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How to find clients as a Freelancer and keep them to you

In 2019 alone, Freelancing contributed $1.4 trillion to the US economy. That’s approximately 7% of the GDP. That’s huge, and that shows how freelancing is growing at a rapid phase. If you are new to freelancing, then you should ask yourself ‘how to find clients as a freelancer’. In this article, I will share my experiences on how to find your first client as a freelancer. Not just finding and winning the client. But also, how to keep them as long term paying clients.

And the experiences I share mostly related to Upwork. Because Upwork is the place where I started my freelancing career. Formerly, it was oDesk. Now, it is Upwork. No matter what the name is, finding clients and winning them is more or less similar to how it was a decade ago.

Read also: Is Freelancing for me? Time to reconsider your 9 to 5

The freelance economy is huge

As people, mostly the millennials started work independently, it created this massive growth in the freelance industry. Out of 100 freelancers, 47 are millennials. And people are swarming in and willing to work as a freelancer.  In 2013, 28% of Americans freelanced, and in just five years, 35% of Americans started freelancing. That’s a 7% growth in just five years.  You may think the number is not big enough. Here’s what you missed, in the same five years time none freelancing numbers just increased by 2%. It is one of the reasons that people started to ask themselves how to find clients as a freelancer.

Freelance economy


And it is not just the number of people who freelance and winning their clients as freelancers, and it is the amount of money they brought to their economy by doing freelance work. In simple words, freelancers are making more than $1 billion annually. And predictions say, it will go up to $10 billion in half a decade time. On Upwork alone, there are 12 million (and counting) registered freelancers. If you are not a freelancer just yet, it is time to consider your potentials as a freelancer and think how to find clients as a freelancer.

Okay then, let’s try to answer the million-dollar question, how to find clients as a freelancer and how to keep them in the long run.

Again, I’m reminding you that this exactly what I did to find my first client. If you are struggling to find new clients, you may try this.

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Need a shiny little profile to find clients as a freelancer

how to find clients as a freelancer


Yes, the profile is whats your clients are going to see when you apply for a job. If your profile is not completed and not good looking, then you are missing out a lot.

Think like a client. Are you going to offer someone a job, who is not presenting himself properly?

And you know the answer to that question. This is why you should start fine-tuning your profile.

It may take a day, maybe a two or maybe even more. Good things take time, and you should put your best efforts if you are planning on ‘how to find client as a freelancer’.

Even though you need a complete and ‘shiny’ profile to find clients as a freelancer, it doesn’t mean you should have to have the highest and the best possible qualifications. Well, if you have that much of qualifications, that’s much better.

But, I know for a fact that most of the people who are just starting freelancing and trying to find clients as freelancers aren’t having that much of qualifications. The truth is, you should not give up. Because when I’m starting, I didn’t even have a computer. But, I started somehow.

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I don’t have enough qualifications. How to find clients as a freelancer?

Trust me there’s no such thing called ‘enough qualifications’. All you have to do is Start, no matter what. And keep asking yourself how to find clients as a freelancer.

Let’s say you don’t have skills or experiences to become a freelance social media manager. Then you should not try to become a freelance social media manager, just yet. Instead, start from the easiest and most probably from the lowest paying category. Data Entry, Administrative Assistant like categories, are the best ones in my opinion.

How to find clients as a freelancer


I started doing data entry, and I knew it would take time to earn a decent amount of money from just doing Data entry.  But I kept trying to find a small data entry assignment.

I started adding qualifications which are essential to become a better data entry operator. I was lucky enough as I knew Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word and had below-average Internet Browing skills. With those, I started my Upwork freelancer profile. At that time, Upwork (oDesk actually) had skill tests.  I completed several skill tests and passed them, and I made sure to display those on my Upwork freelancer profile.

Even though I was fine-tuning my Upwork freelancer profile for becoming a data entry operator, I started following YouTube to know more about Social Media marketing. This is how you make use of the internet and the power of the internet to do good for you.

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Write up a good standing profile description to find clients as a freelancer.

Not just adding a qualification to your profile, but also make sure to write up a ‘readable’ profile description. You may not be able to write up a perfect profile description.

Writing an errorless profile description might be a little bit harder exercise if you are not a native speaker. But that’s fine. Because I’ve met clients who are not looking for the perfect freelancer, most of the clients I met were looking for a freelancer who has the ‘Can attitude’. And they were willing to guide the freelancer to get the job done.

