Expect to discover 10 low-cost, non-pushy ways how you can find your first clients as a new freelancer in Belgium.
1. Find someone more experienced to work with
My first 2 years as a freelancer I was working with one customer, a business angel (a person investing in startups) as a project manager.
I learned a lot about how business works, I expanded my network, I learned about the needs in the market, I built experience (and confidence!) while getting paid.
2. Volunteer. Strategically
While I was working with my first client I wanted to expand my network even further. I was drawn to the startup- and technology world and thought the best way to meet those types of people are at conferences. So I started volunteering at conferences. This eventually led to my first real freelance gig as a social media marketer for a tech conference. This, in turn, gave me referrals to new assignments.
3. Contact potential clients
At the start, I tried to get meetings with interesting entrepreneurs to just learn about what they were doing and struggling with, or what goals and focuses they had. If we had a ‘click’ I would either refer them to a useful event or person that could help them. When relevant I would offer my services.
My first LinkedIn connection request or emails went something like this: “Hi, you are active with X. I’m doing Y and I’m considering to expand into that area/organise an event about it/writing about it and I’m looking to learn more. Would you be up for a coffee to give some advice?”
4. Join a co-working space
I got one of my first clients by joining a co-working space. I couldn’t afford the rent so I got a deal of helping out with some social media and events. This eventually led to also paid assignments with the owner of the co-working space.
5. Contact previous clients, yearly
I mark all my meetings in my Google calendar and I write daily in a five-year diary. There I add notes of the people I meet. Every year I reach out to my previous clients and tell them “Can you believe it, it’s this long since we met the first time. How are you, what are you up to nowadays?”. This usually leads to them asking the question back and this might lead to a new assignment.
If you don’t have a diary you can take an afternoon to go through your invoices from last year and reach out to your old clients to catch up.
6. Networking events
I used to hate networking events. To walk up to a group of people who all seemed to know each other made me feel very small. What helped was connecting with people before the event, via LinkedIn or mail. And to approach networking by asking myself how I can help people instead of selling.
7. Freelance platforms
To this day, I have never used recruitment agencies or job matchmaking platforms (companies that match open freelance assignments with freelancers seeking work) to find a project. I have a too broad set of skills to be a match for anything. But for some professionals, especially IT and digital marketing platforms can be very useful.
Some examples of Belgian job matching agencies and platforms are:
8. Speaking gigs
I sometimes get asked to speak at events about LinkedIn. I accept with delight, especially if the audience is the right one. Because getting in front of a room full of prospects and sharing my expertise almost always leads to a new opportunity.
9. Don’t say no
I dedicated my first year as a freelancer to exploring. This meant I never said no to an opportunity. That lead me to organise a cowboy party and other events, develop a website for a tequila importer, sell software, teaching and blog writing. This helped me learn what I like and I’m good at, and that customers valued and were willing to pay for.
10. Share about your work on social media
Once I got a new client when I announced in a post on LinkedIn that I had a new project, but I had still available for a day or 2 in the week. Now I share about what I do every day on LinkedIn.
Are you thinking about becoming a freelancer? See how Securex can help you take those first steps.