What To Say To Get Freelance Work When You Have No Experience

When you’re trying to get freelance work as a fresh newbie, it can be a challenge to talk to potential clients and employers.

But not you.

In this article, I’ll cover three strategies to build up your resume (even if you have zero experience in your freelance work of choice). And you’ll get some simple scripts you can use so you’re not at a loss for what to say.

So let’s get started: here are some scripts to help you through those conversations when you’re just starting out on your freelance journey.

“I’ll Work For Free”

Everyone can get experience.

Sometimes you won’t get paid to earn it.

But when you’re looking to get freelance work with no experience, that’s okay. Focus on the long game.

Work a regular job for the money, and let your side-hustle build up your portfolio and experience so you can get paid later.

But let’s say you’ve found someone who seems to need what you want to do . . . what do you say?

In that situation, it’s pretty easy.

What To Say

You need someone to do [Insert Job]. I can help you. I’ve been working to learn this on my own, and am looking for a shot at doing this for someone. Since I’m starting out, I’m happy to do it for free. The risk for you is tiny since you won’t be out any money. And if I do the job I know I can do for you, you’ll benefit from [Insert Benefits of the Finished Project].

“I’ll Work For Free” (With Upside)

Of course, getting paid for your freelance work is better than not getting paid. 

This is just a slight variation from the previous conversation. This is a pay-for-performance play.

In a nutshell, this is what that looks like:

  • A business owner needs help
  • You have little or no experience doing the work, but you’ve studied/trained/prepared, and you just need an opportunity
  • You offer to do the work upfront for free
  • If your work generates additional revenue, you get paid
  • If your work is for something that doesn’t generate revenue (like painting a mural, addressing envelopes, whatever), then you get paid if the business owner likes what you did

This is easier to do when your freelance work is tied to revenue, but even if it’s not, you can set up an agreement where the business owner pays what they think it’s worth when the project is over.

In either case, there’s a risk you won’t get paid.

But you’re gaining experience (and hopefully a testimonial), which can do more for you in the long run.

Okay, so what do you say? It’s just a slight variation from our previous script.

What To Say (Revenue-Related)

You need someone to do [Insert Job]. I can help you. I’ve been working to learn this on my own, and am looking for a shot at doing this for someone. Since I’m starting out, I’m happy to do it for free. The risk for you is tiny since you won’t be out any money. And if I do the job I know I can do for you, you’ll benefit from [Insert Benefits of the Finished Project].

What To Say (Not Revenue-Related)

You need someone to do [Insert Job]. I can help you. I’ve been learning this on my own, and am looking for a shot at doing this for someone. Since I’m starting out, I’m happy to do it for free upfront. If you like the end result, pay me [$X or whatever you think it’s worth]. You won’t be out any money, so there’s no risk. And you get [Insert Benefits] no matter what, and you don’t pay a penny unless you like it. I’m taking all the risk.

Now, if you don’t want to work for free (or can’t afford to), you’re not out of luck. Here’s one way you can get paid for work you’ve never done before. It just takes a bit more leg work.

I’m Not Experienced For This Role, BUT . . .

Just because you’ve never done a job doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer.

This is where your creativity comes in. So before we get to “what to say”, jot down the answers to these questions:

  1. What is the company trying to accomplish with the role you want?
  2. If you don’t have experience in the position, what have you done to demonstrate that you’re a self-starter so you can land that first freelance gig?
  3. How will the company benefit from hiring you?

Let’s break these down . . .

What is the Company Trying to Accomplish with the Role You Want?

In other words, what do they want out of the deal if they were to hire you?

For example, are you a programmer? If so, the company might be looking for an on-shore programmer who can work in JavaScript and Python. They want someone who can communicate with other humans, respects deadlines, and acts like a professional.

How do you stack up?

If you haven’t done the job before, what attributes do you have that match the kind of person who’s a great fit for the role?

If You Don’t Have Experience in the Position, What Have You Done that Demonstrates that You’re a Self-Starter so You Can Land Your First Freelance Gig?

For many companies, the ideal candidate is turnkey: they know what they’re doing and can hit the ground running.

But that experience is a double-edged sword you can use to your advantage.

Experience can come with baggage.

  • Ego
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Rigid thinking
  • Hostile to change
  • And, of course, expense

So, what have you done demonstrating you’re the opposite of a grizzled-veteran-know-it-all?

How do you tackle new challenges?

What do you do when you’re not sure how to do something?

And finally . . .

How Will the Company Benefit From Hiring You?

This is an important question. Not just in the hiring process, but in life in general.

Think back to when you were in middle school and high school.

Imagine a time when you got a shirt, or shoes, or a haircut you really loved.

The problem is that it was very different from your normal look.

You wondered what people would say.

“Will they tease me?”

“Will they laugh?”

“Does it look stupid?”

You get a knot in your stomach as you make your way to the building.

You see people looking at you.

They smile. Or they just pass by, saying nothing.

