From stock.xchng by jweston
A little more than a year ago, I started pursuing my career as a freelance book designer more seriously. I had been working for one client, learning the ropes, for more than a year and realized just how much knowledge I had and how much skill I'd developed. I also realized that I could and should expand my freelance world to find more, higher-paying clients. BUT with only one client, I didn't have much of a portfolio to work with.
I faced the catch-22 of all new freelancers - how to get clients without a portfolio and how to build a portfolio without clients.
At some point early last year, I came across a website called Fiverr. At the time, I think their catchphrase was "What are you willing to do for $5?" Now they bill themselves as "The world's largest marketplace for small services, starting at $5." Five dollars doesn't sound like much then and it doesn't now either - but I did have a service I could market and this seemed like as good a place as any for me to try. It didn't hurt that I was willing to format by the page for people and that fit well with the Fiverr structure. I first offered 10 pages for $5 and later, once I'd gotten a few clients and some favorable reviews under my belt, 5 pages for $5. People could place multiple orders depending on the number of pages they needed help with.
Did this swell my bank account? Not a chance. But what it did do was get me a client base. Now they were pretty stingy clients, the ones only willing to pay $5 for services worth much more, but this also meant that they were easily impressed. I overdelivered on what they expected to get for $5 every single time. My list of favorable reviews got longer and longer, my clients kept returning, and they also started referring others. Who wouldn't? What a deal!
Within a couple of months, I began upping my prices. I continued serving clients through Fiverr but I gradually began to make sure they knew about my website and could find me outside of Fiverr too. This was a little tough, since Fiverr doesn't like people to contact each other outside of their platform - you're not allowed to give anyone your email address - but at that point I figured if I got kicked off of Fiverr, it wouldn't be much of a loss. And when I stopped my Fiverr listings, it wasn't.
It wasn't a loss at all. Instead, my client base began to grow outside of Fiverr. I now had a robust portfolio - one that I began using on freelance sites. I could play with the "big boys" - not really, I'm still really small-time, but it was "big" for me - and compete for more significant jobs on sites like Guru and Elance. I've found some really great clients who aren't so stingy anymore, but are willing to pay at least a little bit closer to what my work is worth (I'm still pretty sure that my work is under-priced, but I'm ok with it for now). And the projects have been steady enough for me, my part-time schedule, and my hopes of completing my own publishing and writing projects. I really couldn't have asked for things to have turned out better. So before you turn your nose up at working for nothing or pennies or fivers, consider what it could do for your career when you still don't have much of one. It just might be the step you need to take before you'll start working for benjamins!