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Ask HN: How does an experienced freelancer get work?
139 points by protoweek 1759 days ago | hide | past | web | 74 comments | favorite
Hello HN.

I am a highly experienced developer who has recently taken to freelancing. I looked at several freelancing websites only to be outbid by outsourcing companies with ridiculous rates. Are there other avenues, forums or resources that would help me get work?

Please do share any advice you've got, thanks a million.

Are you simply freelancing (one-man body shop) or consulting? The former is a short-term employee, the other involves "paying for a solution to a problem". Both are done for cost savings, but with a bit more up-front work to get in the door, the second tends to get you paid better.

I've actually taken this route as of a few months ago, and the best advice is to share your new plans with people you've worked with in the past who have appreciated your work. Former managers, CIO/CTOs, even contingency recruiters who have placed you in the past (worst case, you work something out on a corp-to-corp basis and they'll have plenty of work and leads for you).

I mostly do data warehouse ETL recovery/refactoring, database performance tuning, and some data architect work. The way I sell it is to distill my previous work down to some easily digestible details: "Automated recovery of existing processes, eliminating manual hand-held recovery. Improved performance of evening batch processes by 1500%. Reduced replication time to DR site by 70%". Then, when asked about details, feel free to explain it in excruciating detail over lunch. If they have a specific need, odds are you can get them the results their looking for -- explain your approach, common issues, and get in the door. Even for something like, "I need X built", you have to look past "I can do it" and try to figure out what the customer is looking to get out of it (increased sales, conversion, etc.) and explain not only how can deliver on those metrics, but ideally back it up with previous history.

I've had lunches with former bosses, and talked to former co-workers. I'm not the guy who networks at all (< 20 LinkedIn connections, ~20 friends on Facebook), but I was almost immediately inundated. I have more work than I can take on at the moment, which means I'm simply raising my rate by 60% for the next client -- and they think that new rate is just ducky.

Patio also covered this topic rather well: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/09/17/ramit-sethi-and-patrick-...

I'm not the guy who networks at all

Oh dear, Facebook and LinkedIn have done the same thing to the word network that FB did to the word friend.

You definitely network. Whereas on LinkedIn we merely "network".

No, I really don't network.

The lunches et al weren't initiated by myself. Someone has a problem, my phone rings, they suggest lunch, and I figure it's a good excuse to get some fish and chips. I don't think I've gone out of my way to reach out to someone for career purposes in nearly a decade.

MrFoof, while reading your answer i felt am reading my current situation. I am a database Architect and a Data warehouse Developer, Develop ETLs, Cubes and what goes around it and mainly use Microsoft Technology for that, am now totally burned out from my current job, i feel so tired from the routine, i want to take the step and move into my own thing were i can consult and grow on my own.

i find it much easier for Programmers, Wepapp developers, iphone of android to find jobs, but for us Database/datawarehouse pros i really don't know where to start from with clients.

if i may ask, how did you start and approached Clients, Data is very sensitive, clients don't usually allow outsiders to look into it, how did you overcome those challanges

If you're doing web or mobile development or anything that is contracted out regularly, I highly recommend you make relationships with the creative/development agencies in your area. My experience is that the decent ones always have more leads than they can execute on at any given time, which leads to two scenarios:

1) They want to grow, lack full development strength, and will subcontract you to work under their name. The rates aren't as high as you could get on your own, but it's still good pay and you didn't have to go selling. Attend a few meetings, live with a project manager, but work from home and build the relationship.

2) Projects that are too small for them to consider are immediately passed to you (and their other staff). "Sorry, we can't help you with this one, but we can recommend this guy who's done lots of good work for us."

Agreed. Although, as a person who runs an agency, I do get a lot of emails a day from freelancers. So, you should try to stand out by showing your best work up front and be a real person. Don't try to sound like you're a team of 12 by saying "we" and attaching your company logo to everything. Simply say...

"My Name is protoweek and I really like what you guys are doing. I especially like your app XYZ. If you need help on a project I'd love to work with you. Here are the last three apps I've published. If you need an invite code let me know.

http://www.protoweek.com/app1 http://www.protoweek.com/app2 http://www.protoweek.com/app3 "

Something as simple as that usually gets my attention.

This is great advice. As a former freelance developer, I used to do this often and honestly, it's not a bad deal. As you mentioned, although you're generally going to get a lower rate, you get regular work and you're no longer the sales team, project manager, etc.

