5 Ways to Get Freelance Clients When You’re Just Getting Started

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.

Don’t want to read over 1,000 words about how to get freelance web design clients when you’re just getting started? No worries I got you. Here’s a podcast.

It’s hard to know how to get freelance clients when you’re first getting started.

In your gut you know there’s a lot of opportunities out there. But, how you get all those opportunities to show up at your doorstep is another problem.

If you’re struggling to get freelance clients as a newbie, rest assured, you’re not alone. Taking the time to learn a skill that someone might be willing to pay you is one thing BUT getting someone to ACTUALLY pay you for that skill is another thing entirely.

This week I sat down and chatted with Sammy. Sammy and her husband have almost accidentally fallen into making websites for people they know. BUT, they’ve decided they want to intentionally make it into a business.

The problem is they don’t know how to get the ball rolling. So, I sat down with Sammy and gave her a few ideas.

Truthfully, every freelancer has a bit of a right of passage when they’re just getting started. So, here are 5 ways you can get freelance clients in the early stages.

1. Ask People You Know

Take a second right now and write down a list of 100 people you know that MIGHT need your services.

Notice, I didn’t say DEFINITELY need your services because we don’t know yet. We’ve got to take a leap of faith and ask them.

Let’s say for Sammy’s sake we’re talking about someone that needs help with a website.

Who do you know that has a business?

Who do you know that’s been talking about starting a business?

Write them down!

What about a friend or family member that’s been wanting to start a blog?

Write them down!

At first, it takes a little bit of time to get the gears turning. But, eventually, it’ll get easier to come up with a list of people that might need your help.

Then when you’ve got your list start reaching out to every one of them. You will more than likely have at least a few people that come back and say, “You know what I was just thinking the other day about how much I needed to…”

That’s a sign you’re on the right track.

2. Ask People You Know if THEY Know Anyone


You’re trying to create a few personal ambassadors or evangelists to help you get freelance clients.

You need to make sure that everyone you know knows you’re starting to freelance. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Be the annoying guy or girl at the party who’s mentioning their new business.

I’m kidding. Don’t be annoying. BUT, definitely talk about.

You might be fearful that some people will actually get annoyed with you. But, here’s the thing, most people don’t. In fact, most people really want to help you.

Turn the tables around for a second. If you had a friend that was trying to get something off the ground and they were passionate about it and enjoyed sharing what they were doing, would you get annoyed? NO!

You’d be excited for them.

The key is don’t make the interaction transactional. In other words, don’t just ask them if they know someone that needs your help and then walk away. Stay engaged in the conversation.

But, for sure, make sure you are as vocal about it as you can be.

One of my first gigs came from a friend sharing with another friend that I was starting to build websites.

The rest is history.

3. Get Freelance Clients Through Networking

A lot of people hate networking.

I get it. It can feel creepy and sleazy and like everyone is only there to get something from someone else. BUT, that’s not the case with all networking gatherings.

In fact, there are some really great networking opportunities probably right around the corner from where you are that you are missing out on just because you’re biased towards networking.

Instead of bashing it. Try it out.

How do you find networking opportunities?

Well, first, you can google. You’ll likely find a number of different networking events really close to where you live.

BUT, another way is to ask other friends if they’re in any networking groups. This is great because it’s likely those friends have gone and vetted the network gatherings for you and can tell you whether or not they’re worth your time.

Another option is to use apps like Meetup.

Once you’ve found some try them out and keep going back to the ones you enjoyed. You’ll eventually build some relationships over time that could potentially last forever. These folks will go on to be a huge help for you to get freelance clients.

4. Get Freelance Clients Through Online Freelancer Pools Like Upwork

I’m pretty biased about Upwork. It played a huge role in me finding success as a freelancer and ultimately go on to completely change careers.

These platforms can be a solid avenue for finding and landing high-paying clients. BUT, they take some time to get started.

