How to Find Freelance Work: Tips, Red Flags, and More
If you’ve decided to find freelance work, you may need to summon up a completely different approach compared to job seekers looking for more traditional positions.
For people who enjoy being in complete control of their careers, or who want a lot of variation in their work days, a freelance career might be the ticket.
The Growth of Freelancing
Every year, Upwork and Freelancers Union release a study that analyzes the freelance economy. Their 2019 report found that more people are seeing freelancing as a long-term option. It estimates 57 million Americans currently freelance, which is an increase of 4 million people since 2014.
The great news is that 96% of freelancers reported that they’ve seen a changed market within in the last three years: 77% said technology has made it easier to find freelance gigs and 71% feel that perceptions of freelancing are more positive.
When it comes to the earnings growth of freelancing, Upwork found that freelancers have a median rate of $20/hour, which is more than the $18.80/hour median rate for the U.S. overall.
And freelancers doing “skilled services” earn a median $28/hour. “This means the median skilled freelancer earns more per hour than 70 percent of workers in the overall economy,” the report says.
How to Find a Freelance Job
The bottom line is that freelancing is growing. Let’s go over how to find freelance work and the best methods to use.
Mine your network from past jobs and professional contacts. As you cultivate your freelance career, think of your network as a foundation on which you can build your jobs going forward.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to defining your network and who’s in it; contacts for future freelance jobs can include anyone from past professional colleagues to family, neighbors, and friends—both real and virtual.
Making connections with professionals in your targeted industry is a networking method that can provide some leads. A great way to accomplish that is to identify and join trade and industry associations where you can meet like-minded people. Attend conferences and events sponsored by third-party professional groups in your career field as well.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media channels can offer fantastic opportunities to use social media in your job search. These days, the vast majority of companies use social media to find the best new employees. If that’s where the hiring professionals are hanging out, it makes sense that you should be there too.
Search these social media sites with keywords related to your desired role, such as “freelance tutoring” or “freelance software developer.” You can also post to your feed what kinds of jobs you’re seeking to help recruiters find you and allow connections to help you.
FlexJobs is, of course, a fantastic place to start looking for freelance jobs! While there’s many job sites out there, FlexJobs can guarantee you a safe job search that’s free from job scams and fishy opportunities, which is often one of the most difficult parts about finding freelance work.
As a freelancer, you’ll spend a lot of your time hunting down jobs and gigs. Using FlexJobs take some of the legwork out of your search, since we track down and verify the legitimacy of jobs from all over the internet and compile them into 50 different career categories for easy searching.
Think that cool company down the street could benefit from your expertise? Send them an email! Cold pitching is emailing or messaging potential clients to offer your services. To make it worthwhile, you need to be selective in whom you contact and be personal in your messaging.
Just like applying to a more standard job, potential clients will be able to tell if you’re just rapid firing emails off to many people. Research companies and reach out to only the ones you really want to work for and feel that your skills can be a good match for. Customize your email so they know you’ve done your due diligence and truly want to help meet their needs.
Your Own Website
No matter what kind of field you’re in, to find freelance work, you need to show it off. Start with a website to showcase your skills and accomplishments. It doesn’t need to have impressive videos (unless that’s your field) or lots of content.
A simple website that collects what you do for clients is a great place to start. All you need is:
- An About You page to talk about who you are, why you do what you do, and what your professional experience is
- A Projects page (or something similar) to highlight what you’ve done for clients
- A Testimonials page for clients to rave about the excellent work you’ve done
- A Contact page so people can get in touch
Even though most website builders make it super easy for you to get a website going, you may decide that’s not the right choice for you. After all, you still have to make choices and update the content regularly.
LinkedIn already has a big network. By joining groups, connecting with your network, and publishing on their platform, you could reach valuable contacts.
Start with a powerful summary. This is important for two reasons. First, the summary is the first thing people are going to look at when they land on your profile. Take the time to explain why someone should hire you. What’s your experience, and why are you so great at what you do?
Second, LinkedIn uses your summary to help determine what search results you show up in. The more keywords you use in your summary, the more likely you are to show up in a search result.
That said, don’t just throw a bunch of keywords in your summary. Make sure you’re using the “right” keywords in your industry in an appropriate way. And, the more targeted keywords you use, the more likely you are to find people who are looking for you specifically and not someone in general.
