4 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Enough Freelance Work and How to Fix Them
A freelancer really has 2 jobs. The first is to be absolutely great at what they do. The second, much more difficult and painful job, is to consistently find work. It’s something that the vast majority of freelancers struggle with regardless of experience level. The bright side is that freelance work snowballs- as you build a client list, you not only get repeat work from satisfied clients, but get referrals, meet contacts, and spread word of mouth to ease your work search strain. In the mean time, here are a few reasons why you’re not getting enough work.
4. You’re Priced Wrong
Setting your rate can be tricky. Sometimes you’re more expensive than the market can bare, but more often you’re too cheap. Being too cheap can often cause more problems than being too expensive, because you’re devaluing your own work and making it more difficult to grow. An expensive freelancer might miss out on some jobs. A cheap freelancer causes clients to question their value, be suspicious of their work, and, when they do find jobs, not make enough to cover their dry spells.
If you’re totally lost on how to price yourself this article might give you a place to start. It can be terribly discouraging to look at rates advertised in job listings, but the good news is, those typically aren’t reasonable rates. Recruiters often only include rates if they’re very low- to weed out freelancers who are priced reasonably- and sites like Upwork and Freelancer primarily contain jobs for absolute bottom of the barrel rates. For a better picture of what people are charging in your area, talk to some colleagues in a similar position and location and see what their rates are.
3. Your Reel/Portfolio Stinks
This doesn’t mean that your work stinks- I mean… maybe it does, I don’t know you- but crappy portfolios can be made from great work for reasons totally unrelated to the work’s quality. Maybe you didn’t include enough work. Maybe you’re an editor and have a director reel for some reason. Maybe you’re applying to corporate gigs and mostly have creative projects on your reel. If you’re in video, this article might help you get your reel in order.
2. You Don’t Know How to Market Yourself
An extremely common mistake freelancers make is to try to be all things to all people. You’re not coca-cola, whose potential market includes just shy of everyone, you’re Slanket, who has a target market of a very specific, very sad type of person. Are you an editor with a focus on unscripted TV? Are you a designer who typically handles digital? Figuring out your niche helps you to target the right kinds of jobs to apply to, the right contacts to make, and the right story to pitch to potential clients.
As much as I believe in the power of specializing, this isn’t to say that you can’t broaden your horizons and expand your skill set. As Zack Arnold told us recently, there is a definite consolidation of positions in recent years. Much like with your portfolio, you just need you pitch or application to tell the story that clients want to hear. If a client is looking for a DP, no one wants a Director-Producer-DP-Editor-Motion Graphic Artist. By including additional skills you actually dilute your perceived value as a DP.
1. No One Knows Who You Are
This is probably the most recurrent issue and definitely the most difficult to overcome. There isn’t an easy solution, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution.
I don’t particularly recommend cold calling. It is a pretty low sum game and can become very discouraging. Instead, I recommend networking with people in the industry- at trade shows, user groups, and industry events. This will help you establish and build relationships with people in the industry, not only potential clients, but other important contacts. You shouldn’t view other freelancers as competitors, but rather fellow soldiers fighting on the same side of a war as you. They can be valuable assets, often more so than potential clients, because they can share advice as well as referrals from multiple different clients.
In discussing finding new clients, it would be crazy of me not to mention Black Chip Collective. Enrolled freelancers receive jobs they’re a fit for without having to pitch or do initial consultations. But it would also be crazy to only get jobs from one source and I would never recommend a freelancer rely solely on Black Chip. There are dozens of job boards and gig listings all over the internet. Find out which sources are good, which waste your time and do everything that makes sense. Maybe StaffMeUp doesn’t work for you but Indeed has appropriate listings. Maybe you live in the one city in the world for which Craigslist is worthwhile. Maybe you’re willing to trawl through all the muck on UpWork to find one viable job. Once you have your sources in place, set up a system to check them all- every day or few days, regardless of whether or not you’re working a job. Consistency is key here- don’t be disappointed if you don’t get anything immediately- remember that freelancing works on a snowball basis.