The truth is I’ve written many articles telling freelancers that job boards don’t work. That you’re better off going out and finding your own clients on your own terms instead of competing.
Then I realized my method was flawed. Clients are already on job boards waiting for you to apply and get your name in front of them. You’re not reinventing the wheel. These clients are motivated to hire and are ready to talk to you today.
Carefully studying potential clients, getting in front of them, and forging relationships before they need to hire someone works. But it takes time to build momentum, and isn’t the only way to do it. Instead of focusing solely on finding clients out of thin air, you should be combining both approaches.
I have scored full-time, salaried jobs and freelance gigs from job boards. And while I don’t have any scientific data or statistics to back this up, my experience tells me it’s easier to find freelance jobs on job boards than full-time jobs. Here’s why.
It’s easier to stand out
Successful freelancers have a niche skill set and are adept at figuring out what a client wants. Usually a client needs a specific skill met, like UX design or email marketing, and aren’t looking for a well-rounded full-time candidate who can do it all. They just want to know that you can do that one thing phenomenally well.
That’s far easier to master than a Jill of All Trades trying to piece together a career as Multi-Media Director for a start-up who wears 16 different hats.
Time is of the essence
I’ve hired freelancers and full-time workers for various clients and the sense of urgency was totally different. Clients who need freelancers, and use a job board to do it, need a gap filled ASAP. There’s usually a specific time frame involved, and they really needed someone to start yesterday.
Meanwhile, full-time candidates need more nurturing. Clients want to figure out if they fit in with the team and are into the work culture. Full-timers typically need to meet with several people before venturing into negotiations.
I once applied to a job at Blue Man Group in New York and went on 5 interviews over the course of 2 months. The last meeting involved 10 people at a round table. I liked the team a lot, and was accustomed to going on interviews all the time as a freelancer. This time it was for a full-time job, but ultimately the position was filled by an internal hire. Meanwhile, clients who hire freelancers usually hire within a week.
There’s less pressure
Clients don’t have to overthink hiring a freelancer from a job board and can pull the trigger within hours of contact. If they really cared about the delicate balance of having a freelancer come on board, they would hire someone they know. They wouldn’t just go straight to a job board to find you. The only real pressure on the client end is to hire someone as quickly as possible and get the job done.
There’s also less pressure on the freelance side when using a job board. If you don’t land this one, you’ll just apply to 10 more. However, I totally understand situations where you need this freelance job or won’t pay rent. But in an ideal situation, freelancers can pick and choose their work and aren’t under intense pressure to find that one job that will see them through the next 5-years. In my experience, this lack of spotlight pressure makes it easier to be more conversational and relaxed with potential clients.
It’s easier to commit
Hit a potential client at the right time, and they’ll commit and get you started the next day. Some job boards like UpWork make it easy for clients to fund the payment in escrow, set up the details, and let everything run itself. And if you’re wondering, yes, you can find actual good gigs on UpWork. I have a client who pays me $200 an hour to write TV commercials and they usually take me about 2-hours of work.
These people aren’t looking for award-winning freelancers. They just need a good, reliable and reasonably talented person to do the job.
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels as a freelancer and can’t nail down work from a job board, take a look at your approach. Are you giving them unbelievable value and peace of mind? Or are you just piecing together your experience and making it sound like a grocery list of skills they don’t know what to do with?
Marketing yourself with cold emails and resumes is a skill that takes time to foster and grow. Make time in your week to develop it and get laser focused on getting the results you deserve.