You decided to take the plunge and become a freelancer. Now, the biggest question is, how do you get your first client when you don’t have any work experience? Most people are risk-averse; they don’t want to gamble their hard-earned money on someone who is not proven. Does that mean it is almost impossible to land a project as a fresher?
Not quite. There are certain things that you can do to develop your skills, improve your credibility and trust, and convey to potential clients that your lack of experience won’t stop you from doing a good job.
In this article, we explain different ways you can increase your chances of landing projects with zero experience.
1. Create an online portfolio
As a fresher, the whole idea of building a portfolio might sound absurd, as you may not have any relevant professional experience or work samples to show off.
Well, it is not absurd at all. A good resume may not always be enough, especially when you are a fresher. You can list down all your academic achievements, the projects you have undertaken, certification courses you have completed, but it will still not ‘show’ clearly how professional and skilled you are.
On the other hand, an online portfolio will help encapsulate your experience, background story, values and beliefs, offerings, contact details, qualifications, and much more in one place. It is much more visual and detailed compared to your resume.
What’s more, creating an online portfolio is not very difficult or expensive. You don’t need to write a line of code to build them. There are many tools and services out there which will make building and managing online portfolios hassle-free.
Here are the critical elements of an impressive online portfolio:
2. Establish your expertise and credibility
You have to be smart and intuitive, find out ways to show potential clients that you are professional and skilled enough to take on their projects.
To help you get started, we have listed down a few things you can do:
a. If you are from a technical background
- Identify simple problems around you, build solutions to solve them, and then, share your journey on an online publishing platform such as Medium. The founders of TapChief created an app which helped students to get connected instantly to tutors and clear their doubts, while they were still in college.
- Contribute to open-source projects on GitHub. This is a great way to get your feet wet. If you are planning on doing this, start with small code-commits first.
- Write posts about your views on development, the challenges you encountered while building or learning something, or critiques of popular applications and the changes you would like to make. You can either publish them on Medium or your portfolio website and promote the same on your social accounts.
- Sign up to competitive programming platforms such as Hackerearth, Spoj, and CodeChef, and actively participate in different contests. You can highlight your progress and ranks on your portfolio website.
- Start attending hackathons, code fests, and other similar events near your city. You can use a website such as DevPost.com or Major League Hacking to search or keep track of such events.
b. If you are from a design background
- For starters, ensure your portfolio is well-designed and offers a seamless user experience. Customise the user flows, animations, themes, and so on to give it a personal touch and convey that you have a design mindset.
- Create your own redesigns of popular applications or websites on design platforms such as Marvel App or Invision. You can then share them on your portfolio supported by small notes explaining how your version is more user-friendly.
- Share pictures or videos of your design process detailing your style of work on social media.
- Write case-studies and critiques about design philosophies, design tools, and the latest happenings in the design world.
c. If you are from a content writing background
- Write posts related to the domain you hope to work in — technology, marketing, sports, and Startups — and publish them on your website.
- Reach out to websites which accept guest posts, and see if you can contribute posts for them. Also, feature the published ones on your portfolio website.
- Distribute your articles on social media, and display the top comments on your portfolio website.
Besides the above-mentioned category-specific ideas, here are a few things you can do irrespective of your background to enhance your portfolio:
- If you have enrolled for certification courses or boot camps, write summaries of what you have learned and how they have helped you.
- Turn your summer project or dissertation into a slideshow or an infographic or a small blog post, and add them to your website.
- Get testimonials from your mentors, faculty, internship guides, among others about your work ethic and expertise, and highlight them on your home page.
- Use the ‘about me’ page to communicate who you are, what’s your story, your beliefs and values, among other things.
- Add links to your profiles on different social and professional networks, and vice versa.
3. Widen your network
A good network can significantly smoothen your entry to freelancing with referrals and recommendations. If leveraged correctly, it can be a consistent and dependable source of clients. Moreover, it will help you learn the ropes and stay up-to-date with the latest in the industry.
However, when you are fresher or a student, the size of your network may be quite limited. You may not have too many professionals in your network. To address this, you need to be actively lookout for networking opportunities; here are a few ways you can do this:
- Set up your LinkedIn profile the right way — everything from your display picture, profile summary, to your contact information should be complete and professional.
- Join relevant and active LinkedIn Groups and Facebook Groups — introduce yourself, interact with group members, help people out whenever possible, build a rapport, and then, encourage them to check out your portfolio.
- Join Meet-up, find out groups relevant to you, and start attending weekly meetings.
- Use event curation apps such as EventsHigh and EventBrite to find out relevant seminars, conferences, and workshops happening in your city.
- Work from a co-working space near you; it is an excellent place to meet fellow freelancers as well as potential clients.
- Be an active member of your alumni network, get in touch with relevant people, see if you can work for them temporarily or if they can recommend you to potential clients.
Network building can seem a bit overwhelming, but it is definitely worth the effort when starting out. Recently, we interviewed many freelancers from our community for the Humans of TapChief series. Most of them relied on their network to get clients in the initial stages of their journey.
4. Ensure you make the most of every opportunity
There are a variety of ways you can seek out relevant project opportunities; you can reach out local businesses in your area, apply for gigs on freelance marketplaces such as TapChief, identify who your ideal client would be and reach out to similar companies.
However, as a freelancer, you need to make sure you give it your best shot each time. It is much more than just sending an email or clicking on the ‘apply’ button. This means every interaction — right from the first email to the interview — should convey to the client that you are the best candidate available, your lack of experience won’t hold you back, and you have a professional attitude.
It may sound a bit overwhelming, but it won’t be if you go about it in a structured and systematic way. Here’s how you can do that:
- Ensure your freelance website profile is completely filled out and verified. Link your portfolio, write an engaging profile, summary, elaborate on your educational qualifications and certification course, and the services you offer.
- Send a comprehensive project proposal. Understand their pain points, explain how you plan to solve them with examples and mock-ups, and what is the end result you are hoping for. If possible, offer a free consultation call or face-to-face meeting to give them a presentation of what you are planning to do.
- Be professional in your communication — timely responses, easy to comprehend, no grammar mistakes, and be very clear about what you want.
- Follow-up with your potential clients. If you don’t hear from them, reach out to them (at least twice), and understand what’s going on.
- If your proposal was rejected, try to find out the reason behind it so that you can improve it next time.
There is a common belief that you can’t find work that you are passionate about right from the get-go. You have to toil first, build your experience, and then go after your passion.
Fortunately, things have changed. With the gig economy getting bigger every year, there are more opportunities for freshers to work on projects that they are passionate about. Moreover, organisations are placing more emphasis on expertise and skillset rather than experience and seniority. It is up to you to make the best of these opportunities.