You’ve got to play the long game and realize you won’t strike gold overnight. You’ve got to be patient and methodical. BUT, eventually, if you play your cards right, the reward will be well worth it.

In case you don’t know, Upwork is a large platform where people come who want to have work done on a number of things. There are job postings for everything from photoshoots to audio editing to mobile app creation.

On the other side of that is freelancers looking to help those people out who are looking to have work done.

So, you’ve got the client who needs help and the freelancer who wants to help. Upwork facilitates the whole interaction.

There are hundreds of jobs posted every single day and in 2020 Upwork paid it’s freelancer over $2 billion.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of opportunities to get freelance clients.

5. Get Freelance Clients Through Cold Calls

This last method is my least favorite way to get freelance clients.

Google businesses in your area. Do a bit of research about them and then reach out and see if they might want to hire you. This is known as cold calling.

Here’s why it’s my least favorite method:

Business owners typically hate it when freelancers do it.

It’s annoying AND if you own a business you are likely getting bombarded with people trying to get you to hire them constantly.

SO, you’ve got to be creative about it.

One company sent my boss their own book via Amazon. And, then followed up with an email and said, “HEY, we just sent you a book.”

Did they get our business? No. BUT, they did get our attention.

Most cold calls never amount to much because they get ignored completely. So, be creative in the way you do it AND realize that it’s probably going to take more than a few tries before you actually hear a response.

Whatever Method You Choose Keep Trying Until Something Works

If you want to get freelance clients you can’t simply try one of these methods one or two times and then give up. You’ve got to keep working at it.

AND, every once in a while, switch up HOW you do it. If you’ve tried something 100 times and haven’t gotten anything from it CHANGE IT UP.

Try to pitch slightly differently OR maybe approach the person you’re talking to in a different way.

You’ve just got to keep going for it and making adjustments as you go along.

Eventually, something will start to work and you’ll find that getting freelance clients becomes easier and easier.

5 places to get clients 

This week, I talk with a listener about five ways to get freelance clients when you're first starting out, are you ready? Let's go. 

What is up self maters and welcome to another episode of the self-made web designer podcast. Learning how to get freelance clients. It's kind of like a Rite of passage for newbie freelancers, right? At first it's awkward and you don't know. If you're doing it right, but eventually you start to hit a stride. 

This week, I sat down and chatted with Sammy, Sammy and her husband have almost accidentally fallen into making websites for people that. But they've decided they want to intentionally make it into a business. Sounds kind of cool. The problem is they don't know how to get the ball rolling. So I sat down with Sammy and I gave her five ways that she can find free. 

Clients in the early stages of her and her husband's business. But before we dive in, I want to invite you to sign up for my free flagship course called the web designer starter kit course. And it, I talk about how I went from knowing not a gosh darn thing about freelance or web design or development to doubling my income with a web design side hustle. 

And then I went on to change careers. Completely. So I go over how I learned everything from finding clients to learning development, learning design, and even how to find a community to go through the journey with you. So go to self-made web designer.com and sign up today. You'll join thousands of others who have done the same and your journey to becoming a successful freelance web designer will start off on the right foot. All right. Are you ready to learn five ways to get freelance clients when you're just getting started? Let's see.

Yeah. So, um, I just had some questions because, um, me and my husband are trying to start a web design business. 

So he's a web developer and I'm a designer. Um, so we're kind of like a dynamic duo and we, um, got started on a, uh, web design project for a family friend. And this was before we even like, had this idea. So we were, he contracted my husband's Zach to do the development and for me to do the design and as we were going through the project, we were like, I feel like we could do this. 

Like, this is really fun. It'd be really great to work with each other. Um, and there's just been so many like pros about it that we can think of. Um, so we're kind of just starting to get that going. And we kind of got like our first client, um, or second client, uh, kind of last week. Um, but we're kind of just like, in those beginning stages of like, there's just some things we don't know how to do. 

