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Ask HN: How do I start freelancing?
184 points by Sargis on Jan 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments
I'm a web developer and I have been trying to get a freelance gig for the past few weeks, but it seems nobody wants to hire someone without a decent portfolio. My portfolio consists of two projects, both about 100 LOC.

Is it necessary to invest some time in building an impressive app of my own or is it possible to find someone who'll hire me despite the fact that I have almost nothing to show?




Create something that a potential client could actually find useful for his/her projects. If that something solves a problem a decent number of people are facing, quality leads will reach you without you even trying.

I wrote a Ruby gem[1] because it was a fun project. It was in a problem domain that interested me. A developer found the gem, saw that it would be useful for his project, and soon became my first client.

I tried the "MVP for $500" approach a few months back[2]. It generated some solid leads, but none of the projects were remotely as fun or as interesting as my current one. It's certainly doable to compete based on some perfect balance of price vs. quality, but I've found it's much more rewarding (mentally and financially) to compete by being the #1 expert of some piece of software a client wants to use.

Further reading:

Ruby dev Giles Bowkett wrote a pretty good blog post on lead generation for freelancers, http://gilesbowkett.blogspot.com/2010/03/programmers-what-to....

[1] https://github.com/adelevie/parse_resource

[2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2685010


With only 2 projects and 100LoC each, I would have doubts whether you have sufficient experience to go freelance yet.

Have you thought of scoping out the established freelancers in your area and contact them to do some of their lower level work at a competitive rate and with permission to link to those projects that you worked on? You certainly don't want to claim credit for work you didn't do. So you do need to be clear as to what you did. Showing your are a dependable team worker is going to be in your favour.


One easy way to start is by looking for so-called "contracting" gigs - where in practice you join a team, usually on-site, but instead of joining as an employee you bill by the day. It's not very different from having a job, but it gives you a chance to get paid for working on a diverse set of projects and to build relationships with other people who are already working as freelancers. Typically this type of work is shorter term and more flexible, so if you see that you have an opportunity to get some freelancing work you can moonlight on it, or reduce your work to 3-4 days a week.


You could try doing what I did; It resulted in 20 leads (that's $20k of work), even though I was really under pricing it.

My pitch was: MVP For $1k. You get an MVP for 1k. 0 iterations. I could have charged $3-5k at least, looking back.

See hn thread here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2075928

This was the building block of my former consulting company.

Additionally, I'd recommend cold calling (you have to be good in sales, if you're not, get better at it now -- go read the ultimate sales machine). It's highly effective. Personal experience.


Did people directly tell you it is because you don't have a portfolio? And was that the real reason? I would be careful about making assumptions.

Most people that get into the freelance game have little experience selling themselves (I know I sure did), I would suggest sales skills will help you much more than a portfolio.

A person will hire you if they believe you can get the job done at a price they like. A portfolio is just a small part of saying I'm the right person for the job.

No-one ever asked me for for a portfolio when I was doing websites, because they aren't interested in what I did in the past, they are interested in what I can do for them. Obviously the more complicated the job, the more proof someone will be likely to ask for. Wasn't sure if your talking about making websites or more complicated development.

Can you post specifically what you have done to try and get a freelance gig. I feel we can help you much better then, rather than give generic advice about yeah portfolios are helpful(which you already know).


I'm a full time freelancer, and I've never shown anyone a portfolio. My jobs are all earned by my reputation, which I get by my networking efforts. Even back when I had a fulltime job, I've been attending conferences and meetups, talking to people, and generally impressing them with what I know. That's how I got the ball rolling in the first place -- I've been doing this for 4 years now.

If you are a developer, and you seem relatively smart, there are hundreds of people waiting in line to hire you. Everyone needs a web developer. Everyone.


Agree 110%. People just don't ask. But people starting out assume they will ask, so they get nervous and maybe even bring it up themselves.

Also I used to charge super cheap, because I figured it was good for me to learn and good for them because they pay less (highly not recommended).

Charge a decent amount upfront, it means you can spend more hours working for them, they will value your work more, respect you more and a whole list of other things. Also if your in competition with other people bidding too low will only land you the worst clients. The best clients pay more and because they are successful will respect your time.