We've found creative/digital agencies are a great source of work for freelancers.

In Australia at least agencies pay very well, they are billing to the client at a high rate, so the freelancer rates are easy to accomodate for.

1: Only bid on projects that ask for "good English skills". That's the code that means they're not interested in bids from traditional off-shoring destinations.

2: Once you win a few contracts on the freelancing websites, your customers should start coming to you directly and recommending you to others. You can then you can start raising your rates to something reasonable.

3: Send an email to the leaders of all the open source projects you have contributed to. It's quite possible they have more contracting work than they can handle and are willing to send work your way since they already know and trust you.

I've been freelancing for just over four months now and there are only two ways I've found clients ( who will pay the rates I charge ) so far.

1. Emailed the larger web design and creative agencies in the local area. ( Maximum around 1 1/2 hour drive is acceptable to me )

2. Created a personal website, and did some very basic ( and always improving ) keyword optimisation, for my areas of expertise.

I've been busy for the last four months solid. Right now is the first time I'm actively looking for work again, and it's mainly because I stopped emailing companies. Big mistake.

It's worth noting that the clients who have found me via my website/blog ( I try to post at least once a week) are happy to pay considerably more than the web design agencies. From my experience most web design agencies don't know how much a good developer can be worth in terms of code maintainability and time saved delivering the project.

On another note I always recommend getting face to face with potential clients. My confidence in my ability shines through when I'm in stood/sat in front of them, and really helps to build that trust factor.

As repeated in many other replies here, and something I'm only just learning myself. Find a problem that people want solving and sell yourself as the solution to that problem.

I'm still not sure what problem I'm solving or can help someone solving, but I'm hoping to figure it out sooner rather than later. :)

Hope this helps.


If you say "I don't know anyone" then start networking. Sure, it's easier said than done. But if you have the chops, and do just a few good projects, word will get around.

To take it to the next level, try to find a company that is run by or that employs a master sales person. Take that person to lunch and get a crash course in sales. Because once you have the referral, you're warm; when you know how to close, you'll be hot.

This is precisely it. I found an extraordinary mason recently from a friend's referral. He has zero online presence. When I asked him about that, he said "why would I get a website when I already have more work than I can handle?" Being known as a pro is more important than all the marketing and bidding in the world.

THIS. Referrals are how all great freelancers I know work. Word spreads very quickly if you produce quality work in a reasonable time frame and have solid estimation skills.

Don't be adverse to meeting people. Some of the best work that's come through my studio has been the result of meeting with someone six months prior and them remembering my name/work.

Reach out to people you feel you can help. Don't be arrogant, but offer an honest and articulate reasoning for offering up your services.

As a developer, have (at least) two things online: a list of recent projects (could be as simple as a Github account) and a blog/notebook with some of your work. I know a lot of the developers that I follow just from coming across an article or tutorial they wrote.

Try putting up a personal site that says who you are (a profile, photo, etc.), what you can do (services), and a rough cost estimate of working together (i.e. my projects start at $X,XXX and average $X,XXX).

Sell yourself on HN. Make sure your profile says what you can do and has contact info. Also, checkout the monthly "Seeking Freelancers" thread. It's a great jumpstart when you're looking for work.

There is no such thing as being outbid on freelancing sites. All clients see these outsourcing companies' bids as simply a spam preventing from interviewing 'real' candidates. If they are not hiring you it's something else wrong, not the price. Try thinking about the way you write cover letter: this is the main thing a real customer pays attention to (contrary to what people think it is - feedback score, experience etc). Reason is that overwhelming majority of applications on projects are merely a spam, sometimes automatically posted by a script. Every application letter which clearly does NOT sound like a spam (e.g. contains some project specific details, something on your plan on how you would do it), stands out and gets an interview.

My suggestion for freelance sites: charge people for bidding on projects. $20 per bid will be just right. Refund these for the applicant who ends up being hired. You can decrease your commissions then to discourage people from circumventing your service, remaining profitable, and keep competitive by vastly increasing the value of your service to customers because they will not have to get through tons of spam applications. Qualified freelancers will flock to you because they will not be put off by crowds of low-quality, low-priced competitors.

There is of course another problem, which is harder to fix: spam projects. People who state that they want one thing and upon interview want to lure you into something else, like working for free, for some imaginary future profit sharing (always a scam), working fixed price with a vaguely defined project goals etc...