So start to write something that reflects your attitudes, skills, and experiences. This is one of the key elements that most of the wannabe freelancers are missing out on.

If you need to shine up your writing, you may seek help from someone good at correcting your writing. Reach out to a friend, a college and seek their honest opinions on your writing. Not just the content, but feel free to ask them to check Grammer, Punctuation, etc

If you do this, you can surely polish up your initial writing.

Use a Grammer checker tool

But here’s what I did, when I’m trying to find clients as a freelancer.

I used a free Grammer checker tool called ‘Ginger’. As a newbie freelancer who is not a native speaker, Ginger helped me a lot in perfecting the things I wrote.

You could do the same. Now there’s a new tool, which is also a Ginger competitor called ‘Grammarly’. It is super handy when writing almost errorless sentences. I started with Ginger, and now I’m a Grammarly user. I use it every day. You can try Grammarly here.

I’m sure, and you will fall in love with Grammarly.

But, this is not true if you are trying to be a content writer or anything that needs perfect writing skills.
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Showcase your work to find clients as a freelancer

Upwork freelancer profile


If you are a total beginner, you may not have recently completed projects to showcase to your clients. If that’s the case ignore this.

But, if you have at least a nicely-created Powerpoint presentation, you may use it to showcase your skills in creating PPTs. Don’t think too much and don’t try to be perfect. Too much thinking and trying to perfect things, in the beginning, will make things complicated than ever. Finding clients as a freelancer will get much easier as you make things as simple as possible.

Once all these are in place, then it is time to search matching jobs for your skills.

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How to find clients as a freelancer and How to find matching jobs?

Don’t think for one split second that having a shiny profile will get you, clients. It will get you paying clients only if you approach them right. Even if you have the best possible, well-written profile, you may not find the first client as a freelancer if you failed to address the client’s expectations from your job application. On Upwork, it is called ‘Cover Letter’.

Yes, when applying to a job posted on Upwork, it is mandatory to submit a cover letter. And sometimes even you will have to answer some additional questions from the client.

Most of the time, freelancers won’t win their first client and failed to find their first client as a freelancer, just because of using the same cover letter over and over again. Trust me, I’ve seen it countless times.

Now I’m not just a freelancer, but also running an agency on Upwork and when I posted a job I’m getting lots of applications from hundreds of freelancers. The worst-case scenario is, the vast majority of applications are I’m getting are using a meaningless cover letter. Most probably a copy and pasted cover letter.

If a freelancer is failing to submit a cover letter that matches to the job requirement, will he get the job? Will the client offer him the job?

No, I don’t think so. No matter how good is your profile is, you won’t win your first client as a freelancer if you fail to submit a personalized, on-point cover letter.

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You should read the job post if you need to find clients as a freelancer

Yes, you heard it right. Read the job first. Then read it again. If you are still not clear, read it again until you understand what requires. I know it takes time and a little more extra effort. But the time and the effort you invested in reading the job post more than one time will surely benefit you in finding clients as a freelancer.

By reading the job description a few times, you will have a clearer idea, and then you can do a quick self-evaluation about yourself. As yourself ‘Can I get this job done?’, ‘Do I know how to make this happen?’

If the answer is yes, then you should apply to that job.

And the next thing is, make your cover letter more personalized than a generic cover letter if you need to find your client as a freelancer.  Also, make sure to address the things the client mentioned in his job description.

If the client is looking for someone with Google Maps experience, and you already have experiences on Google Maps, make sure to write a couple of sentences about your experiences and skills on Google Maps. Then the client will know that you have read the job description. That is a good sign of showing that you are genuinely interested in what the client has posted. If you are going to win your first client as a freelancer, this trick will help you find your first client in a short time.

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Don’t try to be the first person who applied to the job.

As a client, I know most of the freelancers don’t dare to read the job description. Because most of the newbie freelancers think that they should apply to the job; first before someone else does. Applying to a job is not a race. It never will be. They apply to the job without even reading the description. If the job description is somewhat longer, it is highly unlikely that they are going to read it till the end. But, reading the complete job description is important to understand what requires. And as a client, I need to know who has completely read the job and who hasn’t.

The trick is, sometimes client included something like this to make sure that the freelancer has read the description completely.

‘Start your cover letter with the word Apple.’

