Finding freelance work can be tough, especially if you’re just starting out or not too well known in the community. A lot of people try to find some clients for a few weeks and when they can’t, they give up and think that there’s just too much competition for jobs out there today. But is there?
If you’re looking for work locally, then it’s entirely possible that your market is already overly saturated, but I doubt it. There’s always someone looking for a freelancer. As a matter of fact, I started my own business in the middle of our last recession, and was always scheduled.
When it comes to freelancing, we’re not limited to our own towns or markets. So, your town’s economy is a bit slow? Try New York City. Try another country. The awesome thing about being a freelancer is that you don’t have to meet your clients in person. So, even if there are tons of freelancers, there’s always more work.
Of course, when you’re not having any luck getting work and you’re always competing for work, it may feel like there’s too much competition, but perhaps you’re just looking for work in all of the wrong places.
One look at those infamous bidding sites and it can feel like everyone in the entire world is bidding on the same project. Those sites have a lot of competition, and what’s worse, that normally means you’re competing against people who charge as low as $1 an hour. Clients who go to these sites are normally in a rush to get something done and have absolutely no budget to pay anyone a fair wage.
I would avoid these bidding sites as much as possible. Yes, you might win a project from them, but what kind of quality is both the project and the client likely to offer? You may get lucky enough to win that mythical wonderful client who brings you lots of work, but is it going to be worth it after spending days and weeks on the site?
I once knew a pair of freelancers who thought they could make a living off of bidding sites. Instead of getting out in the internet world and getting known, they wasted the entire day, each day, skimming through the bidding sites and trying to bid on projects. Needless to say, they ended up moving across the country to get a regular full-time job.
Craigslist is another bad place to find jobs. Even though the jobs will be based locally, the clients are often looking for students or free work. The quality of the relationship and work is often terrible as well. There’s also a ton of competition on these boards, mostly by students of the local colleges and high schools.
You can’t always depend on getting all of your jobs in your own city or town. As a matter of fact, of all the clients I’ve held, I’ve only had one client that was even located in my state! Surprisingly, in Nashville there’s an abundance of both freelancers and agencies and a shortage of realistic-rate paying clients. All of my clients are located around the US and many of them are even located in Canada and The UK.
If you’re having difficulty finding work around where you live, start getting out on regular job boards, Twitter, and LinkedIn to find work in other places. Your city may be experiencing a slump or crowdedness, but I bet the rest of the world isn’t!
The best way to avoid overcrowded freelance markets and massive competition is to simply not compete. Yes, I said don’t compete. Look for clients and submit your letters to job boards, but pretend like you’re the only freelancer around. Be the best at what you do and clients will naturally come to you. You don’t have to compete with anyone if your portfolio speaks for itself, and if a client tries to get you in a bidding war with other clients, simply walk away.
Where to Find Work
There are tons of places to find great paying clients and what works for one freelancer won’t necessarily work for another. However, there are some great places to start looking, that could really help you find those clients, or even just to help get your name out into the internet universe.
- Twitter—Twitter has been an awesome resource that has helped me to gain clients, freelance partners, help on projects and great resources. There are so many benefits you can get out of Twitter if you use it right.
- LinkedIn–I personally don’t use LinkedIn for finding client work, but I’ve had tons of fellow freelancers tell me they have. Having a full profile, recommendations and answering questions has been the best ways they’ve found for work.
- Job Boards–Job boards that don’t offer bidding wars (just a list of available jobs) has been a great way I’ve found work. There are tons of awesome job boards around the web, and I’ve found work through almost all of them.
You can also venture into cold emailing, which worked really well for me when I was first starting out. You just have to make sure you write a semi-personal message so you don’t sound like a spammer and have a great portfolio to reward them for interrupting their time. You can also try cold-calling, even though personally I’m too shy for that.
Other places like Barcamps, Podcamps, Chamber meetups and Tech mixers are another great place to network and meet other great professionals. You’ll never know when that freelancer you meet is going to be sick or swamped with work and will need your help. Just don’t bug them for work unless they ask you for your help.
Do you think the freelance world is over-crowded? How have you avoided so much competition?
image by James Cridland