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Ask HN: College student looking for freelancing advice
29 points by chrisshroba on Nov 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
Thanks for reading! I'm looking for advice about how to get started freelancing. I'm a master's CS student in college looking to make some extra money, and I'm not sure where or how to look for freelancing work. I have three years of experience with backend python web development, using several frameworks, and would like to find companies looking for that particular skill.

Does anyone know of a way to find such opportunities? There are so many freelancing websites out there (Gigster, Toptal, Freelancer), and it's so hard to tell which to try, and which I would have a shot at getting work from.


I started freelancing full-time 8 months ago. What I found really supportive on my journey was the Creative Class from Paul Jarvis (https://creativeclass.io).

Remember that you have something valuable to bring to the table, namely yourself and your unique experiences. I would not recommend freelancing websites for one simple reason: race to the bottom. On those websites you will often be competing with super low rates.

I think one of the most effective "techniques" for finding the opportunities you are looking for is to connect with people. Spend time where other people with work opportunities are spending their time, talk to people and help others.

All the best!

Previous comment on this subject: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12744624

In general, avoid freelancing websites. Networking is key. Go to industry and tech meetups. Talk to other freelancers.

If possible find a more specific niche. Freelancers offering generic web development skills are ten a penny. Specialising in problems and industries is preferable to specialising in technologies. If you're the "Python guy" you're essentially positioning yourself as a fungible commodity. If you can for instance be the guy who uses software to solve specific problems in supply chain management that'd be a much more lucrative and sustainable niche.

I'd say: network network network. Meet people that work at companies that might want freelancers.

Or look on remote job boards and email those companies directly. If you're just beginning, be willing to work for a bit less to get your foot in the door.

I get a lot of leads going to local programming meetups. I would recommend staying away from freelancer sites, though. The rate will be low and the quality of client will be awful.

Seconded. I've hired a freelance through the university network (though, if others are like me, don't expect stellar rates :) ). You might want to ask at a local accelerator or meetups, plenty of people need a helping hand.

Hi Chris,

Picking up freelance work will be more difficult (but certainly not impossible!) if you're a student without a lot of professional experience. Most of the freelancing websites are a bloodbath race to the bottom where everyone wants work done as cheaply as possible. Toptal is a bit different, as the barrier to entry is a lot higher, so you might find it more useful than sites like Freelancer and Upwork.

You might also find the freelancer "Who's Hiring" posts here on HN useful. They pop up on the first day of every month, and you can find them archived at http://hnhiring.me/. Posting that you're available on there could be a good way to pick up some work.

Having a good portfolio page of work you've done can help tremendously. I've always liked Michael Fogleman's projects page: https://www.michaelfogleman.com/projects/

To stand out from the crowd, you don't need nearly as many projects as he has. 3-5 would probably be enough. They don't have to be huge! I've always liked downloading the GTFS schedules for a local transit agency and creating a site that makes it easy to look up schedules and stop times. It usually isn't difficult to make one that looks better and is easier to use than the actual transit agency site!

You could also do something interesting and unusual like implementing a cat detector using OpenCV and Python: http://www.pyimagesearch.com/2016/06/20/detecting-cats-in-im...

If you learned how to do that from the blog post, reimplemented it yourself, and then put some of your own customizations in it, you'd have something good to add to your projects page. Someone who had a project like that they could show me and talk about would stand out (in a good way) from 100% of the developers I've interviewed in my career. So maybe try getting a few projects up and then post on the next HN 'Who's hiring freelancers' post. There are no guarantees, but plenty of people have found good freelance gigs that way.

If there are any local developer meetups, those can be a great source of work, too. My first ever paid programming work happened because I went to a meetup and showed off a transit app I had created. I didn't have any professional experience at the time, but showing that I could actually execute and ship something convinced them to give me a chance. So having a projects page can help you here too. Other devs that go to meetup often work for companies that sometimes have extra work they need done. If they meet you and like you, and can see that you're able to take on projects and complete them, you'll be at the top of the list of people they'll contact to do work for them.

Hopefully that is helpful!

If your school has a mailing list where people send out jobs, subscribe to that and start replying. I had much more success with that than freelancing sites, in fact the only other method that really worked was Craigslist.

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