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Ask HN: How do you find clients when you have no network and can only do remote?
383 points by _ncxu on July 24, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 125 comments
I have no network, no ability to relocate, can't get a full time job right now, and urgently need to make some bucks real quick, even if it's less than I would otherwise qualify for.

But several articles and comments here suggested that upwork.com and similar freelance websites do some really shady things and that it's not good to use them for any kind of work, even temporary.

And having worked remotely for the past 5 years has really limited my ability to build a network. I don't have LinkedIn and even if I did, it's more meant for building a network than for finding a quick gig.

I've got plenty of frontend/backend/mobile/desktop skills, having made several websites and iOS apps, and 5 years experience working remotely, so I'm definitely confident that I'm qualified to do some freelancing and get a good pay, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get a job using these skills but without a network.

Any advice would be deeply appreciated. Thanks HN.

I wrote about how I learned to get consulting leads: http://www.gkogan.co/blog/how-i-learned-to-get-consulting-le...

TL;DR - Decide who is your ideal client. Identify their 1) common pain points and 2) which online communities they participate in (may or may not be HN). Write advice that will help them with their pain points, and share it in those communities. This will in effect advertise that you know how to solve their problems. Don't be too modest to say you're available for consulting projects, and make it easy for people to contact you.

PS - As someone else suggested, you may want to add your contact info here. There's a big overlap between people who browse HN and people who need and have the budget/authority to hire contractors.

That was an interesting read! Also shows the value of having side projects

How long did it take to go from 0 to clients?

Around 2-3 months. Lived off savings and a credit card. First client came from a referral, but that didn't turn out to be a consistent source. First long-term client came from seeing me on HN.

If I had started with the strategy I explained above, I'd probably get the first client much sooner.

There are pretty good Remote Job sources these days, try them. There are quite a bit of contract works too, which you can start off with. Also, do not forget to walk into your area's agencies, they usually work with freelancers/contractors.

- https://www.workingnomads.co/jobs

- https://remoteworkhub.com/remote-jobs/

- https://www.crossover.com/

- https://remote.com/

- https://weworkremotely.com/

- https://getbetterluck.com/ (one of our own internal tool)

Crossover is horrid. Just read the Glassdoor reviews.

I maintain a list with even more, which I used to get a remote job a few years ago: http://lx.tc/positions

Ad https://getbetterluck.com/ - usual struggle - when I search for "UX", it also shows job offers containting word "linux".

We're working on and will keep improving the app. Try being a bit more specific with your search keywords, permute-combine keywords, use the "Setting" for a more granular control of what shows up.

Anyway, that same "linux" posts also has "UX" and that might be the reason for your result.

Do you remember which post was the one that you got the wrong one?

I would immediately update your posting with a CV, website, git, whatever.

You are on the front page of arguably the PREMIER network of people with access / need for technologists.

Oh also I've made http://affluentconfidante.com/ in Clojure and http://editfight.com/ in Node.js using WebSockets and vanilla JS, each in the span of about a day, within the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately that, plus the iOS apps I posted about in my submissions, are about the full extent of my public resume. I've done a lot of private work that I'm not at liberty to talk about, and all I have to show for that are skills. But skills don't speak as loudly as finished public products.

Honest feedback: those "one day" sites are not impressive, and they will not enable you to win decent contracts. I get what you said, but if you really do have 5+ years experience it confused me why you, someone who want to win clients for freelancing, have not spent any real time, even if a couple weeks, building something impressive for your portfolio. Or building something impressive x 5 given the time frame here.

I have a sweet portfolio site, mostly full of personal projects, that's made it quite easy to land remote gigs. My advice: put your 80-20 focus there.

What kind of thing would you consider impressive? Quite frankly, I have no idea what I should make that would reflect several years of experience (there is also the issue of finding time for all this among other hobbies, but that’s another issue)

Could you give a link to your portfolio to get an idea what kind of portfolio attracts clients these days?

There's nothing tricky going on. You should have things that are comparable to what your clients will pay you to build. Mine paid me for their startups, and my portfolio has multiple, complete startup-like prototypes.

Good idea, thanks.

Updated my profile with an email. Don't have resume in order yet. But have done plenty of Clojure, front-end and back-end work, made several iOS/tvOS apps that ship on the App Store.

If anything comes from this, great, but I'm not betting on it, so I'm going to focus most my efforts on the suggestions to give try toptal, upwork, and freelancer.com a serious try for the short term, and to build a network for the long-term.

Sounds like a person problem. You are at the top of HN. Get off your ass and take the few hours it takes to get a resume done. Maybe that's your issue in finding work. You ask for help but are not willing to do the most basic thing required to get a job?

I have a resume, sorry for the miswording. But my wife values privacy and so isn't comfortable with me just posting it up here on HN willy nilly. And although I am comfortable with it, I feel obligated to respect her wishes.

What has privacy got to do with anything? Nuke your address/phone numbers, but it's somewhat unreasonable to ask for a job without a resume, and substituting that with 2 days of work (You said it took you about a day each to build the projects you linked in another comment).

You may have a good reason to not disclose your identity, but how do you plan to get paid. Do you want to get paid anonymously in bitcoins or you just want to provide your identity to the future employer only which does not make sense to disclose privacy only to your future employer. I am confused here.

