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How to Find Clients as an IT Freelancer
The life of a freelancer is an ongoing mix of frustration and freedom, complete with many pros and cons. Although freelancers aren't locked down to one job and can sometimes make a higher hourly wage than salaried employees, they also have the uncertainty that comes with being independent. Even freelancers who manage to land one lucrative anchor client usually find they're scrambling to line up enough additional clients to pay their monthly bills.
For those who can master the art of winning new clients, freelancing can be the best way to work. This is especially true in IT, where talented specialists are at a premium. If you're an IT freelancer struggling to find new clients, here are a few tips to help you locate and win over the many businesses searching for the skills you have.
Set Up an Online Presence
Before you start networking in the IT sphere, you'll first need to make sure you have something to show prospective clients. Set up a professional-quality website that describes your skills and the services you offer, emphasizing any certifications and achievements you've earned.
Don't forget to include contact information and details about the geographic areas you cover, and whether you're a local freelancer interested only in working around town or if you're a remote freelancer who limits your work to the U.S.
If you lack website design skills, you can easily use a WordPress template or a site like Squarespace or Weebly to build out an impressive portfolio. Once your design is in place, have some matching business cards printed for any in-person networking opportunities.
Use Job Boards
Job boards have become a popular resource for IT freelancers. These sites are a great way to earn valuable skills, build your portfolio, and develop a client base when you're starting out. However, over time, you'll probably find the wages are low compared to what you can earn through networking directly with businesses. Many of the top freelancing sites offer a ton work for IT professionals, including application developers, project managers, and data analysts.
Use Your Networking Skills
Networking can seem intimidating, especially if you prefer to spend time in the server room instead of at large gatherings of professionals. But when it comes time to outsource IT services, many businesses tend to ask for referrals within their own network of friends and colleagues.
If you've been working in IT for any length of time, you likely have made a few connections who would be happy to refer you. LinkedIn can help you identify those connections, as well as locate connections you might have in common. A former coworker could know someone at the very firm you have on your list of dream clients.
Reach out to former employers, friends in your industry, and even college classmates or professors to let them know you're looking for freelance work. You may be surprised how quickly that leads to work.
If your network isn't as developed, an in-person networking group could be a great way to make connections that lead to well-paying gigs. Use sites like Meetup.com/ to find groups near you. Don't limit your search to get-togethers involving people who are in your own line of work.
Consider the type of businesses that might hire a freelancer of your specialty, whether that's virtualization, IT security, DevOps or something else, and attend meetings that might lead to an introduction. You can also join industry organizations and network both in-person and online through social media.
Once you have a solid website, resume, and business cards, you'll be prepared to win business. Know your own value and try not to spend too much time worrying about the skills your competition brings to any hiring process. Your skill set is unique, no matter which IT field you've chosen, and networking will help you locate the very businesses looking for what you offer.
With the right approach, you'll be able to network in your chosen field and land a few core jobs. Over time, you'll find those clients refer you to others and you're spending your energy responding to requests for your services, rather than hustling to find work.