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Ask HN: Fastest way to get started with freelancing?
160 points by justaguyhere on Jan 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments
Other than upwork, are there other sites that I can get started with? I don't have any contacts or a great portfolio (all my projects are corporate, behind logins) to show off. This is for some quick cash, so I am not looking for some anything great

Hello Guys, I made that list. This is just awesome that you showed love.

This is very useful, thank you

Lists like this used to be shared on del.icio.us all the time. I miss that.

Thanks for the list!

Really grateful for the work you put into this. Thanks.

It's not mine. I just can readily find it because it's listed on one of my websites: pocketputer.com

I run several websites trying to support and promote the ability to earn money online. That's just one of them.

Great list

This is one of those; if you gotta ask then it is a bad idea.

Successful freelancing requires a network of contacts that provide you work.

If you don't have that network it is unfortunately a race to the bottom where you have to rely on recruiters/brokers or worse internet freelance websites where you compete on price with students and people in low cost countries like India, Bangladesh, former Soviet union ...

You are better off getting a regular job or put in extra effort at the job you already have. And then expand your network over time.

With that logic, no one would ever become a freelancer. I started freelancing when I was 15yrs old. My portfolio was just toy projects that I did for fun. I found my first client on a forum that had a topic for posting gigs, I used the same rate that people discussed on another section of the forum which was $50/hr. If I had a corporate work history I could've easily charged more, it was a legit company. Then I found success on Craigslist (80% of the posts are terrible but there is good stuff there).

With that said, I agree you shouldn't rely on it for your main income at first which you seem to be suggesting. The OP said he just needs quick cash though.

Just giving some though love here ...

You (+ people in general) focus on hourly rates but do not factor in how much time you have spent landing that gig.

Looking at totals the general statement holds: If you don't have a network you are better off being an employee.

You can grow your network as an employee though.

Yes, I understand your view. But we all have to start somewhere - I suppose my starting point is likely going to be low end jobs on low end freelancing sites, as I have zero network and zero online presence.

Yes. Run it like any other business. Networking is only one source of lead generation.

It goes without saying you need to be well versed in what you do. You can’t charge people for you to learn.

Using AWS as an example - re:Invent is a great conference to generate business. There are always industry conferences where you can build your network.

Be helpful on mailing lists, participate in forums, participate in open source. A public body of work goes a long way.

> This is one of those; if you gotta ask then it is a bad idea.

No it's not. For example, I have an ongoing collaborative relationship with a coder I originally hired on Toptal, paying them a commission for the first year of working together per their TOS.

This guy has a whole portfolio of clients he met the same way. I've sent work his way from others who needed a dev with his skills.

Freelancing platforms work great as business development tools so you can start building a client franchise that, depending on the TOS involved, will no longer need the middleman after one year.

The idea that a network of professional contacts is highly important to building a career as a freelancer is true; the fact that consulting platforms can help you build that network is also true.

It is possible to get good quality clients without an existing network. You will need a very strong portfolio website and do a bunch of cold emailing though.

I've been freelancing for about 20 years.

I wrote about how to start your own business at https://nickjanetakis.com/blog/how-to-start-a-successful-fre....

Everything still applies today and it doesn't involve having a portfolio or using upwork.

But if you want quick work, expect it to be local, which means face to face talking with business owners right from the start.

> expect it to be local, which means face to face talking with business owners

When I first started out writing database applications with Clipper, that's exactly how I operated. It's very satisfying to work with local people helping them with their problems.

Yep and while it might start with a simple website, after you deliver on that and start hanging around their business you might be able to think of ways to improve how they operate their business.

Such as scheduling clients, inventory management or dealing with whatever problems that company has with software solutions. Before you know it, you're picking up 3 month programming contracts.

Thank you! That's a great article.

Here is my list of suggestions. Choose whichever applies in your case. They are not in any specific order.

- Sign up to mailing lists (esp. job boards) at your local universities. You will be surprised how many startups post on them looking for short term developers while they are bootstrapping. Obviously choose only the paying ones. Might pay less than market, but good for quick cash.

- Browse Craigslist (under gigs). Don't just focus on local ones. Look at those in cities that don't have a huge tech community.

- Create necessary document templates ahead of time (like NDA, contracts etc..) You will be surprised how many clients (who are hiring a contractor for the first time) don't and they will waste precious time putting these together.

- You said you are unable to show off your work. But how about showing block diagrams, technical summaries etc. (without violating NDA etc.)? Some clients prefer this to looking at code or an application.

- Network with peers including those in associated areas like graphic design, marketing, sales, project management etc.. Established contractors sometimes have extra work that they will be happy to refer to others in their circle. And you should do the same when you are ready.

Hope that helps.

> - You said you are unable to show off your work. But how about showing block diagrams, technical summaries etc. (without violating NDA etc.)? Some clients prefer this to looking at code or an application.

Sometimes a past client will approve a snippet of your work. Choose something that clearly is out of date but representative of the project; put it into a suitable format and ask for permission. For instance, I have a short segment of an analyst report (in PDF) that I wrote back in 2004; it shows that I can write that sort of stuff, but the data is so stale that nobody would worry about it sharing proprietary information.

> Other than upwork, are there other sites that I can get started with?

The answer to "which platform is best" is going to depend greatly on what you want to do.

I'm a former investment banker and the platform I use to find side work is Catalant; most of it ends up being diligence projects for PE firms. If you're a former strategy consultant or finance person, Catalant is the best platform I've found.

