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The single most mentioned reason developers don’t want to start freelancing is because they would need to get their own clients. You often hear “I’m not sales person” or “I want to focus on the actual job which is coding”.
This line of thinking is often a consequence of a certain perception people might have with sales. They immediately think of cold calling a random list of people on a Monday morning who don’t know who you are and are not interested in your services. Well, before you throw in the towel yourself, let’s see if there are some methods and tips that might give you a different perspective.
To summarise, there are plenty of opportunities to get new development work. It starts with a solid basis of having a good portfolio, templates and skillset. Then, growing your network will be a main priority via your current network, events, meetups outreach, platforms, freelance boards, blogging and advertising. The list of opportunities has never been bigger for freelancers and there always be a way where you can excel at.
Before reaching out
To get started as a freelance web developer, you need to have two things: clients and projects.
However, to reach them, you need to first sort out various things on your end. After all, you cannot just decide that you want to be a freelance developer one morning and start reaching out to clients without any solid action plan. You will end up trying a lot of things and eventually reach nowhere.
Therefore, you need to have three things before you start reaching out to potential clients:
- A solid portfolio
- A network
- A contract template
Let’s discuss each of these three things in detail.
Let’s face it: clients will not hire you unless they can see your previous work to see if you are actually fit for the job. You need to prove to your potential clients that hiring you is going to be worth it for them. This is where a good portfolio comes in.
Put any relevant past projects on there. Highlight projects, topics and skillsets within these jobs. Besides that if you think about starting out as a freelance developer in a certain area it might be worth it start working on some cool development projects of your own in your free time to add to the portfolio.
It is also important yoU make your portfolio unique and personal. Tell a story and highlight projects or skills that might set you apart. Talk about your passions, what drives you and what your approach us, don’t just list your past projects.
Lastly think about how you want to publish your portfolio, it could be a PDF just like a regular resume, or a powerpoint, an interactive presentation or maybe a personal website. The latter is of course the most work but also gives you the most opportunity to make it personal, interactive and scalable.
2. Your network
Everybody has a network. Even if you don’t have 1000 connections on LinkedIn your network is still the most important asset a freelancer can have. Because while a portfolio will work as proof of your skills, recommendations and endorsements can get a real foot in the door. A good recommendations from someone you know can be more powerful then a lot of cold outreach.
Your network should know what you do, what your capabilities are and should get an update once in a while. Of course this can be simple post on LinkedIn but it can also well be on a family birthday. So reach out to friends, family members, past employers, colleagues, or even your neighbor and request them to get the word out about your skills. You could request them to recommend you to anyone in their circle who may need a web developer.
Lastly it is important to not only built your network but also maintain it. Keep reaching out to past colleagues and clients to check in on what they are up to. Good relationship building is not only very valuable it can also get you a lot of new job. Keeping in contact with someone might help you to be the first person they think of when a new opportinity arises.
Never underestimate the power of your network. Even your elderly aunt Betty can help you get in touch with a client. You never know!
3. A contract
Finally, you will also need a contract template before you actually start applying for freelance jobs and start pitching clients. It will look professional and won’t be bottleneck when you need to close something within a short timeframe.
Some clients will be fine using your contract template, while others will have their own. Either way, ensure to always insist on having a full-fledged contract, with every detail spelled out clearly, before starting a freelance job. Of course you need to set your freelance rate, and include that in the contract too.
Lastly, turn down any client who refuses to sign a contract with you. When it comes to freelancing, verbal promises are not good enough. A contract will help you protect your interest in case of conflicts between you and your client.
Where to find clients
Once you have the three things mentioned above, you can start looking for clients and winning them over with a killer pitch and your impressive portfolio.
But, where will you find these clients in the first place? Well, here are some good places to start looking:
1. Your social media profiles
2. Facebook and LinkedIn groups
Social media groups are a great place to start looking for potential clients. Join some relevant web development groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and search for posts and people who are looking to hire a freelance developer. Get in touch with them by sending a personal message and pitch your development services.
Initially, very few of them are going to reply or hire you. And that is okay. That’s how things work in the freelance world. Do not let this scare you away. Remember, you just need one client who is willing to hire you to get started! After a while you will improve and know what jobs to look for and how to close such deals.
2. Web development conferences
A web development conference is a fantastic place to learn a lot of new and valuable things and network with people in your industry.
Participating and speaking at such conferences is an excellent way to create some buzz about yourself, your portfolio, and your development services. You will be able to network with a large number of people in very less time. Some of them may even turn into paying clients later on.
3. Web development groups
Along with joining social media groups, you should also consider joining specific freelance web development groups in your niche.
Whether you are into UI design, front-end development, or full-stack development, you can find freelance development groups and forums for every niche. Some popular ones include GitHub, Women Who Code, and Ruby On Rails. Many such forums (like GitHub) also have their own job board where you can find quality leads and freelance development projects.
4. Job boards
If you are unable to find leads from any of the above-mentioned methods, you can also consider checking out some development-based job boards.
Freelance development job boards offer plenty of hot leads for development-related work. However, the competition is brutal there. This means you will need to stay active there at all times and have a speedy application process.
Having some excellent work samples and a portfolio can also increase your chances of getting good freelance development gigs through job boards. You can also check Craigslist to find some freelance development ads in your region.
So there you go! That was all about how you can get freelance development work online. Make sure to use the above-mentioned tips while starting your freelance web development journey. We are sure that you will be able to find some good clients and web development projects soon.
And if you want to get a full picture of every step you can take as a starting freelance software developer, we’ve written more on that too!