> Don't have resume in order yet.

In another comment you said:

> I've applied for pretty much every remote job from the last HN "who's hiring" post.

You've been applying without a resume? Maybe that's what the problem is....

No, I've sent my resume to them in private. I don't have a public resume available. That's the hardest part for me. I don't have anything I can publicly show off.

It might be useful to mention where you are (location), and if you confirm your ability to bill international clients.

The problems with Upwork and Freelancer, while significant, are regularly blown out of proportion. I don't recommend them for more than finding short gigs when you're in a pinch, but they are useful for that. Do be prepared to lose a lot of jobs to bidders from the third world. Take advantage of anything that you can use to differentiate yourself.

Also, get a stack of business cards and start going to local business networking events. Look up the local Chamber of Commerce, search meetup.com, and see if your county has any small business development classes or lunches you can attend.

That's my short-term advice. I'm still trying to figure out what to do in the medium- and long-term myself.

> Look up the local Chamber of Commerce, search meetup.com, and see if your county has any small business development classes or lunches you can attend.

I'm curious if anyone has had success with this. I know Brennan Dunn talks about it as one avenue to pursue, so I've been thinking about going to the local business networking thing. I guess I just have trouble conceptualizing going from meeting people who are running local brick-and-mortar type businesses to convincing them that software is a solution to their problems.

I have found the tiny, local Chamber of Commerce to be a very significant driver of business in multiple ways.

But I believe you are thinking in a way that will not help. The point is not to convince them of anything. It is to make what you do irresistible to them.

For example, you could show how a coordinated effort getting a Google places profile, a Twitter handle, a Facebook page, and an Instagram profile all with the same name can help their search engine needs. Or you can to demonstrate to them how quickly they can update their own wordpress site and have it reflected in social media with the right plug-ins.

Sure – most of them won't need you, but the ones who do would much rather pay you to do it for them than do what you show them how to do yourself.

I'm a mobile app developer and I have got most of my work from meetups and local business events. Just remember that going to the geeky meetups will only get you so far. You need to think who would buy your services and go to meetups made for them. I've had the most success with product management and other business related meetups.

Obvious in retrospect but a very good suggestion. I mostly go to geeky meetups and usually lament how everyone is the same. When I go to the odd business meetup, I find a very diverse crowd. Finding the right business meetups can be hard though. Any thoughts on how to find them?

They all need websites. The ones that have bad websites need better ones. And to some extent, they are willing to pay rates based on value pricing, rather than a carefully clocked hourly rate. If you make their business work a lot better, you can share in the benefits.

Bear in mind that these projects are 60% about getting people to understand their choices, build a strategy, etc. ... and 40% about coding the site. Except for the ones who are utterly confused. Then it's 90/10.

> I'm curious if anyone has had success with this.

I've found full-time non-remote work through meetup.com meetups. It wasn't very hard. I'm sure mileage will vary though, especially if the "must be remote" requirement implies significant distance from an urban area.

I second this.

We used to hire on Upwork regular for bigger projects and it usually was close to a gamble (for both parties). You get > 30 applicants easily if you pay decent wages and the cv's are usually quite non saying.

We gave people small, test projects to see if they could deliver and communicate effectively (they didn't know it was a test .. we paid them of course). Been having a decent experience on Upwork so far from the hiring side (we started this year). If you found resources on how to use Upwork more effectively, would appreciate pointers :)

> The problems with Upwork and Freelancer, while significant, are regularly blown out of proportion. I don't recommend them for more than finding short gigs when you're in a pinch, but they are useful for that. Do be prepared to lose a lot of jobs to bidders from the third world. Take advantage of anything that you can use to differentiate yourself.

I would second this. It's not great pay, but OP already expressed they'd take less than market. If you learn which types of jobs to quickly ignore, I think a person could easily stay fully engaged in the $25-50/hr range. There's quite a few clients there that are sick of what they get at the lower end of the spectrum.

Most of this sounds like reasonable advice. I will warn however, that if you go to the Chamber of Commerce, be prepared to have a lot of people misunderstand what you do (no matter how you frame it) and to get a lot of time-wasting inquiries wanting you to fix their Windows problems for peanuts, even if what you do is, say, graphic design. Likewise, my experience with things on meetup.com has been terrible. It felt like mostly desperate people all trying to connect with anyone at all, and nobody who actually needed a service.

That's just the cost of doing business.

There are good groups on Meetup, at least in my area, but you do have to sift through a lot of chaff to find the wheat.

EDIT: "a lot of time-wasting inquiries wanting you to fix their Windows problems for peanuts"

If OP is as desperate for short-term cash as he says he is, Windows problems are another opportunity. Also, when dealing with people who see all these unrelated issues as "computer problems", establishing trust is more important than demonstrating skill. As a result, you'd be surprised how often fixing Windows problems can lead to actual development work, either as your client grows, or through referrals.

Honest question. Are business cards still useful?, do people actually hold to them?. If I'm interested in a person I trade emails, done. I don't know anyone who holds business cards from other people.

If you're only doing business with techies, that's probably the best way to do it.

