New To Freelancing? 16 Tips For Landing Your First Client

As companies begin to hire more contract workers over full-time employees, the “gig economy” is becoming a viable option for full-time employment. However, with more freelancers, it’s harder to stand out when there’s more competition for work.

It can be especially difficult trying to land your first freelance gig. To help those who are new to the world of freelancing, we asked members of Forbes Coaches Council to share some advice for landing your first client. Their best responses are below.

Members discuss strategies freelancers can adopt to land their first clients.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Know Yourself First

Are you trying to accommodate everyone? Well, you will find yourself with no clients. Let your personality shine. Be honest about your times, family situation and deadlines. Some people look for a 9-to-5 person while others just need someone to meet deadlines and get other tasks done. Find who you are before to find who to work with. – Susan Ibitz, Human Behavior Lab

2. Build Referral Partnerships

Build referral partnerships and alliances with businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers in other industries who already work with the kind of clients you are looking to land. Most freelancers focus on networking only with prospective clients. If you ally with partners who can introduce you and exchange client referrals mutually, then you will set yourself up to be a competitive freelancer. – Christie Samson

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

3. Start With What You Know

Try one of the freelance platforms like Fiverr that offer introductory prices. Use the testimonials and feedback as a way into other more lucrative gigs. I got my first freelance job at an ad agency and I used that to open doors at cable TV networks. Think about other companies and industries that could use your talent and expertise. Start looking for the next gig while you’re working at the current one. – Susan Sadler, Sadler Communications LLC

4. Treat Them Like A Client Before They Sign

Finding good people to work with can be tough. Those looking for freelance help want to minimize their chance of risk. Even if you don’t have much contracting experience yet, don’t display hesitation. Treat everyone that comes through your door as a guest, not a prospect. Show them you mean business by properly welcoming them, listening to them, being helpful and showing honest enthusiasm for the job. – Thom Pulliam, Unicorn Talent Club

5. Schedule Frequent Conversations

Schedule your calendar with conversations to increase opportunities and uncover hidden resources. It’s not about what you can do for the client; it’s about listening, uncovering their pain points and offering solutions. Even if an initial conversation doesn’t lead to an immediate client, when you add value, people will remember. Nine times out of 10, they will seek you out down the road. – Erin Miller, Erin Miller Inc

6. Create An Ideal Customer Profile

Approach your target audience with selection. You have taken great strides to build your business model, brand, company and customer strategies, and have trained your team for high performance. Now it is time to align your company’s mission, vision, values, products and services with those segmented clients who will maximize business success. Through selection, the value proposition will drive success. – Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting

7. Do Pro Bono Work For A Nonprofit

There are a lot of people that will tell you that you should offer your services free first. Only do this for a nonprofit organization. All nonprofits need the type of freelance help that is generally available and they really benefit from the assistance. Giving something free to someone who can pay for it cheapens the service, but giving it to a nonprofit is a true donation. – John Knotts, Crosscutter Enterprises

8. Brand Yourself And Market To An Audience Of One

When you’re shining in a gig/freelance economy, you want to identify what makes you so unique that a potential client has no choice but to select you. What’s your differentiator that none of your competitors has and they couldn’t touch you if they tried? Then on the various platforms, identify your ideal client or avatar. Brand yourself, market to that one fan and sell, sell, sell! – Dorothy Enriquez, The Communication Strategist

9. Have A Professional Website And Services Presentation

Too many freelancers try to be all things to all people. Display your superpowers on your website and in your ads and descriptions. Be proud of what you do best and don’t overcommit to things you don’t know. Land your first client by presenting the market price of your services, and then discounting from there. Ask if they will provide a referral when they are pleased. Do your best to shine! – Dana Manciagli, Job Search Master Class

10. Align Your Work With Your Values

If you create a brand that is aligned with your personal and professional values first, you’ll be sure to find the right clients fast. Being true to who you are makes communication much smoother and projects more successful! Most would say as a freelancer your first responsibility is to your client; I say it’s to your authenticity. Once you express that, you’ll be all set! – Miranda VonFricken, Miranda VonFricken Masterminds & Coaching

11. Learn How To Sell On Social Media

People connect with people. Build up your networks exponentially by joining groups. To attract your first customer, write very concise ad copy on your personal Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or business page. A format that works is: “I am looking for five people who (pain), and want to (goal) within the next (time frame) to (solution).” Offer a free consultation of 15 minutes. It is a fit? Close. – Sharesz T. Wilkinson, The Speech Improvement Company

12. Make A Bold Promise And Keep It

As a freelancer, it is important to set yourself and your brand apart from others. A great way to do this is with a brand promise that your ideal clients would find valuable and beneficial. Tell your prospects how you will help them and what they can expect when they buy from you, and make sure it’s unique. Most freelancers are not making bold promise statements; doing so will ensure you stand out. – Lori A. Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group LLC

13. Ask For The Sale

The best advice I have for a freelancer to land their first client is to ask for the business. Through business introductions at networking events and finding out what clients need and how you’ll meet that need, you can finalize the deal by asking for the business. Remember, your network is your net worth—so tap into your network and land your first client. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

14. Be Patient And Authentic

Patience and authenticity become increasingly difficult when you’re trying to land that first client. It’s an internal struggle as you are looking to confirm the value you may add and the worthiness of your efforts. Authenticity will be an essential ingredient that the first client is looking for before they trust you with their business. – Jorge Gutierrez, BMOC Group

15. Believe In Yourself

We project what we believe and our mindset then becomes our reality. In other words, our thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I believe that it will be hard to land my first client or that it will take a long time, I may self-sabotage my efforts. On the other hand, if I believe that my first client is out there now waiting for me, I’m much more likely to do the work to make that happen. – Vered Kogan, Momentum Institute™