In a sense you have built a portfolio of connections. You spent 4 years developing relationships, building your communication, and getting to know people in the industry. Your experience shows there are many ways to approach this but I would say experience is definitely a prerequisite for any freelancer. Weather you spend time building a portfolio or an amazing network of connections in this industry, you gotta put in the time.


I'm also starting as a freelance after some years of web experience in startups and agencies but I have trouble finding these hundreds of people. Could you elaborate on this?


It really depends on where you live. If you live in an urban area with a decent population there will be people you can meet face to face.

If you live in a rural area it's going to be a lot harder to meet people in person. In that case focus on finding online leads or consider moving.


I second that. Meetups begat meetups and leads begat leads, you can contribute things to the conversation and show your experise (your oral portfolio). That is how I look for developers. Things will fall into place. You just have to get out there.


Last year I started thinking I might one day go freelancing, so started attending relevant meetups and trying to figure out who to connect with locally. It was partly that which lead me to build the http://jobstractor.com (shameless plug) to try and find who was hiring near me so I could connect with them on twitter and start getting myself known. I've not made the leap to freelancing as of yet but networking has I think got me in a far better position should I want to in future.

To the OP, I did find that a lot of people in the local freelancing community were strongly connected with each other. A little bit of networking could go a long way and in my experience there has always been people looking for good developers.


I've been trying to freelance off and on for the last 10 years but the only thing that has worked so far was when I tooted my own horn a bit on elance:

https://www.elance.com/s/zmorris/

I've had one gig so far for $750 (that was an invite, not sure if from elance or the client) and it went really well. I'm hoping to find two gigs a month in the $500-1500 range each, because then I will be able to sustain myself indefinitely here in Idaho.

I think that most of the people on Hacker News are very talented and may not know it, or are sitting on achievements that they don't recognize. So maybe do some soul searching or ask friends if you have done anything they have found useful/impressive and then use that for your portfolio.

I have also been fixing computers over the last year to bootstrap but am pretty burned out on it because I did that for 3 years before quitting my job a year ago. I'm wary about being on call in my town because the main reason I'm going freelance is autonomy.

I'm very interested in being part of a freelance network that uses strength in numbers to find gigs and help guarantee work without putting undo pressure on individuals, or forcing them to give up their independence.

I guess this was an overshare but I've given up on pride and am willing to do whatever it takes to succeed this time.


You do iOS dev? You need to radically raise prices. If you do not, people will assume lack of competency, because your project rate would be undercharging as a day rate right now.


I think Elance (and others) are a great proving ground. In a very controlled environment, you can experiment with what works and what doesn't.

Over the last year I've been part-time freelancing on Elance. I've religiously documented everything I did. From the way I do my sales process to time tracking in 10 minute increments. I now earn about $1000-1500/month with small $400 projects

You do need to give it a little time. It's a very competitive world out there. But in the past 3 months I've done virtually no sales. All of my projects have been previous clients or invitations.


I attempted to start freelancing full-time about 2 years ago but had to call it quits. I had an okay portfolio... more than it sounds like you have, but nothing spectacular. It was enough to allay doubts about my expertise.

My problem was my network. I had only one regular client, a small web consultancy that gave me a couple projects. But they weren't very profitable themselves and so didn't want to pay me much, and were slow to pay even then. Beyond that I had to get work from freelancing job boards, which are a poor way to get good-paying work.

After about 6 months of trying to set up a sustainable business, only getting the occasional small gig and going into debt for the trouble, I had to call it quits. I now work at a consulting firm. I like it because it's a similar experience, but other people bring the work to me :)

My point is that having a network of people who respect your work is important. Ideally, starting out this alone should be enough for you to break even (net of living expenses). From there you can nurture those clients (they're your lifeblood) and try to expand. You should only resort to job boards as an act of desperation to keep your pipeline from drying up.

Good luck!


Don't underestimate what the parent poster says about "slow to pay". Everyone is. Think months to get paid instead of two weeks like regular employment.


