Finding my first freelance project

Your first project is always the hardest to find. This is the story of how I found mine.

Dan Spratling

September 13, 2020

3 min read

I've been working as a freelancer for 3 months now and I get asked a lot of questions about how I found my freelance work and how others might find work for themselves. I've decided to share the approach I took finding my first project, my experience with it and the results.

How to find freelance projects

There are many ways you can go about finding freelance projects, and each might work for different people. When I started freelancing, I made it known across my network. I reached out to friends and family asking them to recommend me to others. I spread the word on social media, showcasing my skills through the public development of a new portfolio website. I got in touch with previous workplaces offering my services on a freelance basis.

There's no right answer on how to find freelance projects, and some people have success with many different approaches.

  • Close friends and family
  • Previous workplaces
  • Social media
  • Cold calling, either in person or via email outreach
  • Freelancing platforms (upwork, toptal, etc)
  • Referrals

You can use any or all of these to find your first project (and many projects after that).

My first project came through twitter.

My first project

It took me a few weeks to get my first project. After reaching out to others on the channels I mentioned above I had a lot of feedback, with people getting in touch wanting help with their projects.

So I had a lot of calls and talked through the ideas proposed (I used Calendly to schedule these). Some projects I could help with, some I couldn't. For those where I could help, I wrote proposals demonstrating how I'd approach fixing their specific problems.

Some people dropped out at this point, which is expected. Some just want to know how much their idea would cost. After a few calls, I found my first client.

The project was Pigeon Loans, which you can read more about in the Pigeon Loans Case Study.

How to choose the right project

When going for your first freelance project, you want to make sure you pick something which is right for you. Whether you get a lot of interest, or just one person, if the project isn't right for you then you should be wary of taking it.

There's something to be said about learning on the go, and a lot of projects will present you with opportunities to learn new things, but if something is far out of your comfort range it might not be the project for you, or you might spend far longer than expected actually delivering what you promised.