3 under-utilized ways to get more freelance clients

Written by Emilie Brunet on October 12, 2023

Getting your first few paying freelance clients can feel like one of the biggest mountains you’ll climb.

Try these three super easy and yet super under-utilized ways to help you get your first clients.

1. Tell everyone and anyone who you talk to

Once you’ve decided to make the jump to freelance, you need to stand behind that decision by actively telling people that this is what you do now.

Everyone in your life needs to know. You need to shout it from the rooftops.

This means telling your neighbours, your friends, your parents, the barista at your local coffee shop, your accountant, the bartender, your mother’s friend’s brother’s sister-in law, etc.

Maybe your immediate reaction is, “That’s just so obnoxious.”

But let’s clarify something. Telling people whom you already have an existing relationship with or have already established communication with is very different than pitching your services to strangers.

No one wants to be pitched to. But having a pleasant conversation with someone in which you naturally slip into the conversation that you provide freelance services is not pitching.

And it’s important to realize that the ultimate purpose behind this isn’t to sell your services to the person you’re talking to but to make yourself top of mind.

Maybe when you’re talking to your next door neighbour, Sarah, you casually bring up the fact that you’re now doing freelance web development. Sarah doesn’t need your services, but she remembers your pleasant conversation and the next time that she’s at bookclub and overhears that someone is looking to build a website, she drops your name and boom, that’s your first client.

When you make the jump to freelance, you need to talk about it.

2. Do free* work for your friends and family

We know that unpaid labour does not pay rent and “exposure” doesn’t pay for groceries.

But while we don’t encourage endless unpaid labour, being able to do work for free for a few clients when you’re just starting out, will go a long way.

Doing some client work for free can help you:

If you don’t like the idea of offering your services 100% free, consider this instead:

A few important things to keep in mind when providing free or heavily discounted services:

Providing services for free when you’re first starting out is integral to getting your name out there and for having positive reviews and testimonials that back up your services.

3. Use Facebook, Slack or WhatsApp Groups

We know that Facebook is old news. But we also know that most millennials still use Facebook for Groups. And in addition to Facebook Groups, more and more Slack and Discord servers are popping up highlighting local job opportunities and gigs.

Do some research and find your local (and remote) groups. There are always people posting looking for specific services.

It’s important when you’re in these groups to not just spam people but rather take the time to engage and respond to people’s inquiries. It needs to be an exchange. Answer questions, respond, demonstrate that you are a part of the “community” prior to just demanding that people use your services.

What have you tried?

Getting clients by posting on Linked In, trying to go viral on social media, paying tons of money for advertisements, or simply starting on freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork are other ways to get started.

Have you been freelancing for a while? How did you get your first clients?

Let us know!

About the author

Hey, I'm Emilie 👋🏻

I'm the People & Culture Manager at Journey Education. I have always had a passion for writing, organization and finding creative solutions. I aim to be personable, empathetic and compassionate and believe that kindness can go along way in both business and life.

Having worked and organized with anti-capitalist, feminist and queer organizations, I strongly believe that EVERYONE deserves, not just a living wage, but a thriving wage and that it should be the priority of every business to create an inclusive, caring and diverse work environment that doesn't just ensures the work happens, but allows people to be people while the work is happening!

My approach to everything I do reflects my training in trauma-informed practices, active listening and harm reduction as well as my interest in understand the way people work, behave and exist as their full human self. I want to create safer spaces for people to explore, create and excel in a supportive environment - whether that's in life or at work.