For the most part, nobody says a thing.

“I knew it. This looks terrible.”

Just about everybody has a memory like this buried in their past.

But the truth is, almost nobody cares.

And the reason is simple . . .

They’re all thinking the same thing about themselves.

“Did he look at me?”

“Is she laughing at my joke, or is my fly down?”

Most people are laser-focused on their own problems and insecurities. The same is true during the hiring process.

“What’s in it for me?” is the question you need to answer for the person hiring for your role.

And as you answer these questions, be specific.

Okay, now for the script.

What To Say

When they ask you why you’re a good fit for the position (possibly referencing your lack of experience), flip the script.

Before I answer your question, what attributes are a great fit for [Insert Job]? As you’ve seen, I don’t have experience in this role, but this is why I’m a good fit for you. [Weave in the answers to the questions you answered above.]

When you ask what attributes are a great fit for the role, they’re telling you which of the answers you wrote down earlier apply. Now it’s up to you to emphasize why they’re in a better position with you — even without the experience — than they would be with a more experienced and rigid alternative.

The key here is thinking through what the company needs with the questions above, and weaving those answers into the interview to demonstrate that you’re the perfect fit for their needs.

The alternative is to NOT do what I’ve outlined, which leads you to a blundering cautionary tale from yours truly…

Don’t Be Like Me

Want to know what NOT to say?

Let me tell you — even though it shames me to do it.

Years ago I was up for a writing job.

It was with my dream company.

I messaged the president of their organization and he asked to see my work. After he reviewed it, he got me in touch with the hiring manager at one of their locations and offered to fly me down to meet with them.

Now, the hiring manager is a legend in the copywriting field. I wouldn’t say I was fanboying (but I was).

And for the 3+ hours we spent together at dinner and walking around, I couldn’t shut up.

But I don’t think that was the problem.

I said I looked forward to working closely with him so I could learn everything he had to teach.

I saw it as a mentor/mentee situation, and I said so.


There is so much about that interview I would do over, but the main thing was this: I made it clear that I wanted to suck his time like a vampire.

Rather than take ownership and learn what I need to learn, bust my tail and improve on my own time as well as at work, I made it clear that I wanted to suck up all his wisdom like a vacuum.

My friend, that’s not the way to get hired.

My advice to you is to sell them on why hiring you is a benefit to their organization — even if you have very little experience.

And if that doesn’t work, you can always…

Trouble Getting Freelance Work? Hire Yourself

Years ago when I was trying to break out of operations and get into sales, I met an executive who gave me great advice.

Our interview was great. The rapport was incredible. But I was light on sales experience.

He told me, “I like you. I think you’d work hard for me. But you haven’t sold anything. As a sales department, we’re in a tight spot. If I hire you and you’re a bust I’ll lose my job.”

He continued, “If you want to work for me, go out there and sell something. Report back in 6 months.”

That’s the classic Catch-22, isn’t it?

“You haven’t sold anything and want to sell for me? Perfect. Go sell something and you can sell for me.”

And it’s a great lesson.

Rather than convincing someone to hire you for work you haven’t done, hire yourself.

Want to work as a wedding photographer? Get a camera and photograph some weddings for free.

Want to work from home as a copy editor? Find a local marketing company or book publisher and ask if you can do some spec projects for free (or for very little).

And if you don’t want to work for someone at all, build up a portfolio of sample work.

For example, if you’re a copywriter and want to write for a mail order company (yes, they still exist), go on Amazon and find a category of products you’d love to write for. Now, write your product descriptions, product names, and sales copy as if you were writing for a catalog.

Build up your resume, even if it’s just sample work you did for yourself.

A Word About Confidence

Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, especially in the beginning. This article does a good job of distilling what it takes to have confidence in a sales setting (because even when you’re offering to do something for free or at a low cost, you still need to convince your prospect it’s a good idea to let you do it).

What I’ve found works well is believing that you have something positive to offer.

Even with no experience, will your participation in your prospect’s life be a net positive for them?

If you answered the questions listed above, you already know the answer is yes.

So if your involvement with your prospect will benefit them, then you have nothing to fear. You can be confident that they will come out ahead (which helps you, too).

Secret Tip When Selling Your Freelance Services or Interviewing For a Job (It Even Works On First Dates)

One of the most powerful strategies you can use to make a profound impression is so simple I can’t share it here. If you’re interested in learning this strategy — something you can use in sales situations, interviews, and even dating — click here to opt-in to the FreelancerFieldGuide email newsletter, and I’ll give you this mindset shift that can literally make you seem the like the most interesting person in the room. It takes less than 30-seconds to read and a minute to implement. Sign up now and get this bonus strategy as my gift.

Wrapping Up

If you want to get paid for freelancing work in an area you’ve never worked before, you’ve got options. It just takes an investment in time, effort, and a willingness to talk with lots of people to build up a record of success you can use to make your side-hustle pay (and, ultimately, turn your side-hustle into your full-time hustle).

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