When dealing with small business owners, you will meet people who don't have a smartphone handy to fire off an email from. Shoot, you will meet people who do not have an email address.

Yup that makes sense. I'm always working with tech people thats probably why. Well then I should probably do some networking outside my circle, could be beneficial.

How do you trade emails? You would have to write it down somewhere. Togheter with your name and the reason why he should contact you...

That's basically a business card. Just a crappy handwritten one. :)

With my cellphone, "Hey send me an email to bla bla...", no paper involved. I guess this is a scene I don't know about, someone even mentioned that some people don't have email?...crazy.

I find business cards hugely useful as the client. If you don't give me one, I'll forget how to contact you in a few hours.

I have a few inch tall stack of business cards I've collected over the years, mostly from people who wanted to sell me or the company I worked for at the time something. When I or my company want to buy something, I go to that stack and can quickly find contact info to reach out to one of the people and get quotes or info.

I think the biggest thing you can do is establishing credibility with potential clients. The easiest way to do that would to be an existing set of clients, which you don't have. That's fine, everyone has to start from somewhere.

Your clients could or could not know much about the software development life cycle, and how to evaluate if you have the skills to meet whatever needs they may have. Perhaps you could network with existing freelancers who are too busy to take on new clients.

Spitballing here, but maybe working on or creating an OSS project could give you credibility to those freelancers. Or maybe you could work under a successful freelancer to establish yourself in the space. Maybe the site you built will lend you credibility to others.

Alternatively, if you have business ideas you'd like to try out, you could try working for yourself and creating your own income. Also, it doesn't hurt to sign up for LinkedIn. It might not be immediately beneficial, but once you find your first client, maybe they'll write you a glowing review.

> having worked remotely for the past 5 years has really limited my ability to build a network. I don't have LinkedIn and even if I did, it's more meant for building a network than for finding a quick gig.

Yeah, it's hard to build a network. Time to start putting in the effort. I sense a tinge of can't-do attitude here (but obviously, the tone interpreted in written communication is subjective) -- I don't know if it's the case or not, but a can't-do attitude is not what you want to have for freelancing work. Your lack of a network, or having an expansive one, is ultimately the result of your personal decisions. You have to be willing to give it a shot. If networking sounds not fun, or like a chore and otherwise unpleasant, you're probably better off just working for a big tech company. Personal skills are far more important in freelancing and entrepreneurship when compared to standard full-time employment.

Best of luck. Now go out there and kick some ass.

While it may not fill an urgent need, have you considered finding a comfortable and stable remote job? Hackernews 'who is hiring' is a great spot; weworkremotely.com, remoteok.io.

You seem to have experiences, which is excellent. In the short term, if you're in the throes of an emergency, perhaps get some help from love ones while you get your feet back on the ground.

Looking for a project under stressful circumstances feels like it might create an uncomfortable environment to do good work and sustainably remedying what you're going through.

Good luck, whatever route you choose!

Yep, and I've applied for pretty much every remote job from the last HN "who's hiring" post. None of them went past the initial interview. What I took from that is that there's not a lot of remote work available right now in general. I'll look into the two websites you recommended, thanks.

You know, don't take this wrong, but I worry about the conclusion 'that there's not a lot of remote work available'. Rather, you seemingly got some initial interviews, so there must be jobs available. Instead, it just seems like you weren't a good fit for them.

Seriously, keep applying for work. You'll eventually get a break, particularly if you're getting initial interviews just off the strength of an application.

It is hard to find jobs that are completely remote, most want an applicant in a US or European timezone, or at least someone who can travel to the office a few times a year.

I am in a similar position to OP. I have confidence in my abilities and feel ready to join a team, but so far I have only worked freelance. If anyone is looking, please feel free to check my personal site... https://mfisher.xyz

In the past month I only found less than 10 remote jobs, and I had the skills to apply for about 8 or 9. To me that feels like a very small pool in the first place. And yes the 8 or 9 didn't hire me but that was probably because like someone else mentioned here, there's just tons of applicants, maybe I was severely undercut by someone who doesn't have a wife and 5 children to provide for.

Okay, I'm not going to leave this one be. Have you ever considered that the way you communicate may be a bigger issue? Consider this line, from your HN profile:

Email me at admin@affluentconfidante.com if you have a job to get done and money to pay for it.

At best, that is extremely unprofessional.

Or, even consider these phrases from this very comment:

In the past month I only found less than 10 remote jobs

To me that feels like a very small pool in the first place.

maybe I was severely undercut by someone who doesn't have a wife and 5 children to provide for.

In other comments, you've talked about how you don't have a 'public' resume ready, and how you only have two public projects, that you built in an hour or two over the last few weeks.

I'm looking for a job myself, so I understand that it is a hard slog, but seriously, you need to tone down the negativity.

Sorry that came off as negative. It's more or less a very limited amount of time. That's one of the reasons I can't get a "regular job". My wife has an illness we haven't gotten a stable diagnosis for yet, which makes her exhausted all the time, leaving me to watch our 5 children (from teen to baby), which is a full time job in and of itself. The few times I do anything during the day have to be done in tiny windows in which the kids aren't trying to burn down the house and terrorize each other. And I've been consistently getting less sleep than I need because I try to get little amounts of job searching or entrepreneurial work done during late hours. So any time I have to dedicate to doing any of these things, including commenting on HN, is sleep-deprived and rushed.

