How do freelancers find jobs?
Whether you are a newcomer or a freelancer with a certain amount of experience, you may be thinking about doing some freelance work.
If you want to break into the sky on your own, you may encounter two problems. The first thing you might ask is “what is freelance”. This is understandable because the word means different things to different people.
The second question you might want to ask is “how to acquire customers.” Of course, this is very important, because you are a freelancer, and not finding a client will make you feel ashamed:
The good news is that if you are thinking about making your own brand bigger, as long as you do it right, you can be ecstatic:
In summary, let’s first answer the question “what is a freelance”. Then, we will discuss how to get online and local customers in our city.
If you prefer written content like me, keep reading. If you prefer videos, I have also prepared a video lecture on these topics.
I wrote ” How Freelance Developers Make Money ” for freeCodeCamp, and I wrote “The Complete Guide to Freelancers “. This article will be different from them and will only focus on two topics:
First, I will express my personal views on becoming a freelance developer. Second, I will tell you how to acquire customers after the start.
I will divide the latter into three parts: First, I will discuss what you should accomplish before trying to acquire customers. Then, I will talk about how to acquire customers through an online presence. The third part will cover various ways of acquiring customers in the same city.
Here is a quick tour of this article, you can jump to any chapter:
What it means to be a freelance developer
What do you have to do before trying to acquire new customers
How to acquire new customers online
How to get new customers in the same city or region
Hmm… let’s get started.
What it means to be a freelance developer
In today’s society, the term “freelance” is widely used (including many fields outside of software development), and it has become a buzzword that has different meanings to different people.
If you are thinking of going out and taking a break, then becoming a “freelancer” really means two things:
For one, you may be thinking about starting your own side business. Second, you may be thinking about working for yourself. Let’s take a look at them in turn.
Some people are engaged in stable work while operating development business
Doing a side job alone is a good way to supplement your current job. Maybe you are completing a freeCodeCamp course and hope to work on a project while working in a company while doing development work.
You may also have a job unrelated to software that you are reluctant to give up, but you want to become a part-time developer.
In both cases, your business is a part-time activity. Since you already have a full-time job, it is unlikely that you will work with several (perhaps even only one) client at a time.
When you go this route, getting customers is also very important. Therefore, even if you do not need to expand the scale of your business, the following points will apply to you.
One disadvantage of doing a side job is that you need to take a full-time job while running your own business. The benefit of this is to have a steady income to provide you with the main industry, but the disadvantage is that you can become really busy.
This route tends to turn Saturday and Sunday into two additional working days, and it also brings you the pressure of not responding to customers immediately, because you need to cope with your main work. These are just some of the advantages and disadvantages of this route.
Some people may choose to run and develop their business full-time
Many people have turned their sideline business into their main business. They either quit their current software job or just started to engage in development work.
In this way, you can focus on developing your own products and serving customers. Since you are free from the constraints of a full-time job, your time becomes more flexible.
On this route, some people expand their business as much as possible, while others only want to maintain a stable source of income and have a flexible lifestyle.
Fully focusing on your own things can increase your income substantially. Why do you say that? Because many people and I find it easier to work for ourselves than to get a salary from the company.
However, the biggest disadvantage of this route is that you have no other sources of income, which means that your income will become unstable.
You may have noticed that neither of the two methods mentioned above mentions hiring employees. Because once you have employees, you are no longer a “freelancer”-you are a business owner.
In a future article (spoiler alert), I will discuss how to expand part-time free development work into a mature business.
Which route you choose is entirely up to you. Just remember that it’s important to make choices based on your own situation, preferences, and everything you want.
Now let us continue the discussion.
What should you do before trying to acquire new customers
The best way to expand your business is to do the work of existing customers well. However, you don’t need to worry about it before you create your own brand.
Simply put, if you go out and try to get business without creating your own brand, potential customers may not take your words seriously. Don’t do this.
Therefore, the two tasks to complete before you try to acquire new customers are:
Understand the importance of repeat customers and recommendations, and
Build your own brand.
Let us look at these points in turn.
If freelance developers want to expand their business, they must pay attention to existing customers
If you ask any business owner (not necessarily a developer) how to achieve sales growth, they are likely to immediately start talking about some form of marketing. In other words, their attention is all focused on the stranger.
