If I could find a time machine, there are a lot of things I would do before landing my first freelancing client. Aside from telling myself to charge more, I definitely would have set up some systems to keep everything running smoothly from the first interaction.
You live and you learn, right?
Luckily, you all don’t have to live to learn from my firsthand experiences. As a freelancer with almost a decade of real-world experience writing, marketing, and creating content for brands online, I’ve learned quite a few things along the way.
In this guide, I’ll break down the 5 things you should do before landing your first freelancing client. Of course, if you’ve already landed your first client (congrats!), don’t sweat it. These are still important things to keep in mind as you grow your freelancing business.
In this blog…
- Write a basic freelancing contract
- Build a portfolio
- Develop your brand voice
- Set your price
- Make a website
1. Write a Basic Freelancing Contract
Of course, the first thing you should do before landing your first freelancing client is to write a basic freelancing contract. While you might think this can wait until later, you don’t want to fumble around for legal contracts last minute.
If you have one ready to go, you can send it to your first client immediately. Not only will you look super professional, but you’ll be taken a lot more seriously. If your prospect has any questions about your process, payment terms, project scope, etc, you’ll already have these things ironed out.
Not sure how to make your first freelancing client? I share how to draft your own freelancer contract (with a free template you can copy-paste) in this guide. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an attorney or anything fancy to get started with a basic contract.
2. Build a Portfolio
Speaking of looking professional, you should also have a freelancer portfolio ready to go. This is a portfolio specifically designed for your ideal client.
Not sure what this might look like? Feel free to take a peak around my freelance writing portfolio.
Your portfolio should have all the following:
- Relevant work/professional experience
- Links or snippets of past work and examples
- References or testamonials
However, don’t get the freelancing portfolio confused for a resume. These are different things. A resume is what you submit for a job, but a portfolio focuses more on the quality of your work. You want to show your prospective clients that you mean business, and you can handle their project with ease.
Depending on your industry, your portfolio might look a bit different. For example, a graphic design portfolio will be more visual while a writing or tech-based portfolio might have live web links. Consider your industry standard when getting started.
3. Develop Your Brand Voice
Next, it’s time to create a brand voice. This is how you stand out from the competition, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Your brand voice includes elements like your tone, audience, and niche.
Without a brand voice, it’d challenging to attract the right type of clients. You’re not trying to attract everyone. Your goal is to attract the right audience for you. Your brand voice should appeal to your target client, giving you a chance to stand out in the best way.
If you’re new to the idea of brand voice, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s your mission statement?
- Who is your ideal client?
- What makes you different from the competition?
Identify a few key characteristics that match your brand voice. For example, at Offbeat Freelancer, I try to be “human, relatable, and easy to understand.” This guides all of my content, and it’s something I keep in mind when I attract client as well.
4. Set Your Price
Another key thing to do before you land your first freelancing client is to set your price. Nothing is worth than scrambling to price yourself in a meeting with a client. This leads to underselling yourself, and you might find yourself agreeing to terms you’re not comfortable with.
While things might come up that make you change your fee structure, give some thought to how much you’d like to charge before you begin.
This can be tricky. Don’t fall into the trap of setting your prices too low to attract more clients. While this might seem effective, it backfires every time. When you don’t value yourself and your work, neither do your clients.
If you’re not sure how to price yourself, don’t overthink it. Do your best to consider what others of your skill level are charging. Don’t forget to include extra accommodation for things like taxes, admin time, and health insurance. This isn’t the same as an in-person job, so don’t charge the same.
5. Make a Website
Finally, I always think it’s a good idea to make a website before you start promoting yourself as a freelancer. However, this doesn’t mean you need to invest hundreds in a top web designer, platform, and graphic designer. While that’s all well and good, making a website doesn’t have to be expensive at all.
In fact, you can start your own website for under $30. This includes hosting and a domain name.
If you’re first getting started, you can also use a tool like Squarespace and Wix. I haven’t personally used these, so I can’t speak to them, but I know they’re popular. My personal favorite website tool is WordPress. I like WordPress because it’s free, the largest web platform around, and it makes it really easy to customize template/themes.
Unless you’re familiar with coding your own WordPress theme, you can easily find free or low-cost themes to use on Etsy and CreativeMarket. This helps you stand out from the crowd, and it’s another chance to craft your brand voice.
Ultimately, a website is the best way to get taken seriously. Linking to your website from cold pitches, outreach, and your social media channels shows you know what you’re doing. Whether you build a blog to share expertise or simply keep your portfolio here, it’s sure to impress your first freelancing clients.
Are You Ready to Land Your First Freelancing Clients?
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to freelancing, these are all things I wish I had under my belt before I officially got started. I had to scramble to make up the difference later on, and it led to cutting a lot of corners.
If you can, save yourself the headache. Master these 5 things you should do before landing your first freelancing client so you’re a pro from the first day.