Finding a Contract and Freelance Work

If you take a proactive approach to get clients as a contractor, it will become easier to find freelance or contract work opportunities. Many contractors make the mistake of thinking assignments will come to them, and leave the task of chasing contracts to the last minute.

Something to remember is that finding work outside of agencies can be a challenge. There is no one ‘magical thing’ that will work, it’s very much a case of trying many things. The wider you spread your net, the better chance you have of successfully landing a contract. Use all the free, simple and least time-consuming avenues first.

For IR35 purposes, HM Revenue and Customs will be looking at you as a genuine limited company i.e. one that has some financial risk and is not under the direct control of the end user. The more you can demonstrate this, the less chance you’ll be seen as a permanent employee disguised as a contractor.

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We’ve not detailed much here as you will already know about using recruiters and for many, it will be their primary source. It’s the obvious choice for most contractors (freelancers aren’t generally heavy users of agencies). Recruiters can be extremely useful in finding you instant work. If you Google the type of work you’re looking for, a large list of recruiters should appear.


Networking is a crucial aspect of developing leads and contacts – the more people who know, the more likely you are to generate business. Get to know as many people as you can, contractors are often asked if they know other contractors who could help on a specific project.

Get signed up on LinkedIn and start contacting people/groups who might be able to help you promote your services.

Contacts, contacts, contacts!

The most important and crucial part of ‘going it alone’ is the ability to optimise your existing contacts as well as building a base of new contacts. Potential clients are everywhere so don’t just focus on business networking but discuss your freelance or contract services in a social capacity as well.

Think about anyone you’ve worked with in the past, or met through someone else, and consider whether they could be potential clients. Track these people down and get in touch! Picking up the telephone can be daunting but is a fantastic way of getting instant feedback on your business. Remember – if the person you’ve called isn’t a potential client, they may know someone who is.



It’s certainly worth investing in a website so prospective clients can find information about your services and contact details. In order to create a ‘professional look’ and brand identity, the website should reflect who you are and what your business is all about. This doesn’t mean it should cost a fortune.

If you know a web developer, you’ll be able to negotiate a competitive rate. There are also a number of low-cost packages out there to get you online. A few things to consider when designing your website include:

  • KIS (Keep it Simple) – Don’t complicate your site with too many pictures (search engines can struggle with these so prefer text copy when searching your site) and keep your messages and information clear and concise with simple navigation.
  • SEO(Search Engine Optimisation) – Certain things on your website can help search engines like Google to find and rank it highly:
    1. Keywords - think of the words that potential clients would type into Google and include these in your webpage's. Include them in the URL (web address name), the code behind the page (meta titles and meta descriptions) and article headings.
    2. Content - make sure that your content is relevant to those you’re targeting it at and have links throughout that connect to other pages on your website. Google is very clever and seems to know if you’ve written high-quality, relevant copy. If you try and shortcut the process Google will spot this and not list you on the vital first page.
    3. URL’s - choose your URL carefully – make sure it clearly indicates what your freelance or contract services are about. You can buy and check the availability of certain URL’s online at
  • Testimonials – once you’ve worked for a couple of clients, get them to write you a testimonial to put on your website. If prospects know you’ve done a great job for someone else, it’s more likely you’ll do a good job for them.
  • Data collection - get peoples contact details – if someone’s interested in the services you offer, get them to fill out some details (name, email, phone number). You can use these to send them more information about the services you offer. Even if they don’t use your freelance or contract skills immediately, if you stay in contact they may become clients in the future.
  • Become an industry expert – if you write authoritative pieces on your website, there’s a good chance people will find them. For example, if you’re a copywriter, write a page ‘find a good copywriter’; there’s a fair chance a potential client will type this search term in and find your site.

Getting online might not get you direct sales, but it increases your profile and means that people can find you when they need your freelance skills!

Along with a website, creating a formal email address (for example rather than a Hotmail/Google email can give a professional look to clients and create the impression that the business is bigger than it actually is!

Forums, blogging and social networking

A new revelation to marketing, forum entries and blogging have become some of the cheapest and best ways to acquire new clients. To appeal to clients you need to appear as an expert in your field – through writing a blog you gain credibility within your industry. Make sure you keep the content of your blog relevant and interesting. Keep up with changes in your industry and development in the skills that you can offer.

You’ll find that if you’re interested in the services you offer, others will be, too! There are lots of forums out there talking about everything from financial advice to your crisp flavour preference. Chances are, people are talking about the freelance service that you offer. Get online, search for these forums and start offering advice or solutions. Don’t only focus on marketing your services. This will build you a name in the industry.

Furthering this, increasing your social networking presence can get people to your website. Set up a facebook account dedicated to your freelance or contract services and promote away. Use Twitter to tweet about your services, making sure to add links to your website – you’ll be surprised how many people will be interested in your business.

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Business Stationery

Make sure you have professional business cards. Hand them out to friends, suppliers and any contacts you may have to help these people to spread the word about your business. The cards need to have all contact details, a small description of what services you offer and your business name and logo.


Advertising can be costly and give a lower return than other methods of marketing. However, it’ll raise your profile in the industry and may bring in business. If you do decide to advertise you’ll need to consider your target audience:

  • What do they read, what sites do they visit, where do they look for new suppliers?
  • Can I reach them in a cost-effective way?
  • What’s the adverts’ objective? To get them to call me, visit my website, read an article, buy my product/service, remember me?
  • What will your prospects think about you after reading the advert?
  • Does the advert represent your industry? Trendy and funky might be good in some instances but it’s probably not best for solicitors, accountants and doctors.

Initially, you may get business through networking however you may want to put out some paid adverts to put your freelance services in front of your target audience. Most people these days find suppliers online, therefore if you’re going to advertise online make sure you do your research and find the best, the most cost-effective advert for your market.

Banners and links from other websites can also bring in business. If you operate in a niche market (or even a larger industry) there’s likely to be plenty of blogs written about that market – many bloggers sell space for advertisements but if you offer a great service then they may even recommend you for free. If there’s an industry body (e.g. for freelance Photographers you may be a member of BFP), they can help promote your business, enable you to network with potential clients and put the link to your website on their pages.

Direct Sales

Picking up the phone is difficult, there’s no doubt about that. However, telemarketing can be one of the best ways to get people interested in your business.

  • Step 1 - find some local data. You can pick this up relatively cheaply off the internet, however, the quality of data can be varied. You may need to ‘clean’ the list by calling up each number and checking the details are correct.
  • Step 2 - write a script. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re calling and write down how you think the conversation would go and the difficult questions you might be asked. Make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality. Think of a good conversation starter but don’t ask any closed or negative questions. If you’re stuck, there are plenty of telemarketing templates on the internet
  • Step 3 - pick up the phone! It’s likely that you’ll get some objections but as long as you handle them professionally (and don’t panic) you’ll be fine. Your objective should not be to sell your freelance services over the phone, but rather to set up meetings to discuss how you could help the potential client. Make sure you take details over the phone as you can send more information about your services in the future.

Direct mail is one option; however, it has poor response rates and can be very expensive. If you’re going to send direct mail, make sure it’s unique and will get in front of the key decision maker – don’t just send a leaflet through the post.

Contractor CV Tips

IR35 Guide for Contractors

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