I just don't understand why your CV is considered too personal, but you are telling all these things.

Although that might be hard, I would recommend to reorganize your life such that you can separate your professional life from your personal/emotional life. Don't get a remote job. Move to wherever you can commute to work. Even if babysitting would take a considerable part of the paycheck, pay for it.

Probable not the comment you wanted to read, but I just wanted to address the elephant in the room. This is not about not finding online gigs. This is deeper than that.

I'm sorry that all of this is happening to your family. You're going through something terrible.

My email is in my profile. If you'd like some editing help, reach out. I can't solve your immediate situation, but maybe I can help strip it from your writing.

I've noticed the downvotes on this but my experience attempting to go full remote is that almost any remote job worth taking has a VAST number of applicants. They tend to hold out for people who are looking for VERY specific skillsets (IE, the exact combination of frameworks/toolchains they are using).

Because they have no problems getting applicants, they tend to automate the up front coding part. It generally consists of a coding challenge, taking from 2 hours to (I've actually seen) 2 weeks. To get someone to do a phone screen. Its a far more painful process. After I stopped looking for "only" remote work I had 2 very good offers in-town within literally a week, with recruiters breaking down my door. Both of which paid better than any of the remote gigs.

YMMV - remote hiring is pretty cutthroat right now.

The way to do remote is contract work. If the contract works out they can offer to hire. I've never successfully landed a fulltime remote job besides contract work.

Check out SkipTheDrive.com as well.

This will not help the OP immediately, but for anyone to avoid this situation in the first place, there are a number of techniques (some quite easy) that can help, described in this article I wrote:


More short term, I would definitely try to find a single gig, maybe via some subcontracting or via sites like toptal, just to build some runway and to make sure the techniques described above have enough time to bear fruit.

I was a freelancer with no network 10 years back. I used to get cheap projects and some crappy clients. Some 5 years back, I got to work at a startup (luck and my relentless application to jobs did the trick). I had to move away from my hometown. Remote was _not_ an option. We got bought by LinkedIn and I was an engineer at LinkedIn. That blew my network up! I get remote work offers in my hometown.

In my experience, face time matters if you are from place no one knows about. There is a reason most engineering talent is in and around Silicon Valley.

I am not sure about github or other technical profiles as the people who make the decision of hiring you never visit github or understand code. I am taking about the CEO of a small company who will hire you and not the cool SF startup that we read more often.

Companies want to reduce risk, remote increases it because of the unknowns. If I were you, I would again start with upwork and similar freelancing sites. The shady things you hear are distractions and everyone has a different experience. There is a reason the upworks of today still exist and are doing business.

I wish you the best! :)

I am in the same boat, albeit a completely different field, still it might help. Have you considered becoming a news and information resource for nonprofits, trade associations, and small businesses? I am a lobbyist and grassroots advocacy manager. I work from home, have no network, and limited ability to do so. I stumbled on to some schools that were interested in public policy, and laws. I rang one of them up and offered to monitor the law and legislation for them, and let them know when things came up that they might find interesting. Very low price, about a grand a month. That one school told someone else, and now I've got four schools. Just enough to pay the bills and eek by. I focused on keeping the price way down to entice people, make it up in volume.


I've had a few coding tasks completed by Redditors on this subreddit.

This is pretty neat, thanks! Unfortunately all the [TASK] listings are like super tiny amounts of money. To clarify, I'm talking in the hundreds/low-thousands per project.

For example, $200 to make a website that I can probably whip up in a few hours and put on AWS for them. Or maybe $2000 for a more complicated website that takes 2 weeks. That kind of stuff is what I'm looking for.

Where is your portfolio and resume and links I can look at... may have some work for you...

Email me in my profile and I'll send you some links. Thanks.

If you really need money quick, in your position, maybe some shady practices might be okay to start with.

Is this like a non-automated Mechanical Turk?

Also, I like that labour is spelled correctly.

You know how to develop iOS apps. Can you think of any company that has an iOS app you could do better? How about contacting them with suggestions and a gallery showing the apps that you have already written

I work with hotels. They face the same problem (how to get customers). There are basically two approaches: either pay someone a commission, or build a brand.

Building a brand is hard, it takes a long time, but it's worth a lot and is monetized over time.

Paying someone means accepting you're going to pay 10-15% or whatever price to someone like 10x consulting or some other sort of agency to find you work. This can be the right option if you aren't in it long-term or just plain don't want the hassle of brand-building.

I would recommend joining Gigster or TopTal if you can. Both services are in a completely different league to Upwork in all regards — great clients and projects, high-quality work opportunities, money. I freelance for Gigster, so I know more much more about them than I do about TopTal. The business models the two companies operate are different. From what I understand, TopTal connects the workforce with customers on a long-term basis, and the pay is per hour, while Gigster allows freelancers to take several gigs at any given moment and the pay is typically set according to the scope of work and the dev’s reputation. With some very rare exceptions, all work is remote. So far, my personal experience with Gigster has been amazing. I have worked on a variety of projects that have really helped my resume shine to shine, I've met lots of cool and friendly people (many of whom are among the best in their field), and I've earned quite decent money in the process. Many Gigsters have a stable six-figure income. While this may only scratch the surface of what people are paid in the Valley, when you think about combining it with the freedom to live/travel wherever you want — be it in Thailand, Costa Rica or Greece — you get a true perspective of the potential of joining Gigster.

