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15 Best Ways to Find Freelance Clients in 2023

Finding clients is an essential part of having a freelance business. After all, without clients, there is no income.

Of course, knowing where the clients are is only the first step. You also need to learn how to offer your services, negotiate new projects, and create proposals that sell.

My very first client as a freelancer was my old job place. I kept working as an independent contractor for them while learning how to run a business independently.

It didn’t take long to come across Freelance Marketplaces, which provided a stable source of clients for years, and allowed me to travel the world as a digital nomad.

But there is much more than just selling your services: having a brand of your own will allow you to diversify your income streams and have a sustainable long-term business.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What Are the Best Places to Find Freelance Clients?

Here is a list of the best places to find freelance clients, no matter where you are in your freelance journey.

1. Best for beginners: Freelance Marketplaces

find freelance clients in marketplaces
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Freelance platforms are websites that act as middle-man between freelancers and clients. It is one of the easiest ways to find clients online especially if you want to work with clients all around the world.

They work in a pretty straightforward way: a client posts a job, the freelancer applies with a proposal and if they come to an agreement, the client hires the professional through the platform and the project gets done.

There are variations, of course. Some platforms allow you to publish services and wait for the clients to hire you. Others have a contest system where you create the job and if the client likes it, they “award” you the job and get paid.

Some platforms also have programs where a recruiting team is in charge of matching clients with the right freelancer.

In exchange, freelance marketplaces usually charge a percentage of the project payment as a fee for the use of their services.

The good:

  • Clients on these websites are ready and actively looking to hire freelancers.
  • They take care of many details of working online: contracts, payments, and more.
  • You get certain protection and mediation in case of problems with the clients.
  • Wide –wide– range of job posts. You can virtually find every type of client on these sites.

The bad:

  • You have to pay fees one way or another.
  • There are quite a few scammers.
  • Projects tend to pay on the lower end (but you can also find high-paying gigs).
  • There is a lot of competition.

Freelance marketplaces are a great way to start getting clients as a freelancer and earning income quickly while you build your own brand.

2. Best growth potential: Personal Brand

create your own freelance brand
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Having your own website and portfolio with a solid positioning inside a profitable niche is a great way to stand out from your competitors and reach bigger and better-paying clients.

However, making your brand known takes more work than just designing a logo for your business.

You will need to have a website, a strong social media presence, and design a message that helps potential clients perceive you as an expert in your field.

It takes time. You will also need to learn about marketing, content creation, SEO, and most importantly, how to connect with your customers using words and images.

A good brand will attract clients without you having to make pitches or apply for jobs on freelance marketplaces.

The best thing is all that effort will open the doors to more income streams: blogging, sponsorships, affiliate revenue, selling your own products, and more.

The good:

  • Great growth potential beyond working directly with clients.
  • Possibility for multiple income streams.
  • Reach bigger clients and better-paid projects.
  • Future-proof: you don’t depend on third-party rules and limitations like with a freelance platform.

The bad:

  • Growing a brand takes time and effort.
  • You will need to learn a lot of extra skills without seeing a direct ROI.
  • You will need to invest in a website and tools.
  • Requires a good grasp of your process and strong time-management skills.

Having your own brand is the basis on which you can build a sustainable and scalable business.

3. Social Media

get freelance clients on social media
Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Social media has made it much easier to get in contact with potential clients from all over the world with just your cell phone.

While having a strong social media presence is part of your brand, you can get clients exclusively from having only an Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn account.

As long as you know how to use it strategically, of course.

Growing a professional social media presence requires you to know the rules, algorithms, and inner workings of each social media platform.

You will also need to create compelling content to promote engagement and spend quite a bit of time engaging with other accounts yourself.

However, a large enough following will attract customers on its own without you having to reach out.

How big? Depends on your niche. Check out what direct competitors there are in each platform and see how they are doing before fully committing to a specific social media website.

The good:

  • Big accounts attract clients on their own.
  • Depending on the niche, you can also become an influencer and earn money that way.
  • The skills needed to successfully run a social media account can become services for your clients.

The bad:

  • There is no short path to growing a social media brand.
  • You have to adapt to their rules and algorithm changes.
  • There is the risk of losing your account without notice.

Social media is a great way to get your brand and services out there. Choose the most convenient one, and give it time to see results.

4. Forums

get freelance clients on forums
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Facebook groups, Reddit, Discord, or niche forums group potential clients and give you easy access to them.

While they overlap a bit with other types of social media, there is one thing that makes them special: you can position yourself as an authority and be perceived as a trusted individual only by engaging and giving value to that particular group.

You don’t need to reach thousands to get results. Just identify where your potential clients are spending their time online and become an active participant in those spaces.

Just like social media, it takes time and engagement to become a trusted expert in a forum. Although it is usually much easier to stand out from other members.