Yes, dunning sucks. I did two projects for one client and they paid within a week both times. I liked them for that. Most other clients, including the regular one I mentioned before, varied between 4 weeks and 8 weeks.

There's a fine line to toe when it comes to following up on late invoices. You can't let them slide, otherwise you're throwing away money. On the other hand, you can't nag them otherwise you'll seem desperate for money. As a freelancer, you must never, ever give the impression that you're having cash flow problems. Otherwise, whether it's true or not, your credibility goes out the window.

I made the mistake of seeming desperate for payment on one of my last projects when I actually was short on money. There was a minor hiccup in their accounts payable process, and I overreacted. Realizing what I had done was one trigger that told me it was time to pack it in.


If you already have experience, but not a portfoio, I'd recommend targeting dev firms in your area for first-time clients. Here's why:

1) While I found most non-technical folks seeking freelancers to prefer a portfolio over a resume, the same wasn't true for dev firms. They usually have technical staff on board, so even though I lacked a portfolio at the time, they still recognized my technical accomplishments and background (whereas my non-technical clients really don't understand that stuff, they'd rather see a portfolio).

2) Many make use of contractors at a regular frequency, so if you're able to hook up with one, or a few, they'll help provide steady work during the early times.

3) Since they provide steady work, you don't have to concentrate as much on networking or marketing yourself. You'll eventually have to worry about that stuff, but when you're starting out you have so many other things to worry about. Dev firms help defer that burden, or at least keep the work coming while you figure that stuff out.

Best of luck. Freelancing can be tough when you start out, but very rewarding once you get into a good rhythm.


Talk to as many prospective clients as possible, face-to-face, in the geographical area in which you want to work. Explore their problems and what you might do to solve them. The ideal contract will have you and the client fitting each other, limited experience and all, and the only way you will find this ideal opportunity is to get out there.

Keep in in mind that technical is only half of it. Communication in the other half. The client wants someone that they can talk to, feel comfortable with and trust. If the client and you are comfortable, you're a long way there, even with limited experience. So again, talk to people.

If you do get online work, great, but I think you will have a better chance of getting yourself established by starting locally. Also, only take work you can comfortably handle, especially when building a reputation. Don't get desperate and say yes to bad jobs. Clients value dependability over heroic efforts.


"Keep in in mind that technical is only half of it. Communication in the other half."

Technical, imo, is about 20% of it. Communication, presentation, professionalism and responsiveness are the other 80%. I recently had a friend bring on two contractors for a project. One senior - years of tech - sr level by any measure - and one juniorish.

The sr guy spent all his time refactoring stuff that didn't need it, ignoring established tickets, not answering phone calls, ims and emails in a timely fashion, and missing deadlines. The jr level guy checked in every few hours, did the work on time and answered every question the client had.

Guess which one the client wants back for more projects? The technical stuff - you can learn that quickly. And in fact, much of that changes or is 'new' anyway so you can't be expected to be an expert at everything. You can be expected to be professional. Acting the part, and being available when a client needs you, is about 80-90% of the business.

That's not to say you should lie/fake credentials and such - you will be found out if you lie about stuff eventually, either by the client or someone in their network. My point is generally, with most client/projects, it matters less whether you're an SQL expert or CSS guru and more about whether you show up when you say you will, and deliver what you promise.


From my experience, my first jobs were from people I was connected with. Usually it was a small job building a quick website for a friend, or their boss, or a friend of a friend...you get the idea.

Even though those seemingly unimportant jobs were all I had, I was grateful because I knew they would lead to more spectacular and promising prospects.

As expected, almost a year later, I was landing great jobs thanks to my quick, small jobs at the start. People starting seeing that the jobs were finished, people were happy etc.. Although my work is now in another realm, those qualities hold true anywhere.

Try to find some jobs in your own network, see if anyone knows someone that needs a website built or even just a simple button designed. That's how I would start again if I had to.


I got started with only 1 project in my "portfolio". It was more like 5000 LOC however. Since then every client of mine has required me to sign NDAs so I currently still only have 1 project in my portfolio.


