We know that most of you find gigs through word of mouth. Not only is this the most popular source of gigs, but it’s also the most reliable source of gigs.

But chances are you have at least browsed through gigs on online job boards like Indeed, Monster, or Mediabistro and wondered if anyone actually lands freelance gigs through these platforms.

Yes, well-paying clients have been found on online job boards.

While there are some outliers, most companies receive the majority of their applications from online job boards. Hundreds of thousands of companies. This includes good and bad clients, well-paying and cheap clients.

Good clients are just harder to find in a sea of mediocre gigs. It’s your job to find the good apples -- because no one else is going to do that for you.

If referrals and networking are more effective, why should I bother looking online?

If you can rely on your network to get 100% of your gigs, great. Here are some of the reasons some freelancers turn to online job boards:

  • You're just starting out.
  • You want to go into a field where you don’t have many contacts.
  • You're in a dry spell.
  • You want to supplement your freelance portfolio of clients.
  • You want to try something new.

Remember, small to medium-sized organizations simply don’t have enough staff to rely exclusively on employee referrals. There are well-paying gigs at companies where the employees just didn’t know any freelancers in your field. These are the ones you can find online.

Tips for finding well-paying clients

1. Look at the length and quality of the job posting. While not a perfect predictor of the quality of a client, the quality of the job posting is a key indicator of the importance of this gig to a client. You’re looking for a client who cares about this position enough to spend a significant amount of time and money finding the right candidate. Don’t look twice at that 2 sentence job posting on Craigslist.

The more details they provide, the better. Someone looking for a copywriter with a specific background is more likely to know what they’re doing (and what they’re looking for) than someone who just asks for “a good writer.” The more knowledgeable a client is about your field, the more reasonable expectations they’ll have, and the easier your experience will be.

2. Browse the right job boards. There’s nothing wrong with looking at big sites like Indeed and Monster. But don’t overlook niche job boards in your industry. This is a good list of some of them. Job boards that cost more for companies to use (like Mediabistro, which charges $200+) normally weed out the lowest-paying clients. Does an online journal, news site, or blog in your industry advertise jobs? Look there first.

3. Stalk the companies you want to work for. Are there certain companies you really want to work for? Companies you know pay well, fit your brand aesthetic, or would look great on your portfolio? Bookmark their jobs page and keep looking back. (Then when you apply, tell them how much you love them. Companies love to be loved.) Follow them on Twitter. Keep applying.

4. Do your research. Don’t apply to any gig without looking at the company offering the position. Look them up on LinkedIn -- see how many connections and followers the employees have. Look at the quality of their website. Remember, a well-established client can still be a slow payer; look them up on Client Scorecard, a place where thousands of freelancers have ranked clients, to find out how they pay and how they work with freelancers. We’ve got the key tips for researching clients here.

5. Take your time. Don’t apply to 20 gigs in a day. If you apply to that many at once, you’re not giving yourself time to do the proper research or to wait for the right gig to come along.

Apply on a regular schedule, even when you already have gigs lined up. Make it part of your daily or weekly practice. This way, you’re applying to the 2-3 jobs posted that week that sound like a very good fit. This is not only a smarter use of your time, but it also breaks down an overwhelming process into manageable time chunks. You’re going to get a lot of low-hanging fruit when you mass-apply to a ton of mediocre jobs when you’re desperate. (It’s also more emotionally draining.)

6. Be choosy. When you are applying constantly for gigs, well in advance of when you need them and over a long period, you can afford to be choosy. Pick jobs that you actually care about, at companies you like. Remember, being choosy now means you’ll have a better experience with clients and a portfolio you’re proud of to show future clients.

7. Apply through the online portal...then go search out the person in charge of hiring. Don’t stop by applying through the portal. Do some research. Find either an HR person or a person in the department you’ll be working for. Follow them on Twitter. Send them a short email with a link to your portfolio letting them know you applied, and you’re really interested in the position. Get your name in front of their faces.

*8. Follow your gut. *The single most important thing you can do. Does a job posting give you the heebie-jeebies? The CEO’s LinkedIn profile has 40 connections, all in Moldova? Stear clear.

Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about how to land these well-paying gigs by optimizing your resume and cover letter with keywords.

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