How to Get Your First Freelancing Gig

About two years ago, I started working as a freelance writer. I saw it as an opportunity to improve my writing and build my savings at the same time.

Since then, I have earned around $20,000 and worked over 1000 hours for multiple clients. It has been a long and complex journey to get here. This guide is intended to reduce that time and complexity. By following the steps below you’ll be well on your way to getting your first gig way faster than I did.

There are three primary considerations potential clients weigh when analyzing your job proposals.

1) Price: Clients want to get the best services at the lowest cost. All else being equal, a client will always prefer to work with freelancers whose fees are lower.

2) Experience: How skilled you are in your respective field can greatly increase your ability to compete for jobs.

3) Reviews and Ratings: One of the most important factors to keep in mind, especially for your first job, are your reviews. Potential clients are far more likely to look at applications with consistently good ratings. The last thing any client wants is a freelancer who becomes a headache. After all, they’re looking for freelance workers because they want to make their work easier.

Since you can’t directly control your rating, it’s important to focus on your price and to target jobs in areas in which you are confident and knowledgeable. 

My first strategy to start landing jobs was to lower my fee below similar postings. I used my initial gigs to get solid reviews under my belt. It turned out to be an effective strategy, but it wasn’t easy. These first jobs were painful. It was difficult to stay motivated while earning less than I wanted. The reduced earnings in the short term helped me develop a strong reputation for the long term. Once you impress your first client and get their feedback (be sure to ask at the end of every job), you can start to raise your fee and show new potential clients that you’re worth the increased cost.

The next strategy which helped me land my initial gigs was focusing on what I was good at. Before I sent my first proposal, I took a moment to define my skills. I knew I was a decent writer, could type really fast, and research effectively. If you’re like me and your college career has emphasized these same skills, you might be in a similar position. I looked for jobs that matched my abilities. I found myself considering transcription jobs. Transcriptors need to be able to type quickly, and clients are often willing to take more risks with new freelancers because the job is more routine than creative. It wasn’t very glamorous or exciting work, but focusing on what I was already good at helped me find jobs and get reviews. Any positive feedback is beneficial. It’s ok if your first job isn’t exactly what you wanted. I was never planning on doing transcription forever. Getting high ratings in my first jobs helped me transition to work I truly enjoy.

Starting out as a new freelancer is a lot more difficult than the services like Fiverr, Upwork, and Toptal make it seem. This does not mean freelancing is not a worthwhile pursuit. Just keep in mind what you can control, and focus on how landing your first gig can help expand your future opportunities. Potential clients primarily consider your price, your expertise, and your reviews. Optimize your price and area of expertise to land your first job. And be sure to get feedback from each and every client. Getting the first job is always the hardest. If you stay focused on what you can control, freelancing will feel far less frustrating and far more rewarding.

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