How to find freelance work in a hurry

Leif Kendall


The freelance roller coaster can rapidly lurch from a thrilling peak and dump you in a depressing hole.

One day you’re polishing off projects and slinging out invoices, the next you’re staring at any empty inbox.

So how can you quickly kick-start your cart and start climbing to the top?

There are many ways to find work.

Some of them are quick, and produce fast results. Some techniques are slow-burners and take time to pay off.

Rock-solid freelance careers rely on a mixture of marketing techniques – so you get immediate work now, and the promise of future projects.

When your workload goes cold you probably want to focus on the short-term techniques that will you get you working this week.

Alongside this effort, it makes sense to invest in your long-term marketing, so you have stuff to do in the weeks and months that follow.

What does this mean in practice?

Step 1: Stop and think

Before you dash into action, pause to think about what’s happening.

Ask yourself:

  • Why has work dried up?
  • Are my usual marketing efforts bringing me the clients I want?
  • What kinds of clients do I want?
  • How can I reach my ideal client?
  • What are my competitors doing well?
  • How can I exceed my competitors’ best efforts?
  • How can I stand out against my competitors?
  • What’s happening in the world that might help – or hinder – my marketing?

These questions might help you realise that you need to change something. But they may also confirm that you need to do more of the same stuff you usually do.

Step 2: Write a blog post

Seem like a weird step if you’re desperate for work? In a sense, yes, it is a strange first step, because writing a blog post won’t deliver a stampede of clients.

But blogging will refresh your website. A fresh blog post is usually the best way to bring your website up-to-date, and will give visitors a good impression (and we’re hoping to attract more visitors to your website as part of the steps that follow).

Don’t have a website? Head over to Squarespace or WordPress and fix that immediately. If you don’t have a website you are missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools available.

Step 3: Update your status on social media

You’re available and looking for work. So tell people. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all ideal for this kind of activity. Don’t like asking for work? That’s fine. Keep it a secret.

Step 4: Send emails to clients and contacts

Time to nudge the clients and contacts that have talked to you about work in the past. Say hi, maybe mention your recent work experience, and say you have some immediate availability.

Step 5: Get networking

Networking rarely yields immediate results. But if you’re having a quiet spell, you may as well get out and get talking to people. And you never know who you might meet.

Not sure where to start? Try looking for niche groups, professional associations, clubs and Meetup groups

Step 6: Pick up the phone

Okay – this is where it gets hard. Thus far all you’ve had to do is write a few words from the comfort of your office. But these activities, in isolation, are unlikely to cure your work drought.

If you really need work, and I mean, really, really need the work, then you should be ready to take action.

Pick up the phone. If you have existing clients, call them for a catch-up. Let them know you have a little availability. Offer to help them with something new. Suggest ways you can solve their problems, or bring them new business.

If you don’t have many clients, start calling new businesses.

Who to call?

First, decide which kind of organisation probably hires copywriters like you. Search online. Make a list of suitable candidates. Email them. Introduce yourself. Explain how you could help them. Then call them.

Be polite, be friendly. Plan your introduction. Keep it brief.

Feel nervous about cold calling?

What’s the worst that could happen?

Someone might get annoyed with you.

Eeek! It doesn’t feel nice to incur someone’s wrath.

But it won’t kill you. It won’t even leave a scratch.

And that’s the very worst thing that could happen.

What’s the best thing that could happen?

You could find your next best client.

You could drum up some work.

You could get busy and make money.


(thanks to Eelke for the picture


20th September 2016

Lorraine Forrest-Turner

Great advice, Leif. I’ve done all of these things and they do work. Sometimes I just need to be reminded and nudged into doing them again. 🙂

3rd October 2016

Ettie Holland

It’s the picking up the phone bit that can be most effective, but it’s also the scariest. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the most successful people I know are great at the hustle.

3rd October 2016

Leif Kendall

Hi Ettie – I know what you mean.

However, I think too many freelancers decide that they aren’t good at marketing, or selling themselves (same thing really) and so cut short their ambitions, or never try very hard to find work.

I’m not great at the hustle.

I suck at hustling.

I’m not particularly confident or charismatic either.

But I understand the value I offer, and I’ve practiced explaining this to potential clients. And in my own quiet, understated way I can sometimes convince people to hire me.

So don’t worry if you can’t hustle because there are 101 ways to succeed.

7th October 2016

David Bain

Thanks for your article, Leif. It’s great advice.

I tend to do Steps 1 to 4 ok – it’s Step 5 that I need to work on.

Thanks for the prompt!

8th November 2016

Timothy Woods

Nice piece, Leif. All good tips. The problem I think many freelancers have with looking for gigs is that they want it to fall into their lap, and aren’t prepared to put in the graft required, at least in the beginning. This is what I’ve seen when people who have asked where and how to start etc.

9th November 2016

Leif Kendall

This is a great point. Freelance work does not come easily – especially when you’re starting out. Starting a freelance career can take an immense effort to find those first clients and build a portfolio – and even once you’ve got going, finding new clients requires persistence and determination – which can be challenging when you’re working solo. We need a blog post about this…

31st March 2017

Jack Barton

Especially like the last point. The moment your workload diminishes is also the moment you doubt that people want to hear from you.

My first three gigs just appeared from nowhere, pure blind luck.

For a year I really thought that that was how it worked, and it took me quite a while to learn these lessons.

26th June 2017

Mary Whitehouse

Pick a client you haven’t seen for a while, email and tell them you’re in their area on Wednesday and have some time to spare around lunchtime; offer to buy them lunch or a coffee.Basically remind them you exist and you’re a nice person.

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