I'm surprised by a NDA that wont even allow you to disclose that you performed a project that did some certain things, or that you performed an undisclosed project for X Company, and then a list of the technologies involved.


I do disclose technology and general themes involved but frequently the contact says I cannot mention company names or individuals involved. Also even when I can, I cannot show the result of the projects to potential clients. Therefore, I only have 1 project in my portfolio showed to clients...


It all depends on what you want to do.

Do you want to basically work on your own app but perhaps do custom installs of it, or integration work with it and other systems? Then focus on building on a basic app - while you're talking to potential clients. See if any actually want to use it, and what the pain points are.

I don't do 'design' work specifically, but I suspect if you were pitching 'web site design' to people, they'd want to see a portfolio.

Here's my 'portfolio':

website with my name on it, my location, and some description of what I do. links to sample code/projects (just a handful) link to blog link to resume (outdated by 2 years) list of some moderately current projects (yes, I know you won't have that right now) list of tech I like to work with

That's my 'portfolio' on my site.

What often gets people to me, however, isn't that. It's referrals. Word of mouth referrals from people in my network. But perhaps even more importantly, I participate in local user groups. I nominally still run the local php/mysql group, although I don't do as much day to day as I did years ago. But having my name associated with the local PHP group on meetup.com means I get cold calls from people just because I organize the group.

I get probably 1 a month on average - some random project someone needs done, and they don't know where to turn. They don't care about my resume, portfolio or anything else. They have a need and need it done fast. I sometimes refer them to other people in the local group or my larger network, or take it myself.

"networking" is important, but sometimes a nebulous idea, especially for people who are just starting out. Join other networks - get out there and socialize some, and let people know what you can do. But also promote yourself. An easy way to do that is to run your own group and publicize the heck out of it.

Here's another idea:

Go to local chambers of commerce and organize a 'meet the geeks' ("meet and geek" as a name?) night for local web freelancers in your area and the chamber members. Have it be informal - maybe a couple short presentations by people in the group about "how to get started on the web" or "things to look for in a web designer". DO NOT present yourself, but do organize it. Get everyone's name.

The local chambers should be able to find a space and food and get the word out to their members.

Make yourself known as the go-to guy/gal in your area for work. Even if you can't do the work yourself - that's not as important as being the middleman for that information.

This will end up paying dividends simply because almost no one else will ever do this. The fact that you put 3 hours in to organizing an event and getting people to do something will raise your stature and peoples' estimation of what you can do 100x what it actually is, but that doesn't matter.

Feel free to ping me if you want to discuss this more, or need more help getting started freelancing. I run indieconf.com, a conference for freelancers - perhaps you could attend this fall? (shameless plug!)

EDIT: Someone wrote me asking why I said to not introduce yourself. I was saying "don't present yourself" as in "don't do a presentation yourself", but instead have the event be a spot for other people to present themselves. You'll still have a chance to meet and mingle with X other people, you won't have to be as nervous, and the people you spotlight will reciprocate nice things back to you over time.


Building a portfolio is definitely worth your time.

Reach out to an open source project that needs a new website and offer your services for free, or make a simple online utility to show off what you can do, and open source that as well (open sourcing your products shows confidence in your code).

Also (shameless plug ahead): if you're looking to pick up some freelance gigs, sign up at http://gun.io and get notified when new freelance gigs for your skills are posted.


It can't hurt to "build an impressive app of your own", but as long as it's something that is useful to other people. Don't just build something for the hell of it. Build something that you're passionate about; that you can apply to a real problem. You could also work on an open source project - the community can act as a "client" of sorts.

Ask everyone you have interacted with on some sort of professional level to recommend you on LinkedIn. If they don't have an account, offer to help them sign up.

Email everyone you know and tell them you're looking for work, and make it clear what you do (this should be in completely non-technical terms).

Answer job postings personally. Online jobs have a lot of applicants, so make sure you are showcasing your personality, as well as your skills. Not every job is a good fit, so better to eliminate the obvious duds as early as possible.

Be honest. Don't try to sound like you have more experience than you do, but also don't be afraid to speak authoritatively about topics you know well.