These business owners usually spend time and other resources on marketing, and the result is that they do not spend time and resources on serving existing customers. I use a very professional term to call this practice:
If you don’t focus your time and resources on existing customers, they will have to wait longer before they can receive their products. When they encounter problems, it will take longer to wait for your response. Therefore, they are unlikely to be satisfied with the service they receive.
Conversely, they will be less likely to ask you to do something in the future, nor are they likely to recommend you to others.
The consequences of this are catastrophic. Why do you say that? Because there are no repeat customers and other people’s referrals mean that you can only get customers through advertising or social networking.
If you are spending money or time to recruit new customers (money is used to advertise, time is used to contact customers), and the money and time spent will make your profits lower.
First of all, suppose you charge three thousand dollars for a website, but in order to find customers, you put two hundred and fifty dollars into marketing, which means that your revenue is only two thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars.
Second, suppose you charge three thousand dollars and can do it in fifteen hours, that’s two hundred dollars an hour. But if you spend two to three hours contacting customers, you need to consider the impact of these two or three hours on your hourly salary.
You need to work hard to make money to cover these financial expenses and lost time. But if you have established a recommendation base and a returning customer base, this is not a problem.
Let’s first take a look at how things will develop when you focus on existing customers. Yes, you spent some form of resources to acquire customers, but when you need other things in the future, the customer is likely to come to you again. This means you get extra work without spending any extra resources.
Secondly, they will refer you to potential new customers – which means that you do not spend any time or resources to get new business. This will raise your profit margins, bring exponential growth, and help you make money:
I use an example of my own to explain.
I made a website for a lawyer in 2013. She was very satisfied with the service I provided, and after six months, she asked me to build a second website for a professional legal field she was about to enter. Up to now, I have continued to provide maintenance services for that lawyer for several years.
The important thing is that this lawyer recommended two other people to me. The first of them not only hired me to create their initial product but also hired me for ongoing support and maintenance.
Therefore, I spent my time going out to find a client (the lawyer), and the time I spent meeting with one person brought me three different website construction tasks and additional maintenance services.
The reason is obvious. It is more profitable than going out to meet three different people and getting three different jobs. When you receive a business (the lawyer in my example) and turn it into several jobs over a period of time, your business will skyrocket.
Establishing a recommendation base means first focusing your energy on existing customers. The approach is simple, if you want to do or can do something for a current customer, just do it. If you still have time left during the weekend, you can use this time to find new customers.
Regarding the importance of “current customers first” to your business growth, I can’t emphasize enough.
Freelance developers should build their own brand before trying to acquire customers
As a freelance developer, one thing you should do before trying to find new customers is to build your own brand.
Get a good understanding of why you need to think of yourself as the head of a small business.
Suppose you have a local bakery, and someone walks in and says that they can provide website and application development services for your bakery. If the developer doesn’t even have his own website, no portfolio, no online reviews, no business cards, but only a personal email address for work, you would not take him seriously.
On the contrary, you’d better prepare all these things before trying to meet with customers.
Your first task is to build a website for your business, and then put your portfolio on it (even if you don’t have any clients now, you can still have a portfolio).
In the matter of integrating website content, you can do it yourself, or if you want to save time, you can also use the template provided by html5up (if you use one of the templates, make sure you follow the Creative Commons license).
For the portfolio, I suggest you put at least five to six items in it. If you haven’t completed a project yet, you can also put the prototype you made into it.
For example, you can create a website for a virtual bakery and place it in your portfolio. You just need to make sure that when someone clicks on that website from your portfolio, they can clearly see an example and know that it is not a real business.
When potential clients are looking for candidates, it is more appropriate to have a professional-looking website and a high-quality portfolio.
The second thing you need to do right away is to set up an online review homepage for your business. Whenever a customer is satisfied with you, it is very important to ask them to leave you a good review online, because these reviews will increase your chances of being hired by other customers in the future.
In my opinion, the two most important places to display reviews are Google and Facebook, so you need to register a Google my Business account for your new brand, or create a Facebook page for it.
After you finish a project, if the customer clearly shows that they are satisfied with your service, you can send them links to these evaluation pages so that they can leave you a good review.
The last step to do before promoting yourself is to set up a branded mailbox, order business cards, and prepare a phone number for office use.
