Even the best of us have dry patches where work seems to slow to a trickle and you’re left scratching around for anything you can find. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get back on track. Here are five of the ways we’ve found work over the years:
1. Dig through your contacts
Even if you became a freelancer because you didn’t like being near other people, they can still be very helpful in getting you work. Try old contacts who’ve given you work in the past, or fellow freelancers in your area who you’re friendly enough with to ask advice from. Once you’ve exhausted your existing network, make new contacts: this can be on the Web through forums or social media, or in the real world at conferences and events. Resist the urge to fall back into your shell if you find things not going your way for a couple of weeks.
2. Advertise your services
A couple of the best freelance gigs we’ve had came through Adsense. It can be difficult committing to spending money when you don’t have much coming in, but it’s often the case that you’ll get a return on your investment. You don’t have to spend your last few hundred dollars on a billboard, but you never know — it might help. If possible, target your advertising to the right audience as much as you can, because there’s little point taking out a spread in the local magazine if no one in your village needs a graphic designer.
3. Re-visit job boards
Many job sites now deal with freelance positions as well as full-time and part-time work. The truth is that many people who need freelancers don’t really know where to find them. Exactly where you look depends on the nature of your work, but if you’re a writer like I am then you can find jobs posted in all kinds of areas: the Web app Draft has a jobs list, for example. Of course there are the well-known online freelance marketplaces, but these tend to be crammed with low-paying jobs. The more specific the site, the better. Check out Foylo for designers or TopTal for developers.
4. Get active on Twitter
Is there no end to Twitter’s usefulness? From breaking news to regime change, it seems the instant social network can turn its hand to anything. Get TweetDeck up and running, put some targeted searches together, and watch the requests for help roll in. For basic searches like “freelance” you’ll have to wade through a lot of spam to find the genuinely useful tweets, but if you can get your keywords right then it’s a useful way of finding new work. There are certainly a lot of people out there looking to hire.
5. Be proactive and pitch yourself
Not everyone in need of a freelancer is advertising for one. Keep your eye on companies and contacts in your field and if it seems appropriate make enquiries about the possibility of work. Avoid being overly pushy or a nuisance: try and put across the benefits you could bring as an extra member of the team and point to your previous experience. Even if you don’t get work right away, it’s always helpful to be at the back of someone’s mind if and when the opportunities do come up.