If your cover letter started with ‘Dear client or anything other than the word Apple, then the client knows and your application will be ignored without a doubt.

Writing a cover letter on Upwork


So, I highly recommend you to read the job description a couple more times and try to be as personalized as possible when writing your cover letter.

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A nifty little trick that will help you find clients as a freelancer

Like I told you earlier, if you could be as much as personalized with your cover letter, it will surely increase the chances of winning your first client. And it is true not only for winning the first client but also for winning any client in the long run.

But, this requires you read the job description properly a couple of times at least.

And for some clients, you will find the feedback other freelancers left for them. (If the client is a new one and still to hire a freelancer, you will not find any feedback in their client profile).

What you should do is, go through the feedback the client received from other freelancers. If others are leaving the highest rating for the client and sharing their positive experiences with the client, then you should try to win such a client. Because not just winning the client, winning a good client will help you love freelancing even more.

But, that is not the nifty trick I wanted to tell you.

The trick is, finding the name of the client. Yes, if you could find the name of the client, you can address the client by his name when you are submitting your cover letter.

Finding the client's name on Upwork


When the client sees that you know his name, then it will be a good sign to the client that you have read not just the job post, but also the feedback he received from other freelancers.

And it is a good sign of your genuine interest in the posted job. Isn’t it?

This trick helped me win my first client, and it is still helping me win clients. It worked for me, and I know it will work for you.

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Don’t be afraid to offer a paid trial

If the assignment is big, I mean the allocated budget is high and you are new, then many clients will hesitate to offer such projects to a new freelancer. In such cases, offer your client a paid trial. This will help the client to evaluate your skills, quality of the work without risking his money. And the clients love this kind of offers. Even you could go for free trials as well. But, do this only if the effort and time you have to spend on the trial are reasonable and manageable. And never offer free work. Just a free trial for a week, or two. More than that, you are risking everything. Don’t go there.

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I found my first client as a freelancer

I selected the best-suited category for my skills, optimized my profile with a good standing description, added a few portfolios, started going after the job posts, read them more than two times, also read the feedback others left for clients, most of the times I found the name of the client and applied to the jobs with properly written, personalized cover letters.

And I was applying for jobs for a little over three weeks, till I find my first client.

And the good news is, I found a client who was willing to pay $1 for copying and pasting email addresses from one file to another.

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Power of feedback to win clients

Power of feedback that wins more freelance jobs


I took the opportunity and completed the job within a day. Yes, for $1, I worked hard.

And that is not for the money. That was for the feedback. Finally, I got my first feedback. It was the breakthrough I looked for and I won the second client within a week after completing the first assignment. See how crucial the first feedback wins the clients is?

After that, I was getting around 5-6 new clients per month. Sometimes, even more.

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How to keep clients in the long run

Finding clients as a freelancer is one thing and winning them another thing, and I think find a client as a freelancer easy compared to keeping the same clients in the long run. Because you will have one shot and one opportunity to give a better impression to the client. If you miss the opportunity, then the client may not come back to you.

More than 70% of my clients are returning clients or long term, clients. That is a huge win.

Long term client retention


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How I managed to keep my clients as longterm clients?

Quality over quantity

The first thing is the quality of the service. It does;t matter you are doing data entry or social media marketing or anything. What matters is how good is the output is. If you are delivering quality products, people will start coming back to you. Most of the times, freelancers fail because they are going after the quantity, not the quality. When your client is expecting quality over quantity, it doesn’t matter the quantity. And the secret is, when you started delivering quality products, the quantity will follow eventually. Stick to the basics and the rest will follow.

How fast you get back to your client

And the way you communicate with your client is one of the key factors which will help you keep long term clients. I’m not telling you that you should be perfect in writing, reading and speaking English. It not about making things perfect; it is all about making yourself reachable whenever the client needs you. If you fail to reply to your client’s email within 24hrs, that’s a huge failure.

My response time is less than 24 hours. Most of the times, it is less than 12hours. When you get back to your clients in a quick time, it gives the impression to your client that you are reachable and you are genuinely interested in serving him. And the client will get back to you whenever he has a new project.

Provide revisions when needed

Freelancers think that once they deliver the work and the client shared the feedback, the job is completed. It is true and correct, literally. But if the client asked for a revision for a work you completed be ready to provide it. If the revision is taking too much time and effort, let the client know that you are expecting payment for the revision as it requires time and effort. Make sure to elaborate on what it requires to revise the work. So the client will understand. And be reasonable.