Freelancing is all about relationships. If a possible client is looking for a freelancer to complete a project, the only difference between Developers A and Developer B is their price (because, the client isn't going to understand the skill/talent of the two developers - they're not developers themselves). But, if you're able to form a relationship with them, then you're not Developer A anymore, you're James. And there's a HUGE difference between James and Developer B. The client knows James, the client trusts James. The client knows James wont' screw them over.

So, I'd say make your approach a very personal one. Try to get them invested in you as a person. This will be difficult to do with those "one-off" jobs, but will work great for clients that have multiple projects that need to be completed. It also works well if you work as a contractor for local agencies (as suggested by @iantrerell).

Also, a decent source of information is Freelance Switch (http://freelanceswitch.com/).

As a designer I found this is the magic work equation:

1) Find a project 2) Finish project on time and budget exceeding expectations 3) Wait for client to send you referrals

Repeat steps 1-3.

I've been freelancing for ~4 years, "properly" for the last 2. This is what I have found works...

Your very best clients will come from personal recommendations. Avoid close friends recommending you; one of my first clients was recommended by a close friend, and you feel an obligation to both the client and the friend. Not fun - especially when you make a cock up and the friend calls you to say they are a bit let down. At least without the friend in the equation it is only your professional reputation at risk :)

But good clients come from acquaintances. My very best clients (around 5 regulars) come from a single friend I knew at university - they are marketing person with a big network. I didn't know them very well but they recalled I did software engineering, and got in touch a couple of years after we graduated with a client in need of help.

Tip 1: Check your wider network for possible good "contacts" and tap them for work. You don't have to be embarassed, they weren't that good a friend!

Avoid freelancer sites for the most part. You can get good income from them, but lets face it; you're looking for fun and varied work, with great money and time to call your own. Freelancing sites don't do that for you. They have limitations. You tend to find yourself grinding for work, which you then have to offer competitive prices for. People who post work to freelancer sites are often looking for value, not quality. What are you offering?

Especially this is important when starting out. I had a false start way back 4 years ago when I spent a week looking for freelancing work on those sites & failed dismally. So I went back to my day job.

Tip 2: Ignore freelance sites, mostly. At least till you are established

Learn how to sell yourself - and learn new skills! I started out as a "PHP developer". Screw that - now I am a "Full stack software engineer". I learned how to set up a server and optimise it for load. When a client I had previously done a days work for rang up, months later, in a panic because they had a flood of traffic and couldn't cope... I didn't have to turn them away, I knew how to get them up and running.

Use the right language; You. Are. An. Engineer. That is a skilled consultancy job. Don't undersell yourself as a code monkey jobbing for work. (of course, you then have to live up to that promise)

Tip 3: Learn new skills. Market those skills

Other good work comes from recommendations - these are the best because if someone has been told "Tom gets things done", and they call me, then they are already sold.

The way to make sure you get good recommendations:

- Be 100% professional and competent. Make the effort to write properly in emails, and to include an email footer etc. Little things that make you stand out as capable.

- Get things done. If it's broken, don't waste time. Fix it, then email them the result.

- Be pro-active. If I get a client ring up with a possible project I immediately follow up with an email summarising our phone call - adding some ideas if I can. It shows commitment to them as a customer in a way that adds value to the relationship (without costing them...).

- When the customer calls at 9pm with an emergency, don't fob them off. Fix it. They will happily pay your overtime rates (I once charged a customer £100/hr for overtime emergency work when the normal work I was doing for them was at £45/hr. And they gave me an added 50% bonus because they were so grateful)

- Genuinely offer "full stack". I designed a simple site once, sent the HTML and told them to FTP it to their web host.. the reply was "do what? do we need a domain address?". Clients want you to make things work for them; registering domains and FTPing files is menial in terms of your skill level - the client has no concept of this :) (#1 freelancer rookie mistake).

Tip 4: Be accessible, competent, pro-active and GTD!

Don't worry too much about your website or online portfolio. It's actually a distraction. Find work pro-actively - passively obtained work, unless you are marketing yourself beyond just the website, tends not to be as good!

Tip 5: Find work, don't let it find you

Contact design agencies and recruiters in your area. The latter will annoy you with lots of irrelevant calls ("We have an excellent full time role for you in the Aberdeen area" - uh, hundreds of miles away doing data entry you mean...) but I have also picked up some excellent clients through them. If someone is going to a design agency or recruiter then they have money to burn, and are often looking for a premium service.

