Remote freelancer on blue sofa looking at laptop

How to find work as a freelancer

May 27, 2022
Whether you’re shifting to self-employment or setting up a side-hustle, starting out as a freelancer is a big step for any aspiring solopreneur.However, irrespective of how talented you are at your craft, your business won’t be a success unless you find clients looking to use your services. Over time you might find clients will come to you, but this is only likely to happen if you put the groundwork in now.In this article, we’ll be not only go into finding work as a freelancer, but also how to spot — and secure — high-quality gigs that’ll benefit your small business in the long term.

What is a freelancer?

A freelancer is someone who works for themselves on either a full-time or part-time basis, often working for on several jobs for more than one client at the same time.You can find freelancers working in practically any field, from freelance writing to content marketing to project management, with some freelancers specialising in a particular niche or industry.Unlike full-time employment, freelancers are free to set their own rates and work their own hours, with work opportunities ranging between one-off freelance gigs to prolonged stints for returning customers.
What’s the difference between a freelancer and a sole trader?
Despite both freelancers and sole traders fall under the self-employment category, the terms are not interchangeable. A sole trader is a self-employed individual who, in the eyes of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is seen as a singular legal entity with their small business. In short, this means that sole traders are entirely in control of their businesses and can keep all profits after tax, but are wholly liable if something goes wrong.

Freelancers can operate as sole traders, with many beginners starting out this way since setting up as a sole trader is relatively straightforward. However, more established freelancers with multiple long-term clients may find it more tax-efficient to operate as a limited company.

If you’re not sure which business structure is best for your freelance business, you can use our Sole Trader vs. Limited Company Savings calculator to work out which business structure will save you the most on tax.

How to find work as a freelancer

Freelance job boards
For many of these, you can set up your own profile with a short bio and a link to your portfolio, making it easier for clients seeking out the services you offer to find you. It’s also worth seeing if these platforms offer networking events or short courses to help you further your career while searching for opportunities.Some of the most popular freelance job sites in the UK include the following:

Some things to consider when using freelance job sites

While these sites have plenty of job listings on offer, keep in mind that competition on these freelance websites are fierce, so you may have to lower your rates to stay competitive.However, if you’re new to freelancing these low-paid positions could be just what you need to build up a portfolio, as well as introducing you to potential repeat, long-term clients.It’s also worth noting that while some freelance platforms are free to use, others will take a fraction of your earnings — usually between 5% to 20% — or charge a monthly fee to use their site.
Regular job sites
If you’ve left full-time employment to pursue your freelancing career, you might think you’ve left the likes of Reed, Indeed and LinkedIn far behind. However, sometimes companies will post short-term freelance jobs for work that isn’t sufficient enough to hire a full-time employee, so be sure to keep scouring these sites in case any new job postings pop up.Make sure that any applications you send are tailored to the role you’re applying to, with your CV showcasing relevant experience and any work submissions are related to the position in question.
Company outreach
Sometimes as a freelancer it’s possible to make your own luck. While cold calling and cold emailing might feel daunting at first, you might find it an effective way to find new clients.If you’re starting out you might find it helpful to start small, sending a tailored email, a copy of your CV and a few snippets of your portfolio over. After you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can then turn your attention to larger brands that can offer high-quality, high-paying jobs.
Word of mouth
Not only is this method of marketing your services practically free, but it’s also a great way to make it widely known that you’re open for business.Start by sharing with friends and reach out to industry connections to let them know you’re available. While they may not need your services straight away, if someone asks them for recommendations, there’s a good chance you’ll be at the top of their list.Once you’ve started getting work, encourage happy clients to spread the word, whether it’s by asking them to pass on your details to someone else who might need your services or by writing a testimonial for you to post on your website (if you have one — we’ll cover that later).To take this one step further, consider setting up a referral scheme by offering small discounts for clients who refer you to others, alongside an introductory discount to the person referred.
Personal branding
Irrespective of the work you’re doing, one of the best ways to attract clients is by having a solid brand. Whether it’s a prospect who’s been referred to you or a potential client who’s stumbled across you online, you’ll want to make sure they can get a good idea of the work you do and how well you can do it.If you’re looking to land roles in the creative sector, you’ll want to make sure you have a good website showcasing your work. If you’re a freelance writer or copywriter, SEO-rich blogs are a must-have, and visual websites with galleries are perfect for showcasing your best work if you’re a freelance designer, web designer, graphic designer or illustrator.Alongside examples of your work, make sure you have a page on your website with your contact information readily available.Similar to the above, a strong presence on social media makes it easy for potential customers to get a glimpse into the work you do. Consider posting snippets of your work on Twitter, or use your Instagram page as a “shop window” for your design work. Don’t forget to update your bios to include links to further examples of your work!
Social media
Not only is this a great way to showcase your work, but you can use social media to find jobs, networking opportunities and workshops that’ll help improve your skillset.Once you’ve set up your professional social media page, there are a few things you can do to make the most of social media:
    Post on LinkedIn and Twitter about when you’re available for freelance work — and when you’re fully booked tooFollow hashtags relevant to your industry for jobs, career insights and eventsGet to know other freelancers working in your niche, as they may be able to recommend you to clients if they’re too busy with other workInteract with the companies and agencies you’d be keen to work forShare client testimonials and examples of your work with both relevant and searchable hashtags to draw attention to your pages

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