Do it for free

If the revision doesn’t take much of a time or effort, do it for free. Yes, do it for free. Most of the times, the client will offer you a bonus. If they offer to accept it. But, never expect anything if you promised to revise for free. It is that simple.

I was there when my client needs me

Whenever my client reached out to me and sought help with the work I completed for him, I never said no. I always helped. It doesn’t matter you do it for free or for a fair price, what matters is you are still willing to help the client.

This will help you to build up trust with your client. And I don’t have to remind you that when you are working online, building trust is one of the key elements that determine the long term success and it will help you find more clients as a freelancer. Because the word of mouth is way stronger than all the other marketing platforms combined.

Keep in touch with your client

Once you complete the job and the client left his feedback, this concludes the work. But you shouldn’t stop there. If you have the client’s contact information (I prefer email over mobile), reach out to the client once in a while. Politely remind them if they have new work, you are still here to help. Not just for seeking new job opportunities, you may send them your wishes in the new year, for Christmas and if you know the birthday of your client, send you regards to them. People love these. Maybe these are small gestures. But, they will impact big. But never spam your clients. It will ruin your reputation as a freelancer and you won’t get a single client if you started spamming your clients.

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FAQ’s : How to find clients as a freelancer

How do I start off as a freelancer?

List your skills first. Write them down on a piece of paper. Then start prioritizing your skills. Go after the skill you best at. Then go online. Find a freelance marketplace like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr Set up your profile there. Optimize it for better client visibility. Then start applying for the jobs which suit your skills.

How can I improve my skills?

I should suggest YouTube. If you need to improve your skills, go to YouTube and check for free guides on your requirement. Let’s say you need to improve your social media marketing skills. On YouTube, there are hundreds if not thousands of free video tutorials on improving your social media marketing skills. If you could spend $10-20, then you will be able to find paid courses on Udemy. These courses will help you fine-tune and improve your skills. If you don’t have a budget, I suggest you use YouTube.

How do I get my first freelance client?

Finding the first client is the hardest. But it doesn’t mean it is impossible. When reaching out to the clients, be precise, on-point and be professional as much as possible. Offer your professional opinion on their requirement. Don’t afraid to ask questions when needed and provide answers to the client’s problems. Build up the trust and you can win your first client as a freelancer.

How to get clients fast

To get clients fast, you should complete all your groundwork first. That includes creating a well-optimized freelance profile, improving your skills and updated knowledge on the tools, software you use. Also, it is vital to establish better communication channels. Do not depend on one channel. If your client prefers WhatsApp over Skype, you should prepare yourself for such situations. Respond fast and respond accordingly.

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How to find clients as a freelancer

How to find clients as a freelancer is one of the frequently asked questions. And there are hundreds or thousands of answers on the internet. Still, people fail to find their first client and give up freelancing.

Winning a client depends on numerous factors. But, if you missed the basics, it is highly unlikely that you are going to find clients as a freelancer. Failing your freelance career is totally up to you and succeeding is also your call. You should list your skills, and find the skills you are good at. Find a better freelance marketplace. Open an account. Fine-tune it. Make it bright and shiny.

List all the qualifications you have and go after the jobs that match your skills. Read the job descriptions completely. At least a couple of times. And when applying to the job, be precise. Be professional and always try to follow a personalized approach. And keep in mind, even after doing everything listed here, you may not find your first client as a freelancer in your first attempt. Maybe not in your 100th attempt. But never stop there. Every time you fail, try even harder to succeed. You will find your client and you will earn your first dollar as a freelancer for sure.

How to keep the clients long-term

And to keep the clients you won as returning clients, or long term clients make sure to deliver a quality product. Be fair. Do not try to overcharge your client and you don’t have to be the cheapest freelancer at all.

When a client asks for a revision, be ready to revise your work. If it is too much work and time, don’t be afraid to ask for payment for revision. If the revision is easy and won’t take much time, don’t think twice, do it for free.

Always reachable. Try to reply as soon as possible. Don’t take days to reply to an email. And whenever possible, keep in touch with the client. Gently remind them that you are still in the business and ready to help.

If you do everything right, landing your first client and keep a long term client base will be much easier than you think.

Feel free to comment below what you think of this and feel free to share your experiences and opinions.

Good Luck and make all your efforts count.

Nimesh Madushanka
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