Secure your first freelancing job

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When starting out as freelancers, or even when we need some “residual” income, we bid for jobs on one of those famous sites: RAC, Elance, oDesk, Guru, iFreelance etc. For an established professional, with a good reputation on the site and an excellent portfolio, getting jobs is pretty easy. Let’s say that after 8 months on Elance, I work mainly on invitation jobs, than having to scour through the listings to try convince people of my worth. I am very highly ranked in my niche, I have an excellent reputation and quite a portfolio. But I have started FROM ZERO as any new freelancer.

Since my beginning is not that far from this day, I still recall some of the things I have done to land my first job there. It all got easier afterward.

1. Spend some time on that profile and portfolio.

When you are new to a freelancing site, we can’t discuss of ratings, feedback and stuff. Your overall rank is quite low, let’s say it’s easier to find you in the top, if we list the members descending. Not a good place to be.

Your only hope is to have a decent portfolio and presentation. Take a look at the top rated professionals in your niche. How do they word their presentation? What do they emphasize?

Talk about your experience. Present your services concisely and truthfully. Don’t embellish, don’t lie. Write about your main skills and how you like to work. Be professional in your presentation and try to help your potential client understand why you’re god’s gift on earth

Upload quality work samples in your portfolio. Don’t upload everything, focus on few samples that best describe your skills and might convince the client to hire you.

2. If there’s a test, take it.

The moment I have taken 2-3 relevant tests, my rankings went up a lot. Clients would trust me more since it showed them I really have the skills I advertised in my presentation. If you’re not pleased with the test result, re-take the test as soon as possible and try to have a better “grade”.

3. Go for something small

Your first job can’t be a big project. Most of the time the clients might not trust you with such big endeavor, so it’s better to not aim for something huge. There are of course exceptions, but most of the time clients are willing to work with a new provider on smaller projects.

My first job was to customize a design for a wordpress theme. It didn’t allow me to create something from zero, as I would have loved doing, but still was paid a decent rate and impressed my client. Have worked with the client for other projects too and was able to secure my first set of excellent feedbacks.

4. Prepare to work for a smaller rate.

Most professionals can secure their first jobs by underbidding other professionals. As “bad” as this sounds, when you’re dealing with a list of established freelancers with excellent ratings and portfolio, you can’t quite win otherwise.

Still, it’s a good idea to not bid under your hourly rate. I have set mine to a value and, even if bidding for smaller pay, I’d secure it. It’s really not worth working for pennies, so, even if you temporarily drop your rates to get those first gigs, you’re still being paid your rates.

You can then increase your rates little-by-little until you get to a way better payment. As you increase in rankings and experience, your rates should reflect this.

5. Don’t lose faith in your skills.

Landing that first job is pretty difficult, when you’re the new kid in town. Still, with smart bidding and careful presentation it’s not impossible. There are clients who will trust you and there’s enough work for everyone. Just keep on trying and perfecting the way you “market” yourself.

Do you have your own tips? Thank you for adding them here.

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