You need RFC1149 networking https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1149.txt

In a short time? Forget about it. No one who doesn't know you first hand will engage you in a $10-20k contract. Let alone the fact that there is such a position available on short notice.

So your options are really limited: Credit card debt? Family debt? Low paying jobs?

In the longer run, there is no way around building a network. If you want high quality work, you have to build a network. It's like some guy coming to a big city and want to hit the high-end clubs, meet with high-quality people and get back home with a 9/10 girl to sleep with. Not gonna happen.

He's probably going to fail at entering the clubs (first step) and then blame it on the clubs having bad policies and stuff. If you want high paid work, you have to establish yourself first.

Establishing yourself in a certain market/niche take years of hard work on establishing yourself. It can happen on different dimensions and will depend on your style (blogging? Forums? Conferences? How about writing a book? Contributing to a popular open source project? How about becoming a main contributor of a popular open source project?).

Good luck. Tough times but I'm pretty sure you'll come out of it and it'll shape your perception down the road.

I've landed several jobs in that range without meeting someone in person. But it requires a certain amount of salesmanship and establishing proper scope.

I don't know how helpful this will be OP: but thinking about problems in your domain and writing about your solutions is a good way to establish competence. It's the difference between organic leads vs active advertising. The former has the client coming to you and the latter has you chasing the client.

Which of these do you think works the best? In my experience its the former by far (all of the people who have sought me out had the most reasonable and interesting project.) But I do understand that in the beginning you're going to have to grind to get anywhere (share your work where ever you can) which means putting in A LOT of unpaid hours doing research and development for new stuff. It's worth it though.

If you keep working on your portfolio and learning new skills then you will never have to look for work again. Just think of the security that would bring: To know that if anything happened to the company you're working for (or you get fired) you can sign a new contract the very same day. Would be amazing for most devs... But in my experience this can only happen if you specialise.

The problem is, there is too much competition for the skills you listed. As an example, if you were to learn some skills in say - big data or AI then you would be much more competitive. I know that's a big ask but one thing I think is true about the tech industry is that anyone can succeed if they put in the effort. In the end its a meritocracy, so the good developers quickly go to the top and the bad ones are weeded out... Remember companies ARE looking for good developers all the time, you just have to make yourself heard and do something worth showing (this doesn't necessarily mean applying to a company. Get creative. There are a lot of ways to stand out)

Good luck OP

If you need to make money right away, I strongly suggest you reconsider upwork (don't know the other sites you mentioned). I know a friend who worked on it as a dev. I use it as a client. The money from initial contracts might be bad, but it has the potential to turn into a more lucrative deal with a particular client (if you prove your value). This is a great way to build up experience as a consultant .. you can then say you worked as a consultant for X, Y, Z big name brand. Here is the thing .. pick your customer carefully. You want to make sure you are working with a customer who is as tech savvy as you. I work in deep tech so was able to communicate very effectively with my upworker, we were able to estimate things similarly, etc. I have seen postings on other free lance sites where someone wants you to build a highly scalable version of twitter for 50 bucks. You want to be able to avoid those people.

For quick jobs, you can look for contract opportunities. Especially in software development, there should be plenty. Sometimes it might be worth to think about lowering your rate in order to secure something and build some trust/goodwill first before then raising your rate. Note that I'm not saying lowering your rate to the point that it's dirt cheap - just low enough to get something going to build trust with a client.

Look at all the job postings for contractors and freelancers and start with those. Build up your portfolio and share your skills online.

What I've also done is track relationships, make notes and pay attention to details using a self-made app. It helps keep me organized. I started off with a spreadsheet but it became too cumbersome and I needed to make sure I maintained relationships with my previous clients while still on contract so I can minimize the time where I have no work.

I had similar problem while ago. I've decided to leave my previous workplace and search for a new one full-time.

I was applying to both remote and office-based offers, but only in my location (which suffers from lack of good job offers currently-most of them are dedicated for students with low payment).

It took me 2months to finally land in a new workplace)and it is remote which was my very dream form of working-I've done some remote freelance in the past and loved it)

I've applied to dozen job offers, most from LinkedIn, some from remote portals mentioned by other users in this thread.

In the end I've got a job from a job offer that was on stackoverflow, so maybe check there because I don't see anyone mentioned this as a source of job offers.

Keep on trying, as You can see it won't magically come to You without any action. Good luck!

Try getting into Toptal https://www.toptal.com/#connect-unmatched-coders-now It is good for both clients and freelancers because Toptal screens both for quality. I am there as a freelancer for half a year and am satisfied. It feels like they are looking after you, and you can pick and choose what you want to work on and how much. They will try to match you with the clients, or you can pick jobs, but they will never force you to do anything. And there is nothing like screen recording and tracking like in Crossover. Also, I would never work on Upwork or similar network where everybody can say about them what they want and bid on whatever they want (with low prices).