We're not sure of sure. Yeah. Okay. Well, w where do you feel like you need the most clarification on as far as the process. Um, I think we're both tend to just dump the, like, how do we get our clients and how do we like get our name out there and market to those we've, we've made like a running list of like bad websites that we've just come across, like businesses in the area. 

And we just have like all these ideas for these people, but like, we don't know if like we should just approach them. Um, with our ideas, cause I've kinda like built, built up some mock-ups. So showing them what they could look like, but we just don't know how to approach it. Sure. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Great. Well, it sounds like you've, you've kind of started thinking through it, so that's, that's awesome. 

That's the first step is going. Okay. How do we start from nothing and get to something? So what I say is just to kind of do what you guys are already doing, which is your first few clients, you need to reach out to the people that you're connected to relationally. So. Uh, your friends, your family. And so you just, you just, you know, text them, call them, email them, say, Hey, we're starting this web design business, really excited about it. 

Do you have anything that you would need to be done? We'd we'd work for cheap since we're just getting started. And you also add in there, Hey, also, like if you know anybody that would need this, like let me know. I'd love to connect with them, you know? Typically what I, what I tell people to do is write a list of a hundred folks that have a business or have something that they might need a website for, and just write it down, you know? 

So, and this is going to be folks that you're directly connected with, but it could also be like folks who, you know, like, My uncle has a friend who owns three businesses. And that would be a good connection. Like, you know, just kind of brainstorming through that. You know, you can I say a hundred because that's, you know, an even round number and you can just kind of make that the goal, but it's really like, however many you can think of. 

You just go for it. At first, it takes a little bit of work because you're, you've got to think like, okay, who do I know? You know, but eventually like the wheels start spinning and you'll be able to figure it out. And then from there you've got a couple options, could go the, like the networking relationship building route, which is, you're just constantly trying to connect with business owners in some way, shape or form, build a relationships, add value to them. 

Like what you're saying, like, Hey, you know, I've got this mock-up. Um, if there's a few things, I think you could do really easy to just to make your website really stand out, give that to them and, and, and offer advice. You know, like there's all sorts of folks, you know, like everybody needs a website, right? 

Typically everybody has questions about it. So, you know, doing it that way, that that can take a long time just to, to build relationships. So it just kind of depends on where you guys are at with how quickly you want to get this started. Another part of it is to get in some web designer groups and create relationships with other web designers, because a lot of times. 

And this happened for me, for sure. At the very beginning where I had friends who are web designers, they would get jobs that they didn't want to mess with. And so they would pass them off to me, you know? And at the time I'm like, I'll take anything. I don't have anything, you know? So I'll take your leftovers. 

That's, that's another thing that you can do something else is to figure out where your niche is and go to where those people are. You know, for instance, show it is where I work and it's a platform. It's a website. That focuses mainly on photographers and creative entrepreneurs. Our Facebook group has a ton of photographers on there asking questions about show it all the time. 

And we have a lot of designers on there who are constantly in there answering questions. And so then from there, they get a ton of business from our Facebook group. 'cause they're being helpful. They're showing up and not saying like, okay, I'll let you know how to fix this. If you pay me a hundred dollars, right. 

They're just going, Nope, here's what you do. You take this form and you make it, do this thing and it's fixed. Right. You know, figuring out where those folks are getting on those groups, interacting with people, trying to add value. Um, and then another thing, which is, this is what I, I did was find a freelancing platform. 

Just start working on building up your reputation there. So mine was Upwork and swear. I encourage people like if you're going to start somewhere, start on Upwork, because there's, there's a ton of really good opportunity for, for high paying projects. It takes a little bit of time. It takes, you know, they say about a month to get your first project. 

And that's what it took for me. And then it was about six months before. I started getting, you know, nonstop requests for, you know, quotes on projects and stuff like that, but it was, it wasn't still has been a good source of a lot of good projects for me. So is that helpful? Are there some things that you guys have been thinking about? 