Tip 6: Recruiters have clients with cash to spend

Go local. I canvassed my area for small businesses etc. that might benefit from a website. I threw together a leaflet & microsite, plus revamped my own CMS code... and spent a week dropping leaflets through letterboxes. It's good business because I can sell them a design & host package which brings me in half a days work plus yearly ongoing revenue (as it stands, I charge £65/year for domain, hosting and support & have 25 customers with several more interested. In hindsight that was too cheap, I could have gone to £100/yr I suspect.)

This might sound like small change, but the work is regular and if I don't have a "big" contract in a week I can usually fill it with this sort of work via a few phone calls. A couple of the customers have followed up with fully featured website (i.e. booking portals etc.) which earned me good money.

It will surprise you how many business are in your local area - and how much money some of them have to spend!

Tip 7: Look for work locally

That might sound like boring work for an engineer; but it's kinda fun, and very varied. It has also helped build up my design skills to the extent I could tentatively justify calling myself "designer" as well. The next idea I am working on is to partner with some local business improvement initiatives to run "internet" workshops and other technical training sessions for businesses. The first class is at the end of November and it is already oversubscribed - my profit should be > £5,000 for a days work (plus a 3-4 days reusable prep).

I also just launched, locally, an intensive "educate your company about the web/internet etc." consultancy. No clients yet, but some interest.

Tip 8: Diversify

Hope that helps (I know I drifted a little off-topic :))

Another thing. A freelancer starting out and one who is "experienced" are quite different scenarios.

I have loads of work that I don't often have to chase, because I have a profile.

Starting out you need to do the legwork to find clients. Think outside the box in contacting people you think could find you work. It will not come find you.

To add to your tip #7: Get to know your local user group. Google "PHP/Python/RoR/etc [Insert City here]".

They might be doing monthly meetings, code sprint, bug squashing parties, or just enjoying a beer once in a while. That allows you to stay on top of what is going locally, get to know other freelancers, grow your network and have fun!

"Python slithers into Fort Myers yard"


In all seriousness, most non-major areas are very lacking in things like this. My area has none that I can find, and I tried to expand even to just general programming meetups.

"Find work, don't let it find you"

Why not let it find you as well ? If you have experience and the right skillset, you will usually be found more often than you finding work yourself. I usually get good gigs in my industry by getting found a lot more than finding.

I agree to this. All of out-of-the-blue invitations to do something proved to be a scam, one or the other sort of - most plainly visible, but others more painful. So i never reply for job offers i get unexpectedly from people i don't know, and i never work for anyone writing to me in Russian.

Yeh, that didn't come out quite right.

I mean; a lot of freelancers seem to write a nice looking website and hope that some SEO magic will bring in work.

Yes agreed on the SEO magic point. It takes a whole lot more.

If you have a good network and get jobs from referrals then the job eventually finds you.

Great post!

I would just add - keep a library of your own design/code snippets. Developing my own CMS system made my work a lot faster on a long run.

I also always explain to my non-tech clients what technology are we using and why some things take more time than other ones. It makes the communication easier, they learn something on the way and during our next project together I can always refer to it - You know, just like last time, if you want to completely reshape structure of the database, it might take a few minutes.

Thank you for your incredibly detailed reply. Tip #7 does not work for me as I am located in a country surrounded by minimum wage workers, and the kind of work I am getting locally is also quite subpar in terms or pay and expected/required quality.

If anybody on HN would like to hire a highly capable and skilled full stack freelancer, I am open to small and large scale work. Please email me at protoweek at gmail. Thank you! :)

Those workers are employed by someone! :)

But, I do sympathise. I'm fortunate to live in an area where a lot of small businisses are around and about, and where widespread access to the internet means websites for local firms is actually a good idea.

But that's not the only local diversification!

I once taught programming lessons, for example, to people. That was kinda fun and challenging.

Great tips, I'm a full stack dev at a big company and never even thought about giving freelance work a try until this

Don't use the freelancing sites. They're a race to the bottom.

Freelancing sites are a poor way to make a living long-term, but I know several people who established themselves using freelancing sites. They are one way of establishing happy customers, customers who go to you first for new work and who refer you to others.

Whatever works. Just realize you'll have a lot to unlearn when you get done working on those projects, like the fact that your real rate is anywhere from 1.5x to 5x higher than you've been getting.