Toptal is paying you based on your geographic location so it is rubbish and makes no sense.

You can set whatever rate you want. You can set 1000$/h, but of course, no one will hire you. Anyhow, my rate on Toptal is much higher than what I could get as a senior dev in my country, so it is good for us and as I can tell from reviews much of the world. Devs from the USA complain but from what I can see there are still many devs on Toptal from the USA and many Toptal events in the USA. So to each, it`s own. Another good thing is that you can be part of Toptal and have it be a backup source of work. You can choose your availability without any penalties. As for the companies/clients of Toptal. They get tested devs, guidance (for inexperienced clients) and they have mediators (Toptal) who would guarantee the quality of the devs and intervene in the case of a problem. It is best rated freelance platform, for a reason.

Potential alternative to Upwork that sounds better: http://gigworks.blogspot.com/2017/04/moonlight-work-for-soft...

The problem with Moonlight is lack of companies on it. The large amount of developers on there compared to the number of projects and the lack of a real site (the app is just Google forms and emails) make this site feel like a waste of time.

I really wanted to like Moonlight, but I think it has some issue right now.

I can personally vouch for Moonlight - I am working on a contract with them right now and didn't have to race to the bottom on pricing. While I certainly couldn't _live_ off this single contract it does not hurt to have your name in the hat for the companies that are looking.

It's been over a month since I've applied and nobody at Moonlight has contacted me or even follow up to give me an update. The competition might be too steep there.

You're right. During startup school [1], they pushed us to do things manually - which helped us to iterate quickly and learn the process. However, we've hit the limits of what we can do manually right now, so we are in the process of building out an app. (We've even been hiring moonlighters to help us out). We plan to launch the app in the next month, and with that - we should be able to scale the number of projects.

If you're looking to be featured more prominently - shoot me an email (philip at moonlightwork.com) and we'll feature you on the next issue of Orbit [2] going out to clients on Monday.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abtHadERzXU&t=27m

[2] https://www.moonlightwork.com/orbit

It is brand new. Give it time.

I don't think time alone solves it. It's a market issue. Basically, there are more freelancers (even good ones) than demand for them. This is the case with every similar platform that I've seen or registered to in the past. For example, I've tried gun.io about 4 years ago. Maybe even found them here. Big words ("we're professional, only work with the best, tell us your minimum rate and will get you the best rate possible", etc.), simple website, simple process (write proposals and they'll do the agreement part), big waste of time. I've spent out like 30 custom proposals (that's around 15-20 hours of time wasted) and never heard back from any client, except for maybe one, but haven't even got to talk to that one either. And of course (signing up twice) I've got two confirmation emails from them in response to their usual entry test proposal saying "welcome, this is the quality we're looking for", etc.

Now as they've transitioned into a slack community a few months ago, I know that they are nice and well-meaning guys, but they just weren't able to stand up for their (you can say partly implicit) promises. And you can do quite a bit of harm and be a prick by simply not being attentive enough. For example in their case, they have like 10k(!) developers signed up. And to sign up, every one of them (us) had to fill a profile (there go 30-60 minutes, times 10k!) and do a sample proposal (which wasn't clear was just an entry test - maybe it wasn't). Now in the new slack community you can see all the gigs being posted and it's like 1/month or so. For the thousands signed up. Even if they keep working with the same freelancers as much as possible.

This is not the only example, I've seen the same with a few other companies/services, but went into the details with this one, because with them I could see behind the curtains. (With the usual website they just never get back to you, or your proposals just never get answered.) Another similar one is codementor.io, which started out as a programmer-to-programmer mentoring platform (which I do use as such) and who figured out a while ago, that they have quite a few knowledgeable developers, so they could just feed us with projects. Same thing happens: very low deal flow, quite often no feedback after submitting a proposal. (Which is just shitty customer service, of course.) Even though in their case, I do quite a bit of emailing with them (e.g. reporting bugs, suggesting usability fixes, and also sometimes they explicitly reached out for me to help with specific projects/clients in the beginning).

So this shows to me that while there is a huge unserved demand for developers, there isn't such a big demand for freelancers. Which, if I'm honest to myself, kind of makes sense. Most companies will want to keep accumulated knowledge in-house.

But despite the market situation, I'm still a bit angry with all these mediator portals. They should rob the time of everyone and sign them up in bulk. It would be a lot more responsible to say that we have enough developers for now, come back later or leave your email address and maybe a few tags and we'll ping you when there is a substantial chance that we can give actually you some work.

I have zero association with Moonlight. It just looks promising to me and I am interested in supporting gig work done right. So I have promoted them to people looking for work.

Thus, the excess of developers on Moonlight maybe partly my responsibility. I have made a mental note to look for opportunities to promote them to people who need someone to code for them to try to balance that out a bit.

I do freelance writing through a portal. It is a well designed, well run system and some people genuinely support themselves. Due to my medical situation, I only work very part time and I don't yet make the kind of money I want, but it is trending in the right direction. So I think a well done portal can work. The fact that there are lots of busted ones out there in no way proves this one is also busted or that a portal is hopeless.

