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When you have picked a field you want to freelance in, the next question is: where will you find your first clients?
If you’re in the same field as your current or previous job, don’t try and steal clients from your employers! This is plain bad taste and can even be illegal. So you could get into serious trouble.
One way I have found my first clients is through online networking. Google your industry + forums. Bookmark those sites until you have about 10-15 potential online forums. Sign up for maybe the top five based on relevance to your services and number of forum members. You’ll also want to make sure the forum posts are recent and active.
Most of these forums are free to join. However, paying to join a forum could be worth your while if the forum members meet your description of your “perfect client” – you know, the one who has all the characteristics you’re looking for in a client, including having deep pockets to pay your fees.
Another place to look at are freelance bidding sites, such as Elance.com, Guru.com and Odesk.com. You can also try looking at the many freelancing job boards on the Internet.
Wherever you do look for your first few clients, remember that you may have to set your fees low to begin with. If that’s the case, take heart. You are accomplishing many things with these first few clients:
- You are building your portfolio.
- You can collect testimonials.
- You are creating your own network of people who can give you referrals.
- You are gaining experience and honing your skills.
- You are getting to know your target clients better, especially their needs and how you can fulfill them.
The low paying jobs will probably last for awhile, as until you have assembled a massive list of satisfied clients you will have to primarily compete with all of the other freelancers in your field entirely on how low your rates and fees are.
Eventually though you will graduate into higher and higher paying jobs until you will find that you have practically doubled your current income with income from freelancing. In fact, you should gradually increase your rates over time. People do judge the value of a product or service based on its cost. So if you keep under-pricing yourself, potential clients will think your services are probably not worth much.
When you do reach the point when you have practically doubled your starting out fees, you can consider cutting down the hours you work at your day job, or even quit it altogether. More on that in future posts.