Fast Start Freelancer Secrets: Getting Your First Client

Hello! Enjoy this post from a blog friend. Finding your first client is probably the hardest part about freelancing. With Jesse’s tips below, you’ll be on track in no time! Hey readers, I’m Jesse Gernigin. You might remember me from my last post where I talked about how to increase earnings.  I want to say thank…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Fast Start Freelancer Secrets Getting Your First ClientHello! Enjoy this post from a blog friend. Finding your first client is probably the hardest part about freelancing. With Jesse’s tips below, you’ll be on track in no time!

Hey readers, I’m Jesse Gernigin. You might remember me from my last post where I talked about how to increase earnings.  I want to say thank you to everyone that reached out to me! I met some amazing people and built some great relationships.

Most of my relationships started with people asking me the same question. They wanted to know how to get clients.

My suggestion, freelancing. [Michelle has a great article here on becoming self-employed]

Related articles:

Why Freelance?       

Freelancing is super easy. You don’t need a website, a portfolio or a hundred testimonials. To get started freelancing you need a skill that solves people’s problems. You a great writer? Perfect! You can write emails, ghost write serials and create content for blog posts. You a photographer? Awesome! You can manage visual design and branding for blogs and websites.

It’s that easy!

So why don’t more people freelance? Getting started can be confusing. There are a lot of voices about how to do it and even more places to look for work.  People don’t know how to get started freelancing.

Related: How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

How do I get Started Freelancing?

To get started in freelancing you need to do one thing. Get clients. Working with clients is the fastest way to get better. Working with clients reveals your strengths, exposes your weaknesses and helps you grow. If you’ve tried freelancing in the past you probably felt overwhelmed. Everywhere you looked it seemed like freelancers were working all the time why you couldn’t get a single response to your emails.

How did these freelancers do so well? What were they doing that you weren’t? Simple. They were focused on getting clients. Most freelancers don’t focus on getting clients they focus on getting work. There is a big difference between getting a client and getting work.

What Stage Hypnotism Taught me about Getting Clients

When I started as a stage hypnotist I made big mistakes. I didn’t charge clients enough. I didn’t value my services high enough. I didn’t see how to create continual streams of revenue once my show was over.

I was blind to the business of being successful.

I was fixated on getting shows instead of cultivating clients. Success in a service isn’t in purchases. Success in service lays in getting clients. I got a mentor and he taught me to generate clients. I stopping trying to ‘close’ sales and everything changed after that.

Get Clients, Not Dollars

We need to change how we think of clients. Resist the urge to see a client as a pile of dollar signs. Correlating clients to money makes the client an ends to a mean. Clients are not an ends to a mean. A great client can be an ongoing source of income and an introduction to other clients. Un-successful freelancers see clients as cash deposits. They find a client. They remove the money. They move on.

If you want to be a freelancer who constantly gets work you have to change how you see clients. Let me share with you a trick I learned in my stage hypnosis business.

Stage Hypnosis Trick For Success.    

As a stage hypnotist you usually work with a client once a year. Most clients become lifelong clients. Once a year bookings can continue ten years in a row. That means clients who hired you for their event aren’t paying you $1200. No. That client that hires you ten years in a row is worth $12,000.

How differently would you treat a client worth $12,000 than a client worth $1200?          

I’ve included a three step guide to getting your first client.  Each step comes from my experience in booking clients, both as a freelancer and as a stage hypnotist.

Get Your First Client: A 3 Step Guide

Step 1) Solve a client’s problem:

If you want clients you have to go where they are. Are you a freelance writer? Consider trying out Fiverr or Upwork. Want to work with businesses directly? Find out what organizations, meet ups and group events they attend.

[Interested in learning more about writing for freelance? Michelle has a great post here]

You need to go where your clients go to satisfy their needs. You need to find a shared space you can interact with clients.

Here are some examples:

  • A massage therapist networking at their gym.
  • A cross fit trainer using his networks email list to promote a webinar about healthy eating to sale clients on his nutrition planning service.

