I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: smashing Red Bulls and updating your freelance portfolio isn’t going to help you find work.
You actually need to find clients that need your services and pitch them.
Sounds simple, but how? Well, this is something I do every month. I find $150,000+ worth of freelance work every month (which I share exclusively on my Referral Newsletter) and over the years have a created a simple, reliable, process anyone can follow to unearth this work. Here it is:
Far and away the best new way to find freelance work is through Slack. Nowadays when companies need a freelancer or contract help, they go to their Slack network first. In fact, many Slack communities have dedicated channels to facilitate this like: #referrals, #consulting-projects, #hiring, etc.
A great Slack community can generate dozens of clients in need of freelance work within a few weeks. Here are a few of my favorite Slack groups to get you started:
We include a full list of awesome Slack communities inside our premium course Endless Clients, along with tutorials and templates for how to turn these opportunities into paid work.
This is the most reliable way to find freelance work I’ve ever found. It continually produces enough work to help hundreds of my customers get clients each year. Best of all, it’s super easy to setup and maintain. You can get 80% of the results with just a handful of freelance sites like: WeWorkRemotely, FlexJobs, Dribbble, and Behance.
The peace of mind it will bring you, knowing that you are always just a few conversations away from a new client, is awesome. For an even bigger head start, we give customers access to our actual RSS XML file so they can plug it into Feedbin and skips YEARS of research and trial and error and just get an instant recurring stream of clients. (To get a copy, sign up here.) This is what it looks like:
Some niche websites have UX freelance work on them but don’t have an RSS feed so you can’t put them into Feedbin. A good example of this: Hacker News. Once a month they have a freelance hiring frenzy known as the monthly “Seeking Freelancer” thread, where startups from Ycombinator look for contract design and development help. Usually there are several awesome high-value UX projects posted, but because it’s hard to remember to check, most UX freelancers don’t.
A growing number of the freelance gigs we find gets sent to us from our own Referral Newsletter subscribers. This wasn’t always the case. For years we didn’t get very many referrals. It took setting up a simple referral program in our emails:
Our job is to find the best freelance UX opportunities possible. And we’ve found that the absolute best place to find these is through referral. So we want to offer you an amazing deal just for subscribers. Refer a client to Folyo and keep 100% of the $400 finder’s fee as our gift to you. Simply have the client use [this link] to submit their job and list your name in the referral section. Thank you.
Making this a standard part of how we do business has totally changed the amount of referrals we get and I’m willing to bet it would do the same for you. You probably don’t have a referral newsletter, but get creative. Even if you’re a small freelancer, there are ways to create formal referral programs that create leads for you. We cover this extensively in our Endless Clients program.
Most freelancers completely ignore the power of simple surveys in their business. You likely already pay for an email marketing service like ConvertKit or MailChimp so setting something up like the survey below is trivial and can produce thousands of dollars in client work if done properly. Here’s a simple example of what it could look like:
The point is to create a great experience for your past clients so they come back and buy more of your awesome services.
Video is one of the best ways to build trust with prospects. Yet, almost no freelance UX designers use them on their website or in their proposal process. If you’re not sure how to walk-through a past project on video, here’s an awesome example that actually won one of our subscribers a six-figure freelance contract.
Just remember to focus on matching your experience to the job requirements of a job you want. Present a clear user and problem statement and talk about the results you created for your clients.
Often, UX designers claim they don’t have time to look for freelance work because they’re too busy supporting their current clients. But often, this lack of foresight leads to a feast or famine cycle, even though the solution is staring you in your face: your current clients. When a client asks you something like:
“Can you update thing X on my app?”
Your job is to offer them the best solution to their problem. Often, that is a monthly retainer agreement. They get to lock in your hours, and you get to count on that work each and every month. Here’s an email template you can use to offer UX freelance work on retainer:
“Happy to offer small maintenance updates like this and the best way would probably be best to do some sort of small retainer.
For example, some of my clients pay $X00 every month to have me on call for up to 4 hours. This way they have my time reserved just for them, no matter what.
Otherwise, I can still do the update (at my normal $X00 hourly rate) — but you would just need to wait in my queue if I have other clients.
I usually recommend option 1 because right now I’m booked weeks in advance, and so, ad-hoc updates won’t be as quick to get done as I have other client work.
The small retainer is discounted so it’s a better deal, but more importantly it ensures you get everything done quickly. Does that sound good?
So the next time your client asks you for an update to their site or app, create a consistent stream of revenue for yourself by offering a retainer.
One of the best ways I’ve found to network with clients and people at companies I look up to is by interviewing them on my podcast. I’ve talked to CEOs and managers at companies like Walt Disney World, Basecamp, ConvertKit, and more. Podcasting as a networking tool is really underrated. Here’s an example of an interview I did discussing the hiring process at a small company:
Another one of my favorite sources for freelance and contract work is LinkedIn because often the people hiring are the ones posting on the platform. That means you can message these people directly and get inside info on the project.
In Endless Clients we train freelance UX designers now to turn friendly messages in places like Linkedin and Slack into real sales opportunities via email (without feeling or sounding scammy). Plus, we teach out to delegate the whole system so you can separate your time from your income.
One of my favorite pieces of advice from the king of client work, David Ogilvy, is: “you should approach [finding clients] with light-hearted gusto”. I like this quote because most people fear selling. But why?
I think it’s because most people wait until their back is against a wall to try to find clients. Because you’re on this page I think you’re different. I’d like to invite you to join my insider newsletter which will get you access to my Referral Newsletter just for UX freelance work when we open up a spot later this year. Sign up below.
Full step-by-step guide on how to find RFPs (Requests for Proposals) that are high-quality and posted by great companies.
What building a product business taught me about the challenges, advantages, and differences between a product vs service business.
Steal my word-for-word freelance email template that I used to land $29,000 worth of work in just 3 emails, as a total newb freelancer.
Proven Potential Client Email Samples you can use: 1. Introduction Email, 2. Follow up Email, 3. Meeting Email, and 4. Fully Booked Email.
A step-by-step tutorial on how to end an email and guarantee a great response rate. Word-for-word scripts included.