Also not sure how advisable it is to set up a stable of recurring/referring customers on a rate established in competition with the types of freelancers that frequent those sites.

Yes, you're going to lose some of those early customers as you keep raising your rates. Most of them have some really bad experience with lowball bids that they'll stick with you quite a ways. As always, it's the referrals that matter most.

I don't think that is necessarily true. Majority of freelancing sites are geared towards overseas outsourcing and portray the value proposition to companies of adding money to their bottom line. This naturally makes it hard for US based developers to make market rate on these sites.

Shameless self-promotion: I am a co-founder of grouptalent.com which is geared towards high-end freelance developers and rates generally trend toward market.

First tip: steer clear of freelancing sites, you're better than that :) Seriously, I tried them a bit, but the vast majority of jobs there buy on price, and that's a competition someone with decent rates will never win.

When I started freelancing I got my first gig through the HN Monthly 'Ask HN: Freelancer? Seeking freelancer?' thread, highly recommend posting in there on the 1st of each month.

I get steady work through the agency for whom I used to be a full time employee (only now I get paid double, AND get to cherry pick my work. never burn bridges)

I also cold called all the local agencies I could find offering my services, and that's got me a fair bit of work.

I've now got 5 big clients that give me enough steady work to live on, so I'm no longer actively seeking new clients. However I still get people emailing me having found me through google searches and HN. With google searches it's mostly people searching for local devs, eg: 'Freelance PHP developer Hampshire', so try optimising your website for those kinds of keywords.

And of course, personal recommendations is always the best way to find work. Good luck with freelancing, there's nothing like having the freedom to work when and where you like. This summer I took 8 weeks off to motorcycling around Europe, couldn't have done that so easily if I was an employee :)

Work your real life connections, you'll start by taking some pretty crappy work (it'll possibly feel like a career downgrade for a bit) but word will spread and opportunities will present themselves. You just need to produce great work, and stick to it.

Only key advice i would suggest is simply not to lock yourself into one contract for too long, unless its a great one. Nothing worse than some great work coming up, and not being able to take it because you're already too busy.

Work your real life connections

Came here to say this. Go ahead and post on the freelancing websites if you want — but separate yourself from the outsourcing companies. Do not lower your rates to compete against them. If a potential client chooses someone else over you simply because they are cheaper, trust me, you do NOT want them as a client.

Work your real-life connections in your local area. If you don't have that many, get out and make some. Realize that your skills offer an expertise that others need. Become known as the expert in your area and word will get around. Ask for referrals.

It can be really frustrating to hit the pavement day in and day out, but you have to do it and eventually it will start to pay off.

Yes, but, it takes time to build the relationships and reputation needed to generate flow. A single chunky project while you're doing that relieves some pressure. Plus being busy signals that you're worth hiring.

Of course, then you're working 40 hours / week on a contract, plus 10-30+ on networking, consults, portfolio projects, etc.

We've just launched a startup in Australia called Dragonfly (http://dragonflylist.com) which focuses on connecting talented local designers and developers with freelance work at creative, digital and ad agencies.

The plan is the launch into the US in the next few months (SF, LA & NY initially).

There are some key differences between our platform and recruitment & outsourcing

1. Transparency: There is no middle man on the platform. Agencies can search all the freelancers on the platform and contact them directly (phone & email is available on every profile).

2. No Rates!! - There are no rates shown on the platform. All rate are negotiated directly between the freelancer and the agency. Freelancers rates fluctuate on factors such as agency size, contract length, project type and general happiness working with the agency. It also means no one on the platform competes on price, but rather skill & ability.

3. High Quality: All freelancers on the platform are vetted before they get access (likewise the agencies are vetted as well). We verify that freelancers have 3 - 5 years experience in their field and have worked with agencies before. This keeps the quality high and maintains that skill & ability is the focus rather than price.

4. Local: The platform is focused no local freelancers. This is what agencies are looking for, and it allows freelancers to leverage their key competitive advantage over foreign workers... they are LOCAL!

Keen to hear feedback, and if you're looking for local freelance work sign up. We will get in contact with you when we roll out in your area. Our platform is focused on playing to the advantages of local freelancers.

This looks like a great idea, it's not often I find sites like this based in Australia. I've signed up, though my personal website isn't online (Funnily enough I've been too busy with client work to work on my own site)

I would suggest reading Brennan Dunn's eBook: http://doubleyourfreelancingrate.com

You might also want to start by making a name for yourself by working on your own projects (iPhone app, web app, etc.). If you make something cool, you're bound to have people asking you to make cool things for them, too.

