16 Free ways to find leads for your freelance business

Great news: the “starving artist” cliché doesn’t have to be your reality.

The truth is, business is everywhere. But we have to train ourselves to look in the right places to uncover new opportunities.

The great news is that it’s not as hard as it seems. A few simple changes and new opportunities will come.

Having trouble brainstorming places to look for freelance jobs?

Check out the following list to get you started. Where do you find the most business opportunities? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

1. People You Pay for Services

While we love the convenience of shopping on Amazon, most of us have to go out into the real world. And that usually involves spending some money.

Want more? Have a listen.

Your local coffee shop or stationery store might need help with their websites and print materials. Some retailers may want to start selling online, but don’t know where to start.

Don’t forget about your auto mechanic, doctor, real estate agent, or family restaurant.

A friendly smile and firm handshake gives your business the edge over the 50,000 emails they get every day.

2. Job Sites

Yes, I’m going to go there.

There are a lot of cons to job sites like Upwork and Freelancer. Competition is high, and pay is sometimes low.

Large companies and agencies use these job sites, too. You may find yourself with better work than you imagined.

But creatives who stand out from the crowd can make a great living on these kinds of sites. For more info on the subject, read “How I built a 6-figure freelancing business on Elance

A couple of tips:

  • make sure to do an awesome job and get great feedback
  • look for clients that have spent over 10K and have been using the platform for a long time
  • don’t worry about a budget and don’t lowball a bid to win
  • set your rates high
  • keep your portfolio full of samples

3. Groups

Social media provides the opportunity to network with people online you normally wouldn’t have access to.

Join a few groups (here’s Millo’s Mastermind on facebook) related to your clients’ industries and spend 5-10 minutes each day looking at and answering questions.

Do not try to sell yourself (many groups don’t allow this anyway), but do speak up when someone is looking for a great designer.

There are also some good job groups on social. Though they are more for job seekers than freelancers, check the NYC Ad Jobs & Networking Facebook Group as well as the related ones for other geographical areas.

4. Other Designers

EVERY designer is different. Even if you have the same type of clients in the same type of industry and do the same type of design.

Come up with a small group of designers to recommend, and ask them to do the same for you.

Ask for help when you need business. When others have too much on their plate, they may come to you with some extra work.

5. Social Media Searches

Both Facebook and Twitter have pretty good search functions that allow you to find anything on their networks.

A search in Facebook for “graphic design jobs” came back with individual posts looking for a designer, two company pages for graphic design job websites, and some groups on the topic.

6. Local Businesses

Similar to people you pay for services, but these are places you may not frequent. Iwwwn today’s world of text messages and emails, a local business owner will appreciate the effort you make to come out and talk about how you can help them.

7. Agencies

If you’ve freelanced with an agency, call them up and ask for more work. People change jobs all the time, or sometimes they just need reminding you still exist.

8. Complimentary Service Providers

If you’re a web designer, team up with an SEO agency. Print designers could use at least one good copywriter in their contacts (especially when you see what the client’s copy looks like).

9. Past Clients & Prospects

Do you have an email list? Send your past clients and prospects a monthly email.  Sometimes people who weren’t ready to use your services before change their mind or find themselves in a new business situation.

10. Quora & Reddit

Quora and Reddit are great places to find people with questions. Enter a search term like web design, and take a look at the questions that come up on the threads and subreddits.

On Reddit, you can always check out r/forhire to look for freelance projects.

11. Friends

Do you ask your friends about your jobs? Let them know you’re looking for some new projects and ask for help, but don’t beg or badger.

12. Printing Companies

If you’re a print designer, call your printer/s and let them know you’re available for freelance projects. It’s easier to get work from someone you have a good relationship with.

If you’re a web designer, offer your services. The printer can sell it as an extra service they offer.

13. Family

Approach this situation as you would with a friend. If you approach family from a place of asking for help, they’re more likely to respond if they can make any introductions.

14. Parties

Don’t be that annoying person at the party who tries to get business from every guest. But if the opportunity arises for you to talk about your work, don’t back away from it.

15. Networking Events

There is a right way to network that adds value to your business. Learn to focus on the needs of others and you’ll get as much business as you can handle.

Check out these resources as well:

16. Activities/other obligations

Your social life provides you with a built-in network of people. Take advantage of time at school events, church groups, volunteer opportunities and any other obligation you to get to know more people who can help.

Get Out There And Get Some Leads!

Above are just 16 quick ideas to generate leads for your business for free. There are hundreds more. Take time to regularly brainstorm new ideas, try them out, and pour gasoline on the ones that work the best.

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About Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee is a copywriter and freelance business coach dedicated to help people get better at making real money doing what they love. Check out her free e-course to earn an extra $1000 in the next 30 days.


  1. I got MANY jobs from people I know and how found out I’m a web designer. I also got clients from forums I used to be active in, since people knew I had experience in my industry and also trusted me.

  2. Cannot forget Behance. It’s like a designer playground, and there are job postings aimed at you!

    • Thanks! I don’t use Behance now that I’m focusing only on my writing but I hear a lot of good things about it. I wanted to list some things that weren’t as popular 🙂

  3. Freelancers need to use every resource at their disposal to succeed! This list is a great one and doesn’t even scratch the surface of where freelancers can find jobs. Look for ways to promote your services all the time and you will succeed! Thank you for a great post 🙂

  4. I’m not a freelancer, but I find these tips great for startups as well. At the beginning, we have to work a bit like freelancers and generate leads in out of the box ways. The first customers are often the hardest to find.

    Thanks for the list, Sharon!

  5. Please, Thanks a lot for sharing. This came right on time for me. I’ll do my best to follow every piece of advice in your post.
    Thanks again

  6. Don’t forget WBE[1], I’ve been using it with some success.

    1. https://webuildevery.com

  7. As a freelancer, my first priority to get more authentic leads for my business. I try many techniques and follow different strategies to get more leads for my freelancing business. But in my freelancing journey, I used to learn that we need to find the right service provider to get more and more leads. I completely appreciate the efforts you are putting in the article to provide us better information.

  8. Priyanka says:

    Hey Sharon, what about lead generation services and softwares like Sellhack, Leadsdeposit, Aeroleads, etc that propogate to give cleaner and efficient qualified leads. Have you used these tools?


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