Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Your skills may be more needed than ever.
Despite how grim things appear on the news and social media right now, there are still many businesses and people across the world who need to hire creative talent.
Not all industries are suffering. At the same speed that some companies have lost revenue in recent weeks, others like Zoom, Clorox, and Blue Apron have watched their numbers completely skyrocket.
You know what that means?
This is your opportunity to find, pitch, and partner with companies who are in desperate need of flexible, on-demand talent. And if you’re going to stand out among the growing freelance competition, you’ll have to know where to find jobs or how to create them.
Here are 11 places you can find freelance work, even during a global economic crisis.
1. Browse social media search engines
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can be great places to find additional freelance work. Think about it: where do you and your friends go when they want recommendations? You turn to your network.
Search phrases you think you’d use if you were looking for creative talent among your network. Here are just a few ideas:
“Looking for a freelance [insert skill]”
“Hiring a freelance [insert skill]”
“Please recommend your favorite freelance [Insert skill]”
“We need a part-time contract [insert skill]”
“Tag your go-to freelance [insert skill]”
These are just a handful of simple search queries that crossed my mind. There are probably dozens more. Try multiple variations until you find a few projects you can apply for.
2. Join industry-specific Facebook Groups
Go to the Facebook search bar. Type the name of the industry you’d like to serve. Browse the results by groups.
Join a handful of the most popular groups in industries you’d like to serve. Become active in these groups, asking questions, answering queries, and becoming a top conversation starter in the community.
When someone eventually makes a post looking for your expertise, respond kindly with your portfolio and contact information. I’ve received many projects this way over the years. In fact, I’ve gained two strong leads this way even since COVID-19.
3. Find growing markets
Cold pitch your way into the most popular industries.
Going back to what I touched on in the intro, the news makes it seem like every industry and business is suffering right now. But it’s simply not true. For some businesses, their biggest problem is not having enough resources to keep up with booming demand.
That’s your opportunity to outsource your creativity and productivity.
What position does your ideal customer hold in their company? Are they the marketing director? Chief marketing officer? Lead developer?
Track down the person who holds that position in a company you’d like to work with. Send that person a kind email to let them know you’re available to help their team if they need to outsource some of the work.
4. Tap into your network
Work with people who already trust you and know your skills.
People in your network might be more likely to hire you for a project simply because you’re not a stranger. But they can’t hire you if they don’t know you’re available for projects.
Announce your availability and expertise on social media. Email all your former clients. Contact people in your network who could reasonably benefit from your expertise.
You never know who may be hiring.
5. Tie your income to results
There’s a lot to be scared about right now. People are hesitant to take any unnecessary risks with their money.
As a result, many companies are cutting their budgets in an effort to outlast the current economic storm.
But these companies also still need sales to stay afloat. They need customers.
If fear is a factor for your ideal clients, try to take it off the table. Find companies whose marketing you know you can improve — then prove it.
Instead of charging an exact fee for your work, pitch companies on a split-earnings agreement. If you can rewrite their homepage copy and increase conversions by 30%, for example, then ask the company for a chance to prove yourself. If your copy performs better than their old copy, the agreement will say that you collect a certain percentage of all sales over the previous average per-day sale.
I’ll try to make that last sentence less complicated using an example. Let’s say their company normally converts five new customers per day. If you can increase that to 10 conversions, then the company may agree to a revenue split for those last five sales.
6. Teach your skills
The world is self-quarantined. To me, that means there are a lot of bored, unproductive people out there looking for something to do.
Instead of exclusively selling your services to businesses, you can teach your expertise— design, copywriting, coding — online.
Here are a few ways to find potential customers:
Announce your classes or one-on-one training on social media
Contact media outlets in your industry to ask if they’ll share your courses with their audience for a referral bonus
Publish relevant, helpful content and let readers or viewers know that you offer personal coaching
Create online events using EventBrite and similar websites
7. Try freelance sites
I hesitated even including this one. This point is fairly obvious and most freelance sites are probably very competitive right now. Still, these sites may offer good opportunities.
Most freelancers tailor their pitches to be all about themselves. “I’ve done this, worked on that, and collaborated with this company.”
From the company’s perspective, after browsing 10+ pitches, they all start to sound the same.
The freelancer who stands out is the one who names the client’s problem and then states clearly how they’ll solve it. If you’re going to beat the other freelance pitches, show the customer how you’ll solve their problem.
At the very least, you’ll stand out.
8. Go local
The web has made the world more connected than ever. This means you can pitch clients across the world. It also means you’re competing against a world full of freelancers.
Unless, of course, you focus locally.
Yes, we’re all sequestered in our homes. But many businesses still prefer to work with professionals in their own city. You might say this is the freelancer home-field advantage.
I’ve never run the numbers, but it’s safe to say that Sarabeth and I win way more bids when clients are based in Texas, especially if they’re based in our home city, Austin.
Find local projects by searching places like Craigslist or local business Facebook groups. Consider cold-pitching your services to local businesses like we discussed in point #3.
9. Create a referral program
Everyone loves helping a friend.
Everyone also loves having a little extra cash in their pocket — particularly now.
Combine those incentives to create a generous referral program. For example, announce to your whole network that you’ll pay anyone 5% of your earnings on any projects they refer to you.
If that’s too expensive, the referral program doesn’t have to be a percentage of your sale. You can send $25 gift cards, promise to buy them their favorite book, or just come up with a monetary amount at the top of your head.
You never know who is just one or two degrees of separation from you. A referral program can help you find out.
10. Solve problems in public
Create content in the form of case studies and blogs that showcases the results of your expertise.
Did your landing page design increase someone’s sales by 60%? Tell that story on social media.
Did your Facebook Ads reduce the customer acquisition cost for a company? Put it in a case study on your blog and announce it to your email list.
Content marketing can be a great way to attract new customers by showing the ROI of your work.
11. Partner up
Many small and medium advertising agencies don’t have the budget to keep full-time employees. These agencies often rely on freelance talent to handle certain creative projects.
Search Google and social media for local agencies. Send a cordial email or direct message letting them know you’re available for fast-turnaround projects. (Agencies like working quickly.)
The right partnership can become a professional relationship that lasts years. It can also let you work with other creatives for a change, making the freelance and quarantined life just a little more connective.
What did I miss? Where do you find freelance work? Let me know in the comments.