How to Find Your First Freelance Clients | Mark Ellis | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

How to Find Your First Freelance Clients

teacher avatar Mark Ellis, Learn how to create amazing content!

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Lesson 1: Finding your niche


    • 3.

      Lesson 2: Creating an opportunity with your current employer


    • 4.

      Lesson 3: The importance of your personal brand


    • 5.

      Lesson 4: Developing your pitch


    • 6.

      Lesson 5: Nailing your pricing (and avoiding freebies)


    • 7.

      Lesson 6: Creating your logo, website and social media profiles - super fast


    • 8.

      Lesson 7: Choosing the best freelance websites


    • 9.

      Lesson 8: Reaching out to marketing agencies


    • 10.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

This class is designed to help you find that all-important first client as a freelancer.

It’s perfect for independent marketers and freelance creatives who have just decided to ‘go it alone’ and escape the 9-5. I know what it's like to enter the world of independent work and how challenging it can be when it comes to finding your first paying client.

The class draws from my experiences of running my own freelance business for the last five years and teaches the methods I use to find and retain profitable customers.

All you need is a computer, enthusiasm, and desire not to give up. Those customers are out there - let's find them!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Mark Ellis

Learn how to create amazing content!


I run a successful and fast-growing tech influencer brand. During my first year on YouTube, I amassed over 22,000 subscribers, 1.7 million views, and more than 158,000 watch hours. My combined monthly audience now stands at over 100,000, and I'd love to help you achieve similar success! I teach everything from video editing to writing, music production, and how to be successful on platforms like YouTube and Medium. Let's find your audience!