Yeah. That's really helpful. Yeah. We just didn't know, like, how do you make that first step of approaching the client? Yeah, for sure. Well, it's, it's tough. What I have tried to do in the past, which is connect with somebody on some social media platform and send them a mock-up like that has never been really successful for me. 

There are a lot of folks who claim that that works really well. And so I might have. I figured out how to crack the code with that, so to speak. But with that, it's kind of a numbers game, you know, like you've got to say, I'm going to, I'm going to pitch to a thousand people on LinkedIn, you know, who have the title, business owner for whatever nature. 

And, and then, you know, throw them a template or throw them some suggestions for their websites or whatever. Um, so if you can, you want to try to find a little less cold of a connection, you know? So if you find somebody. That you might be a good potential to build a website for you. Just try to, you try to find somebody who can connect you and then you reach out to that person and say, Hey, would you mind connecting me to this person, this business owner, I'd love to get to know them and see if maybe we can help them. 

Uh, with our, with our website, that's, that's going to be a lot easier. Um, then just like, you know, you know, going into somebody's inbox and, and Eminem and, and from, from a stranger, cause business owners get a ton of DMS from different folks trying to sell them, whatever they're they're, you know, trying to sell. 

So I said, one more question. Are there any other like tips or advice that you would have for. I think the main thing and the thing that I wish I would have done at the very beginning is to create structures and workflow systems at the very get-go. So, you know, when I was first getting started, it was very much a hodgepodge, like, okay, uh, this guy needs a website. 

All right, what should I do first? Well, we should probably make a mood board mood board. We'll put some fonts on there. Maybe go to like maybe some wireframes. I don't know. Is that, how do you do wire frames? You know, like, uh, so if you can, if you guys can come together, Like a workflow plan of how you're going to process a project. 

It's going to be a lot easier to scale because there there is. And I've seen this with tons of freelancers. Um, there's this struggle at the beginning, but at a certain point you reach like this nexus level. And it's like, you go over the top of the hill and things just start kind of going very quickly with how many projects you're getting and how many folks who've got interest in, you know, you working for them. 

And so when that happens, if you don't have these structures and systems in place, it can kind of make or break your business. Like you're either going to go crazy and start working 80 hours a week, or you're going to stop hitting deliverables and stop hitting deadlines. And then. That's when, you know, the, the work stops because folks are like, man, these guys didn't do a good job. 

So that would be my one thing to encourage you guys to just sit down and have it. Doesn't have to be crazy, you know, but just say, okay, step one, looks like this. Step two looks like this. Let's put some things in place to where it's more systematized and easier to do and, and even easier to hand off. So let's say, you know, two, three years from now, you guys are, are cranking. 

And you got to hire on somebody. Well, you don't want to have to redo everything to where you've got a new system and you're teaching them the system, but you've got processes in place. You've got manuals that you can go here you go. You know, like this is how we do things and, uh, it'll make things a lot easier in the long run Sammy and her husband are doing all the right things. 

They're asking the right questions, but more importantly, they're just going. For it, you can't let the fear of not knowing what to do, keep you from stepping out. If you take these five methods for finding and landing freelancing clients, I guarantee you that you're going to start getting some projects in no time. 

Hey, I hope you've enjoyed this episode where I talked to. Listener from the podcast. If you black to sign up to have a conversation with me about how to be a better freelancer or a better web designer, web developer, or whatever I do free 15 minute phone calls every single week, I'll leave a link in the show notes for you to sign up, or you can go to self-made web designer. 

Scroll all the way down. And the link is right there down at the bottom of the page. I love getting to know you and I love helping out as much as I possibly can. Hey, next week, we've got another awesome episode coming straight at you. It's going to be a lot of fun. It drops Wednesday night. At midnight, you can stay up with me.

We'll eat some popcorn. We'll have a party doing it. Okay. Until then don't stop working hard and don't forget if you don't quit.

A magnifying glass on a blue background to symbolize how to get freelance clients


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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