I have seen some articles that suggest that gig work is the future and that up to 40% of work will be done in this fashion by 2020. I think the trend is unavoidable. So, the question here becomes "How do we do this in a way that works well for all parties?" I am interested in promoting platforms that work well for all parties, including the worker.

So, I am sorry you have had negative experiences, but I see zero to believe that the existence of multiple terrible platforms in any way suggests this particular platform is doomed to failure. Hopefully the remarks in this discussion will help the founders to focus on upping their game on finding folks looking to hire programmers, since that is currently a weakness.

You got me wrong. The ones I mention aren't terrible in general. Indeed, I went into the details exactly to prove that they don't have to be run by a bunch of unprofessional idiots to make freelancers waste their time. Yes, moonlighting looks good. So they have a nice designer. Yep, based on their comments they look nice guys. So are the others I have mentioned. (Actually, if you check out gun.io, they say they've paid something like $16M over the years to freelancers. Far from being a scam.

However, and that's the thing I tried to point out, the market seems to be aligned against this model. AND these sites should at least be aware of that and not take advantage of that. Don't play the martyr :), I didn't mean to blame you, of course, it's not your responsibility to be aware how much deals they can bring in. I just wanted to remind you, that it's not as easy as "they are just too new".

I know that everyone talks about the gig economy and how it keeps growing. But it doesn't mean that ALL kinds of jobs will be 'gigified' at the same rate. Also, the gig economy is not necessarily good for the freelancers/gig workers as long as it's a form of cost saving for the companies.

And that's exactly the reason I think that software development is just not as valuable (on average and in general) when done by freelancers as opposed to in-house devs. Because if it was, then it was just as easy to find gigs as a freelancer as easy it is to find a job as an employee (again, as a developer). But while I get regular contact requests on LI from potential employers and head hunters, it's still not trivial to land a gig as a freelancer. Even if you look through the opportunities, you'll see that there are a lot less serious ones (disregarding the competition).

There is, of course, an opportunity in this, just like any problem, so I'm not complaining, just analyzing the market.

Edit: added a smiley

the market seems to be aligned against this model

I fundamentally disagree. I've given some of the reasons why.

No real need to waste more time on this, I think.

Co-founder of Moonlight here - thanks for the mention. It costs nothing to contractors, and you set your own rate when you want to work on projects. Definitely recommend that OP signs up.

Fun story: The contractor who wrote the code for the Moonlight blog was in a similar position as OP. Hit a deer with his car, and insurance didn't cover it. Needed extra money quickly. He signed up for Moonlight and did a project in a weekend to pay for the damage.

Interesting idea. Do you have a mechanism where a moonlighter(?) doesn't get matched in a specific geography, industry or set of companies? Presumably your workers are being employed somewhere and not all employers are friendly towards moonlighting.

Also, I'm curious if you have researched the legal framework around moonlighting coupled with non-competes. My limited understanding was it is very state-based. NY, CT are not permissive while CA is very permissive. If you figured this out, there might be a lot of value to unlock.

We provide a platform for matching and payments. The contractor and the company sign a standard contractor agreement with each other. In it, the contractor agrees that they have no pre-existing obligations or commitments that interfere with the agreement. So, it's up to the contractor to ensure that any existing contracts do not interfere with the consulting agreement prior to signing it.

Moonlighters choose which projects they want to work on, so companies don't see them unless the moonlighters explicitly want to work with that company.

Thanks to you for making this and GP for linking to it. Just applied, looking forward to seeing if this works out.

Sounds great! Signing up right now. I could use some side income while working on my own projects.

I applied to Moonlight but never heard anything back, sadly (except for marketing emails).

I suppose that either they have much more developers than contractors, they only work with US people or my skills aren't needed :( (mostly PHP/Laravel backend work with various frontend skills and some experience in other languages)


You're correct - we have more contractors than developers right now. Sorry if you haven't been matched yet - if you send me an email (philip at moonlightwork.com) we can feature you on next week's Orbit [1] email to clients.

The process has largely been manual with spreadsheets until now, but soon you will be able to log in and browse all open projects.

Over half of our projects have been completed by a contractor outside the USA.

[1] https://www.moonlightwork.com/orbit

You could be a mentor in an online bootcamp. For example: https://www.thinkful.com/apply/

It's flexible part-time remote work, and you don't have to find clients yourself.

Many years ago I did just that on Elance (now Upwork) and RentACoder (now Freelancer.com). I started with a couple of jobs in below the $100, then some below the $1,000, and then some in the low thousands. Striving for excellent ratings is key.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you do now? Are you still freelancing?

There are several suggestions on how you can get an immediate gig here.

I have something else to add. Once you do get a gig and start on it, budget some time and money to grow your network. There's no real substitute for a real circle of influential and well connected contacts in my experience. Perhaps attend conferences related to technologies that you're interested in, participate on online fora (mailing lists, stack overflow etc.) to help people with their problems in exchange for visibility, get a linkedIN profile, go to local user group meetups (or atleast attend nearby ones less frequently if you're in a city that doesn't have many such groups).

Good luck!


