Easily the thing I get asked most about is where exactly to find work. Some people seem quite insistent on knowing in fact! Obviously this will depend greatly on the industry and business that you are in, but here are a few tips.
Friends and Family
Often friends and family are seen as undesirable nuisance clients who will expect something for nothing based on your relationship. Although this is true to a point, this is definitely the first place I would start your list of potential clients. At the start of any business venture there’s normally a lot of interest in what you’re doing but this will quickly fade….try and think about who your contacts might know to get you started. Build from there.
Big vs Small
I would say in general I have seen more startups fail when they have targeted something at high market and luxury. I believe this is because generally speaking, it takes time to build up a brand that would reflect this and in the short term that means people go bust. Generally speaking you want to build up to bigger and higher paying clients. Smaller clients are certainly not without their drawbacks, but do represent a good education. Speaking purely in terms of timescales and ease, then usually lower paying clients are easier to find.
Most industries where someone is selling a service or product will have some sort of jobs board. Often this takes the form of a bidding site where you are directly in competition with other freelancers. I have a lot more to say about these job boards in general, but they are certainly a good place in which to hone your pitch, see what you’re up against and often you can find a few gems on there.
Local vs Global
Most people will tell you to start local and go outward, but I actually did the complete opposite. Most of my initial clients were in Asia and America when I started up. This was in part for practical reasons (I had a sick mother and couldn’t be out the house in meetings all day) but also meant I got used to the idea of client communication which is a world apart from dealing with your boss. I can understand the reasons behind starting local but I would think it’s more important to define the sorts of customers you want/can work with.
This is a key element of working for yourself and something I’m going to cover a lot further down the line in much more detail. Prospecting is finding and converting new customers. These days one huge mistake that I see many entrepreneurs making is that they like to play it safe, hide behind their content marketing and online job forms where cold calling and face to face meeting very much still have a role to play in getting you more work. You can’t be afraid to pick up that phone and ask a stranger for money…after all your livelihood depends on it.
One good idea on places to find work would be to get friends/co-workers etc to brainstorm any place where you might be able to attract customers and give them a go! In our early days we actually sold video production through youtube, we posted on craigslist neither cost us anything!