See full profile

Level: Beginner

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Mark Alice. I'm a freelance market from the UK. I quit my nine to five job about five or six years ago and it's the best thing I ever did. I'm happier than I've ever been before. I'm making more money than I have done before. And crucially, I love Mondays and I'd love you to be in that same position. This class is designed to help you find that all important first freelance time. Because once you get the first one, the rest come rolling in. And we'll do this by creating a personal brand for you. Because people buy you, they buy your time. Missing out on this vital step means your spend years trying to find clients or working for free and no one wants to do that delay. This class is designed specifically for marketers and freelance creatives. However, it doesn't matter what you do. If you're a freelance worker or an independent worker, you'll benefit from this class big-time, This class is perfect if you're just starting out or if you're struggling to grow your business, or you just hit a rope and you can't find that next client. You just need two things, a laptop or a tablet and a desire to succeed. That's all you need. During this class, you'll discover how to find your niche. How to create an opportunity with your existing employer, importance of your personal brand, how to develop your pitch, how to nail your pricing, how to create a website and a social media presence without any desired skills whatsoever. I also reveal which freelancing websites will find you work. Finally, we'll look at the importance of reaching out to market agencies to let them do some of the work for you, bringing clients and cryo, nice, profitable stream of work going forward. By then to this class, you'll be a far more attractive proposition to potential clients. You might even pick up a client or two along the way. 2. Lesson 1: Finding your niche: In this lesson, we'll cover how to find a service which people will pay for, and how to find the perfect audience, that very tightly defined audience for that service. Start by identifying your passion. We're all passionate about something. Make a list of the top ten interests you have. And it could be anything. And take a look at those interests and think about how you could apply those to problems people may have. For me. I love writing, and I realized that a lot of people just don't have the time to write. However, they know that for their business, they need good blogs and then a great webpages with great content. So it's all about finding a skill that other people know they need, but simply don't have the time for, to help with this research. Have a look on forums, blogs, even, or read it as well, and have conversations with people in your target market just to see what is that they are struggling with the challenges they have each day. And then see if you can align those challenges with the interests that you have. Don't underestimate the importance of Google here, use Google's autocomplete tool to see areas in which you could potentially help people. You can do this by typing your skill or interest into Google and seeing what related searches it offers you. From there, you may spot something that you can do and that people really want. And lastly, look at the competition. There's nothing wrong with doing this. There's nothing wrong with taking ideas that they're using themselves. Equally. You may spot weaknesses. What things they're doing wrong? What do you think I could do that much better? Make plenty of notes about the competition, both what they're doing well and what they're not doing well and see where you can fit in. So key takeaways, you need to find a skill or interest that you love and that you know, can solve a problem. Google remains the best research tool, but look at Reddit forums and other blogs. And lastly, W afraid of the competition if they exist, that's great news because it means you're onto something, you can just do better than them. So start by listing or ten interest or skills and working out what problems they can solve. Use Google's autocomplete to search for common pain points or queries. Check out the competition and lovely. Pick one niche, pick one market, one service that you think you can excel in and focus on that. In the next lesson, we'll look at why is incredibly important to leave your current employer on good terms. 3. Lesson 2: Creating an opportunity with your current employer: In this lesson, we'll cover why you should never burn bridges with your current employer. Will also look at how to succeed when you leave, which might lead to great future work for you. And I know this works because my last employer is actually now my biggest client. One thing to bear in mind initially is conflict of interests. You have to be really careful not to steal clients and basically not to be too aligned with your existing employer. Try and differentiate yourself a little bit. Do something slightly different or just a different take on the job that you had with your employer. Don't be afraid about working on the side on your new project. As so many people have side hustles, the key thing is to be open with your boss. This can be particularly useful if your side hustle is something which you think could benefit your employer. Have a chat with the boss about it. When you know, you're going to leave your job, pick a date and stick to it, and whatever you do, don't create a master plan to steal all of their clients, that's the worst possible thing you can do. Sure. It may feel that that's giving you a headstart with your own business, but it will only create problems further down the line. When you hand you notice in, make it clear to your boss that you love to Karen working with them in some capacity, even if that's a few years down the line. And once you've left to schedule a check in every six months just to see how they're getting on. You never know what might happen is vitally important because you may just hit upon an opportunity to work with them again. So key takeaways. Important mindset to have here is that your employer could one day become a client, be ultra careful about conflicts of interest and don't plan to steal a customer's, please. And when you leave, make it ultra clear that the door is always open and you'd love to chat with me at some point in the future. So action points, pick a date Unilever and stick to it. Be open with your boss about your side hustle and see if there's any opportunities to bring it into the business. Don't hide it. Start thinking early on about what you'll say when you handy noticing, leave the door open. And lastly, remember to scheduling those six monthly check-ins just to see how they're getting up. In the next lesson, we'll look at how to create a personal brand and how to create one that potential clients cannot ignore. 