Respect yourself. You are interviewing to solve someone else's problems, so if you're the expert in the room (so to speak), don't be afraid to be firm on how things should be done. Quality clients should respect you for this, and you're better off without the few you'll lose anyway.

Network anywhere and everywhere!


You basically should invest some time in building up a portfolio of your own projects.

Otherwise you basically have to either undercut everybody in your bids to make yourself attractive on a cost basis, or when you bid on a project, show the customer a "proof of concept" or something that shows you already have something solid to show them before they choose a freelancer, which may or may not be feasible for the type of projects you're interested in doing.


Build at least one project that looks nice. You don't need to spend a lot of time, but buy a nice-looking theme (I used themeforest) and build a simple site for a small business. Then hit up your non-technical network. Show them that you can give them an attractive website, and you'll probably find a few people who are interested in working with you.

When I first started freelancing, I spent 10 hours on a redesign for a local fitness boutique. It was an easy project that earned $700, but I would've done it for free if I knew all the business they'd send my way after. After seeing the site, the receptionist's brother wanted a website for his bike store, another client wanted a new site for his business, even the guy who cut my hair wanted me to make him a website after seeing the one project I had done.

If you can't find anyone in your network that's looking for help, try contacting local businesses with crappy websites. You can create some screen-shots of a potential redesign or even create a working demo page using pre-built themes (check out trial.mysitemyway.com). You'd be surprised at how many projects you can get from this type of outreach.


The one thing to remember is that it takes time. The best path to take with a skim portfolio is:

1.) Think about a project you'd like to work on. It doesn't have to be crazy, but preferably has elements that will challenge you. The best projects will hands down will be the development of tools that are useful to you/open source.

2.) If you have any network at all: friends, family or previous clients, send out a quick email. Tell them what you're offering and ask if they need anything done. Make use of those closest to you/familiar with your work.

3.) Post your info on the monthly HN "Seeking Freelancers" post. This is a great way to churn out quality projects.

4.) Get on and contribute to communities like Forrst (if you don't have an invite, let me know and I'll set you up) and GitHub. There are a lot of people on these sites that tend to have overflow work that's perfect for a freelancer. Just be helpful with others and contribute ideas frequently and you'll come out on top.

If you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email: me@ryanglover.net

Best of luck!


There are also live events in every cities (Hackaton/Workshop/Conference/Programming language groups) that are useful to meet new contacts. Most often then not, people are looking for designers and developers to help them with their projects. Startup events are also nice places to find fun projects to work on. Lots of startups are happy to hire less known freelancers for a lower cost and help them build their portfolio at the same time.


One thing I haven't seen mentioned here is that you could become proficient with a certain platform and get your foot in the door that way. Just as an example, spend a lot of time on WordPress or Joomla or Drupal or another CMS. Write plugins, build themes, become really good with the platform. You'll pretty quickly find people using that platform for their companies who need help and you will be in a position to offer your expertise. That can be a way to get your freelance career off the ground.

Freelancing can be a great job but it takes time to build up a good client roster. The key to having a decent life while freelancing is having a client roster that needs ongoing work so you aren't constantly hustling for work.


I would definitely spend time building & working on your portfolio. A portfolio is really a business card for any good freelancer. Your portfolio can even be a collection of github projects, there just need to be some real substance there.

Ultimately if you land a job freelancing the client is looking for a few key things, an excellent portfolio, good communications skills, and most of all experience. These qualities take time to develop and allow the client to put more trust in the hands of someone outside the company.

An alternate to freelancing is working for some small startup for a year at a time. You'll get a wealth of experience and also a chance to build your portfolio. Good luck.


Here's an easy way to get started networking in your local area:

http://blog.asmartbear.com/cold-calling.html

Basically the gist of it is to offer people something simple for free, to build relationships.


The trick for me is just to be willing/able to work for Bangalore wages, go on odesk or whatever and find gigs that have actual specifications (they are relatively rare but there are enough if you keep paging through). Find one that you can get a good start on in a day or two and just do as much of it as you can before you have to move on. Then send them a link to the prototype you started. Usually after doing that a few times someone is smart enough to take advantage of my cheap labor.