The good:

  • It is easier to position yourself as an expert in a specific space.
  • You get to form and nurture relationships with potential strategic partners.
  • Doesn’t require the same time commitment as a regular social media account.

The bad:

  • Not every niche has its active forum (although you can find virtually anything on Reddit and Facebook groups)
  • You need to learn how to convert forum members into clients.
  • You will spend a lot of time participating without selling your services.

Participating in the right forums makes it very easy to reach the right clients, and it has the potential of becoming your own community.

5. Old jobs

reach out to old jobs to get freelance clients
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

It is very common for freelancers or independent contractors to get their first clients from the job they just left.

Usually, you will leave a vacuum when you quit and someone will need to do the tasks that were formerly your responsibility. Reaching out to your former boss and offering to keep working as an independent contractor is a great way to jump-start your income while you work on getting your own clients.

Of course, this means you have to have a good relationship with your former place of employment.

The good:

  • You will be familiar with the job and the client.
  • It is a win-win situation for everyone involved, making it much easier to get hired.

The bad:

  • You won’t enjoy any regular job benefits.
  • This type of client is temporary. You will probably move on once you get your own client portfolio.
  • Payment is not usually that good.

Having your former job as a client is a good first step into the freelance world. You know the client and what they need, making it very easy to offer your services.

6. Portfolio Sites

portfolio sites for freelancers
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Portfolio sites are websites where you can upload your work and make it available for everyone who wants to have an idea of your skillset.

A few of the most common portfolio sites are Dribble and Behance for designers, but you can find talented developers on GitHub.

Clients who know what they are looking for can search and watch your work and your competitor’s all in the same place. This means that you need to know how to showcase your best work to stand out from other professionals.

The good:

  • You can have an online portfolio without the need of having your own website.
  • Great to get inspired by other people’s work.
  • The right portfolio pieces will attract clients (who know where to look).

The bad:

  • The potential client is only a click away from your competition.
  • You need to engage with other accounts and know how to get your posts on the top search results.
  • Clients are usually marketing and design agencies.

While having a portfolio on one of these platforms is always good, keep in mind that you can’t just sit back and wait for the clients to come. You will need to promote and share it in the right places.

7. Remote Job Boards

remote job boards for freelancers
Photo by Marília Castelli on Unsplash

A remote job board is a website that focuses on remote job openings instead of one-off projects.

This means you will find companies that want to hire remote employees instead of freelancers. Even though this way of working is more flexible than a regular 9-to-5, you still need to comply with rules and tasks as if you were a regular employee.

IT, programming, and UI/UX design job posting are the most common. But is not limited to those professions at all.

You can find remote job listings on places like Behance, Dribble, Coroflot, Authentic Jobs, Carrer Builder, and more.

The good:

  • Remote jobs can bring you more stability and a regular income than just freelancing.
  • Ideal if you want to work in tech and startups.

The bad:

  • There is a lot of demand and not enough remote job openings.
  • You will work as an employee but depending on the conditions, you might not enjoy all the benefits as if it were a regular job.

If you have the skills, being a remote worker is a great alternative between having a 9-to-5 or working as an independent contractor.

8. Cold Mailing

get freelance clients with cold mailing
Photo by Stephen Phillips on Unsplash

Cold mailing consists of sending unsolicited emails to prospective clients without prior contact.

There is a very fine line between cold emails and spamming, but if done right you can land very good clients.

A cold email is a personalized message you send to a specific person. It is not used to mass-promoting your services to a mailing list.

In other words, to be effective, you need to have good copywriting skills and sales to have better chances to convert cold leads into clients. This means knowing who are your potential clients, what problems they have, and how you can help them solve them.

A cold email opens the conversation.

The good:

  • If done right, you can reach clients who otherwise would never contact you.
  • You can reach out to hundreds of potential clients in just a few hours.

The bad:

  • You need to do some research to get the contact details of the right person inside a company.
  • Emails can be perceived as SPAM.
  • It takes time to personalize and fine-tune each email.

Cold mailing is a great marketing strategy for the right skills. Sales copywriters, specialized translators, or people with a unique set of skills will have better chances of getting hired.

9. Networking

get new clients by networking as a freelancer
Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

Getting to know the right people can open a lot of doors, especially as an independent contractor.

But what happens when you are not part of the right social circle?

Networking has been part of making business long before the internet and is still a valid option to make yourself known to the right people.

Thankfully, networking events are very common both online and offline. You can find meetings, conferences, and more in your local chamber of commerce or on websites like Eventbrite or Meetup.

Keep in mind that networking requires social skills. You go to these events to form relationships, not to give your business card as if it were a discount brochure.

The good:

  • It gives you the chance to talk to people face to face, making interactions more natural and less “salesly”.
  • You can meet potential clients and strategic partners.
  • You can start your own network.

