How to find clients when starting your freelance business

Not enough experience to build a portfolio? Give away information for free

I started doing freelance website development about 2 years ago and tried everything in the book to find clients. However, the best thing I've done, by far, is give away information for free.  When you don't have a big portfolio, sharing information is the best way to demonstrate your knowledge to clients.  Here are some options:

Create video tutorials

I started doing freelance website development about 2 years ago and didn't have any idea where to start finding clients. I built a website, optimized it and thought cash would start flowing in.  It didn't. However, I was frustrated by the lack of free materials online to help me better my website development skills and so, after continuing to learn, started created video tutorials and sharing them online for free. Turns out, this is a great way to demonstrate your skill to potential clients.

Without a big portfolio, clients are apprehensive to hire a single freelancer (in my experience) because you don't have much of a reputation to back you up and there's no way for them to confirm you knowledge/skill. However, by creating video tutorials, you can clearly demonstrate your skill without a project portfolio.  Additionally, if you optimize your video tutorials correctly for search engines, people will find you when searching for a particular skill.

Create some free guides

This technique has been less successful than my video tutorials but has still worked in the past though it can be a time suck. Creating some free guides on how to do something related to your freelancing again demonstrates your skill and knowledge. However, it is important to stay focused when creating these. Rather than create a free guide on how to complete a huge project, break the project down into components and create a guide for each component.

For example, if I were creating a guide for drupal development, it wouldn't be how to create a site from start to finish, that would take too long. Instead, I would create a guide for creating a specific website functionality. This way I could easily create 5 or 6 short 10-15 page guides, complete with images and additional resources.

Again, you can use these to show clients as part of your portfolio or if you post them on your website and optimize the pages properly, you'll find potential clients coming to your site looking for this information.  Make sure, if you post online, to do some keyword research.  I suggest developing guides that people are actually looking for otherwise you are wasting your time.

Speak at an event

I know this one sounds daunting and the immediate responses will be a) What event? b) I just started freelancing, who would want to hear me?  Forget those questions, a little research will uncover easy answers for you.

If you are freelancing in a popular field, like web development, there will plenty of small or medium presentation opportunities. Call up your local college and ask if you could give a free presentation. Do a quick Google search or go to your local community center, see what they have.

Once you've found the venue, you need to uncover what people are trying to learn most in your field.  This can easily be accomplished with Google keyword tool.  Seeing what people are searching will demonstrate what they are trying to learn, stick with "how to ..." or "tutorial for ...". These types of searches very clearly indicate people are trying to learn something. The other option is to find an online forum related to your freelancing expertise and see what people are talking about.

You don't have to be an expert to make a presentation, you just have to know more than most peole in the room.  Speaking at an event is valuable because it builds your reputation and instills trust from clients.

In conclusion

Giving away information for free has been the most valuable tool for developing my freelance web development business. It helps you clearly demonstrate your skill and knowledge when you might not have a huge portfolio. Try out the techniques above and post a comment letting us all know how you made out.