4. Lesson 3: The importance of your personal brand: In this lesson, we'll look at how to create a personal brand which has lots of authority in which people trust will also look at how to avoid creating something that you clearly not. Start by creating the foundation right down what you want to be known for, your mission. Why you doing this? If you could give your audience One piece of advice, what would it be? And finally, you character traits. What about you will shine through in your personal brand? Next is time to choose your target audience. Note down a few things about them. That demographics, such as age, gender, education, income, profession, their desires and aspirations, and any pain points and challenges they probably have. If you're not sure where to get that information, do some research, look at your market by going on to read it onto forums and just getting an idea of the people are on there. You can also use Twitter. Facebook, look at comments. Look the people experiencing challenges and asking questions that you think you can answer. That's your demographic. Position yourself as a specialist in your chosen profession, avoid being a generalist. For me, it was blogging. I loved writing on Yorkie, do it well, I knew people needed that service. There is a great formula for this which goes like this. What you love to do, plus what you do best, Plus what your audience needs the most, equals your irresistible offer. So key takeaways. People buy from people. That's you, your personal brand that needs a really solid foundation that is based on you, not a fake version of you. It's the best elements of your character and avoid trying to be someone you not, because you don't need to be your great. Emphasize how great you are. And finally, your audience needs to see you as a specialist in your chosen profession, not a generalist. They won't have the confidence that you absolutely know what you're doing when it comes to your skill. So start by writing down what you want to be known for, your mission and your character traits, choose a target audience based on their demographics, their aspirations, and their challenges. And finally, work on your irresistible offer. Remember that formula. What you love to do, what you do best, Plus what your audience needs the most, equals your irresistible offer. In the next lesson, we'll look at developing a pitch which immediately encourages people to ask you more about what you can do for them. 5. Lesson 4: Developing your pitch: In this lesson, we'll look at how to create your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is an immediate, impactful description of what you do and how you can help potential clients. You'll use it in intro emails and networking events. Start by introducing your name and what you do. For instance, I'm Mark and I helped businesses tell their stories with words, audio, and video. Explain what's in it for them. For example, I'll help your business reach a specific audience and keep them engaged with your brand. Finished with a solid call-to-action. For example, I'd love to hear more about your business. Should we scheduled a quick call? So key takeaways, your pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds to either read or say out loud. Remember that people want to know what's in it for them, not how amazing you are. The call to action should be clear, direct, simple, and really easy to carry out. So some homework start by brainstorming a high-level description of what you do for clients, create a list of the benefits that you offer clients and settle on the most impactful work on that call to action. What do, what people do when they first meet you? In the next lesson that will demystify pricing and look exactly how you should price yourself as a freelancer. 6. Lesson 5: Nailing your pricing (and avoiding freebies): In this lesson, we'll look at how to set on a price that works to your client and is profitable for you. Will also look at Why should absolutely avoid giving away your time for free. Start by looking at the competition. What are they charging? Reach out to other freelancing friends and see if they've got any inside information on what your competitors might be charging. No, you place it can't steam into freelancing and charged the earth. You need to give yourself plenty of headroom so that as you grow, you can increase your price in line with your experience. Think about those monthly overheads. What costs will you have to deliver the service you need to to clients? Don't forget life's essentials. Do I pay the bills? Think about your mortgage or your rent. And all of life's essentials that you still need to pay for. Built-in flexibility into your pricing so that you can lower your ray if you really need to, just make sure that you never go below that bottom-right alongside your hourly rate, crate a day rate, which offers a small discount. If people book you out for a day, get ready to negotiate because you'll have to do it. That means you've got to get comfortable talking about money. So key takeaways, freelancing services typically sit anywhere between 30 to 60 pounds per hour if you make the mistake of giving away free jobs to begin with, it devalues your time and it becomes very, very difficult to reclaim that value going confidently. You know your worth, you know what you can do for clients. You know that your service will benefit their business, be proud of that fact and keep those overheads in mind. Both the costs to run your business and also life's essentials. So selections start by making a list of the competitors. If you haven't already joined, read it and look for some freelancing subreddit in your niche list, all of your freelancing outgoings, that might be software subscriptions, the purchase of hardware, office supplies, but also list life's essentials. So you rent, you bells and anything else that you need to live. In the next lesson, we'll look at how to create your website, your logo, and your social media presence without any design skills and quicker than you ever thought possible. 7. Lesson 6: Creating your logo, website and social media profiles - super fast: In this lesson, we'll look at how to create a logo without spending a penny, will also look at how to build a website without calling on a web designer. And finally, you will get your social media profiles set up so you can get going. So with a logo, start by signing up to a free account that canvas. I've wrote a brilliant article to help you get started with logo design and you don't need to be desired at all. Checkout here and don't fill once you're happy with the logo, leave it after a while. It will just become part of your freelancing business and a way that people recognize who you are. So onto the website, start by signing up for a free account at Wordpress has got lots of free, cool themes that you can pick and modify and make your own. Have a look through and look for something fairly simple that you think you can turn into your own website. Once you've picked your theme, you just need to set up for webpages. Home about blog and contact. You can receive services on your homepage if you have the budget for it, go for customer domain. But don't worry too much at this stage is something you can do in the future. So for social media, I would focus on just two networks, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you're not on both, start by setting up a Twitter account, then said to be a LinkedIn account or update your LinkedIn account if you already have one. And then use the branding that we've just created to make it look like your own. And finally, use the pitch recreated earlier as your bio on both LinkedIn and Twitter. Really easy. Just remember to create a link to your website on there as well so people can find out a bit more about you. That's it. Key takeaways, start small, start simple. Don't spend a penny. You just don't need to. Once you start bringing more clients and making more money, of course, you can update your website, you can bring a web designer and he can get fancy. You just don't need to do it to begin with. You just need a presence which looks professional, at which people can use to contact you. Lean on free services like Canva and WordPress that brilliant for social media, just focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you want to, you can add Instagram, Facebook, whatever you like in the future. But the moment you just need to get going with something. So actions, sign up for your free camera account, sign up for a free Wordpress account, and get your Twitter and LinkedIn account setup or updated. In the next lesson, we'll look at how to find the best freelancing websites to find your first work as a creative freelancer. 