The bad:

  • You will need to put yourself out there and nurture relationships with real people.
  • Depending on where you live, networking events can be hard to come by.

10. Influencers

work with influencers to find new freelance clients
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Influencer marketing is another way to find new clients. You can collaborate with influencers to promote your services and bring new leads to your door.

For this to work you will need to do some research to find the right influencer fit: the one whose audience consists mostly of your ideal client.

Depending on the audience size, social media, and the influencer themselves, you will need to pay a fee for a promotion or offer your services in exchange.

The good:

  • Freelancers don’t usually use influencers so the competition is smaller.
  • You can use your own skills and knowledge in exchange for promotion.
  • The right influencer will expose you to the right clients.

The bad:

  • Is not free.
  • You need to research the influencer and make sure they can deliver results before committing.

Influencer marketing is not a common strategy for most self-employed professionals, making it an interesting option to explore.

11. Online Advertising

online advertising for freelancers
Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash

You can pay for an online ad virtually anywhere: social media sites, search engines, and even other people’s websites.

Online advertising is here to stay and is yet another way to find clients.

The type of ad and reach will depend on the medium and the keywords you want to target. In general, the more money you invest, the better chances you will have for new potential clients to see your ad.

Before jumping directly into creating ads, study how to make the most out of the outlet you choose. Just like social media, each one has its own conditions and optimization rules that bring you the best results.

The good:

  • You can reach the right type of potential clients with advanced and sophisticated audience tools.
  • Online advertising is still cheap with the potential to have a great return of investment.

The bad:

  • You need to learn how to do effective online advertising, to hire someone to do it for you.
  • The competition is bigger.

Having online ads is a great way to find more clients, as long as you are strategic about it. Remember that as a one-person business, you don’t need thousands of clients to make a living.

12. Local Print Advertising

print ads to get freelance clients
Photo by 91 Magazine on Unsplash

If you are working locally, having a print ad in your local newspaper, magazine, or publication is a great way to promote your services.

Just like networking, print advertising has been around for a long time, and while print media is not as popular as before, you can still reach new clients this way.

Keep in mind that your ideal clients have to consume traditional newspapers and magazines for this to work!

The good:

  • A great option to reach local potential clients.
  • Not as saturated as online spaces.

The bad:

  • It can be very expensive depending on the medium.
  • You have to make sure your ideal clients buy and consume printed media.

Print advertisement is good for finding clients in certain professions, but not so much for others. Do some research before investing in ads.

13. Contests

do contests to get new clients
Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Contests are a valid way to find new clients in certain professions, specially design and architecture.

Companies and governments have contests when they need to develop big projects. Usually, competitors present a bid (depending on the contest you will need to develop part of the project itself) and the winner gets the job.

A famous example is the Olympic Games.

However, these types of contests are not the same as the ones presented on freelance platforms like 99Desings. They are usually aimed at agencies or teams, and not just one professional.

While highly competitive, you can land big clients if you win.

The good:

  • You get access to big clients and high budgets.
  • The projects are challenging and give amazing exposure.

The bad:

  • Most of them require a fee to participate.
  • Aimed at agencies or experienced teams.
  • You might do all the work and not get paid at all.

14. Referrals

get new clients by referrals
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Word of mouth has been around for a long time. And that is because it still works.

Having a former client, family, or friend, refer you to new potential clients can open the doors to new prospective clients.

When someone recommends you, they are vouching for you and your services. You earn the trust of your ideal client beforehand.

It is one of the most effective ways to find clients.

You can always motivate your clients to put their word for you out there by sending them a satisfaction survey when a project ends, and just asking them if they know anyone who could benefit from your expertise.

If you did a good job and took care of them, they will not hesitate to promote your services.

The good:

  • It is very easy to land new clients from a referral.
  • People vouching for you means trust.
  • One of the most effective ways of finding new clients.

The bad:

  • You need to ask your clients for a referral.
  • Sometimes they will introduce you to not-so-ideal clients.
  • You will feel the obligation of working with these new potential clients.

15. Volunteer Work

volunteer to get new freelance clients
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

If you are interested in a specific industry but don’t know any contacts within, doing volunteer work is a great way to get inside a specific circle.

Many freelancers start working at ONGs or other non-profits because it gives them the chance to network with influential people.

You can find paid or free volunteer programs. Just be sure to apply to places where you can get in contact with your ideal client.

The good:

  • You can get access to new industries.
  • ONGs and non-profits usually do very rewarding work.
  • There are paid and free roles you can apply as an independent professional.

The bad:

  • The positions tend to pay very little.
  • You need to polish your social skills to take advantage of working in these places.
  • Maybe there are no volunteer options for the industry where your ideal clients are.


New clients don’t fall from the sky. You need to be strategic in your pursuit of potential clients for your freelance business, and the different options in this article will help you do exactly that.

What is your favorite way of finding new clients?

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