For business cards, I suggest you take a simple route, such as using a service like Vista Print. It is best to set up a mailbox that is clear at a glance.
As for the phone number, I will use a free service like Google Voice, which will give you a dedicated number, and then you can receive calls to this number through your mobile phone. After completing all these items, you are ready to start your business now.
How freelance developers acquire customers online
A good network image can bring you, a freelance developer, a steady stream of business. However, when building your online presence, it’s important to do it the right way.
Unlike the time and resources invested in the business, I strongly recommend that you invest in your online image.
Because this point of investment is too critical, it will be the first point I discuss in this section. I will discuss how to optimize the website for the local market later, and I will briefly talk about a few points about obtaining online reviews.
You should invest in your online presence, not spend money on it
One of the things I am most grateful for is this: In the early days of my business, I understood the difference between investment and expenditure.
Their concept is very simple. When you invest in your online presence, you will always have something of yourself at the end of the day. These possessions can be in the form of blog posts, Youtube videos, etc. These assets do not require you to spend any additional money or time to maintain, because no one can take them from you.
In contrast, spending money on online images usually includes renting advertising space from a third party (such as pay-per-click ads, Facebook ads, etc.).
Investing in your own online image can make your income grow rapidly:
However, simply spending money on it will not only make you struggle, but it will also easily make your business boring.
Let’s see why.
Suppose you invest a thousand dollars in advertising this month, and it brings you ten thousand dollars in revenue. This seems easy, and it’s easier to excite.
But there is a problem: the one thousand dollars you used to advertise is now spilled out. Except for the initial ten thousand dollars, it will not bring you any more income. You still need to continue to spend money on advertising next month, otherwise, your income will become zero.
It is almost certain that an online image that relies on paid advertising will make you fall into the bottomless pit of constantly spending money on advertising. This is far worse than having your own market assets.
In order to demonstrate the value of having your own online image, I want to give a personal example.
My previous brand was acquired in May 2020. Over the years, I have written about 400 blog posts targeting my potential customers. From the time the website was established to the time it was acquired, my best blog has received more than 10,000 clicks.
If I have been using the click billing model to solicit customers, my money may have been spent in a place that costs ten dollars per click. Therefore a harvest of a million hits Bowen is equivalent to my own business made thousands of dollars in advertising ($ 10 x 10,000).
I probably spent a total of five to six hours researching and writing that article. However, apart from the time I invested at the beginning, I didn’t spend any other time on that article-I already had it.
This is very different from paid advertising that doesn’t let you own anything. If you have your own online image, you can not only quickly expand your business but also avoid a lot of recurring marketing costs.
Again, the assets you own can take many forms. In addition to blog posts, you can also consider YouTube videos and other media that can be used to attract potential customers.
I want to emphasize the point is: you can create your own content will have. I have said this to many developers over the years. These developers do not write any blogs or make any videos, the reason is that they feel uncomfortable doing this.
Although I understand them well, it is important for you to understand that “working for yourself means you do a lot of things that upset you”.
If you don’t want to make your own web content or choose to rely on advertising, you can also make money as a freelance developer. However, that money is far less than the money you can earn by jumping out of your comfort zone a little bit and doing regular content creation.
Having said this, let’s move on and take a look at how to build your online image.
You need to optimize your online image for the target market
I have seen many independent developers who put all their businesses on one website, and they have no specific market preferences. These sites often appear too broad or vague.
Such a website may simply tell others “I am a developer who writes a website” or similar information. They usually link the website to a portfolio containing various projects. The portfolio lists the languages and frameworks they are familiar with, that’s it.
On the contrary, it is best to let your website show a market you can do, and make relevant optimizations on the website.
In the next few months, I will write more articles about optimizing websites for search engines in freeCodeCamp (coming soon). Now, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with Google’s SEO Getting Started Guide before setting up your own website. Then, find a market segment that you think you can handle and optimize your website for it.
To do this, make sure that your website clearly describes the services you provide and what you do.
I know this may sound a little vague. However, most of the content of the website should be determined by your target job type and geographic location. To make it clearer, I will use my own example.
I try to focus my business on the construction of small and medium-sized websites and applications (I have written about the importance of choosing a market position before), and my website focuses on Ohio and its various cities.
