Getting Your First Client: The Journey to Becoming a Free Agent

When you’re thinking about becoming a free agent, getting your first client is one of your greatest concerns. Although caution is necessary, it shouldn’t give place to fear or hesitation. In order to overcome some potential inhibitions, it’s crucial to take some measures before you expose yourself to the online labor market.

And if you feel that you lack the experience of working independently, you’ll need some practical tips for those first steps on your stairway to business heaven. This guide will help you get on cloud nine and create a firm network of trustworthy clients.

Enrich your portfolio

You might be the best professional in your field, but no one will hire you if you don’t display your skills. And if you’re a young aspiring businessperson, you might have nothing to show to your potential clients.

In that case, you need to create (literally) your own portfolio. If you haven’t done any projects so far, think about making up a project for your portfolio. For instance, a graphic designer can invent a company and create a logo for it. Likewise, an app developer can create a simulation of an app from scratch.

By doing so, you’ll show your potential clients that you’re a self-reliant and inventive professional, eager to work.

However, you should never take other people’s works and present them as yours in your portfolio. Even if you have their permission, you’ll earn a bad reputation if your potential clients realize that you aren’t the author of those works.

Choose in-niche voluntary work

This is a tricky area because it’s not easy to recommend voluntary work these days. Why is this so? First and foremost, you don’t get paid for voluntary work or in a best case, you work for peanuts.

As a result, you can’t live on your own, but need help from others.

Nevertheless, voluntary work can serve as a way of gaining some work experience and portfolio-building skills. So, if you can find a place to stay for a few months and reduce your expenses to a minimum, volunteering could be a beneficial choice.

While you can choose from a variety of volunteering options, it’s wiser to volunteer in the field in which you’d like to work as a freelancer.

In line with that, do some research on the most prominent brands in your niche. After that, narrow down the list to ten names. The next thing you should do is write an application letter for volunteer positions, send them out and wait for their replies.

A rule of thumb is that you tell them why you’ve chosen that company and why it would be a great solution for both parties.

Still, you shouldn’t spend too much time working as a volunteer. Otherwise, you’ll lose some precious time plus some potential clients might find it strange that you spent a year or more volunteering. It could show a lack of entrepreneurial zest.

The bottom line is that you can volunteer, but for a renowned company and for a few months.

Talk about their needs

When you’re working as an independent service provider, your clients will expect a special treatment. This means that everything you do should revolve around their comfort and benefit. So, they need to feel that you nurture them and want to provide them with the best service.

With that in mind, you should always first talk about their needs when you’re getting in touch with your clients.

At this stage, don’t ramble on about yourself (they check out your profile for more info), but get to the thick of it and tell them what you can do to make their business better.

Therefore, your offers should contain all the tasks you can do for your potential client.

Also, add a sense of immediacy to your offers, saying that you can start working right away.

When your target client sees that they can get a fast and professional service in no time, they’ll be more inclined towards accepting your bid.

Join an established crew

Starting from scratch in freelancing will cost you a lot of time. This is why you should do your best to cut the corners whenever possible. In line with that, you should first join an established business crew.

The major benefit you’ll have from such a decision is getting projects on which you’ll gain both experience and make some money. The brand which you start working with will bring more projects than your still non-existing personal brand would generate.

On the other side, you’ll need to give a part of your income to the business in question, as the middleman. What’s more, you might not be given the creative freedom that you wish for.

Because of that, limit such a collaboration to a set time frame at the very beginning. Also, insist that you keep the right to the authorship on the projects for that company. Otherwise, you won’t be able to include them in your portfolio.

At the end of the day, you’ll have more projects to add to your portfolio. In return, this should improve your chances of landing your first client.

Offer competitive rates

More often than not, investors and employers will rather choose a bit more expensive freelancer if they see they’re hiring an experienced professional.

But when you’re still not that kind of freelancer, you have to do something to become interesting for them. Since the market is merciless, the most obvious thing to do is to offer competitive rates. As a matter of fact, this should be done during your first contact with the client.

When they notice that you’ve done some in-niche voluntary work, as well as a part of a well-known brand, you’ll already have their attention. And offering competitive rates will nudge them towards giving you a chance.

Now, what is competitive and how to know if you’ve gone too low? According to a Forbes’ analysis, you should always count in your expenses when setting your rates and try to make more, so that you can rely on your own assets.  At the beginning, you’ll go with lower rates but increase them as soon as you get your first positive reviews.

Also, when they decide to give you a chance, make sure that you remain as professional as it gets. In order to ensure a pleasant collaboration, give them a well-devised estimate and set the pace of the work process.

Narrow down the number of platforms

Scattered attention and energy will make it easier for you to find your first client. Because of that, try not to search for potential clients in too many places. The smartest thing you can do is register on two or three freelancing platforms and start your quest there.

Moreover, you need to plan the time you’re going to spend on each of these websites. For instance, you can give yourself one hour every day to look for your potential first client on three different websites. The choice will depend on your preferences.

It’s crucial to limit the time you spend doing that, as well as the number of websites. Otherwise, you’ll end up going through dozens of websites and hundreds of projects without reaching any particular goal.


As you can see, getting in touch with your first client will take a number of steps. Sometimes some of them might not work, while some others will raise the interest in your skills. No matter what happens, keep improving your skills and always try to find new clients and new business opportunities. Only that way you will manage to develop your business network and improve your freelancing career.

Mark Thomasson
Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.
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