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Ask HN: Where are you finding freelance/fractional work?
77 points by v1l on Dec 10, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments
Not really sure where the good freelance and part-time software gigs are these days.

Upwork feels like a sh* show. There is Topal but you have to jump through all their hoops. Is there anything else where the platform doesn't keep a % and you can just find good, wholesome freelance work?

Where are you finding them?

(For context, I coach freelancers and still do some freelancing work--have been a freelancer on and off for 20+ years, but mostly a business owner now.)

This is tough so please hang in there. Online platforms are usually either described as 1) a non-starter or 2) a game, depending on who I talk to in sessions. My advice would be to think of them as your contingency/backup plan, even if it's just an automatic or compulsive thing because you already know how to search for work on those platforms and it's easy.

By far the best leads come from people you know. If those people are in a corporation (i.e. the gig would not be personal work for a friend), even better.

If you don't know anybody, it's really wise to get to know your local peers and would-be competitors. A lot of them feel embarrassed when they don't have a long enough referral list for when they are too busy. They would happily put you in there. They may also be up to letting you in on how they keep work steady. Personally I even mentored local tech people and metaphorically led them right to the water source but they had to choose how to drink and whether it fit their style.

There are lots of other ninja tips:

- Reach out to peer industries. Contact a local SEO firm or engineering firm.

- Get involved in local networking by teaching what you know, through the local college or library for example.

- Go to a locally-owned game store or tech-related business, talk to the manager, and say, "maybe it's a long shot but here's my situation," ask if they have customers who ask them for techie referrals. Public business owners get all kinds of inquiries.

Regarding gigs, a lot of times they don't exist until you make them exist. A fun part of your routine after getting into successful relationships can be inventing gigs, pulling them out of thin air. "Hey, I saw that you are turning your care focus to diabetics with vision disabilities; can we build an app which would...XYZ for people in that audience?"

You might be surprised at how many people are terrified to admit that they have no idea what's even possible. They may need someone like you to offer an idea which they can then tweak with some input.

Anyway, I hope that helps, I've seen some amazing turnarounds and you never know what will end up working. At the beginning of my career I got something like $500K worth of gigs lined up and effectively cemented my career by calling a local creative who made wine labels. Source: The Yellow Pages. Physical book. I thought it would have been at least Craigslist or something. You never know. Good luck, I'm sure something will work out.

Superb comment! Some great insights in there. A lot of it matches up with my experience too.

> At the beginning of my career I got something like $500K worth of gigs lined up and effectively cemented my career by calling a local creative who made wine labels.

What did they want you to do?

Yeah, I guess details help. Fly to Cuba, pick up some stuff, point A to point B, no big deal...

Just kidding...it was a lot of different gigs, all kinds of stuff. From 3D animation to web apps. A lot of work for sales and marketing departments. Not all in one big job or anything.

I previously found solid work on Scope (https://scopeinc.com/). They have a somewhat interesting model. They build relationships with different SaaS platforms, and when people reach out to the SaaS platforms looking for custom work or professional services they get forwarded to Scope who then sends the leads to their partner network.

No affiliation, just found a bit of work on their platform in the past (although haven't gotten any offers lately, so IDK if the volume of available work has changed).

I transitioned from employee to freelance in 2021, I’m having no problem finding work. I don’t know how much of my situation applies to you but here it goes..

Throughout the last 10 years working as employee I regularly interviewed with companies I liked (on average, once a quarter or something like that).

Now if a company wants to hire me I just tell them: “I don’t want a full time job, would you hire me for a project or hourly?”

I was blown away by the response. Most places are very happy about the idea, they save a whole bunch of money.

This is a super interesting topic, does anyone know, why it disappeared from the front page? (also didn't find it in any of the following pages) I don't see it flagged, it has quite a lot of points and comments, what happened? Also read a super interesting comment here in this thread (the comment is also gone by now): it said that people write technical books/lengthy articles with the objective to win contracting work, by counting as an expert. Can anyone expand on that, and how to win friends and influence in this manner?

Open source.

Most of our incoming enquiries from potential customers are people already using software that myself and my team wrote or are helping to maintain.

I'm aware there's a level of privilege to this but while it took years to get to the point where that was what's doing it's still the truth.

I know this probably doesn't help you today, and I'm sorry about that and it isn't your fault, but it's being paying my bills for fifteen years now and it's my honest answer as to where I'm finding work.

Good luck, mate.

did you start these projects or did you just become an active maintainer of existing projects?

If the latter, how would you identify open source projects that may lead to freelance work?

To be honest my open source stuff has largely been out of the usual reason of being annoyed something didn't already exist, sometimes adding features, sometimes building something from the ground up.

The thing is, working on stuff that was useful for myself and for the clients we already had naturally meant it would be useful to similar companies so the whole process sort of self-selected for working without there being much intentionality involved.

The nice part of it though is that it helps with work you already have available, so to a great extent it then helping find work later can be regarded as a helpful side effect.

It's also notable that I've done a lot of helping people out on IRC, mailing lists, etc. which naturally (a) means you get excellent help when you're the one who's stuck (b) builds up people who recognise you and may recommend you later.

Quite a number of customers over the years have been conversions from support channels because people have thought to themselves "if the free support for these projects is this good, I bet paying for dedicated attention will be even better for me" and Shadowcat has done our best to prove them right to have thought that ;)

Do people see your work on cpan and contact you based on it?

I just joined brain trust, which is similar to toptal, but uses the Ethereum Blockchain behind the scenes and takes a smaller cut. There are not many clients in it yet but it is worth checking out:


A.team is a bit like toptal but pays better and you don't need to jump through hoops.

It's the only online freelance platform where I've found gigs over €100/hour.

They do take 16% though.

Seems nice, I'm not interested in jumping through hoops anymore; not even to work for FAANG.. But darn, 16% is a lot :p

Not quite what you're asking but I got to senior swe level at a midsize company and just said I wanted to work 3 day weeks for pro-rata pay and they said ok.

Going through comments on social media like Reddit and ig to find topics related to your tech stack/field is helpful. Hey a conversion starred and opportunity will present itself..

I like upstack, but they also take a percentage.

couldn't figure out what there deal is as far as freelance work from their site - what's their approach?

for super small time work, karat might be useful.


Please elaborate. I’d like to learn more about how you think DAOs might help. Have been thinking myself about that.

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