"I'm afraid freelancing is not for me. I'm having a hard time finding my first client."
Are these thoughts troubling you lately?
It’s completely normal to feel that way especially if you’ve been seriously sweating it out but you’re not receiving any positive response.
The good news is, with well-defined strategies, you might find that landing your first client is far easier than you imagined. After that, it’s simply a matter of keeping them happy and finding more. I’ve put together my top five tips that you can immediately implement to achieve this result.
Let me tell you something awesome. You already have connections you can leverage right away! Think about your friends, relatives, colleagues, peers in your previous jobs, and community leaders. They themselves might have needs or problems that you can help solve or they can give your referrals. How do you keep them updated about your new venture?
A simple social media post can work wonders. Create a detailed post about what you’re currently up to, the specific services that you're offering, how you can change someone’s life for the better, who your ideal clients are, and the market you want to serve. In addition, regularly share content related to your chosen skill or niche.
Don’t stop there. Create a list of your own network and send each one of them a quick message. If you’re hesitant to do this because you’re not comfortable offering your services to them directly, you can just inquire if they know someone who will benefit from what you're doing.
I found my first freelance writing project through a friend. The company which she was working for needed to relaunch their website and hence revise the content on each page. They also wanted to make regular posts in their LinkedIn account. I had zero experience in writing web copy and LinkedIn posts but I told her I will try. This happened when I wasn’t even actively looking for a project. Here’s the proof of our transaction which I saved in my journal.
Your network is priceless so don’t miss what’s already in front of you. Be excited about the possibility that they might lead you to your very first freelance work.
You’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of job boards designed only for online freelancers. Whether you're planning to do it full-time or wanting to work from home on the side while keeping your regular job, these websites can help you find new and exciting opportunities.
Let me give you a quick run-down of the most popular ones:
How do you win in these freelancing platforms?
Submit proposals or cover letters tailored to the job posts. I know this takes time and sometimes a lot of mental effort but if you stick to this strategy, you are very likely to get results.
That’s the abstract idea and I won’t elaborate any further because you’ve probably heard a bunch of advice on the same topic.
I’ll just go ahead and share a sample cover letter which led me to my very first client through onlinejobs.ph.
Actual Job Post:
I run a small company that offers courses about textiles and I am looking for a kind, friendly person to help me manage my email and social media (direct messages, comments etc.) in a permanent part-time position working 20 hours a week.
The person I am looking for has the following qualities:
- Very good written English with a warm, friendly tone
- Experience in managing Instagram and Facebook commenting and posting
- Willing to work as a team and learn as the company grows
- Very good time management
- A love of textiles would be nice, but isn't necessary
For the right person I would like to make this position full-time in 2022.
To apply please send me a cover letter outlining your work experience and tell me what your favourite item of clothing is and what it says about you.
Following the tips I’ve learned from VA Bootcamp and what the client specifically required, here’s the cover letter which I submitted.
I can definitely help you manage your email and social media account messages to help you get more leads and paying clients.
Here are my relevant work experiences:
Relevant experience # 1
Relevant experience # 2
I absolutely love wearing lightweight fabric, pastel-colored blouses to express my positive attitude and jovial personality.
I have a passion for helping people and with me on board, you can focus more on other things that are really important to you.
I would love to know more about your business and talk about how you can use my help. Are you available to hop on a call or a chat?
The prospective client’s response:
Thank you for applying for the VA position and telling me about yourself, I really appreciate your time.
I received many more replies than I would ever have expected so I have made a short list of applicants and am putting 3 questions here below to get to know you better. If you could please answer the questions that would really help to understand if we could work well together.
1. I use Microsoft office software, Canva, Trello, Convert Kit and Later and my websites are on Wix, are you comfortable with these apps/software? Are you confident to learn how to use new apps or even suggest alternatives which you think might be helpful?
2. At the moment my company is small, so this is a part-time position, but I have plans to make it a full-time position in late 2021 early 2022. Are you interested in staying with one company and growing over time or are you more interested in short contracts?
