Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or just starting out with contract work, the freelance job market can be a challenge to navigate when you are getting started.
One major reason is that there isn’t an easy-to-recognize definition of freelancing or freelance jobs.
The language often gets intermingled with other forms of work like that found in work-from-home, temping, and sharing.
While those aspects of the job market are similar to freelance work, they’re not exactly the same.
So, if you’re in the market for high-quality, professional-level freelance work, where should you focus your attention and energy?
In this article, we’ll go over leveraging your network to find and grow your client base plus the different types of freelance job sites, their pros and cons, and what freelancers should look out for when searching for freelance jobs.
What’s one of the best sources of freelance work? Past employers!
If you’ve ended your previous employment on good terms, and you maintain a decent networking relationship with the people you used to work with, it’s worth it to reach out and offer your freelance services to former employers.
They already know what you’re capable of, and they may have some projects that could use your expertise.
While you’ll find a good amount of opportunity in online job ads and with previous employers, it’s also important to pitch yourself to new clients.
As a freelancer, your success is based on growing and deepening your client base. Clean up your professional online image, create a simple website, blog, or portfolio, and start reaching out to potential clients. They might be local businesses, companies you find through online research, or connections you have in common with your current network.
Leverage LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media carefully and professionally. Be visible, making your expertise visible, but protecting your online reputation. As employers are recruiters research job candidates, so do employers who are in the market to hire freelancers
Job sites can be helpful for finding freelance work, which surprises many people.
These are the “one size fits all” job boards that list millions of open jobs, including both freelance and employee jobs.
While it can be nice to find all sorts of listings in one place, it can also be overwhelming. And because it’s fairly easy for employers to post jobs to these sites, it’s also easy for scammers to post fake positions.
These sites do have a lot of freelance jobs, but they probably aren’t the professional-level jobs you’re interested in. Instead, they are quick tasks ranging from helping someone pack their house for a move, to mowing a lawn, to decorating for a birthday party.
Most claim to help you find a job in minutes, but only if you’re looking for quick, one-time projects involving chores and related tasks.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. There are thousands of smaller, niche job sites that cater to a specific group of people to help them find jobs.
Niche job sites might focus on people of a certain profession, location, age, job flexibility, or job status -- including freelance jobs. These smaller sites won’t have millions of listings, but they’ll probably have more jobs you’ll actually want to see.
Without a strategy, you'll be overwhelmed with options. Follow these steps to focus your attention where you have the greatest likelihood of success.
Most job search websites will have an option to narrow your search results by selecting "freelance" or "contract" in the search criteria. Other keywords and search options to look for include:
As you gain experience, note the keyword searches that work best for you.
On the one hand, there are more resources than ever before to find freelance work. But on the other, all those resources mean it’s easy to feel weighed down by the possibilities. Don’t let yourself get stuck.
If you want to find high-quality freelance work, start by looking for niche job boards that cater to freelancers, or to your profession, or even to your location. Reach out to your networking contacts to drum up new business, and create a bucket list of companies you’d like to do freelance work for—then send them a great pitch.
As a freelancer, you’ve got a lot to offer in terms of expertise, time, and attention. More companies are valuing the work that can be done by freelancers.
The key to finding those high-quality opportunities is to focus your search and put yourself out there as a trusted freelance professional who companies will want to hire.
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Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Senior Career Specialist and Career Coach at FlexJobs.com. FlexJobs is the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible jobs, listing thousands of pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level work-from-home, flexible schedule, part-time, and freelance jobs. Brie and her colleagues provide career coaching and resume reviews through the FlexJobs Career Coaching program. Find Brie on LinkedIn and follow @briewreynolds on Twitter.