By: Kathy Shalhoub

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You’ve made the leap into freelancing and the jobs have started to trickle in. But you need more work, how do you go about finding it? The general structure is as follows: You need a website that shows your product, you need a product, you need traffic, and you need conversion of that traffic into earnings. I will tackle each of these topics in future posts, but for now, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. First and foremost, you need to have a place online where people can learn about you and your work. Having an excellent website that showcases your work and your potential in a clear, simple and easy to navigate style is one way. Link to it from specialized websites such as nabbesh for maximum exposure. If you’re just starting out and still have nothing to show, then go to step 2.
  2. Keep your profiles (and your portfolios) updated on the different networking sites you use. Nothing is more of a turn off to potential clients than seeing that your last posted project was 3 years ago. Their first thought will be that you’re washed up. I’ve looked at some of your profiles on nabbesh and work needs to be done! Put a photograph (if not of you then of something you worked on, admire or like), link to websites (either yours or companies you’ve worked for, try to be specific), write an interesting bio that gives insight on who you are as a person. How can a client tell if you’re any good or not? How can they tell what you do and if you’re serious about it?
  3. Be active online. Network using social media and websites like nabbesh. Join free online competitions to get yourself noticed. Follow people and clients that you’re interested in working for on Facebook and Twitter. They will often mention when they’re looking for help or input, and this can be your chance to offer your services.
  4. Call or meet with agencies, potential clients and contacts. This takes some guts but believe me, emails can easily be ignored, accidentally deleted or completely forgotten in somebody’s inbox. Speaking to someone in person has a much greater impact and allows you to better understand what they are looking for or to offer alternatives for a project. Be prepared for this kind of approach and have a one liner that describes who you are and what you do well rehearsed and ready to go for the occasion.
  5. Promote yourself in ways that are new, interesting and unique to your style. For example:
    1. Create folded posters that show a new piece of your work with every fold.
    2. Send customized goodies as a promotional pack to clients. No matter how prevalent social media is, there’s nothing more exciting to a person than receiving a personalized envelope in the mail.
    3. Invest in branded chocolates, cupcakes, or anything funky you can think of for existing clients. Show me a stressed out client who won’t appreciate a good shot of sugar when it counts! Don’t feel like pushing sugar? Think coffee, tea, or a funky herbal mix. Or anything else that you think would be appreciated! Keeping your clients and having them spread the word about you is key.

      NOTE: Keep the value of your branded items low. This is not meant to be a bribe; it is simply a token that showcases your talent!

    4. Consider branded merchandise. Forget about postcards and paper. Can you have your illustrations or designs printed onto scarves, t-shirts or pillowcases? How about notebooks, shopping bags and towels? Even if a meeting leads to nothing today, leaving a piece of your work behind in the form of a small gift can set you apart from the rest.

If you think this advice only applies to creatives (e.g. illustrators, designers, photographers), think again. Clients are looking for motivated, hard working and dedicated people and are constantly being bombarded with potential hires. Set yourself apart!

In my case for example, when I wanted to work at an oceanography institute in the U.S., I applied for a summer program and didn’t get accepted but I didn’t let that stop me. I then contacted some of the scientists working there and offered my engineering services for free for the summer. Who could resist? I was hired immediately and offered room and board with the summer students in exchange for my efforts. What did I get out of it? Work experience in the immediate, and years later, because I had kept up my contacts, I was offered a job and a work permit in the U.S!

When I wanted to get into MIT for engineering, I printed copies of an article I had written as an undergrad, copies of my CV, copies of my senior design robotics project, and a clear concise introductory letter explaining my desire to go to MIT. I made an envelope for every single professor in the Ocean Engineering department and mailed them all. Two weeks later I followed up with phone calls and tried to arrange meetings. Most ignored my letter, I met with three professors only and I ended up getting a full scholarship with one of them who was interested in robotics. Seeing the effort I went to in differentiating myself from all other applicants, and meeting me in person made all the difference.

Showcase the skills you’re selling in whatever way you can think of! It really does matter.

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

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