Sep 05, 2020

Best Practices for Finding Freelance Work During the Pandemic

Freelancing seems like it would be the ultimate pandemic-proof vocation, but that is proving not to be the case. While some online outlets have seen clicks skyrocket as the world’s population has become glued to screens during 2020, plenty of other media properties, especially on the local level, have floundered. The wider economic turmoil has far-reaching impacts on content and advertising budgets.

Still, there is freelance work to be found, even if more people are trying their hand at freelancing in our current work-from-home world. With some creativity and persistence, you can land and keep clients even during the pandemic.

Perfect Your Portfolio

Before you fill out any applications or submit any query letters, make sure your portfolio is on point. In our digital age, a “portfolio” can mean a bunch of different things. Ideally, you have a website that showcases your freelancing hits. Keep a handy list of links to your favorite, most representative work that you can send to potential clients. It’s also possible to collect these digital clippings in a PDF or other document, but it is better if the material is live on the web.

Know Your Niche

As you launch your search for freelance work, you’ll come across a lot of job listings that you think you can do even if you don’t have much experience in that area. Maybe you focus on graphic design for makeup blogs, but why couldn’t you branch out to infographics on the automotive industry? You probably can, but it helps to focus on a select few areas where you have the most experience. You’ll feel less overwhelmed—and have a better shot of getting hired—if you narrow your job search to topics or duties you have done before.  

Develop Multiple Resumes

Maybe the most frustrating part about freelancing is that job searching feels like a full-time job. It is very tempting to craft one really good resume and a great cover letter to submit to every opening you find. However, you will have more success if you create different resumes with different focuses—for example, a writer might have a resume to submit to staid news outlets and another for copywriting jobs. It’s rough at the start, but as you create specialized resumes, you then have them for the future. And while you might not be able to create a different resume for each specific job opening you come across, you should definitely edit your cover letter to each potential client.

Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Especially in a time of crisis, those freelancers who adapt quickly will find the most success. While it is important to know your niche, you shouldn’t be afraid to expand your capabilities. You can probably leverage what you already know into a new field, too. Say you develop game apps—you might be able to bring that experience into creating gamified fitness or finance software. There are likely jobs out there that could be a bridge from your past work skills into a new field.

Reconnect With Old Clients

If you are feeling desperate for work, your best bet is to list every client you’ve had in the past and shoot them an email to see how they’re faring in these uncertain times and if they need anything. Assuming you parted on good terms, reconnecting with an old client is more likely to work out in the short term than sending out an avalanche of resumes. Just be cordial, do a little research into what they’ve been up to, and try to pitch yourself as a solution to their business needs.  

Use the Common Job Posting Sites

You’re probably familiar with the usual hunting grounds for freelancing jobs: LinkedIn, Indeed, FreelancingWriting.com, and even Craigslist. Some websites, like Guavabean, send out weekly emails with listings. Make a habit of searching through the listings on a daily, or at least regular, basis, but pay special attention to the rates offered. Additionally, if there are certain outlets or companies you’d like to work for, check their websites for job postings, too.

Work Social Media

Active social media accounts are part of the freelancer’s toolkit. Even if you aren’t blasting out links and replying to big accounts all the time, you can use these platforms to find work. Search Twitter for “writer wanted” or join several of the many freelance writer groups on Facebook. You don’t have to be a social media power user or influencer to work freelance, but it can make connecting with clients easier. Just letting your Facebook friends know that you are looking for work can land you a few leads.

Keep a Record of Your Job Hunt

Searching for freelance work online involves a flurry of emails, many megabytes of resumes, and a consistent approach. You will do yourself a huge favor if you keep records from the start, even if it’s just a simple, homespun spreadsheet. Make a note of the outlets you apply to, pitch, or query, as well as the basic substance of your communication. Over time, you can analyze this data to see what approaches work well in securing a job. In the short term, though, you can avoid embarrassing yourself by applying to the same job multiple times.

Strike Out on Your Own?

An interesting quirk of 2020 is the rise of the email newsletter driven by the popular Substack platform and the fact that many newsrooms suddenly shuttered this year. While the income can be very unstable if you don’t have a following, it might be worth it to think about newsletters, blogging, Patreon, or an Etsy store as a way to display your talents. These can be great outlets if you find that your invoiceable freelance work doesn’t scratch your creative or intellectual itch. Again, you might never make money on your platform or blog, but you can really showcase the work that is the most personally satisfying. 

About the author

Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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