If you’re an aspiring freelancer wondering how you can build your portfolio or land your first client, I have some good news for you. The opportunities that you’re looking for are right under your nose. You don’t have look far and wide for your first freelancing gig or portfolio piece. In fact, there’s a huge chance that your first portfolio sample is just a few phone calls away.

5 Ways to Get Started

Friends and relatives. Ask the people closest to you if they know anyone who needs your services. When I was starting out as freelance writer and was looking for work, I made sure that my entire clan and all my friends knew about it. In fact, the first job I ever did was to re-write the game fowl website of my best friend’s dad. My friend thought it was funny that I was spending so much time on her dad’s little hobby website about raising chickens, but I treated it like a real freelance job.

If you have friends or relatives who are starting a business and could use some help with their web copy, logo, brochure, or anything else, offer to help them out for free as long as they’ll let you showcase the job in your portfolio and maybe give you a testimonial.

Everyone else. Don’t be shy about broadcasting what you do to the rest of the world. I’m always telling everyone I meet that I’m a writer. And yes, I mean everyone. That’s how I got my wedding DJ to hire me to rewrite his business website.

Sure, most people will just nod politely and say, “That’s nice.” You’ll be surprised at the number of individuals who’ll eagerly want to learn more.

Your day job. Your formal job description may not have the words “writer,” “graphic designer,” “event planner,” or [insert desired freelancing job here] but that doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t done anything that could showcase the skills that you want to sell.

Think about the things that you’ve done in your current or previous jobs and see if there’s anything that you can add to your portfolio. Perhaps your boss asked you to design the company brochure. Maybe you were tasked to write proposals for prospective clients. Were you ever assigned to any special projects (e.g. taking photos for the company, planning corporate events etc.)? If so, then dig them up and use them to start (or grow) your freelance portfolio.

Quick reminder: Make sure you aren’t breaking any confidentiality agreements with your employer. When in doubt, ask for permission.

Businesses that you’re already patronizing. Offer your services to local businesses that you patronize. For instance, the next time you hit that local coffee shop across the street, talk to the owner or manager and ask if there’s anything that you can help them with in their business. Do they need a new menu design? Is their blog updated? Volunteer to take care of those things for them in exchange for a glowing testimonial and permission to showcase the work on your site or portfolio (and who knows, maybe even free coffee).

A lot of small biz owners lack the time and resources to really bring their business to the level that they want, so there’s a good chance that your offer would be well-received.

Nonprofit organizations that you support. We all know that most nonprofit groups (particularly those at the local level) need all the help that they can get. Why not put your volunteer cap on and provide your services pro bono to a nonprofit that you support?

Not only will you feel good about yourself knowing that you’re doing it for a good cause, but you’re also getting experience, portfolio samples, and testimonials while you’re at it.

When it comes to freelancing, having the right tools for the job can make all the difference: 30 Essential Tools and Web Apps for Freelancers

Featured photo credit: Freelancer - Architect working at home on a design or draft, on his desk are books, a laptop and a helmet or hard hat via Shutterstock

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