Once I did something similar with a prototype, but it was on reddit instead of odesk, and turned into a great high-paying gig.

Of course, it would be better if you networked.


I've found that the best way to freelance is via word of mouth. However, if you don't have a portfolio, what are your credentials? How do you plan to convince people you're worth hiring? You might want to work on a side project, it goes a long way towards showing people that you can actually build nice things.

Also, the startup I'm currently working on does something directly relevant, so you might be interested in updates: http://www.instahero.com/


I agree, do side projects until you can convince somebody to pay you for similar services.


On a side note, when it comes time for your billing, check out my library, Big Bucks No Whammies (https://github.com/aantix/big_bucks_no_whammies). It allows you to generate an invoice from your git commits.

Here's a sample invoice: https://github.com/aantix/big_bucks_no_whammies/blob/master/...


Without more background info I can't give you specific recommendations but here are my general ones. Some of my recommendations are very basic with the hope they help someone so don't be insulted if you already know or understand some of this.

Freelancing is a Business

-------------------------

First make sure you realize you're starting a business. You may be working by yourself but you're starting a business like any other. You'll need to do accounting, marketing and sales, planning, etc. You can't sleep all day, lounge around, and expect work to get done. Make sure you're disciplined enough to do the work.

If you have a full time job don't quit just yet. Get a few freelance projects under your belt first. Make sure you have months of income in the bank to get you through the slow times. If you've decided to move to freelance because you lost your job think long and hard about it. Do you want to run your own business or do you just like to code? Are you prepared to chase down clients and sell your services to them?

Learn about billing and invoicing. Don't expect to bill 40+ hours a week, especially when you first start. There's overhead in running any business. You'll have tasks that aren't billable. Account for this.

You need to have people skills to run a business, especially if you haven't already established yourself. If you're not great at selling or interacting with people focus on improving these skills.

Build Credibility

-----------------

Your potential clients need to know you're credible. This is why many people have recommended improving your portfolio. In reality there are multiple ways to build credibility and the best one for you depends on what you do.

Understand your target client. You are trying to sell your services to them. You need to know what they want and need. If your client isn't technical then what good will code samples do? If your client is the CTO of a development firm how useful will a pretty website be without code?

In general it's a good idea to have a nice looking website with some sample work. It doesn't need to be an amazing design but make sure it doesn't look like a coder with no design skills made it. Pay someone if you have to, you want your business to look good after all.

The actual samples and quantity doesn't matter too much so long as it fits two criteria: it's good and it highlights what you do. If you write code have a few samples from the languages you work in. If you build basic content sites for businesses (eg CMS or ecommerce sites) put some screenshots up or link to them. If you're a designer put up some nice designs.

Portfolios are best for incoming leads, when potential clients come to you. They don't know who you are and are making a judgement based on your website. As I highlight below networking is a much better and more likely way for an unestablished freelancer to get work. Don't expect many (if any) people to stumble onto your portfolio and hire you from it.

While a portfolio style website is nice it's even better if you can establish yourself through work, video, or words. This means blogging, speaking at conferences, starting or contributing to open source projects, and hosting or organizing events related to your expertise. Establish yourself as an expert at what you do.

Set an hourly rate that reflects your skills and raise it over time. I recommend billing at least $50 per hour. Setting a higher rate actually implies credibility. That said, you'd better be able to deliver. Someone paying for your time expects to get quality work out of it.

You'll always have more credibility if you can meet someone in person. Which leads to networking.

Network, Network, Network!

--------------------------

In my opinion this is the absolute best way to get clients. Get out there and meet them in person. Reach out to people you've worked with in the past and see if they need some work done (don't steal your employer's clients though). Get on meetup.com and go to events, lots of them.

Don't network for just yourself, do it for others. If you run into someone who needs a designer but you write code put them in touch with a freelance designer who does good work. Help out your fellow freelancers and small business owners and they will return the favor. Even if they don't you'll be happy to know you helped a friend.