I would suggest you to have a LinkedIn profile and update it regularly and start building the network now.. It is never too late. Meanwhile, for the job which you cannot wait for, there are many remote job portals like remoteok , weworkremotely , remote.co ,remotive, workingnomads, WFH.IO ,dribble etc which you can try .. But I would suggest you check angellist (angel.co) which offers jobs from mainly startups all over the world.

Another tip : Apply to local companies which are offering full time jobs , attend the interview and try to convince them to offer you a work from home based role ( It might work out, you never know).

Hope you find a suitabLe job real soon.

All the best ! :)

Try https://toptal.com

Once you pass their screening process, you will get jobs in one or two weeks

Something I find rather intimidating about toptal is their top 3% advertising, when I think of top 3% work I think of, say, writing an RFC of a widely used internet protocol, inventing a language and writing its optimizing compiler, automated air traffic control, debugging live code on nuclear reactor SCADA systems, that kind of stuff. I'd be interested in work at a calmer more laid back environment like only top 5% or top 10% job responsibilities. Its possible everyone there is massively underemployed, but probably not.

What I'm getting at is there's nothing wrong with a site that matches brain surgeons to brain surgeon jobs, unless you'd be chill getting an ophthalmic surgeon gig, where do I go? upwork is famous for posting gigs that would pay $125K in SV but the dreaded "average pay rate" is reported as $9.81 or whatever.

Possibly "top 3%" is meaningless in the sense of "ninja rock star" is meaningless and anyone who can fizzbuzz is by definition in the top 3% of human species programming talent.

This article[0] says the US has 3.6 million software devs. 3% of that is 108,000. The stuff you listed is like .1% of developers.

[0] http://www.computerworld.com/article/2483690/it-careers/indi...

A fellow HN user, gil_vegliach[2], wrote up a very good summary[1] of the Toptal 3% filtering process - it seems fairly rigorous, consisting of multiple rounds with a week long project (doesn't mention if this is paid or not). Basically, it sounds like a "full" tech interview.

[1] http://gilvegliach.it/?id=14

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=gil_vegliach

I'm on Toptal. I can confirm the blog post is quite accurate on the screening process. They likely receive applicants across the world and they must have a quick filter in process. Remember a lot of so-called "software engineers" can't even solve FizzBuzz. Allegedly, only 5% pass the initial algorithmic step, and the other half fails the other steps leaving only about 3% of the applicants.

You set the rates, though they'll direct your on what might be competitive. In practice, rates might not be that interesting for SV/NYC developers, but I find plenty of people from other parts of the developed world in the network - and is definitely good for South America.

And at least in my experience, staff is polite and professional. They'll help you build an attractive profile and deal with most of the usual client/freelancer nuisance, including rates and payments. As they handle most negotiation on your behalf, the relationship "smoothness" with clients is above average.

Not sure if that changed but I wanted to hire people there as I knew the screening process was rigorous; then I saw what they would charge me and the difference with what the coder gets. They made extortionist markup; I thought Upwork was bad in that respect but his was far worse. Then I read threads like this https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10107448 . Maybe they changed since but I do not think so...

What rates do you get? Seems we are still talking $30/hr with them getting $100/hr. In a 'normal' company this makes sense: all kinds of benefits, office, computer, car, whatever, but for them, for freelancers, it is not all too great for the coders. But again, might have changed. Just think if you are in that top 3%, why do you need Toptal... Every company is looking for you.

>>> Every company is looking for you.

... only if you live in NYC or SF.

The screening is only useful to test for build algorithms and very unrelated to your skills.

So prepare for irrelevant questions before get in...

Applying now, thanks!

One advice: you promised to make messages on affluentconfidante public at July 17th, but you didn't. I understand that there are still no messages there ;) But you need to do something about it. Maybe postpone the date. [I know the hunger and trying the get-rich-quick ideas; used to do it myself all the time].

Meanwhile -- can you do canvas/d3/realtime charting type of stuff?

Oops, fixed. Page is now public. I've done some d3 for my last job (custom internal reports) but it was painful. I've done real-time stuff through websockets recently (http://editfight.com/). And a little canvas to teach my oldest son that he can make Mario in the browser. But that's it.

Not sure what you mean by "network", but have you tried reaching out to businesses you truly believe you could help? Remember that work is a two-way deal. There are millions of small businesses with crappy technology. If you explain to them specifically how their business will improve from employing you to improve their technology, they'll listen.

I used to search for freelance gigs amongst the remote/full-time job boards. I wrote about it here with some of the list: https://medium.com/webuildevery-com/find-5-freelance-design-...

How about contacting a consulting agency such as http://www.tripleco.com/find-tech-jobs/ or similar agencies?

I write a lot and post the results to places with lots of visitors, and I watch the job board in a few different Slack channels and reach out to people seeking help.

Try Toptal. They say they hire the "Top 3%"..

Maybe you want to try [teamed.io](http://teamed.io).

What shady things does UpWork do?

Really doesn't fit in a quick comment. Just search around for Upwork horror stories. Not to mention that it's a giant race to the bottom anyways.

Codementor/HackHands seem to be good options.

Where the heck in the world has NO networking?

I think they probably mean the social kind.

The internet?

Thanks will check it out.

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