Congratulations, if you have decided to become a freelancer. No matter what your reasons to go freelance might be, one of the things you will need for sure are projects.
While sometimes projects find you and you get more on your plate than you need, more often than not you will have to be the active party and search for them.
Here are some tips where to look for freelance projects:
There is Plenty of Fish at the Good Old Bidding Sites
Good old bidding sites, such as Guru, Elance, or oDesk aren’t the cream of freelance work but you need to start somewhere. In a sense, these sites are the low hanging fruit even novices can try their hand at.
Bidding sites aren’t known for their high-paying projects. Rather, as a whole, the projects there pay pretty low but if you are new to freelancing design, and the other two options – i.e. job boards and networking are out of your league for now, you should start at bidding sites.
On bidding sites you generally see low bids. Not all buyers pick the lowest bid on a project but most of them are price-sensitive. Of course, you can see experienced freelancers who charge market rates (or above that) for their work but these are usually the veterans who have built-up excellent reputations.
Bidding sites are just a good starting point for you till you gain some experience and/or contacts. One of the good things about bidding sites is that they offer protection for both buyers and sellers, so it is relatively rare not to be paid on a project.
Many freelancers have started their career at bidding sites. If you are still working fulltime and have another source of income, it is easier because you can afford to take low paying projects till you build your reputation, when you will eventually be able to ask for more.
Also, another recommendation is to go to paid sites first because they usually offer more. The membership fee you pay is affordable and a paid membership offers some perks, such as more bids a month, access to more projects, lower per project fees, and above all – it makes you look more serious to employers. So, if you are serious about freelancing, get a paid membership for a month, quarter, or an year – it will pay off.
Job Boards Also Have What to Offer
If you thought you were wasting your time reading bid offers and bidding on bidding sites, wait till you get to job boards. In my experience popular job boards come with more competition than popular bidding sites, but this does vary.
On bidding sites, you usually see the number of bids on a project, while with job boards you are left in the dark. However, since I usually get fewer responses when I apply for a project via a job board, and my pitch and rates are comparable, this makes me think that the competition there is far greater. Still, some of the best projects I have landed over the years have comefrom job boards, so they do work.
Here are some of the major job boards that have worked for me:
- Craigslist. Craigslist is a very popular destination for all kinds of classifieds and freelance jobs aren’t an exception. You can look for jobs not only in your immediate location because many remote jobs are available to applicants from all over the US or even the world.
- Jobs at Behance. The Behance network is a site for designers where you will find many online portfolios and it is also a place to check for jobs. I don’t have personal experience with Behance but I know from friends that they were successful there.
- WordPress Jobs. This is a resource not many freelancers know about but if WordPress is your specialty, this is a must check. There are also jobs for developers and bloggers, as well as many upgrade/general jobs.
- Jobs at Mashable. Many top ranking design magazines have a jobs section. The jobs at Mashable are abundant, though they are mainly full-time but you can also find a few contract and part-time jobs.
- Online Writing Jobs. I know this is a list for design jobs but since this resource is very useful, even though it is for writers, I opted to include it. This is a site where jobs from the main writing job boards are aggregated, which is great because you don’t have to browse through dozens of different sites.
- Job sections at your local sites. Finally, one more resource that works for many freelancers is the job section at local sites. Depending on your location, there might be mainly full time jobs but it is still worth trying. Job sections at local sites are great especially for projects that require onsite presence, so if onsite work is for you, keep an eye on these ads.
The list here is just a drop in the ocean – there are maybe hundreds of job boards and it makes no sense to include them all here. I have discovered that following 3 to 5 job boards on a daily basis takes more time than I would like to spend, so I suggest you pick just a few good ones and stick to them.
Very often you will find the same ads on multiple sites, so it is basically a waste of time to read dozens of job boards a day. Pick a few, see which of them work for you and don’t waste your time with the rest.
Networking Brings the Best Projects
Networking is the cream of freelance projects. Your contacts are your capital and you usually have no competition, or in the worst case you don’t have to compete with 50 or 100 other freelancers for the same project as you do on bidding sites and jobs from job boards.
Here are 4 ways to get clients from networking:
- LinkedIn. The largest professional network is a huge hunting ground. I know people who get their clients mainly from LinkedIn but in order to do this, you need to have a vast network of contacts. Facebook and Twitter will probably help as well, but in my opinion they take more time to get in contact with the right people. Additionally, many people simply hate social sites, so you won’t find them there.
- Forums. Some of the major Internet forums, such as Digital Point have job sections, so keep an eye on them. Forums for webmasters are worth visiting because in addition to businesses, webmasters are a major client for designers.
- Personal contacts. As for personal contacts, it just depends whom you know. A friend of mine, who isn’t a fulltime designer, gets his projects exsclusively through his personal contacts. But this guy is an incredible sales talent and knows a lot of people, especially people who need a web site done!
- References from previous clients. Happy clients are also a good source of work. However, unlike the other ways to find projects where you are proactive, the problem with getting clients through reference is that usually you get projects when you don’t need them. Still, if the projects are decent and you can fit them in your schedule, don’t knock them back.
The ways to find freelance projects are numerous. Some of them will work for you better than the rest, so you need to experiment and see which channel lands you the best projects. I will be happy to read about your experience about the ways you find projects. Please do share in the comments section below.
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