Try Everything

--------------

Just because people are giving you recommendations doesn't mean you can't get work elsewhere. Try everything that comes to mind.

Try looking through the computer gigs section of craigslist. I tried this once when I needed new clients. I emailed less than 10 people, had a few respond, and ended up with one client.

Get Your Hands Dirty

--------------------

Finally, be prepared to do work you hate when you first start out. You may have to accept work you don't enjoy doing to establish yourself and get experience. My first substantial freelance gig was a content site / CMS project. I hate content sites. I find them tedious and boring. I did it anyway. You have to do what you have to do.

Once you start getting enough work you can turn down projects you don't want to do. Find what you like, focus on that, but for now do whatever people will pay for.


I get most of my freelance projects from the different agencies that I signed up with. Sure they take a percentage in provision but the salaries are so high anyway that I don't mind too much.

For the provision they will do all the legal work - which can be considerable. I'm very satisfied with this arrangement.

I would recommend you to get in touch with agencies. Just make sure they don't screw you over - the division should be at least 80/20 in your favor.


Could you talk more about your experience working with agencies? Are there any in particular you would recommend?


The customer contacts the agency which then contacts me. I negotiate the salary with the agency and they make the contract and any other legal/paper work with the customer.

Before being hired you obviously have a normal interview with the customer. The depth/length of the interview is proportional to the duration of the assignment which can be anything from 3 days to several years. My last assignment was 10 months and only ended as I decided to not extend the contract.

I generally like that a given job is usually no longer than 3 months. I come, work, enjoy and leave again before it gets boring. And you leave with A LOT more money than being full time employed.

The downside of course that you have no job security, pension, health insurance and you have to manage your own company including accounting and legal work. But this is also why you are paid more as you need the money for the services related to your company.

It is my impression that it is always possible to get work. The more specialized you are and the more experience the higher the paycheck.

If you happen to be located in northern Europe I would recommend ProData Consult (www.prodataconsult.com) - my current agency. They do require your expertise to be at a certain level though.

Even though I am busy at the moment doing one of my own project I am continuously being offered new jobs from these guys and I have the impression that they really care about 'their' consultants.


Like others have said, I would work on building your portfolio. One way to do this is to donate some web development work to a non-profit in your area -- hopefully one that is well-known in the community. Not only will this give you something to add to your portfolio, but it will also give you an idea of any underdeveloped skills that you need to work on.


Improve your sales pitch. Do some initial work for a lower rate, then you'll have a portfolio of actual work.


You need more projects. They don't have to be fancy, but they should look good. Once you’ve filled out your portfolio, you should go to meetups and talk with some other designers/programmers. Many of them are busy, and they might farm some work out to you if they think you’re dependable.


A portfolio is a quick way for someone who doesn't know you to get an idea of what you're capable of. Try and get a gig through people that know you, they won't need you to prove as much. What type of gig are you looking for? What are your skills? What skills are you trying to improve?


Has anyone here checked out Ramit Sethi's paid materials on freelancing? Were they any good?

I am a fan of what he gives away for free: https://www.odesk.com/blog/2011/04/5-techniques-to-double-yo...


Start a community site regarding something you're passionate about. Blog, forum, etc. Make it clear within that community that you're a web developer and always be clear about the sort of projects you can help with. You need to be in it for the long haul because it won't take off for a while but will help you later. That worked for me at one point many years ago. An alternative would be to become entrenched within another community that is already established. Make sure you're passionate about the topic at hand (sport, hobby, etc) or you'll stand out as an imposter.

Build a personal site - nothing crazy and nothing that is difficult to update or requires constant maintenance to stop it looking dead (e.g., blog component or 'latest news').

Make sure friends and family all know exactly what you do and that you're looking for work. They'll keep an ear out for opportunities. Sometimes they might be over-enthusiastic, but any lead has value. If your work queue is empty, you can handle a few time-wasters or painful jobs to get your start.

Major charities will usually turn down offers of unpaid online work (they want donations) so try for smaller ones. Or community sports groups. Companies may be wary of someone without a portfolio but given your spare time, you can afford to design a concept to prove your ability - no obligation to them. There is a line re: 'work for free or full-rate, but never for cheap', so you might have luck doing some charitable freebies rather than cut-price for small businesses.

