7 Ways to Find Freelance Gigs and Get Your Business Started

By Erin Ollila, Contributor, on July 14, 2017

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I was lucky: My first freelancing gig found me. Someone read my writing online and reached out to see if I was taking new clients. After testing the waters to see if a writing side-hustle was right for me, I jumped in. However, I was quickly looking for ways to find freelance gigs to continue making more money and eventually start my own business.

When you’re first starting out — either in a side gig or full-time freelancing — finding work can be the toughest part. Knowing where to look for it doesn’t have to be hard, though. Here are seven ways to find freelance gigs when you’re just getting started.

1. Job Boards

Job boards let you pick and choose what type of work you’ll apply to without needing to publicly showcase your resume (which could potentially put your current employer on high alert). Craigslist and Problogger are great sites to search for potential job opportunities, as well as Upwork, PeoplePerHour and 99Designs.

Pro Tip: Be very careful what personal information you share with anyone you speak to or work with from a job board. Also, do your homework on any gig — especially if it sounds too good to be true. If you can’t find any information on a potential client, back away slowly. Wait, who am I kidding? Run, and fast!

2. Cold Calls and Emails

Reaching out via email or phone call without having any type of introduction can feel intimidating at first. I get it. But, it works. If you identify potential clients you could serve well, get in touch. Make it clear why you’re calling or emailing, and how you can help them. Offer your services, and ask if you can get back in touch at a later date if they’re not currently interested.

Pro Tip: Keep a detailed spreadsheet of the places you reach out to, the person’s name and contact information and the dates of contact. Take notes on anything that happens, like being transferred to a different person or being asked to call back in two weeks. Then, you won’t accidentally reach out to someone you’ve already contacted or follow up too soon.

3. Staffing Companies

You might think a staffing company is only for people who are looking for part- or full-time jobs, but there are tons of opportunities for temporary workers. One big-time, well-known staffing company is Aquent.

Pro Tip: Make sure your resume is in tip-top shape. Check your grammar and spelling, and be sure to follow a standard structure.

4. Portfolio Sites

Portfolio sites often work double duty for you. While it gives you a place to host examples of your work to direct potential clients to, many companies that host the portfolios also often hire creatives to work for them or their clients. They do this by culling through the work hosted on their site to find top talent.

Pro Tip: Not only do you need to highlight your best work, but you have to put in effort to keep your portfolio updated. Use SEO keywords to make your content easier to find by recruiters.

5. Social Media

I’ve found some — actually, most — of my best clients on social media. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though I’m far past the side-hustle phase of my business, I still get client inquiries in Facebook groups and on Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, that I started my own Facebook group to create a place where I could answer questions about my niche to a wider audience.

Pro Tip: The key to getting work from social media is engaging with others. Be visible online by building a brand for yourself using live video, images and short and long posts. Post regularly, ask questions to drive engagement and respond to anyone who comments.

6. The Library (Or Other Local Businesses)

This might sound a bit odd, but if you’re a solopreneur looking to build her portfolio from the ground up, volunteering to run a class or give a speech at your local library will help you add experience to your resume and possibly gain testimonials from your attendees. If your local library isn’t hiring new teachers, reach out to other local businesses that may be a match for your services.

Pro Tip: Some libraries have budgets for continuing education classes, so ask before volunteering.

7. Shop Sites

Have a product or service you can sell? Well, you need to open up shop. Sites like Fiverr and Etsy allow entrepreneurs of any professional stage to list their items for sale, and potential customers can search and buy.

Pro Tip: List your products well from the beginning. If you offer at too low of a price, you may not be able to keep up with demand, so know your worth! Also, be smart and create up-sells for any products.

No matter what kind of indy you are, you need to graduate to the level where you’re being approached by potential clients left and right. Do your homework on where to find work, encourage client reviews and testimonials and leave no stone unturned. You’ve got work to do.

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