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I’d contend this. Just spoke to a mate last week turning £250k at a 50% margin doing nothing but websites and SEO for B2B clients.

Websites need design, visual assets, integrations, customised features, etc. It’s definitely a volume trade: you need to primarily be concerned with new biz, but it’ll be viable for a long time to come if you know what you’re doing .

Agreed. "Basic web presence" is important, but there are a ton of businesses that could benefit from and desire small, custom, web-features. I spent some freelance time in this space, making about $75-100 per hour of pure profit, purely developing against existing web infrastructure to add small, but meaningful, features for various business sites (often hosted on GoDaddy or similar). These varied from custom client communication forms, payment integration, simple admin tools, etc. Ultimately I stopped because I didn't care about the extra cash more than my free time (competing with grad school), but could have easily filled 40 hours per week with the requests I got.

I think it heavily depends on your network and the market in your location. Sure, if you're in the Bay Area, freelance might not make sense; but find a city with 100-200k population and start building a network among small-business owners/operators and you can do just fine.

Do you have any strategies for building a network with small businesses like you describe? I have 2 or 3 clients right now, not enough work to keep me busy full-time, but I keep them happy and they love my work. I need more clients in order to reach critical mass but I have no idea how to pull it off.

Your best clients are you past and present employers/clients.

If 2-3 represents all of them then I would just put in conversation with them that you'd appreciate any referrals they can make and if you think it would help offer them some financial benefit for it (the amount is culture dependent, I find).

If you exhaust them and the rest of your professional network, try local industry meetups (especially industries that you have made sites for before).

If all else fails then try your luck in the forums and job boards. I suggest taking on small stuff to get your foot in the door and aggressively vetting the personal and business characteristics of new clients for this way.

I'm back to full time employment though so make of that what you will!

Thanks. I'm basically at the point where I've exhausted my network and some of the work has just dried up. I guess this is good, because I've been really efficient and actually gotten some of my clients to a place where they don't need much anymore.

I'm also at full time employment but I miss the autonomy and working from home.

Join a freelance network, like toptal.

The sibling to this by jrumbut has great suggestions! Personally, I made some good client connections through other freelancers in different markets, like video FX and graphic design. They often have clients that also need dev work. Or, sometimes you can find people who want it but don't know it yet; you can start a good conversation like, "you know, there's some good tech out there to add X to your site, so you or your customers could do Y much more easily." Sometimes business owners don't even consider some of the options available to them through commissioning custom software!

Agreed. I’ve no idea which businesses OP is talking about. Even if he’s referring to small mom and pop shops or local bakeries I’d argue that design, content and SEO matter.

For startups it’s even more important.

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