How do you find freelance work?
July 31, 2009 4:19 PM   Subscribe

How do you find freelance work?

Right now I'm working with a few colleagues from a previous company to start up a new one, it looks like it might take off in a few months, hopefully sooner, but right now the revenue coming into the new venture is minimal, as is the amount of work I'm needing to put into the new venture until it gets revved up. I'd really like to land a few freelance projects in the interim so that I'm not eating ramen for the foreseeable future.

From time to time, I've always had side gigs, but they've always pretty much just fallen into my lap. Those have consisted of anything from just redoing a small office network for someone, or cabling a couple floors of an office building, to things like setting up a multi-server colocated farm. I'm not really picky on the type of contact, as long as it pays reasonably and it's something I have the skillset for, I'm there. The problem is I've never actually been in the position of looking for one of these, so I don't really know how to go looking successfully.

Note, I'm in Canada, and a systems/network guy with 15 years of professional experience.
posted by barc0001 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You can find freelance and contract gigs on most job listing sites you'd use for finding normal work. This is especially true of tech work IME. Craigslist is free and therefore has a lot of smaller gigs.
posted by shownomercy at 4:33 PM on July 31, 2009

I've been able to get a lot of freelance work by just emailing several companies (use your google-fu to get a list of companies that need your services, or location, or whatever parameters you use) -- I basically just send an email introducing myself and the services that my freelance business can provide. I've gotten everythng from small projects that take a few days to large, lucrative contracts that last for a few months. It took anywhere from a few days to 6 months later for these people to reply and say that they needed my services.

One more suggestion that may work for you in particular. To learn more about your business, are you going to attend free classes/seminars (I plan to do this through an organization in the U.S called SCORE) -- I was recently thinking, however,that if someone with the right business skills (eg, an accountant, a lawyer, or a tech support guy) showed up at one of those seminars and gave a brief introduction -- I bet they could land work and make a lot of contacts right then.

I'm going to follow this thread hoing that there will be suggestions that I can use for my own freelance business....
posted by Wolfster at 5:19 PM on July 31, 2009

It's a matter of picking up the phone, or emailing, as Wolfster suggests.

You need to do your market research - who needs your skills? Who are you going to cater to? Who has money?

In this economy, grocery retailers and dentists are still doing well, car dealerships are not. Some companies are ditching (laying off) their dedicated IT manager, and are instead contracting out for the $100K a year it takes to employ someone.

Attend local Chamber of Commerce mixers and meet people to develop business info. But also do your research by calling up the ops manager of a locally-owned or managed grocery chain. Figure out how to connect with dentists - they have money, and their IT needs are considerable.

Good luck!
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 PM on July 31, 2009

You could try contacting the people for whom you've done work in the past. This could get you some repeat business, some referrals, or at least an offer to serve as a reference. If you had some simple brochures that they could pass around, or at least business cards listing some of your capabilities, that would probably help.

The folks I know who do IT consulting -- of various sorts -- seem to be the only small businesses that are busy these days, so you might seek out some of them and see if you could handle some of their overflow.
posted by DrGail at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2009

I recommend that you put together a mini marketing plan. If you create a basic model for building a pipeline of contacts and nurturing the relationships so that some become clients and eventually even raving fans, you'll be in a more solid position. A marketing plan is essentially a set of instructions for finding clients -- it can be a reusable process that sustains your business. By following a process, you can avoid reinventing the wheel and shifting gears and ending up in a reactive pattern. However, if you're simply looking for ideas to get you started right away, you may be interested in my posts on (self link) finding new clients. I have a blog with about 1100 posts on running a consulting business -- which is just a different way of saying freelance, in my opinion.

I mean, yeah, you can just get out there and start networking and emailing and calling and pounding the pavement. But you'll do better by putting a plan in place. You're an IT guy, so I bet you like figuring out processes and how things work. So, if you think of your marketing plan as a process for building up your business, you may be in a better position to tackle your marketing. All marketing means, really, is connecting buyers and sellers.
posted by acoutu at 9:45 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't underestimate the potential of letting friends and family know that you're available and willing.

I just finished a gig that I got this way. My husbands department just had a massive flow of work and needed some help. Since I had worked in a very related field to his before returning to school, my skills still fit the bill. I let him know I'd be happy to do the work, he then let the powers that be know. Next thing I know, they're asking me to come in that same day to get started.

Point is, you never know who knows whom.
posted by arishaun at 10:20 PM on July 31, 2009

There are many good freelance job listing sites- the best of which are mostly paid-only, but they're worth it. Of course, any type of networking, whether it be through family, friends, or just a bit of research might also turn out to be essential.

A lot of people need work done, just find them and let them know you're available.
posted by csjc at 12:53 AM on August 1, 2009

Check the want ads for folks hiring your type for full time work. Apply, just as you would for full time, but clearly specify that you are primarily looking for contract work. Be willing to do 'get acquainted' projects at reduced rates (very small jobs) in order to develop familiarity with a client, and test how good a client they are. It's an investment for you, but it overcomes the major obstacle of high hourly charges. Ask existing and former clients for leads, as an adverstisement that you are actively seeking assignments. Hustle. You put off success by wondering what to do. Make twice as many calls as you want to. Name drop if you know ANYONE in an organization (and have a good reputation with them.)

Clients want to know that you can help them, that they won't go broke using you, that you are competent and a known quantity, that you are a hard worker and problem solver, and that you are the shortest distance to a solved problem they will ever see. Delight them and they'll sell for you. Cultivate your successful contracts/contacts into being internal champions for you (i.e., folks inside who sell/promote your competence to their peeps.)
posted by FauxScot at 2:07 AM on August 1, 2009

Let me introduce you to Freelance Switch.
posted by Rykey at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2009

If you're not on Facebook already, I would recommend this as a great tool. But it'll take time to gather enough friends that it can help you. So keep it in mind for the long-term. Start now. Someone above mentioned that you never know who knows who. Facebook is like that movie Six Degrees of Separation, but actualized. If you put a call out on that thing, it's like fishing all your friends and all your friends' friends. For the short term, you might even advertise among them that if anyone had computer problems, you could help for 20 an hour. I don't know how much that is below your pay grade, but a lot of people have problems, and would love to have someone knowledgeable come over and fix their computers for a reasonable price. Usually they just take it to Geek Squad or some such bullshit.
posted by Sully at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2009

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