As a freelancer, and as opposed to an employee, you have to find assignments (and not a job) to make a living from your business. This means going out to seek clients.
To protect yourself in the face of the unpredictability of assignments, it’s important to know how to find new prospects on demand (i.e. when the need presents itself) and keep track of them in a prospection file (also called a marketing file or client file).
Luckily there are many sources of opportunity for independent workers, which we shall explore in this course, over the following chapters:
The platforms, websites, applications and marketplaces that introduce freelancers to clients.
The agencies and other service sector intermediaries, that regularly recruit freelancers to perform services;
The small ads websites and employment websites with search filters for freelancers;
Direct prospection for clients.
Then, together, we’ll write the main document of your marketing strategy: the freelance marketing action plan, which brings together the opportunities to pursue according to your profile.
The different types of platform
There are several types of website and application that offer to introduce independent workers and clients:
Platforms: true freelancer "platforms" manage the relationship with the client from start to finish (quotation, invoicing, price setting, project management, quality control and client service) and externalise service provision to freelancers. The platforms offer the online tools to facilitate the work of the gig workers (e.g. Uber’s GPS, or TextMaster’s online translation interface). If the service is carried out online, the freelancer has no interaction with the end client. These platforms remunerate themselves with a commission ranging from 10% to 40%. Examples of platforms: Uber, TextMaster, italki, Verbling, Deliveroo, UberEats, JustEat, DogBuddy, Pawshake, Quiqup
Marketplaces (specialising in services): marketplaces are sites that reference the sellers – the freelancers – and have a system for making contact, so that clients can order their services. These marketplaces leave more flexibility to the gig workers with regard to services offered and their prices, and they don’t intervene in the collaboration. However, marketplaces secure payment and provide high visibility. In exchange, they charge commissions of 5% to 20%. The clients are generally professionals (businesses). Examples of marketplaces: Fiverr, Malt, Task Rabbit, Upwork, GIG, Guru
Job search websites: general online job boards, and while many of the jobs posted are for employment, you’ll also find short-term and freelance gigs. Examples of job sites: Indeed, Monster, Reed, StudentJob, E4S, Gumtree, UK Classifieds
Professional directories or associations, for example: The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, The UK Copywriters Directory, ProZ (for language professionals)
To work successfully using a platform, several factors need to be taken into account.
You need to select the most suitable platforms for your profile and your business proposal in order to avoid disappointment and to focus your effort;
Then, you need to subscribe to a number of platforms to get regular assignments;
Finally, you need to perfect your profile to attract interest on websites, where the competition can be fierce.
Select the platforms that best suit your profile
Platforms offer many opportunities for independent workers, in all fields and for all budgets.
Go back to your business proposal and pay attention to all the following points:
The scope of your assignments (what interests you);
Your working conditions (whether or not you’ll travel, the hours you’re available);
Your minimum hourly rate.
Next, make a list of the platforms that suit you and browse them, checking that their service offers correspond well with your various criteria, and whether they are acceptable to you.
Now it’s your turn! Use a search engine to explore the platforms connected with your line of business. Search: “freelance platform” + your role (e.g. “freelance consultant platform”) to find assignments that suit you. Or start with the examples given above.
Take out several subscriptions, to get flexible and regular assignments
You’ll understand that there is a wide variety of platforms. It’s enough to browse them to know whether the spirit of the service meets your wishes or your business proposal..
The advantage of these platforms is their visibility, which attracts large numbers of clients, and which will often enable you to work to order. Some of them are used so much that it’s enough to connect to them to find assignments.
As a consideration for this, the rates are less than you could negotiate directly with clients. Nevertheless, once you are listed on these platforms, you’ll save the costs of canvassing for business, project management, invoicing and client support. They also guarantee payment, which reduces the non-payment risk that you run as a freelancer.
Note that it’s not possible to negotiate with a platform. Deadlines, budgets and scope of assignments are usually set by the website or directly by the client. It’s a matter of “take it or leave it” opportunities.
You risk nothing by registering on several platforms and by accepting only the assignments that make sense for you. In most cases, not being active won’t count against you.
So, subscribe to as many platforms as possible (while perfecting your profiles), in order to increase your chances of getting regular assignments.
Increase your chances of success on the platforms
Competition is quite fierce on these websites. In fact, it’s the route that’s easiest to take and is used by the majority of freelancers.
Here are several techniques in order to draw the attention of customers in the face of the competition:
Carefully prepare your profile: add a photo to your page, a well drafted description of your services (or your business proposal adjusted to suit the platform), and examples of previous work or client references.
Be responsive: platform clients are often in a hurry. On some platforms, they can easily contact several freelancers at once and choose the one who answers fastest. Make sure you reply to them quickly, in order to increase your chance of getting assignments. Activate email notifications when a client contacts you (through your profile settings on the platform). Regularly check your emails and your messages on the platforms.
Provide high-quality work: put the emphasis on quality for your assignments. Take care with your writing when corresponding with your clients. Be punctual with service delivery and inform the client of any delay or difficulty encountered. At the end of your assignment, don’t hesitate to ask your client to give you a rating, a recommendation or a testimonial on the platform, which will increase your visibility.
Personalise your replies: when you reply to an offer on a platform, write a personalised response for each client. Cutting and pasting as requests come in will be noticeable, and doing this would risk you losing the attention and confidence of the potential client. Don’t hesitate to pick up the terms used by the client to show them that you’ve really taken account of their requirements and that you’re the right person to meet them.
Working on a platform can be summed up as follows:
+ Regular assignments (predictable turnover)
+ Flexible assignments
+ Swift payment
+ Guarantee of being paid
- Low budget
- No contact with the clients (if the service is online)
- Not much room for development
A bread-and-butter job
If you need quick and/or regular money
If you need flexibility and/or a second job