In this article I am going to outline a very straightforward approach to starting your freelance career. The artists I want to talk to:
-have some artistic ability (no need to be a master but you have to offer something to your clients)
-have very few or no clients at all
-want to earn a living with their artistic skill (gradually, not overnight)
(NOTE: I am 3D artist but the advice here should apply to most creatives.)
The Brute-Force method
To the artist I described above I would recommend applying the Brute-Force method to getting clients. As soon as possible. And as actively as possible.
What is the Brute-Force method?
It’s basically applying for lots and lots of freelancing jobs, only getting very few of them. It’s a tough process.
The good part is that you’re not meant to do it forever. Just as long as it takes to secure several long-term clients. How long this takes depends on your persistence. Also on your artistic and people skills.
You’ll frequent places where jobs get posted and apply for the ones that fit your profile. Get ready to be rejected like a MOFO! I got 100s of “rejections” in 2018 😀 (Update: Now in 2019 things are better. I have a few stable clients so I have to use less brute force 🙂 )
I hope it’d be easier for you at the start. But I am afraid this is what the average artist has to expect.
Here is another way to think of this
About 1 in 10 employers will be interested enough in your application to grace you with a reply.
About 1 out of 10 interested employers will actually end up hiring you (instead of someone else they were also interested in).
Therefore it’s important that you apply for a lot of jobs. Aim to send about 10 applications a day if you can.
Here are a few places I would check for 3D work:
http://www.upwork.com/ (probably the most popular freelancing site)
http://www.peopleperhour.com (haven’t used it much)
http://www.freelancer.com (haven’t used it much)
Make your own list of job sites. Visit them every day. Apply to all jobs you know you can do. That’s the gist of the “method”. It’s the obvious approach that few people will take.
Can’t we use “hacks” to get to success faster?
I am all for working smart! It’s just that brute force is the smartest thing you can do when you are starting out and have no jobs coming in.
Everyone wants to use “hacks” and “shortcuts” in our culture. Those are great once you’ve achieved a certain level of success. Hacks are a way to look at your business and prune the unnecessary. But if you don’t have a business to begin with then hacks won’t work. Hacks act as multipliers. If you have zero business and a 10x hack, you get 10×0=0!
So focus on getting your business off the ground no matter what.
There are two things that are super important in this process.
1. Writing good applications quickly
2. Managing your emotions
Writing good applications
You’ll be writing lots of applications so let’s cover the most important stuff.
· We want to send a lot of applications so we need to be quick. Don’t spend hours on each application.
· However DO NOT use one letter that you just copy and paste to everyone!!! DO NOT DO THAT!
· Instead make a simple template but customize it for each job.
· If you know the name of the employer always start with “Hi/Hello *name*”.
· Match their style (to a degree). If the job offer is written in a casual style, be casual (but not too casual). If it’s formal, be formal.
· be confident in a professional manner. You’re applying for jobs that you know you can do so let the employer know you can do it. However do not be cocky and boastful.
· If possible, send direct links to your most relevant work for this job. 2 or 3 pieces are enough. You could say:
Here is a link to my full portfolio
However the following pieces are most relevant for this job:
>>> piece 1
>>> piece 2 etc.
That’s it. Don’t over-complicate the process.
For more tips on good writing read this short article: The day you become a better writer.
Managing your emotions
You’ll apply for a lot of jobs. But you won’t get 99% of them. That will challenge most people.
Set your expectations right. Take the idea that you’ll only get 1 in 100 jobs seriously. Focus on finding and applying to a 100 jobs. Do not dwell on the response you get from each one.
Once you have sent at least 100+ applications you can review your results. How many replies did you get? How many jobs?
Here are some common problems in a Q and A format.
Q: I am not getting any clients. What’s wrong?
A: Did you send 100 serious proposals to jobs that fit your skills?
If you did, then your proposal may be weak. Rewrite your basic template. Make sure you use decent grammar.
More likely tho… your portfolio/skills may still be weak. Have someone you respect check your work. Ask for their honest opinion. It may be too early for you to freelance. You may still get jobs but it could be 1 in 200 or 1 in 1000. In this case I’d rather go back and work on my skills instead of sending more applications.
Q:I got a job but the conditions suck.
A: This is normal in the beginning. You may be so eager to get a job that you settle for a low price, unreasonable deadline etc. You took the job so finish it. It sucks but it helps you learn what’s reasonable for future jobs. Do not keep working with clients that don’t pay you well or do not respect you. That will eat a lot of your time that you could spend looking for better clients.
Q: I am starting to burn out due to the constant rejections. Should I keep pushing myself?
A: In my opinion, no. Take a few days off. When you feel better give it another shot. You should stop at the first signs of burn-out.
Q:Brute-force method is too brutal for me. Are there any other methods?
A:Yes, I have another article about other methods to start and grow your freelance business. They are less nerve-wracking but could be slower.
Q: I have another question.
A: Cool, post it in the comments!