Lastly, you can add media to spice up your profile. There’s nothing like showing clients exactly what you accomplished. So whether that’s a link to a live site you created or a static image you designed for a client, add some samples to prove you’ve got the skills you say you do.
Another commonly overlooked way to get clients is to skip asking for references or testimonials. It may be awkward to ask for one. But, since it has become increasingly common for people to rate everything, it may not be as pushy as you think.
Plus, it’s a way for you to gather proof that you’re good at what you do. There’s nothing that speaks more highly of you than a satisfied customer.
The Dark Side of Finding Freelance Work
As you’re trying to find a freelance job, and while you’re on the job, you may run into some challenges. These are worth addressing so you know what to look for.
As mentioned earlier, scams are common in freelance and remote job listings. You’ll need to be vigilant when you’re looking for work and know the signs of common job scams.
Overall, be sure you verify the company and/or the hiring manager, don’t fall for jobs that promise a lot of money for little work, and don’t give out your Social Security number or bank information. Using FlexJobs will keep you safe from job scams.
Freelancers can sometimes be taken advantage of, or asked to do work outside the scope of the contract. Before you agree to do more work for a client, review what the contract states. Are revisions included, or do you need to up your charges? Make sure additional work requirements are properly included in any future contracts to avoid these kinds of issues.
In FlexJobs’ freelancer survey conducted last year, 24% of respondents said that they were owed anywhere from $500 to $5,000 by clients. Difficulty getting clients to pay is unfortunately a common problem for freelancers.
If you have unpaid freelance invoices, keep sending payment reminders. To prevent payment issues in the future, be sure to have payment terms in writing in the contract. Setting up online payment options to accept credit cards could also help speed up payment.
Too Many Samples
If a potential client is asking you for an original sample, discuss why they want it. It could be that they want to see what you do with their material. For example, if it’s a writing job, can you write in their voice? And, just like a regular job, one original sample is usually OK. Even asking for an edit on the original piece is OK, too (maybe they want to see how you take feedback).
But, when it spirals to three and four (or more) original samples, and more than one revision, you’re probably being scammed. More likely than not, the “client” is trying to get work out of you for free. Whenever someone asks for original work before they hire you, make sure you define the scope of what they are asking for and how it will be used. And, make sure to get this information in writing.
The freelance world is often described as feast or famine; in other words, you either have too much work or not enough. This can lead to long-hour days and weeks, followed by days or weeks of little to no work at all.
You’ll need to properly balance your time and get accustomed to budgeting and saving your money. And during those days or weeks when work is slow, that’s the time to really focus on your networking and job searching.
Common Fields for Freelance Jobs
In 2018, FlexJobs determined the career categories that had the most freelance openings. Here’s the top five, as well as companies hiring for that type of role.
Computer and IT jobs lend themselves well to finding freelance work, as many companies need someone to work on a project basis. IT analyst, tech support representative, and systems administrator are some common job titles. Many of these roles can also be done remotely.
Companies that hire:
Jobs in the accounting and finance field are often seasonal or needed during busy times of the year, making contract jobs in this field common. Tax support, financial analyst, and accounts payable specialist are some common job titles.
Companies that hire:
When companies have a need to hire and onboard a large amount of workers, they may look for a recruiter to help them on freelance basis. Some common job titles include employment advisor, recruiting coordinator, and HR administrator.
Companies that hire:
Editing, Proofreading, and Writing
Companies often outsource writing and editing roles to skilled freelancers who work off-site to complete these tasks. Finding freelance work in this field can be ongoing or short-term. Content writer, copy editor, and copywriter are common roles.
Companies that hire:
Freelance admin work is especially common in the virtual assistant arena. Many staffing agencies also have a plethora of freelance administrative jobs available for those looking to find freelance work. Executive assistant, virtual assistant, and administrative coordinator are commonly found job titles.
Companies that hire:
Finding Freelance Work With FlexJobs
At FlexJobs, we make finding a freelance job easier. We know that one of the most difficult parts of finding a freelance job is making sure that they’re legitimate opportunities. That’s why every job on our site is verified as a legitimate opening. We are 100 percent scam-free and carefully vet all employers, proudly offer positions in more than 50 career categories. If you’re looking for freelance jobs, browse our listings today!
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
This is a version of an article that was originally published on March 4, 2013.
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