Step 2) Don’t try to sound smart:

I’ve lost freelancing and stage hypnosis clients by trying to sound smart. Clients don’t want a freelancer more interested in sounding clever than solving their problems. Clients want to hear their needs spoke back to them in their language offering them clear solutions.

My mentor helped me increase my stage hypnosis bookings by training me to speak to a client’s needs. Successful freelancer’s knows the solutions clients look for. Tell your clients in easy to understand terms why what you offer will benefit them. If you are a copywriter you don’t win clients by telling them you craft organic seo rich content. A great copywriter wins clients by telling them the article you’ll write for them will get readers to join their email list.

Learn what a client wants and sale it to them. Use the language your clients use. How? Read two and three star book reviews for books in your specialty. The language the reviewers use reflect the language your client’s will use.

[A great way to reach client’s at their level is to create a content friendly environment. Check out Michelle’s post here for starting a blog with Bluehost]

Step 3) Make proposals about the client:

When I started freelance writing I made the mistake every freelancer makes. I tried to sell clients myself instead of my service.

Good proposals gives solutions to a client’s needs. If a client needs someone to write an awesome email don’t tell a client that you write emails all the time. Don’t tell clients you love writing emails. Don’t tell the clients about YOU.

If your client needs you to write an awesome email. Tell the clients what will be done for them. As a stage hypnotist my clients want fun, laugh filled events that both parents and students will love. Do a search for stage hypnotists in your area. None of them will say they offer safe, fun filled events.

The stage hypnotists you’ll find tell you how fast they are at hypnotizing people. They will have silly names and try to impress with outlandish claims. World’s Fastest. World’s Most Successful. World’s Funniest.

I book more shows as a stage hypnotist and get more clients as a freelancer by focusing on what a client needs instead of what I need. Great proposals focus on what you can do for a client and not what you have done.

Get Started!

You have everything you need to get started! Freelancing is a lot of fun. My suggestion is start small. Pick a goal and clearly define what you want to accomplish. I would suggest on getting one client. [Need help starting? Michelle’s post offers great ways to make money at home here]

Why one client?

If you can get one client you can get three clients. If you can get three clients you can get eight clients. Eight clients a month for twelve months is a full time salary. Are you ready to take the leap?

Was it hard finding your first client? What scares you about starting a side hustle?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Allie

    Awesome post – the push I need to get over my fears and just get out there. One step at a time.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Allie the easiest way to push through your fears is to break down what you’d like to take action on into tiny steps. It’s an easy way to secure constant small wins and bolster your confidence.

  2. Jesse Gernigin

    Hey Kalie i’m glad you got some direct action out of the article. Quick question. What misperceptions did you have before? Would you like me to talk to them a little more?

  3. It’s interesting because in just about every case where I’ve even thought of doing something on my own from a business sense, one of the first things that worries me is how you get that first customer. I would think that a big thing would be to leverage your existing network to at least get the word out, as they might have work or know someone who could benefit from what you have to offer.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      There are positives and negatives to using an existing network. If you have people that need your services and you can fulfill their needs making a pitch to them would benefit both you and them. A lot of people make the mistake of offering a service to their friends, work partners and family they don’t need. Here is my question. Why have you thought of multiple businesses instead of just one?

  4. I don’t know that I’ll pursue freelancing anytime soon, but this definitely transfers to tutoring as well. Building a base and proving your effectiveness before trying to chase dollars and raise rates are really important. Thanks for letting us peek behind the curtain!

  5. Blogging and freelancing has to be something someone wants to do in order to turn it into a full-time career though it may be a side hustle alongside their day job in the beginning. Many people to this very day still don’t know about the awesome power of blogging-freelancing-affiliate marketing and how building a niche content based business from scratch can help them achieve more than just making money online full-time to three years after starting. It does more good in the longrun for getting lots of clients and build a solid reputation online as a freelancer.

