Going freelance as a web developer

Tue, May 9, 2017 - 4 minute read

This is my first blog post about going freelance. It's going really well so far, I want to share what and how I'm doing in the hope that others can learn from my mistakes!

2 years at the same job is a long time for me. So even though I worked for my favorite company ever - (rainforest) - it was time to go.

Rather than taking another job however I decided to start contracting/consulting on my own, something that I’ve been doing in the past and had an utter thirst for. Even though I was sceptical at first I’d say right now is the best time ever to go freelance as a developer and it keeps getting better. It’s still hard work don’t get me wrong, but the demand and opportunities for web-developers are only growing!

The first two weeks - recruiters!

I was having some time off in between leaving my job and starting freelance work. So I did the lazy thing - put my CV online for recruiters to find me. I figured - what could go wrong. I have a decent background, a bunch of experience, surely it should be straight forward for me to get a contract, especially if I’m willing to commute to London since there is so much work there. So I put up my CV and waited for calls.

And sure enough, they did call - Over these two weeks - I have received 4-10 calls per day from recruiters. That’s around 70 calls over those two weeks - 1 of them turned into an offer which I didn’t end up taking… I’m not a fan of stereotypes but to be brutally honest my experience with recruitment agencies has been rather poor - the amount of wasted energy on their and my behalf - to get literally nowhere is just frustrating, surely there has to be a better way!

Networking and outreach

Turns out - a much better approach to finding contract work is - guess what - talking to people and making friends. That is literally what networking is. Reach out to friends and aquaintances on twitter over linkedin, email, facebook etc. A recommendation from an ex-colleague or a friend can land you a gig.

Here’s a list of things I use to advertise my services on a regular basis, if you can think of something I’m missing please let me know:

  • Hackernews - there’s a freelancer thread on hackernews which is a great source for leads!
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Google Ads

Positioning

If you’re anything like me and have been in web development for a while you probably have worn many hats in your career. You may have knowledge in developing backend systems but have also managed projects or dabbled in design. Offering services that broadly cover all those areas doesn’t make you stand out. Pick something that you want to specialise in and make that your business.

If you’re not sure what to specialize in, do your research, look at jobsites and see what kind of jobs people need to get done. In my case a lot of recruiters were specifically looking for engineers experienced with react. So I created three different landing pages offering different services and tested those by driving traffic to them - by using the aforementioned networks.

Your website

Ultimately, if I can’t find your business online somewhere with a decent explanation of what it is you offer then you have lost me. Your online presence needs to meet the following simple requirements: - It needs to tell me what you do - It needs to tell me how I can get in touch with you

Ideally, your website will be designed. It can be very simple, but assuring that it works responsively is a must, lots of people use their phones nowadays, you don’t want to loose those leads!

My good friend JP suggested looking at Jonathan Starks expensive problem for ideas about how to bill creatively and also double your freelancing for ideas on positioning, this helped a ton to get into the right frame of mind.

At the moment I’m getting so many requests per week that I have to turn people down - A great problem to have! I’ll write more about how it’s going and in particular how I convert leads, stay tuned!

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