How do I get my first client?

sketchperez | 10.05.2014

Freelance client work is the easiest way to move towards making a living with your passion. We have a passion for design, art, photography, film, music, and have decided to begin doing client work. Where do we start though? Without no prior experience how can we acquire the first client? Not unlike any other job, clients like to see experience. We must build up work, create a portfolio, and be social.

Building up work

The best way to practice on our own skills is to do self initiated projects. After a couple of those however, it’s time to see how it is work for other people. First thing we must do is eliminate the barrier of money. We need to approach people with the idea of taking on their project as a learning experience. They will be getting free work, and we will be gaining experience.

Things to look out for when doing this work:

  • What type of work do I like doing?
  • What type of client do I like working with?
  • What are some problems we experienced in this project?

These questions will help analyze the projects taken on, and prepare us for our career in client work. For example, if you were a photographer you may find that after some very magical experiences, you lean towards only doing weddings. Furthermore, you have found that smaller intimate weddings result in more meaningful captures. Lastly some problems in the past have been not being able to be at all places at once, so you see the need to add on a secondary shooter. This is all just hypothetical, but hopefully it illustrates the way we need to be thinking when doing our projects.

Creating a portfolio

We need to create ONLINE portfolios. At the end of every job we take it is important that we do a complete case study. When a client goes through the portfolio, reading our process is a lot more beneficial than just seeing a bunch of photos. This separates the professionals from the amateurs. An amateur, even when creating nice work, cannot explain why they did what they did. Every decision that we as a creator in our craft must have a clear reason, and that is what we write in our case study to show that we know what we are doing.

Some things to include in a case study:

  • Description
  • Clients needs & goals
  • Insight on our decisions and why they were made
  • Some challenges faced, and how they were overcome
  • High quality samples of the work; images, video, audio.

Remember, for us a degree may be arbitrary. We can’t show that piece of paper to a client and expect them to trust us with a multi thousand dollar project. Our portfolio is how we establish that trust. The more in-depth our portfolios are, the more trust our clients will have in our competence. When they read our detailed case studies, they will feel confident in their decision to go with us.

Being social

During this entire process it is important that we maintain an active online and offline social life. Social media accounts are crucial for broadcasting our work to the world. Remembering not to sound like self-centered sales people, we must post valuable articles, resources, and media that our audience will like. Then post our work evenly through out that. Social media, and more specifically twitter, has accounted for a lot of cool project opportunities for me. Apart from online, it’s also important to stay connected in person. Conventions in our field are extremely important for networking with like-minded creatives that can lead to collaborations and work opportunities.

Getting the first paid client

So now what? We did personal work, we took on client work, and we wrote painfully in-depth accounts about each project we took on, and we are extremely social. Now, how do we get the first paying client? Well, that’s it. At this point, if not sooner, as we project ourselves as professionals in the field that work will come. A free clients, may come back to do a paid project. Satisfied free clients, will share our name and we may get one of them to take on a project with us. Somebody stumbling on our portfolios online, may reach out to us to work together. Other creatives in the field may be looking for a partner on a project. When we do good work, document it properly, and maintain a open social professional profile the work will come.

Business « Freelance equals freedom
Gear Getting your first DSLR Camera: Nikon vs Cannon »