How To Find Clients On TikTok

Can you get clients on TikTok as a freelancer? Had you asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have probably said no.

As it often happens, I was wrong.

Janine Heinrichs used TikTok to kickstart her graphic design business and land her first clients. I find her story inspiring for many new freelancers, and it shows how any channel can work to get clients, when you execute your strategy well and give it enough time to start working.

So thanks Janine for sharing your incredible story!

For many people, including myself, the Pandemic in 2020 couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

At the end of 2019, I had just gotten a certificate from my dream school in New York City for completing a graphic design boot camp course. I was ready to hit the ground running and become a designer, so I applied to every design opportunity I could find.

The next thing I knew, the world came to a standstill, and we were all in lockdown. Now what?

I needed an escape, so I turned to video games. What else can you do than immerse yourself in virtual worlds when the real one feels uncertain and restricted?

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, lockdown didn’t show any sign of easing up. As the COVID infections continued to climb, the novelty of video games began to lose its luster.

Unexpected Inspiration

Around this time, the YouTube algorithm “gods” sent me a video that changed my life forever. It was an interview with a designer around my age who had completed a year-long poster project and landed an incredible design job in New York City. 

A newfound excitement welled up within me. What if I could do something similar? What kind of opportunities and self-discoveries would I make along the way? Could I design something every day for an entire year?

Jobless and bored, I didn’t have much to lose. As I rode this wave of inspiration, I booted up my old MacBook and started making my first poster. 

The Start of a New Project

I decided designing posters would be best because they’re a tangible product that can be sold if I wanted to go down that route. Plus, posters are versatile—they can convey a message, tell a story, or be aesthetically pleasing.

Getting into the swing of things was tough at first, I’m not going to lie. My Macbook was old, janky, and slow. The cooling fans couldn’t have been louder. Not to mention, I was using a trackpad to design (the worst of all sins!) 

That’s when I dropped $2,000 on a brand-new desktop computer without a second thought. A game-changer, to say the least!

My new setup brought a breath of fresh air to my creative process. Things started flowing more smoothly, and I saw myself improving daily. 

Grappling with the Creative Process

I’m not going to lie, some days were better than others. I had moments where ideas would form effortlessly, and within an hour or two, I would sit back, satisfied with the results. 

The other days presented daunting challenges where creative block would tighten its grip on my mind, the blank canvas seemingly mocking my attempts at conjuring inspiration. Seeing such a stark contrast from one day to the next was interesting, but such is the creative process.

However, during those challenging times, I discovered the depths of my creative resilience. Instead of succumbing to self-doubt, I embraced the struggle as an integral part of the creative process. I forced myself through it and hit the publish button regardless of how I felt.

As the weeks turned into months, my year-long poster project gained momentum. I maximized my use of hashtags by using as many as Instagram allowed. For the greatest reach, these hashtags were a mix of commonly used ones and ones that were not so common, while all were relevant to posters and graphic design.

Designing something every day became second nature, and after a few months, likes, comments, and follows started rolling in as a by-product of my efforts. More importantly, the daily commitment became a ritual, a journey of self-discovery that almost felt spiritual. 

A Pivot to TikTok

At the time, TikTok was gradually gaining popularity. But back then, it was still seen as a strange app where Gen-Zers would do cringey dance moves. 

Despite TikTok’s reputation, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I shared my process on the platform. After all, my followers on Instagram would ask questions about my process anyway. Plus, TikTok was much less saturated than Instagram, which meant I had more potential for exposure.

I took a leap of faith and gave TikTok a shot. As an extension of my static posters, TikTok provided a dynamic canvas for me to showcase my creations’ finished designs and the behind-the-scenes process. 

When I began on TikTok, I had no clue where to start. I first had to understand how to use the platform, never mind figuring out how to format my videos to get views.

I tested the waters by posting animated versions of my posters, but I soon realized it wouldn’t stick. I wasn’t getting much traction, so I pivoted to showing my design process as a story by following this structure for each TikTok video:

  • Hook: Adding text to the video saying “Day X of 365 Days of Daily Posters.”
  • Beginning: Booting up my computer and opening Photoshop.
  • Middle: Some interesting techniques and tools I used to create my poster.
  • End: The final product.

This approach seemed to work the best. I reused this formula for every TikTok video and switched up the content with a different poster. 

Compared to Instagram, the engagement on TikTok surpassed my expectations. I used trending background music and popular hashtags like “FYP” to get on the “For You” page to get the most exposure. 

Janine on TikTok – you can find her at @janinedesigns. Source: TikTok

365 Days of Posters: The Results

After about a few dozen posts, some of my videos got tens of thousands of views, then hundreds of thousands, up to the millions. Eventually, Photoshop found me and shared one of my videos on their page!

Before I knew it, I gained over 150,000 followers on TikTok in under a year, some spilling over to my Instagram account! I couldn’t believe it.

Now that I’d properly gained traction, I had moments where a video or two would suddenly take off and get lots of views, and my inbox would be flooded with messages from people proposing different projects. 

The proposals were from various people: creative directors, business owners, brands, musicians, etc. Most of these opportunities were one-off projects but had the potential to turn into long-term collaborations. 

Each of these exciting projects carried the promise of expanding my portfolio and establishing lasting connections within the creative industry. Not only that, but these opportunities had the potential to kickstart my career as a freelance graphic designer without having to chase after entry-level jobs that may not have suited me anyway.

Before the year ended, I navigated a newfound realm of possibilities. The journey that began as a response to boredom and the uncertainties of the pandemic transformed into the potential for a dynamic creative enterprise. I realized that gaining traction and attracting opportunities doesn’t have to take years as long as you commit to small daily goals and pivot when necessary. The digital stage of social media (particularly TikTok) became my gateway to a world of collaboration and opportunity.

A Pivot to SEO

This will likely come as a shock, but I pivoted into blogging and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by the end of my year-long daily poster design project. 

As challenging as my design project was at times, I enjoyed the entire experience. I learned a lot about myself, design software, and how to attract an audience on social media. Best of all, I’d discovered a new sense of trust and confidence in myself that hadn’t been there before.

However, I wanted to explore other avenues and learn to make a passive income online. I conquered the Instagram and TikTok algorithms, and it was time to take on the next one: Google.

Taking what I’d learned from school and my poster project, I made a website revolving around the best design tools for designers. The Google algorithm is a bigger beast than social media, but I’ve been learning a lot and am always up for a challenge.

While working on building traffic to my blog, I’ve gotten freelance writing opportunities through cold outreach. My biggest opportunity so far was through LinkedIn, where all I did was hit “Connect” on a Founder’s profile for a website I wanted to write for. The next thing I knew, the Founder saw some of the articles I had written on my website and asked if I wanted to write for them, and the rest is history. I’m now making enough money as a freelancer to sustain myself, which I could have only dreamed of.

Final Thoughts

The moral of the story is that there are many roads to getting clients as a freelancer, whether through posting regularly on social media, doing cold outreach, or both. The key is to stay consistent, show your work, and follow wherever your curiosity leads you. The right people and opportunities will find you!

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