Find Your Next Gig: Tips for Freelancers and Contractors

June 5, 2012

Are you one of the 44 million Americans who make your living as a solopreneur or independent contractor? Perhaps you’re considering taking the leap, leaving corporate America and striking out on your own (the independent workforce is projected to grow by 40% to 65 million in 2020). If you’re a freelancer, you know how important it is to get gigs and maintain a healthy backlog of new clients and prospects.

Here are three tips that will help you land that next project or assignment and keep the business coming…

1. Show Your Stuff

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and complete with all of your relevant skills and experiences. Think of your profile as your first stop for personal branding and marketing. Keep SEO in mind and use keywords as you update your profile. Make sure to include phrases like “freelance journalist” or “independent contractor and graphic designer” in your summary, headline and tags. You also want to be easily searchable based on your key skills and desired client base, so include those skills that drive your revenue stream or business, i.e. public speaker, corporate trainer, six-sigma consultant, etc.

Think of it as marketing 101 and be sure to include your value proposition to potential clients as well — what kind of results you do you regularly achieve for clients? Go ahead and boast a bit — your bio should draw potential clients in and make people want to hire you.

And of course, a picture is worth 1000 words — if you work in the visual arts, take advantage of the Behance Creative Portfolio Display app. Matthew Kalish, an advertising and production freelancer, uses this app to show off his creations right alongside his profile. It’s easier than ever before to share your artistic genius with the world. For those in creative and non-creative industries—you can show your stuff with LinkedIn’s new SlideShare app — upload your recent PowerPoint presentations to give others an idea of the great work you do.

2. Get Others to Vouch for You

Get recommendations! People want to know that you’re great at what you do. I’m much more likely to hire you when I see that six other people are singing your praises and love working with you. Haven’t stock piled any? Start writing recommendations for others and in exchange, ask friends, colleagues or former clients to reciprocate.

And don’t worry — it’s never too late to ask. Even if you transitioned off a team or stopped working with an organization months or even years ago, it’s okay to reach out, reconnect on LinkedIn and ask for a recommendation. If it has been a long time, consider providing some guidance on what you’d like that recommendation to say. It never hurts to help jog someone’s memory about the great work you did for him or her in the past.

3. Network, Network, Network

Most freelancers live by referrals. Your network is your most important asset. Halee Sage, a project manager and early childhood expert says word of mouth referrals are her best friend. She keeps in regular contact with her network and always reaches out to former clients when she’s between jobs to let people know she’s looking for work. She also sells her skills, not just her experience. “You want to demonstrate that your skill set is broad and can meet all of a clients needs,” says Halee.

Freelance journalist Anita Bruzzese uses her LinkedIn network to find editors to approach with story lines or pitches. She researches their backgrounds and finds mutual connections so that she can get a warm introduction via LinkedIn, which typically yields a much better response rate.

But it’s not just one-on-one networking that’s important. Joining groups can be just as effective. Check out the hundreds of LinkedIn Groups for Freelancers – there are groups for writers, graphic designers, software developers, virtual assistants—you name it.   Find your affinity group and get involved. You can join group discussions, find job postings, and make invaluable connections that will lead to new business leads down the line.

At the end of the day, building and maintaining a strong freelance business boils down to building relationships, marketing yourself regularly and using your extended network to source opportunities. Stay in touch with former clients, classmates and colleagues, don’t be afraid to highlight your skills and talents and ask others to vouch for you. Opportunity is more likely to come knocking at your door when you proactively set yourself up for success.