Toptal is probably the best marketplace for coding talent; I've used it to source engineers for projects I couldn't do myself and have been routinely impressed. Lots of really, really sharp people from Russia, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East are on there. Probably more of a buyer's market, in that the quantity and quality of the code you get for $60/hour-ish is really really good (or has been for me at least).

You mentioned a portfolio, so if you're a designer, maybe Fiverr would work.

Good luck!

Lots of really, really sharp people from Russia, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East are on there. Probably more of a buyer's market, in that the quantity and quality of the code you get for $60/hour-ish is really really good (or has been for me at least).

And this is the issue. Sure it’s good for the buyer, but commoditizing software developers is horrible for the developer. $60/hour for American developer who has to pay income taxes, self employment taxes, and has to worry about the lack of business is peanuts.

Well, Americans weren't complaining when American enterprises were driving down costs to subsistence levels in other markets. In fact, they did quite the opposite: taking moral high ground of free market and what not. Of course I am generalizing here with 'Americans'.

I’m not making any moral arguments either way. From a practical standpoint, an American developer has much better opportunities than the race to the bottom - for now at least.

Your reply made me laugh. It's totally true.

If you can find forty hours of work a week, that's about 120k. You probably can't, but being paid at the same rate of someone who makes 120k isn't peanuts.

You’re not being paid at the same rate though.

Someone working a corporate job is probably getting subsidized health insurance and at least 15 days paid time off.

A self employed consultant will also have to pay an extra 6.2% social security tax and 1.8% Medicare tax that your employer pays.

You also have the risk of not getting clients and even if by some miracle starting out you can get steady work to fill out the time, you still have to spend time promoting yourself.

For me one of the best sources of work was giving a talk at a local meetup. After my first talk I had more requests than I could handle. It also helps you jump-start your network building as people will come to you after your talk to speak to you.

The easiest way to start from scratch is to meet people in person and look for gigs locally. Without a network made of real people, in fact, the global internet is a race to the bottom. Better luck may come from local forums, though, again relying upon the opportunity to meet your clients in person.

What helped me initially was listing all recent projects (industry, research, private, even books I read) and the corresponding skills I used/learned (react, typescript, ml,cnns,etc etc) in my CV. It now looks like I am showing off :). It shows much better how much practical experience I have and allows me to pass first checks of recruiters and get into Skype/Telephone interviews. (I used https://www.gravitycv.com/, but there are surely a lot other CV generating sites).

After starting freelancer - do read out - (WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES FREELANCERS MAKE? Strategies For Beginners) https://usercv.usercv.com/blog/22/what-are-the-biggest-mista...

Also try Freelancing Platform - UserCV.com

I would actually look up mid-size businesses you'd like to work with (who can use your skills) and email the owner or manager who works in an area related to your services.

Let's say you're a developer. In this email, briefly describe a few specific ideas or improvements you can implement for them using your skills. For example, maybe you can create standalone landing pages for all of their lead magnets or set up A/B testing on their key pages.

Some templates for this you can reference: https://artofemails.com/new-clients

It's ok if you can't share your previous work, you can simply mention 2 relevant projects you've worked on and specific results you helped them achieve.

Not a problem that they are behind a wall. You can talk about them, tell the story of what you did. Highlight your services you can provide.

Expand your contacts by reaching out, often places that you might not expect.

I was making a list yesterday, there aren't that many people I can reach out to (will do what I can though). I've been kinda insulated, working remote by myself for a while now, so I don't know that many people.

See if there are meetups in your area.

I put this GH repo together with some useful resources: https://github.com/reddavis/freelancer-tools

"Quick cash" is always hard. ;-) Especially if you don't have "any contacts". However, you must know some people. Maybe not folks who are dying to give you quick cash today, but people who may know other people. Being introverted and not wanting to be one of those people who always tries to get quick cash out of people I know, I've tended not to talk about work with a lot of people. This is not smart. Ask the people you know about what's going on with them, and share what's going on with you.

It's not easy for quick cash. You need a reputation to get jobs easily and be paid enough. You need to do some terribly paid jobs, possibly at a loss, to get a reputation. The lower the entry barrier (i.e. oDesk/Craigslist), the worse the rates are, to the point it costs you to start.

I'd say that ironically something like Fiverr might be ideal for quick cash. Try to specialize in a niche.

One possibility for showing the projects off behind the firewall would be creating a intro/demo video of the systems - for new employee on boarding, but also you could probably get permission from your manager or whoever to take a copy of the video home (or put online) to show family/others what you've been up to.

Crazy question: if you are just looking for some “quick cash”, could you just get a better paying job? As much as good software developers are in demand, there is usually someone willing to pay you more than you are making now unless you are already on the far right of the bell curve in terms of local salary.

This is a previous comment of mine that I usually refer to when this question comes up:


It provides a few tips and further resources.

The key points are: Build a network and start marketing your services.

Current list of 100+ remote/freelancing sites that could help: https://profitpress.com/remote-wordpress-jobs-list/

You can try with Toptal https://www.toptal.com/#connect-unmatched-coders-now

For me it is the best freelance platform I had experience with.

I don't have any contacts

Presumably there were people you worked with in those corporates. Send them a message. You might be surprised where some business can come from.

Fastest way to get started in freelancing is to get work from your employer. Lots of people get started this way.

you can email me directly tpae@superteam.io and i can help find you some jobs

Upvoted you. Too bad this isn't for visual design as well. (Former Creative Director for major brands looking)

Upwork and Fiverr are for quick cash.

Toptal and CodementorX are for longer projects.

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