Generating business will be an ongoing part of your life as a freelancer, but finding your first assignment may be your single biggest challenge. For many freelancers, their first and best client is their current or most recent employer. For example, a lawyer who handled a lot of court appearances as a law firm associate might enter into a contract with the
same firm for research and writing tasks. You’ll also need to rely on your network of contacts and prior employers. Flip through your Rolodex (or Palm Pilot) and see who might need your services or might know others who would. Don’t be shy about casting a wide net.
Send potential clients or good contacts a formal letter of introduction or, better yet, a brochure describing your services, background, experience, and other relevant information. Have business cards printed that
reflect your new status, and include a card with the information packet you send out. Attractive business cards aren’t expensive, and they show you’re serious about your business.
Leave out the dollar signs. Don’t list your hourly or per-project rate in your letter or brochure. This will leave you room to negotiate your rates according to the nature of each assignment.
About a week after you’ve mailed out your information packets, follow up with an email or a phone call. Some people may tell you that they have absolutely no need for your freelance services. Others may say that they’ll keep you in mind. Jot down the names of anyone who indicates even the tiniest bit of interest and follow up again in a couple of months. Don’t make a pest of yourself; just let the contact know you’re still available if an appropriate project comes up.
If you’re breaking into a freelance field in which you have no contacts, your best bet is to visit online job boards that cater to freelancers: Elance (www.elance.com), SoloGig (www.sologig.com), Guru (www.guru.com), and HotGigs (www.hotgigs.com). Also search for the word “freelance” on mainstream job boards like Monster (www.monster.
com), CareerBuilder (www.careerbuilder.com), Yahoo! Hot Jobs (www.hotjobs.yahoo.com), and Craigslist (www.craigslist.org).