8. Lesson 7: Choosing the best freelance websites: In this lesson, we'll look at three of the best freelancing websites and we'll consider how to take clients that you meet on there into Euro world. We'll start with people per hour, which was launched in 2007. I used people per hour, right? Start my freelancing career. And some of those clients I found on that platform is still with me today. People per hour is great for most types of freelancing. Just bear in mind they take a commission plus some service fees for the work that they find you. Next, we've got hooked work, which is a really well-known freelancing website used by the likes of Microsoft and Dropbox. It's got built-in invoicing. It's really easy to get started and it works for a variety of freelancing. Just bear in mind, they charge a certain fee for the first $500 of client billing. Lastly, 99 designs. If you're a designer, this is perfect because got built invoicing, release to get started with and their feet are actually quite reasonable. So bringing clients into your own world, most of these sites want you to stay in their platform, which makes sense. That's totally fair. However, what did you want to bring that client interior world? This is important because every time you take a client through a freelancing website, you pay commission for the privilege. And that's great for finding new clients. However, to avoid continually paying commission for return client, you need to start working with them directly. You can do this by having a really open conversation with them about working directly. Just make sure you stay within the boundaries of the freelancing websites rules there therefore, reason, for instance, most of them won't let you send your e-mail address by personal messaging. So try and avoid doing that. We're not trying to gain the system. There were just looking realistically how you can make your business more profitable going forward. A great way to do this is to offer some kind of incentive for that client to come back to you directly after you finish this first path work for them. So a few key takeaways. I've given you three freelancing websites today if one of the works fantastic, but sometimes it's best not to put all of your eggs into one basket. For that reason, it two or three of these work for you, saved all of them. Keep an eye on those commission judges is a valuable service you're paying for. But bear in mind that for future client work with the same clients. You want to bring them directly to your business. So some homework, research the three freelancing websites I've given you today and look for others. There are a lot out there. Research the competition on those sites as well. How much are they charging? What sort of services are they offering that you could do yourself? And finally, work on that strategy for retaining clients directly. What did in the first piece of work for them by the freelancing website. In our final lesson, we're gonna look at how to reach out to marketing agencies and find a really profitable, reliable source of work. 9. Lesson 8: Reaching out to marketing agencies: Final lesson, we're gonna look at how to reach out to marketing companies and create a nice, sustainable, profitable source of ongoing work. Now, I know this works because this is exactly how I started my freelancing business. I simply reached out to local marketing companies, and some of those companies are still my clients today. It's important to start by realizing that most marketing agencies aren't big companies full of employees, a lot of them will outsource work to freelancers, just like you. The first thing to do is to create an email that you can send to these marketing agencies. This is where we can use an all important pitch that we created earlier in the class. Start by explaining that you want to offer them remote support for their work. And don't waffle. Just let them know that you're available should they need it. For example, external, your service support, that's all you need. Work on a list of about ten agencies at a time and keep detailed records about your interactions with them. You should expect about a 10% return rate with these emails. That's roughly my experience. You may get a bit less than that. You may get more than that. But VSAT ten emails and just one person gets back to you. That's a potential new climb. When you get a reply, suggest a Skype call. Take it to that next level where you actually get face-to-face with him and start talking about how you can help them. If someone doesn't reply, don't worry about it. Just make a note of that in your list and set a reminder to contact them again in six weeks time, lean on the pricing that we developed earlier in the class. But bear in mind that you might have to get a little bit flexible. Not all agencies will pay you're going rate, but they will understand that you are a freelancer working on your own and will respect the fact that you need to be paid appropriately for your time. If you're in the UK, Be aware of the IR 35 rules. Now I'm not an expert. I won't go into full details about it, but it's basically set up by the government to try and identify instances where there was disguised work. And these guys work is someone who is purporting to be a freelancer, but he's actually working for the company in question. And the way you can avoid this entirely is to not just have one client. So if you're working with a marketing agency, make sure you've got two or three new books. The other thing to avoid is working for the agency in their offices and using their Kip. Quite often the government will see that as falling under IR 35 and you'll run into a few issues. Now, ir 35 aside, in your mind, at least it pays to consider the marketing agency as your employer. That will mean that you won't think about running off with their clients, which is the worst thing you can do for those kind of relationships. Hello RC, be open with them. Explain that you're working with other agencies. Most marketing agencies know that's the case. They may know that you could potentially be working with one of their competitors, but it shouldn't matter as long as there's no conflict of interests and your open from the start, it'll work. So key takeaways working with marketing agencies as a freelancer will provide a steady stream of work for you where you don't have to worry about client management when you reach out to that initial list of potential marketing agencies, expect quite a low return rate, but that doesn't matter. You just need two or three of these agencies to really get off to a good start. Be wary of IR 35. There's lots of information, ligaments website about it. And depending on which country you're in there, maybe similar roles. Just have a look into it and familiarize yourself with the issues that you could run into if you stick with one marketing agency as your main client. And lastly, just be open. Most agencies will appreciate the fact that you will be working with other agencies. So some homework start by drafting that initial pitch email list, ten agencies to contact, contact, each one on that list. And any who don't get back to you make a note to contact them again in six weeks time. And lastly, research those IR 35 rules is really important. 10. Outro: Thank you so much for taking this class. I really hope you found it useful is based on strategies that I've used over the last five or six years of running my own freelance company. And I know they work. Some key takeaways. Find your niche. Develop your personal brand. Don't give away your time for free. Use freelancing website to gain new clients and retain them directly. Strike of those all important relationships with marketing agencies. And finally, to all of your initial branding yourself. You don't need to pay someone to do it these days. And remember, if you wanna go back and revisit certain essence within this class, go for it, they're there forever. Lastly, I wish you the best of luck with your freelancing career. This is just the start, is exciting time Ed.