How do Freelance Designers Find Design Work?

I recently received an email from Rafael Caicedo (who is currently working on his website so I can’t link at the moment). Rafael wanted to know if I had ever written about how to find freelance work. Rafael has agreed that I can show his email-

…I was wondering if you had ever written an article on how Freelancers find work.. Or if any of the Freelance websites work for people.

I’ve been working freelance for about a year and in my experience I have found work through referrals,.. but have never used or or any other web freelance site. I am wondering if these sites are better suited for designers that are based in other countries with a cheaper economy, like India, Eastern Europe,.. or Middle East… who can afford to charge less,.. as it seems like people bring down their bids quite a bit in order to compete with others… Or at least that’s how it seems to me,..

So I am new to these websites, never having used them before, so I am kind of skeptical, if it would work for people in the states, canada or UK..

I have found a few jobs using, but these are also from time to time, as a lot of people who post, want work done for peanuts or almost for free. What has helped me during this past year, is finding a couple of long-term clients who keep bringing me work, so I’ve built a good working relationship with them and this saves me time having to be looking for more work all the time,.. although I do always keep my eyes open for other opportunities.

My thoughts are similar to Rafael’s. When I first started freelancing I looked at sites like Elance, but quickly saw that there was no way I could make a living competing with people from countries who’s cost of living is far lower.

The way I found work initially as I may have mentioned before is by writing letters and sending emails to both design agencies and companies I had worked for in the past and local design companies that I found online. On one occasion when I first started out I emailed a small local company regarding freelance design work and they asked me to do holiday cover for their one and only designer while she was on holiday. It must have gone well as from this the company owner gave my details and recommended me to another company who I have been working for (from home) on a regular basis ever since. So recommendations is a definite way to build up your client base.

One thing I have noticed is that the design industry is incredibly incestuous (at least it is locally where I live), you can more or less guarantee someone at a company you work for will know/or know of someone at another company you work for so it pays to make a good impression.

When I first started freelancing I also signed on with a couple of recruitment agencies. I have in the past found full time work with recruitment agencies but didn’t find any freelance work this way when I needed it. The two agencies I signed on with probably contacted me with freelance work about 6 months or so after I signed on with them but by this time I was busy anyway. I am sure other people have more success with freelancing through recruitment agencies but it didn’t work for me.

I have recently been receiving quite a lot of enquiries through my blog for quotes for design work which is great so I would definitely say it is worth setting up a website with blog and portfolio.

There are several online design related job boards (I have signed on with some of them but not actively sought work through them so cannot comment of success rates) – the UK ones I am aware of:

How do you find freelance design work, do online freelance sites work for you or do you use other methods to find freelance work?

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