How to get jobs as a freelancer
1. Keep your public profiles up to date – Be found.
Recruiters, headhunters, job agents... whatever you call them. What comes to your mind the first second you try to imagine how they search for a possible candidate? I am not into their business, but how do you search on the internet? I do by typing in keywords into a search engine. From conversations I've had, I know that they do, too. If your profile isn't in their own database already, they use the information that is out there in the public on platforms like LinkedIn. For Germany, it is primarily Xing from my experience. So choose your keywords wisely, keep them up to date and synchronise them with your latest projects, or at least with the projects you want to be requested for. If you are a developer like me, name the technologies you are working with. They do not represent your skill level in the first place, but they are used for the first call. In addition, they are using community websites where you can put your personal data into a public profile, when they search for someone with a special skill.
Probably the best advice I can give you in this context is to reply to emails from these people, at least in the first months when you start freelancing. Just write a short and nice email back that you are currently not available and add when you will be available again. Add your preferred work locations, a few keywords for them and a short description for jobs you're willing to do. They seem to be sharing this data with partners, even if it is not allowed by law without your consent.
2. Socialise – Build and grow your network.
Meeting people and building up a network of contacts is the key to finding new job opportunities. Show up publicly. Search the web and go to (local) meet-ups. Talk to people. Smile and say hi. Listen to conversations and try to join them if you've got something to add. Introduce yourself and tell people what you do. Get people to want to know more about you. You might want to create an elevator pitch for these situations upfront --- don't recite it word for word. If you don't feel comfortable that day, don't do the networking. Always be yourself, be authentic. Maybe you feel better next time. Try to go and get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to get into the right mood beforehand, especially if you are more of an introvert like me. Put an anchor that will make you stick in people's heads. In the end, you want to be the one who gets into their brain waves first when they need someone to help them.
3. Be recommended – Benefit from your network.
Personal recommendations are probably the strongest and most effective way to build trust and get the next job. If you do your job well, you will probably be recommended to people in your friends', colleagues' and client's networks. Also, the chances are much higher that you'll be hired by the same customers again. It's as simple as this: Give the best you can at every job, learn and get better.
Help your contacts out wherever you can. It is a give and take. If you do them a favour, you can ask one back in future. If you are currently working in a project and have too much work, pass some on. One day they might do the same for you.
Of course there are websites like Upwork, which were built especially for the marketing of freelancers, but personally I do not want to compete with their low-price rates.
There are also many other channels that can potentially get you the next job. For example, a personal blog, your public Facebook or Twitter profile could lead to a request if you publish good and relevant content. I didn't write about it because I haven't experienced it myself yet.