In addition to things that were said, I found some good work on Elance.com, and small projects then evolved to things that kept me busy full-time.

For me it was a bit intimidating to begin with since I had to compete against developers whose bids were a fraction of the price I quoted. However, I soon found out that there are still people out there who value quality and are willing to pay more for it, so the "secret" is to make sure you put a quality bid. What worked for me was:

1. Make sure that your offer refers to the project description. Even highlight issues you find. There are lots of people out there who don't read the details and so people offering work appreciate it when someone actually read and thought about their project.

2. Describe how the project relates to an experience you have. Show a couple of examples work you have done with similar nature.

3. Include a sample of your work. In a couple of projects I was told that I was the only person who did that. I won both contracts although I had the most expensive bid.

4. Be responsive if the customer is asking questions before they make the decisions. Despite not winning all those projects where I had contact with the customer, it gave me an insight to their thought process, and even when I didn't win, it was useful to know I was a runner-up (and where possible, why I didn't win the contract).

5. Don't under-price yourself. There are probably cheaper developers than you, but are they as experienced as you are?

6. Don't over-price yourself. There are some naive customers who estimate a work to be more expensive than you think it should be (yes, really). It's tempting to be greedy and up your price, but I found out that being fair led to long-term relationships and to people who kept me so busy I didn't have to look for new clients for a while.

Hope this helps.

Edit: formatting.

We're building matchist (matchist.com) to solve this exact problem.

Don't compete with low-cost overseas developers and spend all day bidding for projects.

Instead, sign up for the matchist beta (http://matchist.com/talent). We believe in matching you with projects you want to work on and have the skills for.

Too bad you're open to US devs only :/ Any plans on expanding?

I know, it kills me to have to have that disclaimer on there. The reason is twofold: 1) Our payments platform supports U.S. only at the moment. 2) We want to start small and with what we know.

That said, we plan on growing this down the road. :)

Do you have a mailing list or something, so I'll know when you're available in the EU?

Yes, we do. You can sign up for it here: http://eepurl.com/lYvxz

Talk to business owners that have problems. Then solve them.

Freelancer marketplaces are a race-to-the-bottom commodity market.

My experience says that you need to be good at at least one of these. Ideally, you should do all IMO:

1. Network especially with people you have already worked with/for in industry that you are now freelancing in. Most ppl underestimate this. For example, I have a list of contacts whom I email at least once a year just saying hi. I usually do it during christmas/new year eve. Never burn bridges with anyone and always try and stay in touch.

2. Get found by people/clients/recruiters/employers by building a strong online presence. I constantly get good offers through linkedin. To do this however, you need to focus on a more specialist profile vs. a generalist profile. Focus on your niche, add the right keywords and experience, get recommendations online in that domain and frequently update your profile.

My guess is that you are an experienced developer that worked for a company and never saw the outside clients -- meaning you have no reputation in the field outside your resume.

I'd partner with a web-contracting agency in your area to start doing work through them -- something where you work directly with clients on a day to day basis.

After you've worked for a dozen or so clients, you'll start to have a reputation, and from what I've found with friends, once you quit your contracting job you'll find clients wanting to still give you work based on what you've done. From there word of mouth does a good deal of work, and going to networking events and forming relationships does the rest.

Have conversations with people that need problems solved.

What's your main area of expertise? Go to online communities where that expertise is discussed and join the conversation. When somebody enters the conversation that needs a problem solved, you'll be headed towards a new client.

Social networking is your friend. A month ago, I got a new client using Quora - through a question I asked about how to find new clients.

The more companies you talk to, the closer you'll get to finding somebody that needs you. Remember, they want you to consult for them as much as you want to consult for them, so go out there and find them. From my perception, the environment is very pro-consultant right now.

Not sure where you are located, but most big cities have regular tech networking events, seminars, skillshare classes, etc. The VAST majority of rewarding, quality work I have done freelancing was for real-life people (businesses, many startups, etc) that I met at network events. Get a decent personal business card and make sure you tell people what you are capable of doing, and that you are available for work when you meet them. You will be surprised how many opportunities come out of the woodwork.