    You have to start out small and start writing evergreen content at least one time a day in the length of 1000 to 2500 word blog posts in order to have the search engines like Bing, Google, and YaHoO! give you good preference in search engine listings before your blog really starts taking off with traffic and earning lots of blog readers. Bloggers who start niche-based blogs like dating, affiliate marketing, weight loss, or education blogs that help people find free grant money for college and up becoming full-time content marketers that into making more money than the average person. It’s all about applying yourself wholeheartedly to this line of work of freelancing and having a long-term vision where you want to be.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      That’s a lot of content! The success I’ve found as a blogger comes from Ramit Sethi’s suggestions of promoting key pieces of content instead of trying to ride the ranking wave.

      1. Thanks Jesse. DNN is in the business of producing “lots and lots of content” uniquely for readers to enjoy. Writing “unique content” is a process of patience and meaningful relationship building, in addition to an online character builder that does more than help content marketers achieve good search engine rankings, move up in the world of freelancing as an internet marketer, and gain clients.

        1. Jesse Gernigin

          Oh your a content mill. Those are great! There are a ton of you guys on Upwork and companies like yours help new freelancers get off the ground and get their wings. Having the discipline of deadlines and word counts get people in the right mindset to grow.

  6. Jesse Gernigin

    Penny I see tutoring as freelancing! You offer a service a client needs. Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing your service. Charge for the solutions you offer. If you can tutor a student to go from a ‘c’ to an ‘a’ what would the parents think that is worth? More so the higher end clients that are willing to spend more have less complaints, are easier to deal with and don’t mind referring you to others.

  7. You knocked it out of the park with this article – well written and full of good advice!

    As you have, I’ve found it much easier to land clients when I make my proposals all about them and how I can solve their problem, plus use their own language in my pitches. Because there’s no way anyone will land a client if they’re confused about what one is saying because one tried too hard to sound smart, and ended up confusing them with complicated jargon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It was cool to hear this from the perspective of a stage hypnotist, since that’s an industry I’m not familiar with!

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Stage Hypnosis is an amazing business. I won’t go to off topic but I have firm convictions that anyone who wants to really succeed in freelancing, negotiations and client management should work as either an entertainer or a business that deals with buying and reselling (auction, pawn shop, coin/gold, antique, etc). There are so many powerful messages you get opportunities to deal first hand with that the rewards are huge.

      As for the proposals. I get a lot of work on Upwork because I speak to the client’s needs. Keep on crushing!

  8. Helpful post, I will use some tips for next side projects!!!

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Awesome! I’m glad you were able to get some help from them!

  9. Great advice. After getting that first client, you can use their recommendation to get more work if you’ve done a pristine job. If you are able to study their online presence and figure out where their passions are, you can possibly do the “other” stuff (writing, marketing, etc) that they don’t enjoy so much. Letting them know how you can take that burden from their shoulders could be just what they need.

    I learned a lot of wonderful tips here. Thank you.

    Shan Walker
    The How to Guru

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Hey Shan glad you were able to get some awesome take aways. You are right you can leverage an existing client for both referrals and repeat work. The only thing i’d be wary about is offering to do work you don’t specialize in.

      1. It was a given that you would only offer services that you specialize in.

  10. Jesse! You’ve nailed it. I’ve been a Virtual Assistant for the past 3 years now and I’ve experienced the same challenges that you’ve quoted like seeing see a client as a pile of dollar signs. At some time, I realised I’m the one at losing end. I almost gave up.

    I’ve learnt a lot during those years and now freelancing is my full-time job and I’m proud of it.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Erastus congrats! I love helping people realize they can transition full time to freelancing. It is an amazing location independent experience that can be hard to start but totally worth earning!

