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7 Innovative Ways Freelancers Can Find That Elusive First Client

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Grabbing that first freelance client is a huge milestone. It fills you with the confidence needed to look your family in the eye and say, “I did it.”

Until that point, though, you ask yourself every hour if you’ve done the right thing by striking out on your own. It doesn’t help that you have absolutely no clue exactly how to score that important first client.

If you’ve already hounded your friends and family and are still coming up short, try the following ideas for a fresh approach. Above all else, keep trying, and keep asking!

1. Start doing it

You can’t gain experience without any work. And you can’t gain any work without any experience. It’s the classic catch-22 that confounds freelancers all over the globe. How are you supposed to combat this?

The answer is to start doing whatever it is you want to do. It may not sound outside-of-the-box, but it is when you consider how many people won’t even take this first step.

You’ll most likely be working for free—but that’s okay, because you love it, right? No matter if it’s for a friend, a local struggling business or your mom, you’re still getting experience. Future clients just want to see some level of experience.

2. Find partners

Someone out there loves the same things you do. Finding like-minded people can not only help your business, but also build your confidence. It helps to know you’re not alone.

Head out to local meet-ups or poke around online and find groups of business owners who can help you. For every freelance peanut butter maker, there’s a freelance jelly maker. Just imagine the good things that will happen when you two finally partner up.

3. Have coffee… with the right person

You’re not going to break into any business overnight. Luckily for you, there are people who have paid their dues. While they may not have work for you, successful people are often looking for ways to give back to the next generation of up-and-comers.

So figure out who in your area is where you want to be (LinkedIn is great for this), and buy them coffee. Not every professional will have the time or inclination to meet with you, but it only takes a couple of yeses.

You’ll learn valuable tricks of the trade from talking with people who have years of experience, and who knows—maybe they’ll remember that eager young up-and-comer the next time they want to pass along work for a friend.

4. Start local

Many of your potential clients will want to work with someone local—someone they can meet face-to-face, who knows their area and their demographic, who is invested in the same community that they are and who they might bump into at the hardware store.

So embrace local marketing. List yourself on Yelp, YellowPages.com and any local websites. Take an ad out in the paper. Put one up on Craigslist. Put up flyers where your clients hang out. Go to local networking events.

The Internet features thousands of nameless, faceless people who provide the same service you do, but few of them live in your neighborhood. Capitalize on your home field advantage. And become a recognizable face in your community!

5. Auction yourself

No doubt you’ve seen the auction-a-freelancer websites out there. A client posts “I need help,” and zillions of freelancers come out of the woodwork to bid on the job.

Yes, it’s a terrible way to get solid and long-lasting work. However, it’s great for newbies who want practice and to build their portfolio.

It may take a little while, but eventually you’ll land someone who needs some work for cheap. The more work you do, the better your chances of getting MORE work.

6. Take some classes

If you need a good recommendation, look no further than someone who teaches exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life! Since you’re still learning and growing, taking a class won’t be a waste of resources. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to network.

Furthermore, if you impress your professor by constantly performing at your peak, they’ll be more than willing to recommend you when the time comes. A professor likely knows tons of potential clients and could steer you in the right direction.

7. Ask everywhere

You’ve already asked your friends and family, and you’ve even remembered to ask your annoying former carpool buddy. But those aren’t the only people you know!

Take a second and write down every single place you’ve been in the past month, making sure to identify your regular hangouts. How many people do you know in each of these establishments, even on a casual basis? They may need work or know someone else who does—all you have to do is ask.

Jennifer Dunn is blog editor for WePay, the easiest way to accept credit cards online.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.