8 Steps to Get Freelance Work when You’re Still a Newb

by on December 30, 2015 11:16 pm
Working in the creative and technical space, I get the rewarding opportunity to mentor junior designers, marketers, copywriters and developers entering the workforce. I wish I could say that colleges and universities are preparing students to effectively enter the workforce and showcase their skills to employers, but it seems like higher learning institutions are always about 2 – 5 years behind the curve of what’s happening in the marketplace. Under-preparing college grads is nothing new. Unfortunately, I faced the same challenges as did my peers. The good news is that I’ve learned from my mistakes since I graduated college, what seems like a lifetime ago. Now, eventually as someone hiring talent and building a business around recruiting talent at Space Chimp, I understand what is important to employers and how they generally vet talent. Being able to land a job is all about showcasing your skills, proving you have those skills and ensuring that you are reliable and trustworthy. The first thing junior talent will say to me is, “well, I haven’t had the chance to do much work like XYZ yet.”. Honestly, this physically hurts me when I hear people saying this, but I get it. Unless you’ve been mentored effectively, it’s hard to get a game plan together to help you get great jobs unless someone guides you through what’s important.

Create Concept Work

iMac-build Starting to create meaningful work is the obvious first step. Employers don’t care that you’ve never worked for a real company doing XYZ; they just want to see that you have the talent to do so in the real world. That’s why I suggest working on concept work. Do work samples in some different industries: Restaurants, Tech, Hospitality, Medical, Fitness so no matter what type of client you get, you have some samples to show “you get them”. It seems so obvious, but when I tell junior talent this for the first time, you can see a lightbulb going off in their head. Yes, you can build your experience on your own time. The great thing is that if you do good enough work, this concept work can actually land you paying gigs. Recruiters are always scouring the web and sites like Dribbble, Behance, GitHub, etc. for people creating awesome work. And guess what? They don’t care for the most part if you have one year of experience or ten. All they care about is that you are awesome at what you do, so go ahead and let your work speak for itself.

Build a Website

laptop-run Building a website is especially important if you work on the web. If you’re a developer, digital marketer, designer, or blog writer, and you don’t have a website, why would I ever trust you to work on mine? Having a website and being able to do basic coding is the same as basic literacy these days like it or not. For me, this has been a good gauge of the level of talent I was hiring. I’ve never hired someone without a website and been blown away by their expertise. In a way, I think putting time and effort into your personal website shows how much you care about your career more than anything.

Design a Beautiful Resume and Cover Letter

92fbb815677411.56295b7127b0b OK. I’m calling it right here, right now. The days of basic Word .doc resumes is over. With the proliferation of programs like Photoshop,  Illustrator and sites like GraphicRiver and other numerous resources for beautiful resume templates, there’s no reason to be sending an employer a basic Word resume anymore. If you do decide to continue to send those boring resumes, then know there are a select group of people that are simply outshining you. Once again, if you’re in the creative field especially, your resume should look fantastic and be tied into your entire personal brand.

Cleanup Your online Presence

I know you’ve probably heard this a lot from your Mom or Dad, but now I’m saying it. Go back through your social media history and delete all those old posts of you partying with your friends in the club. At least all the embarrassing ones. Don’t fool yourself, recruiters are in fact snooping on your social media to gauge your character as a person. Here’s a checklist of other items to take care of:
  1. Improve the design elements of your social media accounts. Update things like icons, profile images, cover photos, etc.
  2. Participate in social networks that are related to your career path. For example, If you’re a designer you should have boards on Pinterest for UI/UX inspiration and post your work to Dribbble, Behance, etc.
  3. Start posting content that begins to establish you as a thought leader in your space. This means you may need to setup a blog on your website. At the very least start sharing content that’s interesting in your field of work to show recruiters you have other interests other the weird cat photos.
  4. Lastly, do a search for yourself online. What comes up? Try to clean up anything embarrassing or out of date.

Join Freelance Networks

  A lot of freelance networks can be a waste of time. I know more than anyone. Heck, that’s one of the reasons I created Space Chimp in the first place. You may never get anything out of it, but at least, it keeps you connected to what going on out there. Top Freelance Communities:

subscribe to top job boards

Here’s a super user job search tip for you, I like to find job boards that have awesome freelance work that directly relates to what I do and then pull in their RSS feeds into Feedly where I can quickly browse jobs in one place. My Feedly job posting board has over 50+ feeds. Admittedly, Its a bit overkill but you can probably get by with five to ten. Top Freelance Job Boards:

Participate in Relevant Communities

If you’re a newb, you probably don’t have much to share right? Wrong! Like I said earlier, you should be creating concept work, blogs, infographics – whatever content you can share to start building your personal brand online. You can publish your content to sites like Dribbble, Behance, Feedburner. There are so many options; you’ll just need to research what is best for you.

Amaze and surprise every customer

One of the best marketing tools you have as a beginner with no budget for advertising is word-of-mouth. You get one happy customer, that tells another happy customer and before you know it you’ll be turning down work. Think of ways you can amaze and surprise your customers every day. Whether is through easy payment solutions, project management tools, or extras and freebies that don’t break the bank. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Pulling it All Together

The main takeaway here is that you don’t need real work to showcase your skills. Create your won experience. If you have a better portfolio and proofs of work that outshine someone with ten years experience, does it really matter you’re new to the workforce? Maybe but maybe not. I guarantee that recruiter is going to give you a second look.  Create trust by building a reputable and quality online presence. Last but not least, amaze the clients you do have and grow word-of-mouth business. I want to hear from you. What are some other ways you can start getting great jobs as a newb? What are some things you’ve learned along the way?