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Most clients in the freelance world want to hire someone with experience. But how are you supposed to get experience when no one will give you a chance? This is the harsh reality I faced back in 2011 when I wanted to become a freelance writer.

My goal was to quit my full-time accounting job so I could become my own boss and work as a location independent freelancer. But I quickly found that getting started, without any experience, wasn’t so easy. It took over 2 years to build up enough connections and income for me to finally realize my dream.

I made a lot of mistakes during this time and had to learn things in a hard way. But you don’t have to! If you’re a new freelancer starting out, here’s how you can get started even if you don’t have any experience.

1. Source Testimonials from Past Employers

When I first started freelancing it was just a small thing I did on the side of the day job. This is how most freelancers start out and then may choose to quit their day job later to pursue freelancing full-time. Before leaving my day job for good, I made sure to source a few testimonials from my bosses and managers.

This is one of the main reasons it’s key not to burn any bridges on your way out (if at all possible), so you can leverage these testimonials for future freelance work. It’s tough starting from scratch and having a couple of real-list testimonials from past employers could make all the difference.

Request that your employer be as specific as possible, maybe even putting together a quick questionnaire for them to fill out. Be sure to mention any special awards such as an employee-of-the-month type of recognition.

2. Make a Lateral Transition

When trying to find freelance work without any experience the strategy where you’ll see the fastest results is making a lateral transition.

A lateral move takes into account any past knowledge or major experiences and uses it as leverage for your freelance work. This allows you to basically bypass the “no experience” trap and avoid having to start from scratch.

One way I did this was by taking my 10+ years of small business accounting experience and specializing in being a small business freelance writer.

I may not have been an expert blogger or writer but I was extremely well versed in topics related to taxes, entrepreneurship, small business, accounting, and financial organization. So that’s what I focused on. This knowledge set me apart when I was seeking out freelance work as a brand new writer.

What past experience or knowledge do you have that you can use to make a lateral transition into the freelance world? Don’t look at your lack of freelance writing, editing, or assistant work as a drawback. Instead, focus on other topics or niches that you can specialize in while building your freelance portfolio.

You can always choose different topics or niches in the future, once you have some experience in your chosen field.

3. Avoid Traditional Job Boards

Traditional freelance job boards aren’t as great as the companies make them out to be.

In the nearly 6 years I’ve been in the freelance world I’ve heard from countless freelancers who have been burned on sites like Up-work and Freelancer.com. By design, traditional job boards force you to compete for pennies and often have you doing a ton of work for very little pay.

Even in the beginning, it’s best to avoid these traditional sites and seek out alternative job boards instead.

I tried a couple of freelance job boards and found that they were not for me. The type of business I’m trying to build competes on value not price.

If you striving for this too, check out these alternative sites for freelancers to find work:

  • Contently
  • LinkedIn Jobs
  • Craigslist
  • ProBlogger’s job board
  • Facebook groups
  • Mashable’s job board 

4. Network with the Influencers in Person

Even with all the online networking, I’ve done over the years an excellent strategy for landing freelance work without any experience is to connect with clients in person. Yep, the old face-to-face networking method is still one of the best!

Check your local newspaper or website for upcoming events, bulletin boards in coffee shops and restaurants, as well as sites like Meetup.

Be sure to follow your favorite brands on Facebook as they will share many local events that you can attend.

Don’t forget to ask for a business card and bring your own cards too!

They may seem antiquated but potential clients will still ask for them as a way of following up with you. Set a reminder to contact these individuals within a few days of meeting them in person. This will help take the connection to the next level so you can hopefully get hired.

5. Join Industry-Specific Groups

Lately, I’ve been having more and more success finding freelance work by interacting in industry-specific groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. For example, I belong to several groups focused on earning more money as a writer, local finance experts, freelance business bloggers, and others like this.

If you need some ideas for the best types of groups to join, you can do a quick Google search or check out this list from The Write Life.

Look for “the best Facebook groups for XYZ” or something of that nature. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always create your own group and invite other people to join. This is what I did with The Careful Cents Club and it’s grown to over 2,000 members.

Finding freelance work when you don’t have any experience isn’t impossible. You just have to think about alternative methods and unconventional strategies for getting started. Use these steps as a starting point for landing your next freelance gig. Don’t let your inexperience keep you from reaching your freelance finance goals.


Written By
Carrie Smith Nicholson is a freelance finance expert, podcast co-host and business writer. After working as a small business accountant for over a decade, and paying off $14,000 of debt, she quit her job to become her own boss. Through her blog, carefulcents.com, she's helped hundreds of freelancers and entrepreneurs find better-paying work with her #nomorejobboards movement. When she's not writing about finance and geeking out over numbers, she enjoys traveling and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter, @carefulcents.

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