have to love it!

For more career tips from the Common Room, click here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.