So, you've decided to take the plunge and become a freelancer in the advertising industry. Maybe you've been laid off, or even quit your job (which can be dangerous, leaving you with no safety net, but also makes you more driven). But one thing's for sure, you're ready to take on your first freelancing project.
But the big question is...now what?
Whether you're looking for freelance copywriting or art direction work, or graphic design projects, you have to have a plan and set it in motion.
1: Network Like Crazy.
This is the time to start reaching out to industry professionals and potential clients in your area, and beyond. In this day and age, you don't even have to get work from the city, or even the country, you're in. But it's important to get in front of as many people as you can. Go to industry events. Attend conferences. Make calls. Send mailers directing people to your website. You need to get your name out there, you cannot just expect work to come to you. Freelancing is all about hustling for work, and it never ends.
You will also need a good set of business cards to hand out at these events. They don't have to be fancy, but they should say something about you. Try and get cards that are on good quality card stock, and have something memorable about them.
2: Create a Website...Fast.
You cannot rely on a physical portfolio anymore. It's dated, and costly to mail to people. No, the only way to get your work in front of as many people as possible it through a website. Fortunately, you do not need one ounce of web design knowledge to do it.
Go to a site like Krop.com or CargoCollective.com, and register for a free "plug and play" website. Many industry professionals use these sites, and they can be free if you have just a few pages. However, if you really want to show a full spectrum, you'll need a monthly/annual subscription. They're very affordable, coming in at around $10/month for something that looks great. You choose the template you want, fill in the information, and upload your work.
You can also go one step further and buy a domain name for yourself. Hopefully, your own name is available. If you have a very common name, that's not going to happen. So, think of another memorable name. GoDaddy.com lets you do searches for available domain names completely free of charge, and sometimes it's as little as $1 to register it for the first year.
3: Get Ready for Clients By Creating an Information Packet.
Besides a solid website, you may also need a print information packet. These days it's really not necessary, and can be costly. However, some clients are old-fashioned and want a leave-behind. This could also become a mailer, which used to be the way to get work. Now that everything is online, a mailer could make you stand out from the crowd.
First off, design a simple letterhead that you'll use throughout your packet pages. You're trying to land a freelancing project, not get a job in a stationery store. So don't go into elaborate detail on your design.
Bottom line: clients want to find out what you can do for them. They're not going to call you because you used a Helvetica font over Arial.
Include pricing information, what you guarantee (if anything), turnaround time and your general procedure over several pages. Sure, you really don't have a general procedure just yet. But you will soon and clients need to know how you're going to work with them.
4: If You Don't Have Samples, Get Busy With Spec Work.
Well, this is going to make your life tough. But, it's not impossible. After all, we all have to start somewhere. This is when spec work becomes invaluable. Take a look at a print ad in your favorite magazine, or a current online campaign. If you're looking for copywriting work, rewrite the ad. If you're seeking graphic design projects, create this ad with different graphics.
This tells a prospective client you have a creative mind, despite your lack of credits. Plenty of people have made it in this business with nothing but sample ads in their portfolio prior to their first project.