Finding Your First Contract
Top Tips on Finding Freelance Work
Working for yourself can be immensely exciting. But, once you’ve taken the leap, how do you get clients and suppliers to know that you’re there and that you’re the best person for the job?
There is no silver bullet for this, but below we’ve highlighted a few areas which could help you on your way to winning the first of many contracts.
Consider Your Branding
Ultimately your brand is a shortcut to telling people what to expect from you: how you work, your ethos, if you are trustworthy etc. It’s how people engage and perceive a product, service or person.
Good branding provides the filtration people need to make a decision. Ensure the brand you’re projecting into the world accurately reflects you. It’s worth asking for feedback from friends and associates to give their honest opinion on whether they would hire you, based on what they have seen. It’s also crucial that you scope the competition within your industry and see what they are doing and how they present themselves.
Make Yourself Visible
Getting yourself heard and remembered takes constant graft. So how do you get someone’s attention?
Sending cold emails to the type of people you want to work with is a standard approach, but it’s a numbers game. You’ll want to be fairly targeted with your message to keep the potential client engaged. Think about how you are presenting yourself and what you want the outcome of the email to be.
Video is growing rapidly and quickly becoming a popular way for people to introduce themselves to potential clients, so don’t be afraid to get in front of the camera. Keep it short and show your personality.
Social media is currently the most popular and effective way to get people to know who you are. These platforms are great for allowing two-way conversations to take place, to demonstrate you’re an expert in your field, and present yourself as someone they should hire.
Asking For Referrals
Building good referral habits can really make a difference to your network. Spend some time going through your contacts and LinkedIn connections to prioritise people you know would provide you with quality referrals – but don’t assume others won’t be willing to refer you, as they might just know someone looking to hire.
When asking for a referral you have to be specific. Make it as easy as possible for the person you’re asking to think of someone relevant to the roles you’re looking for. You then also need that person to make the introduction for you, as this increases your chances of booking a meeting.
Keep in mind that referrals should be reciprocal, so see if you can make a valuable introduction for someone as they’ll remember it when you come knocking in the future.
Do Some Networking
There are many different ways to go about networking to help you meet new people or clients. In normal circumstances, physical events are a great way to increase your network. Go there with your elevator pitch ready so you’re confident talking about what you do and what makes you different. Ensure you talk to as many people as possible but don’t be too quick to always move on, as you need to get to know people as well. Try not to be too overtly salesy as it can be quite off-putting.
If you’re more introverted, then you can network online, there has been such a rapid increase in online events that there are so many more opportunities now.
Consider joining some groups within your sector or that have similar interests. Membership clubs like IPSE help bring together a wide variety of self-employed people who all have similar challenges to you. Increasing your network this way could also aid your introduction to end clients.
Consider Agile Working
If you’re new to contracting and not winning work due to a perceived lack of experience, have you considered working with some consultancies? Those that take an agile approach to projects are often looking for people to come in and be one part of a larger project. This can be a great way to gain experience but also learn from more senior people. If you do a good job, then it can often lead to more work in the future.
Working this way can also be an opportunity to develop new skills outside of your core.
When you don’t win work, experiencing rejection can be disheartening. So how do you keep moving forwards?
First and foremost, remember, rejection is part of the process of working for yourself. Unfortunately, you’re not going to land every job you apply for. It will be helpful if you can develop some coping mechanism that builds resilience.
If you find you’re experiencing a lot of rejections, then it’s worth reviewing all the brand, sales, and pricing work you’ve done to see if you can make any improvement.
Don’t be afraid to ask the end client or recruiter for feedback. You’re entitled to get some actionable insights at the end of the process. It’s also worth trying to find out if it’s a flat no, or just a no at this time. Find out if it’s worth you keeping in contact with them, should there be another opportunity in the future.
If you feel that all your efforts to date are not helping you find as much work as you’d like, don’t be afraid to seek some external help. For example, IPSE runs an Incubator for anyone new to self-employment. They provide a full 12 months of support that will help strengthen your sales, marketing, finance, and wellbeing knowledge.
IPSE is a not-for-profit providing a voice to the UK’s self-employed population. The organisation’s aim is to empower, protect, and connect their members for success in their self-employed career – no matter their sector or level of experience.
As a contractor with JSA, you can benefit from an exclusive discount on IPSE PLUS membership, giving you access to all their great benefits and one year’s free access to the Incubator for very little cost. Get in touch with us to start saving on your IPSE membership.