Volunteering to do some programming for charities and doing some open source work is a great way to make connections that can often lead to freelance work. That's how my freelance business got going. Two of my biggest clients came via the connections I made volunteering for a green energy micro lending charity.

And client relationships that come via connections are often far better and more lucrative than those that come through freelancing websites.

I don't know how I get work, but I always seem to be busy (for the past four years of freelancing at least).

Main thing is to put the word out. Have projects of your own. Offer advice freely. Be helpful. I normally have more work than I want and can be fairly choosy.

But I've got to admit, if it all dried up, I'm not sure how I'd go about 'looking' for work. (that said, I'm not sure I'd want to)

I wouldn't dismiss these freelancing websites altogether though, it takes a bit to identify potential good clients, a lot of people got burnt by the outsourcing companies and are actually ready to pay sensible rates. I got my current job through one of these sites, first taking on a node.js job and then moving to basically full-time freelancing. I don't make that much as for jobs I got through personal and industry contacts, but the client is pretty much the best I ever got. That kind of freedom and respect (and quickly paid invoice, like 10 minutes after I sent them) is worth its money too.

But else, industry and personal contacts, building up contacts through giving speeches and being a part of the development community (user groups, etc...) works best for me.

I'd recommend you put your email in your profile. I have some work for a competent web developer ...

Go to meetups and other tech events. Make friends with people and talk about their ideas. Give out your card. You'll get propositions to help people constantly. Some of those people will be willing to pay. The more you get asking you, the higher you can raise your price.

As a web developer php type guy..

Things i have done to get work-

Network- attend tech conferences and talk to people

Blog about your area of interest

I ran google adwords on specific key terms, this helped to get a decent bulk of work with a 20x ROI

Over time your network will build up.

A friend of mine aims to give out five business cards a day. For me, I always check in with my previous clients (by phone or email). That tends to refresh the desire to get some work done.

Craigslist is a sham.

I started out with my first short-term contract back in May/June and have been self employed since that finished. I get work by contact form submissions on my own website (it's just a WordPress blog), occasionally posting on the 'Looking for work' topics here and from an advert I posted on the Gumtree website.

I tried working on vWorker.com but I had a terrible experience with a client in Pakistan. Never again.

Right now I'm making enough to pay my bills and I have work lined up for the next couple of months. Not too bad.

> I am a highly experienced developer who has recently taken to freelancing.

If you are a programmer (not web designer) what you want is 'contract programming', not 'freelancing'. Your chances to get a direct contract with a big company (i.e. a company that can afford you) are minimal. Big customers don't talk to single persons. They only talk to other companies. You need to offer your service to one of those companies who will sell you to their big customers on demand.

The Ruby Freelancers podcast covers a large swath of language independent freelancing knowledge: http://rubyfreelancers.com/

They highly recommend two books for freelancers, "Get Clients Now!" by CJ Hayden, and "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port. The Hayden book, in particular, might be viewed as agile marketing, so developers can feel right at home.

The best paying and most reliable gigs generally involve either face to face meetings at least once, or a referral from someone you've met face to face. Focus on finding clients where you can meet them. If you don't have any leads try cold emailing local-ish businesses that will have a lot of dev work (design agencies, medium to big co's) or use local forums like craigslist etc.

Get involved with your local community. Word of mouth is the best referral system when you're getting started.

Try using your personal network to find a local business / organization that is struggling with some piece of software / website. Or donate some work to a non-profit and ask them to spread your name around. Every successful project should bring you at least two more to work on.

be reasonable in your bids.

be consistent in bids (don't bid ridiculously low or ridiculously high on project of some efforts).

give your employer a bit of detail about your implementation methods and road map, even thou they will not understand anything they will get good impression of you.

start off with few free or low priced projects to get a good rating in freelancing websites.

Being new to freelance I find it often takes awhile from the time someone says they want work done to the point of actually needing that work done. Point being, line up a few projects so you have things to do between waiting for projects to mature.

Work on a product in your spare time. Get involved with the open source tech that your product uses.

If you'd like a phone interview with CPAP.com shoot me an email at johnny dt goodman at cpap dc.

Have sent an email :)

I always have jobs waiting for a talented dev. email me :D contact[]vincentjr.com

Join a company of freelancers. 10x better

I'm thinking of doing some freelancing styling Bootstrap sites for people who don't like doing front-end work. Anybody have tips for doing that? I poked around on odesk and elance a bit but it seems the going rate there is roughly minimum wage.

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