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My career path has never been easy. When I just got out of college in 2014 I landed in the middle of a job crisis for graduates. You just couldn’t get a job unless you had work experience that wasn’t an internship. After barely getting through my thesis, this was just another hit. Here I was, I had done “the right thing”, went to college, graduated but I was still unable to get a job.
It took me 2 years before I started my first real job — at this point I had been working for more than 10 years as a pastachef. Those two years felt like I was standing still when everyone around me were starting their careers. And although I did enjoy those years — I went on my USA road trip — I do still feel till this day that I have a disadvantage. Your first real job is extremely important.
Now two jobs further into my career, I’m calling the shots on my own and started my freelance business Fiona Gobbo Creative. It’s just as challenging as finding your first real job but with a lot more to do. I know that more and more people are interested in starting their own company or brand. And I can’t blame you! Working for yourself is amazing and the hardest thing you’ll do at the same time.
During those almost 1,5 years of being on my own I’ve learned a lot and today I want to share some tips how to get your first client.
USE YOUR NETWORK
If it wasn’t for my network, I would probably not have my first client. Hell even the clients or projects that came after that all came from people I know. Especially in the creative business you really have to rely on knowing people in places. Here is how to get your first client through your network:
- Use LinkedIn: Easiest way to get in contact is to use LinkedIn. You can also use your Facebook or Instagram but for me it comes across more professional to use LinkedIn. Plus my Facebook account is strictly personal. You can add anyone who’ve you worked with but also invite people into your network that you think are interesting. When you meet someone at an event or through someone else, invite them with a personalized message. Touch on something you two discussed and why you think you should stay in touch.
- Name drop your business in conversation: Make sure that people know you’re looking for new jobs or projects when you see them in real life. Let them you’re available and what you can do for businesses or brands.
INVEST IN YOUR BUSINESS
So I don’t want you to go broke before you even start but investing in your business or brand is key if you want it to succeed. I’ve seen so many people putting off having a decent logo or website or business cards. You have to take your business serious from day one and treat it as a thriving business. Invest in setting up your website, having streamlined branding & updating your social media. When you look like a business, people will trust you and they will want to do business with you.
Starting a business is an all or nothing investment that can be scary. You never know if you’re going to succeed or not but at the very least you need to show people that you’re here to stay. Here’s how to get your first client by investing in the bare minimum your business or brand needs:
- Logo: It’s better to have a streamlined brand with visual identity but the bare minimum is to have a logo. You want to invest in something that represents your company and something generic. Lot’s of brand designers offer a starter logo, myself included.
- Website: If you don’t have a website, you’re either an oldie in the business or not trustworthy. At the very least, have an one page website with all the important information like who you are, what you do and how to get in contact.
- Social media channel(s): If you’re not on social media, you’re one step behind in the game because you’re missing out on valuable contact moments with your clients. Do research on where your clients hang out on the web and be there with your company or brand engaging with potential new clients.
WORK ON YOUR PORTFOLIO
This is one thing that I also should be better at — along with pitching, I’m terrible at it. Having a portfolio is a must in the creative industry but I think showing work you’ve done — whatever business you’re in — is also vital to convince your first new client to work with you.
- For the creatives: Have a diverse portfolio of projects for clients and projects you worked on for yourself. Project for clients make your work more credible for potential clients because others have paid you before them. And the free work is probably more creative because you’re not working inside the constraints of a client.
- For the non-creatives: Find ways to showcase what you do like reviews from clients — also really great for your SEO, use video to show what you can do for a potential client or use social media to showcase what you’re up to.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A PARTTIME JOB
Last but not least, if you can’t make ends meet just yet than it’s okay to get a parttime job. I’ve had two parttime jobs during my 1,5 years of working as a freelancer. It’s a tough market out there and overcrowd with people doing the same thing as me. So to make sure I can still pay all my bills and have some financial breathing room I took on parttime jobs.
Did this mean that I failed as a freelancer? It might’ve felt that way but honestly, lots of people do it. You can’t really move forward otherwise. Plus financial troubles are the most stressful. So give yourself the room to take on a parttime job to avoid stress. You’ll thank yourself later.