A lot of freelancers feel ready to tackle their new career after getting clear on the fundamentals of freelancing. However, one area in particular is tougher than it seems for beginners: client finding!

Client finding seems easy at first, but I see new freelancers often making the same mistakes. To keep you out of the hands of stressful clients and the problems they can cause, I'm going to go into detail about the most frequent client-finding mistakes I've seen!

The Do's and Don'ts of Client Finding

It's hard to feel like you've got the right to be choosy with clients when you're just starting out. However, filtering clients based on the do's and don'ts of client finding can save you the stress, unpaid hours, and burned out motivation that comes from working with bad clients.

So, even if you're a just-beginning freelancer, start off your client search on the right path that'll pave the way to your career dreams!

1. DO be selective when filtering projects.

While you don't technically need a freelance niche, they're good for helping freelancers focus on a subject or industry that they enjoy working with. Filtering projects based on the happiness or excitement you feel towards them is rewarding and provides great motivation.

Newer freelancers can feel like they should take every gig that comes their way, but that often leaves us feeling unfulfilled with work.

client finding
You wouldn't buy a record that didn't interest you. Why do it with your work?
Photographer: Mitch Lensink | Source: Unsplash

If you're choosing which projects to submit a proposal to according to which projects you think you can easily win, you'll be stuck in survival mode. Instead, seek projects that challenge you, interest you, and make you excited to submit a proposal.

You may not win them all, but the ones you do win will pay you back in more than money!

2. DON'T under-price your work to win a contract.

This is the most common mistake that new freelancers make while client finding. When you want to land the client amongst lots of competition, you think that by lowering your rate, you'll be the cheapest freelancer and win the client.

Whether or not you land the client with your lowered rate, you won’t be winning.

The low rate you proposed signals to the client that the quality of your work is low, which doesn't mean they'll pick you over the others. You won't reach the expert level you're striving for with a cheap reputation.

On top of that, you’ll have a big workload in front of you with a small payoff.

dos and donts client finding
Don't trap yourself with a low rate and high stress!
Photographer: Christian Erfurt | Source: Unsplash

Great clients won’t settle for low quality. The jobs you’ll attract with your low rate likely won’t be career-enhancing or worth your time.

Leave the low rates alone and win the projects you deserve.

3. DO consider the time and effort you'll need for each project.

Some freelancers find it easier to put a price on a certain deliverable and then use it in every proposal. While it's a great idea to have standards for pricing, one-size-fits-all can land you in over your head on occasion.

Every client's project is unique, and your freelance rate should be as well.

To make sure that you won't be stuck working harder than you're getting paid to do, it's important to consider all of the specifics of a client's goal before submitting your rate. Pay special attention to any special manoeuvres you may have to use on their project or areas that need more work than others.

Pro-tip: Check competitors’ rates for comparison on similar projects if you don't know where to start!

4. DON'T forget to network: it's invaluable.

Networking can feel awkward and most beginner freelancers avoid it, often due to "impostor syndrome." However, if you skip talking about your services in every situation, you're missing out on countless opportunities for client finding.

That doesn't mean you have to attend networking events if that's not your style. Instead of waiting for opportunity to strike, you can create your own in everyday situations

client finding
Even waiting in line for coffee can provide a chance for professional networking.
Photographer: Crew | Source: Unsplash

Potential clients can be found everywhere: in your new book club, in online forums, at your friend’s work picnic, or even in your local cafe.

When opportunities to explain your work or chat about relevant topics pop up, give yourself some self-promotion! Even if they don't need your services now, that new connection may remember you in the future.

You truly never know where your next lead will come from!

Expert tip: always keep business cards on you to hand out when an opportunity arises.

5. DON'T slave over homework for every potential project.

When we’re new to freelancing, we aren’t sure how long or how much effort to put into a proposal. Initially, lots of us will spend hours crafting a proposal for a dream client, just to get no response.

The key to doing your homework on potential clients is to do the homework niche-by-niche instead of client-by-client. 

Focus your research on a particular industry, type of project, or even a certain problem to be solved. Then, filter your client finding searches to include only those clients relevant to your latest research.

This is a great way to send out a bulk batch of proposals but still have them be tailored to your audience!

Did I miss any common client-finding mistakes? Share those missteps below!

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