Research shows freelancers are expected to make up 40% of the American workforce by 2020 – and for good reason. Thanks to the gig economy and rise of cool coworking spaces, people are more inclined to ditch their nine-to-five job to take on projects they’re truly passionate about. Today, all you need to be a star employee is a strong WiFi connection.
The downside? Unless you have a set contract with a company, your next paycheck is never guaranteed. Instead of relying solely on job boards and cold pitches, freelancers are required to think outside of the box.
Below, five rockstar freelancers share the most unconventional – yet successful – ways they’ve landed new clients.
By mingling …
“I recently adopted a dog and have been taking her to obedience classes. One woman was complaining that she and her dog were behind in training, because she has been working too much. When we had a few minutes’ break, I mentioned I was a new freelance writer, and she practically begged me to start ghostwriting for her blog and creating content for her business. Fifteen hours later, contract signed and I have a new client!” — Michelle Miller, writer and travel blogger
“I was meeting a friend for drinks at a new cider taproom in Brooklyn. My friend brought her friend, the editor of branded content at Vox – not to introduce us, just a coincidence – and we hit it off. She gives me work often, and at a great rate.” — Devorah Lev-Tov, food and travel writer
“Recently, I reconnected with a group of former magazine coworkers for a summer Friday lunch. As it turns out, one woman had recently left the company to start her own PR business. I mentioned my freelance side hustle and have been writing press releases and pitches for her ever since. You never know when an old connection might resurface as something new.” — Ann Loynd Burton, writer and editor
By going to industry events…
“With so many deadlines and meetings, attending press events before or after work can feel like a waste of time. However, I truly believe industry events double as great networking opportunities. Before becoming a full-time freelancer, I attended a press event and mentioned I was doing some freelance work on the side. I didn’t think anything of my comment, but by the time I got to my then-office, the publicist I mentioned my side hustle to put me in contact with a publication I really admired, and have been writing for them ever since. People want to help you!” — Kelsey Mulvey, writer and editor
By being proactive on social media …
“One of the weirdest ways I got a gig was through Twitter. A friend posted the author photo I took of her for her book, and someone emailed me based on the photo and asked me to take portraits of her in time for 60th birthday because she wanted to feel glam and gorgeous. I shot them at her brownstone on the Upper West Side.” — Elyssa Goodman, writer and photographer
“I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed back in May, and saw a post from an editor who was looking for a writer to cover the Royal Wedding. Though I knew the editor was inundated with emails, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I sent over a brief intro about myself – including my love for all things British – and a few clips. A few hours later, I found out I got the gig.” — Kelsey Mulvey, writer and editor
By getting rejected (really!) …
“I once applied for a full-time job at a magazine. The hiring editor responded the next day and said I was overqualified, but that he would love to have me freelance for them if I was interested. I’ve been writing for them since the end of last year.” — Elyssa Goodman, writer and photographer
…and by creating a Fiverr Gig.
“Fiverr has given me international exposure in a way I never imagined. It’s made me realize how connected the world can be. It has also made me realize that marketing is more important than ever. It doesn’t matter how great your product may be. There is too much noise out there and every entrepreneur needs to find a way to stand out regardless of their location, industry, or target customer.” —Jon Youshaei, EveryVowel creator / Fiverr Pro / Learn from Fiverr instructor
What do you think are the best ways to find new clients? Tell us in the comments below!