How to Land Your First Paying Client

Land Your First Client

So it may be a surprise to most, but this blog doesn’t generate a sustainable income yet. Okay, probably most of you could have guessed that but I just wanted to clarify first.

To be honest, the way I sustain my lifestyle is as a freelancer.

What is a freelancer you may ask?

Freelancer, noun; a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.

To be more specific I focus on marketing and social media freelance work.

If you want to begin a road towards remote working and continual travel, freelancing is usually the very first step you should take towards this goal.

So how do you freelance when you have worked at a job job for so long? Great question.

This is the question most people have at first and for good reason. You have likely spent one, two, five, maybe twenty years at a job you hate and you don’t know where to turn to during this transition and especially who to sell your services to.

That is why I am laying this all out for you. After you are done reading this article, you will have the tools you need to land your first paid client.

Let’s get to it

So you are sitting in your cubicle, and you don’t know where to begin. Well first we need to figure out what service you want to offer to others. The obvious key here being that you have experience in whatever service you choose.

Here are just a few example positions that are highly sought out after in the freelance and consulting space:

  • Graphic Designers
  • Website Developers
  • Copywriters
  • Marketers
  • Business Intelligence
  • Videographers
  • Animators
  • Speakers
  • Social Media Managers
  • Clerical work

These are just a few examples. You can literally freelance anything! Yes, even those weird cat videos.

If that list didn’t spark your fancy I would suggest asking yourself what you are good at. Think of anything, even if it really is making badass cat videos (although that will be hard I will admit).

Make a list of five things you are good at and then compare that to what you think you can market the best as a professional expertise.

For me I got my start in freelancing as a website “developer”, barely knowing how to do websites but knowing just enough to get paid to get it done. Then, I got out of the space to focus on more creative stuff like photography and videography. Now, I have moved into offering more marketing and social media freelance. So as you can see, I have spent time dipping my toes in different sectors.

Being a jack of all trades isn’t always a bad thing!

So you have thought about it, and you have finally figured out the very first service you want to freelance. Now it’s time to find that first client.

How to find the client

This is the scary part. You are yelling at me right now as you read this, “Ian, just tell me the answer to finding clients!”

Okay okay… so you want to know the secret?

Ask your family, friends and friends of friends?

Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me. I am serious. The freelance work that pays my bills comes from clients that I have built friendships with before they even became my clients. It may sound weird that I am recommending you reachout to you close knit network for work, but seriously this is where all freelance businesses begin. It usually has a very high success rate for getting a first client.

So how do you get them to become a client? ASK.

Hey there [their name],

I hope all is well, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I am looking to fill out my freelance work for the year and wanted to see if you or your business was looking for any [YOUR SERVICE] work and consulting.

I know you’re extremely busy, but if you have just even ten minutes this week sometime I would love to chat on the phone and catch up.

[your name]

Remember, you are writing a friend or someone you know really well. This template above isn’t meant to be copied, I just wanted you to see that you should NEVER be hard selling your friends. There’s no need. They want to help you just as much as you want to help them. Just give them a heads up that you are looking for work. Likely they will have something or know someone who could be a potential lead.

Have no friends?

So sorry to hear that. Have no fear, if your personality isn’t what’s keeping the friends away, then we have hope for you. See there is this funny thing called hustling that many freelancers just don’t want to do. They think that offering their services on their website will magically bring them business.

For some, that works.

For most, that’s laughable.

So if you have no friends to reach out to it’s time to do a little cold emailing, calling, and walk-ins.

“Cold” selling is the act of reaching out to a potential lead offering your services without them having had contact with you before hand. It requires you make introductions, establish a rapport, yadayadayada.

You can do this in really three ways as a freelancer (all of which I have done and have been successful at)


For the newb freelancer, I suggest emailing your potential leads starting out. Practice how you phrase the email and continually test different wordings etc. The key here is to get them to respond. So establish a sense of urgency in the email and at the end re-establish what you would like them to do in a way that makes them feel compelled to do so (without sounding bossy).

P.S… the goal of an email should be to get them on the phone.


Cold calling is an art form. Cold calling is when you call someone instead of emailing them. It can be scary and honestly it’s where we all fail multiple times. If you don’t have a thick skin for people denying you, you will have a tough time here. If you want to make money and gain clients you will have to practice this and get good at guiding a phone call.

The goal on a cold call is not to sell them on your services, it’s to sell them on meeting with (virtually or in-person) them about your services. Don’t forget that.


This is my favorite. Just walk into mom and pop shops in your town or city and just have fun talking to the owners. See where you can help them and casually offer those services. Don’t forget to ask to speak with the manager or owner of the establishment, someone who has decision making power.

But Ian, how do you first find the leads in which to cold call etc?

Man, you are asking the best questions today. This is obviously the part where people get hung up. For me, I like to stick to my local area at first. If I were to freelance for website development and design, I would simply Google or Yelp restaurants in the area and begin finding their contact information and reach out to them if I saw that their website had an error or was not up to snuff.

It’s that simple. Google’s your best friend.

Follow up

So now you have some new exciting leads that you never thought you would have. Whether it be from your friends or from reaching out to people you don’t know that could really benefit from your services, the critical step is to follow up.

This is where I would say I see 90% of freelancers lose. They get a great relationship going with potential clients, they meet with them in person to talk about their expertise and offerings, and then they part ways only to be lazy and never follow through.

I’m not sure what it is about this step. I am guilty of it every now and then, but that just means I lost out on business that could have been mine had I just sent a simple follow-up email.

Moral of the story, send a follow-up email the same day to the potential client you met with thanking them for meeting and then asking them when they would like to meet again to get the project started.

This keeps the conversation going and thus begins to fill your pocket with rent money.

The ethics of this

You could take a whole class in college on the ethics of selling etc…, or just remember this:

Above all else, care that your service will actually benefit the potential client. Care about them as people first, build relationships not empires.

This is what will ultimately help you in the long run. Being an old school salesman will make you money, but also make you look like an asshole, and no one likes assholes.

Final thoughts

As you can see finding your first client is easy if you actually want to find them. Finding the third, fourth, fifth client is where you need to really dig deep in these different strategies and work hard to secure them.

Remember, ask your friends and also ask them if they know of anyone looking for your services. I can almost guarantee you will find work via this strategy.