  11. Definitely need to view clients as long term instead of short term. In a few years I will be travelling with my girlfriend so I’ll be doing a lot of freelancing. Im trying to foster relationships now to benefit in the future.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Paul you start traveling in three months if you put your mind to it! I started Upwork three months ago and using the same techniques I posted above my income grew like crazy.
      month 1:$297
      month 2:$830
      month 3:$1666
      month 4:I’m in it right now and ready to break $2000 this month.
      Think about this. Let’s say I stop at $2000 a month (for whatever reason, to busy with other things, etc) and I earned that every month for a year. That means I added $24,000 this year to my income. That is a down payment on an okay house, 6 epic out of country trips for two people, a new car, maxing out you and your girlfriends Roth IRA and still having $14,000 left over.
      Once you start the income train rolling opportunities open up everywhere!

  12. Hi Jesse and Michelle,

    I so agree with you about focusing on the problem that your prospective client is trying to solve.

    As the person providing the service – it is natural to want to talk about yourself to show the client that you are well qualified for the job. But that is not their main concern. It is best to talk about them until they ask about you.

    I will be using this approach to grow my business in 2016.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Neena i’m glad you made this jump! It can be hard to understand that clients don’t want to hear about what you do. Once you start focusing on solutions you go from zero to booked!

  13. Getting your first client is definitely the hardest. Once you’ve done that it’s a lot easier to get more clients in the future.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Cat you would know! You run such a great blog yourself i’m sure your swamped with clients wanting your quality level of content.

  14. Bryan

    This is great, simple advice Jesse. Thanks for posting this. I use to think of clients a lot more like dollar signs. I still struggle with it sometimes. It not only set my mind in the wrong direction, it felt icky. When clients are happy with the work, and want to come back for more, it feels way more amazing than a quick buck. These tips remind me. Thanks!

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Putting a clients needs first is the fastest way to go from struggling to striving. It took me a while to realize it. But when I did I started crushing it!

  15. Very helpful advice! I remember the time when I was just a beginner in freelancing, it was so hard to get clients so I tried working for a low-paying job just to build a portfolio. Good luck to you.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      A lot of people work the low paying route to get started. I have nothing against it and working lower paying gigs allows you to get the feel of how the client, freelancer relationship works. However the only way I think it is okay to work low paying gigs is if you are looking for ways to grow your revenue while doing so. I know a lot of freelancers that get in the habit of working cheap.
      Congrats on getting started and going up to your true price!

  16. Jesse Gernigin

    Being a stage hypnotist is amazing! You get to travel, meet new people, entertain, I am blessed. The secret to becoming a freelancer is just get started. Get used to hearing ‘no’ and moving on. Remember that you don’t need to get every client you just need to get clients that you can serve!

  17. Freelancing definitely looks like the ’employment’ norm for the future.

    I recently started pitching my technical writing skills to software/website start ups.

    Oftentimes, sorting out user guides, online help and all that wordy stuff gets put off until the last minute, as hiring a full-time contract technical writer is expensive (and is usually a one off relationship). So, I’ve taken the angle that by offering freelance services on a project by project basis, I can solve their documentation problems as they arise. Quick and easy!

    I landed my first client with my first pitch! If all goes well, there will be a lot of work coming through over the next six months.

    It’s amazing the difference getting that first client makes to your confidence.

    Thanks for a great article.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Getting your first client can be the difference between taking the next step in your life and watching a rerun. Your score taps a powerful social trigger. Be sure to multiply its affect! Take the energy from your big win and pitch your three biggest dream clients. Your proposal will be so much more confident because you are feeling good! Congrats!

  18. Great post and I am completely fascinated by your Stage Hypnotist job.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Thanks Michelle. If you ever want to nerd out type my name into youtube. I have a couple hours from different shows up. You can see my non-freelancing life.

      1. Thanks! Will check them out.

  19. Jesse Gernigin

    Steve you hit the nail on the head! Testimonials are def. next level things but you are right. There are plenty of times when i’ve gotten work solely off the testimonials I had.

  20. I got my first client last year after Fincon. If you would have told me last January that I would have had 3 clients by the end of December, I would have told you to stop lying. I faced my fear and got out there, Anyone can do this if they choose to.

    1. Jesse Gernigin

      Jason you took your first step to the next level! Networking is an amazing way to get work and then to network at events specific to your niche is even better! Congrats!