And yes, this works from the Philippines almost exactly as well as it works from Gifu. There a mere one hour off each other and there is no social advantage that the Japanese engineering community gives you that you cannot trivially duplicate from any cafe in southeast Asia with reliable Internet.
[ + ] Journeyman rates for programming work, trivially paid by a variety of businesses across the first world capable of hiring professionals. This is far under the going rate for people whose primary skill is writing concisely threatening letters, for example.
This is the part many people have problems with, myself included. Any tips?
Having said that, sell yourself as a niche provider, and act surprised when asked to do generic stuff.
The simplest niche to start with is "lives in the same town as me". not London or NY that does not count - think town of 100k.
Now choose three business needs (sales funnel management, tickets on smartphones, GPS tracking of goods or RFID in a warehouse.). They must be clear things. Things you could plan your architecture for just from hearing the sentence.
Write a blog post on each of them and how they can be solved or improved by software - and software is what you have experience in writing (even if not in this niche.)
PS you are probably thinking this is dodgy now - well spend a day or two making a ticket scanning app on an iPhone. Make sure the essence is there. You will even be able to write another new knowledgable article about how the focal point of smartphone cameras makes ticket scanning difficult / easy / costly whatever
Now find your local business meetups - chambers of commerce, networking meetings. Go to them, and at each of them say "I am looking for businesses that are looking for software developed to solve their problems in sales funnels / tickets on smartphones. Some networking meetups actually expect this of everyone at the meet, some you have to do this on every handshake.
(Pro tip: set up a mailchimp list called "software in middle of nowhere-vile". At the met up say "hey can I get your mail address onto my list ... ". Just push an article onto the list every so often - try monthly.
The key here is to inject a specific need into the existing network of businesses. They will take this around with them and somewhere in the next six weeks will meet someone who is trying to sell tickets and ... They will remember you. Mostly they will have forgotten your contact details but Google for your blog / search your email list will solve that.
It's painful. And it works a lot lot better if you are also calling the likely businesses yourself, contacting their CTOs. (Ps as an ex CTO I always took cold calls, but I always asked "what are you selling". The good ones could tell me.)
But sell a particular niche, and be prepared for the "I know this is not what you usually do but what if ..." That way you are really selling your "generic I can do coding me" but in not a lame and totally forgettable way.
So, have a niche, have an online presence, and sell the niche so that eventually you will be asked to step outside the niche.
Also find local government - hard to get into, pay is regular though.
I'd normally agree but anyone on HN worth their salt knows who Patrick McKenzie is.
The type of scraping projects you see on the freelancing sites typically require minimal skill and can be completed with off-the-shelf tools, many of which are open source. Folks doing these kinds of projects are not realistically going to build a book of business filled with clients paying $100/hour. You can find decent freelancers in the United States charging less who are capable of doing more sophisticated work.
I've gotten good connections on UpWork that have brought in real value for us.