Remember that the little jobs will often be the most painful, so don't give up when the early projects drag out. Always be building in your head a picture of how long certain types of tasks take you. Track it manually if you need to - concept design, cut to HTML/CSS, etc.

Business networking can help. Many areas have little small business organisations that will have get togethers or advisors.

Especially look to connect with marketing people who work for small businesses with suppliers/sponsors/etc and marketing freelancers who need a go-to web guy. Make an initial contact through an unrelated interest rather than going in with a sales pitch immediately IMO. If you are a strong programmer, speak with small graphic designers who likely farm out their backend work. Or if you're a designer, try to get a feel for which IT companies want a designer they can tap either as a contractor or someone directly in contact with their client.

(Me: Web developer about to complete a 14th year in business, now with two employees. Started by working on the side during an on-the-job traineeship. All work is now just word of mouth; have never advertised, barely bothered networking, etc.)


Ask a freelancer friend to introduce you to the client. That's the best way, really.


I've had a few others ask me the same thing so I wrote this short blog post:

http://echostats.com/blog/03-31-10/find-hundreds-great-jobs-...

Here's the text:

Many have asked how I'm finding freelance jobs in this market. Well, here it is! A couple months ago I decided that I was not going to be able continue bringing on clients if I didn't bust my butt trying. I spent some time on CareerBuilder and Monster Jobs but had zero luck. Those sites are not built for the freelancer, but Craigslist is.

Craigslist is a Freelancer's Dream Come True There are so many job postings on Craigslist it seems impossible to sift through them all. To add to the problem, Craigslist is still playing this "locals-only" game where they try to trap you in your city's section. Well, as a freelancer, location is irrelevant. We can work from our home in our pajamas. So, how do break out of this localized prison? Thankfully, Craigslist gives you almost everything you need.

Craigslist Loves RSS Feeds Almost as Much as I Do Ever notice there are no images on the Craigslist site other than those inserted in the listings? If so, you missed a very important one. At the bottom of each search results page there is an orange RSS feed button and that's the most important part of this setup.

Craigslist + RSS + Netvibes Forget about your love affair with Google for one second. Google Reader is lame in comparison to the nifty, easily customizable Netvibes. For this example, it's what I'm using and it works perfectly.

Tools Gathered: Check. Now It's Time to Find Jobs On Craigslist's home page, you may or may not have noticed that there is a list on the right hand ride of the layout labeled "US Cities". This isn't by accident. It happens to be the largest cities in the US and that's exactly who I want to be targeting as a freelancer. Click on the first one in the list (Atlanta) and let's get started.

Under Jobs, I select "Web/Info Design". Select whatever option you'd like. Select all the search options you like, specifically "telecommute" No need to enter any search terms, just click Search There it is! Your list of jobs for that city. Scroll to the bottom right and grab that RSS feed Import that into Netvibes Title the feed whatever you'd like (e.g. "Web Jobs: Atlanta") Now repeat these steps for all the other cities you'd like to charge a premium for your amazing services

Contact the Job Posters Once you have the list of jobs, you need to start contacting the job posters. Be courteous, include your resume and your portfolio and don't forget your phone number! Try your best to stand out. Be very clear with your subject line what it is you're e-mailing them for. They are getting hammered with requests so you don't want to blend in.

It's a Numbers Game Recently, several people have asked how I am using Craigslist to push my freelance career forward. I thought this would be the easiest and most beneficial to spread the very simple concept so that more of you can try it. It is not fool proof and it does take work. Before I recently became maxed out with work, I was sending out 20 resumes a day. I would go for days without a single response because of the amount of e-mails the job poster was receiving. It's a numbers game and if you're persistent, it will work to your advantage.

Good luck!


try sites like vworker, elance etc


Depends on your geographical area, if you are very near a large city such as Chicago, Ad agencies will generally take you on as a temp to outsource to their clients if you have a web project portfolio to show even if its small..its not fully at freelance rates but still nice coin to get..




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