3. It is important that you become part of the team, I am looking for someone who I can brainstorm with, someone who is interested in finding creative solutions in my business. Are you someone who joins in the conversation and is not afraid to take initiative?
I understand that this isn’t always easy (I’m shy too!) but I need someone on the team who is confident with social media, and who will let me know if something isn’t working or if we need to change anything.
If you still think we could be a good team I would love to talk to you on Skype or Zoom.
I answered those qualifying questions and she invited me for a call. Did my efforts pay off? I opened my email the next day and was greeted by this sweet surprise!
Keep a record of all the cover letters you have submitted because you can use them as references. Different job posts have different requirements but there are things in your offer or work experiences that you can simply copy. Over time, it will become much easier for you to craft a proposal.
A word of caution: Don’t go crazy signing up on too many websites. There’s no point in doing so if you can’t visit them all. I would advise you to focus on four to five websites initially and submit proposals regularly.
Virtual Assistant agencies connect business owners wanting to outsource certain tasks to qualified VAs. Examples of these companies are Cyberbacker, Persona, Ova Virtual, and Virtudesk. Search top virtual assistant agencies and you’ll find many of them.
What should you expect when submitting your application? Most companies will require you to do the following:
Their hiring process is long and you really need to work hard every step of the way but if you're someone who prefers a long-term and full-time position, joining a virtual staffing agency might be a good way to start your work-from-home journey and gain experience.
Facebook communities are fantastic for connecting with fellow freelancers. Have you heard about the FreeLancers In the Philippines (FLIP) - by Jason Dulay? If not, you should definitely check it out.
Even if you’re a wallflower, don’t get stuck in your pot. There’s something therapeutic about baring your soul to someone who understands what it’s like to be on the same journey.
Be proactive and meet other freelancers. Join the conversations, ask meaningful questions, share your thoughts, and work on building genuine friendships.
You’ll have a great chance of connecting with established freelancers who may already have more clients than they can handle. Some of them are happy to entrust a project to another person. It might make more sense for them to do so while being the project manager. Others could be looking for additional VA on behalf of their clients. Watch out for these posts.
Of course, don’t go into a relationship thinking only about what you can get from it. Always come from a place of help. And don’t forget ...
It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. - Napoleon Hill
In a hyper-competitive business world, founders and owners of small businesses need every ounce of help they can get. Hiring employees for a full-time position isn’t always cost-effective, and part-timers sometimes don’t offer the consistency that’s needed. That’s where a virtual assistant can come into play - a small business’ best friend.
Now that you know you are needed, let’s figure out how to reach out to them and get optimum results.
There are two ways to approach potential clients:
You can directly offer your services upfront through a message/email … OR make them gravitate towards you. The first one is pretty much self-explanatory so let's explore the second option. How do you attract your ideal clients without sounding too salesy?
Protip # 1: Leverage the Power of Reciprocity
Think of anything that will show your ideal clients you’re not just trying to have money in your bank account but you’re also invested in their success.
Are you planning to offer your services as a Lead Generation Specialist, Social Media Manager, Graphics Designer, Web Developer, or Email Copywriter? Regardless of your skill, there’s always something that you can do to help. Check out their websites or social media accounts and find something that can be improved. Drop a few suggestions.
In this best-selling book entitled, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” Robert Cialdini unpacked six principles of influence and one of them is reciprocity. He said that human beings are wired to return favors and pay back debts - to treat others as they’ve treated us.
So, be generous and bring smiles to those busy business owners by helping them solve their problems.
Protip # 2: Be an avid fan.
People are inclined to do business with those whom they like and trust. Start building connections by following them, commenting on things they care about, and regularly showing support for what they’re doing.
Make yourself visible and memorable, and increase your chance of being noticed. Who knows, your next meaningful comment could lead to that first freelance work opportunity you’ve been wanting to secure.
Freelancing is exciting but can be utterly scary in the beginning. However, if you take the time to set the stage using these five strategies, you can begin to build a solid foundation for your freelance business.
Remember that every freelancer had to start somewhere. Don’t get caught up in thinking you need ten clients out of the gate. Initially, you just need one to get the ball rolling and the road ahead gets a little easier.