There are two reasons why my online image only focuses on my hometown. First, if I try to compete for the nationwide Google search volume, the competition will become fierce, and it is much more practical to pursue the hometown market.
Second, although I can receive a lot of calls from customers outside the state and make products for customers across the country, many customers tend to find developers locally. In addition, my website is completely focused on the development of the website and application and does not cover all the things I can do.
So, what does this bring me? Hmm… When I searched “Ohio website design” on Google, I found my website ranked first. This means that even if I don’t pay for any advertising, potential customers will call me. I also did not pay for advertising for my last brand (acquired in early 2020).
Does my approach allow my website to be visited by all potential customers? not at all. However, the percentage of target customers I got because of my specific work was even higher.
This allows my website to attract more business than many free developers’ websites. This is why I chose my method instead of another method. In addition, this method sounds like: Developers can do almost anything for people anywhere.
You want satisfied customers to leave you online reviews
I mentioned above the importance of setting up an online review page for the business. When you have completed the work of a certain client, it is very important to ask them to leave you a comment.
The reason for this is simple. The more positive comments you receive, the more contacts you will receive through the website. Although a large number of positive reviews will not make more people visit your website, it will increase the likelihood that a visitor will pick up the phone and call you.
Let’s take a quick look at the precautions when looking for a customer to comment.
When you ask a customer to make an evaluation for you, the first thing to remember is: if you are not sure that a customer will give you 100% good reviews, don’t ask him to make an evaluation. You may have read this sentence and then thought “isn’t this nonsense?” But trust me, some people do things that will surprise you.
Secondly, it is not enough to ask the customer to leave you a review. If you really want your customers to do this, you have to call them and talk to them to evaluate the matter for you. If they are happy, you can send them an email linking to the review page.
You will find that calling and emailing can connect you to each other, which will eventually increase the percentage of people giving you good reviews. However, you keep asking customers to write reviews, and in fact, few customers will actually do it.
I have emphasized enough the importance of a large number of positive reviews for business expansion. Just like the online assets you own (explained above), these praises will not be taken away by others, and you don’t need to pay for them every month.
Now let’s take a look at how to get a job from the local market. These methods are different from what the website does.
How freelance developers acquire local customers
As I just explained, a good network image doesn’t actually bring you many local customers. However, in order to gain local customers, there are some other things you can do.
These things include talking about outsourcing/contract opportunities with a larger development shop, going out and talking to every potential customer, and participating in online gatherings.
We quickly look at each method in more detail.
When you take over some work from other developers, there may be more opportunities than you think. Some development workshops engaged in large projects are usually willing (or required) to outsource a small part of the project.
There are several reasons for this. One is that they may need to deal with one-off projects. It doesn’t make sense to hire individuals for this kind of thing, because there is no need to hire people after the project is completed, so outsourcing is more appropriate.
The second is that there may be a “middle ground” in larger workshops: their existing staff is not enough to cope, but not enough to allow them to hire new people. Similarly, there will be people who choose to outsource in this situation. It is very common for freelance developers to get jobs from workshops in this situation.
The best way to get this kind of contract work is to take the initiative to contact a large local development workshop, and then introduce yourself to them. Similarly (as mentioned above), before contacting, you need to prepare a website, a portfolio, etc., otherwise, they will not take you seriously.
Many freelance developers who communicate in this way just send emails to the owners of large development workshops. I think it is wrong to do so. Instead, you should make sure that your approach is more personalized.
I suggest you call the executive leader directly, tell him who you are, and then ask if you can send him a self-recommendation letter and resume that show that you are qualified for the outsourcing job.
The important thing is not to stand still. If the other party does not reply immediately, I will call to follow up almost once a month. Keep following up in this way until you bother them for a whole year or they tell you to go away. Show that you are organized and persistent, and then you will get work in this way.
Another good way to get customers in the same city is as simple as meeting them one by one. This means you have to visit local companies, discuss network services, and so on.
However, many developers are doing this the wrong way. Don’t just ask from house to house, but make a list of companies you plan to visit and study carefully. See if they have a website, think about how you can improve their current online image, and remember to take some time to research their competitors.
When you go to meet someone, the waiting time for notification can be very long. As with the local development workshop, don’t be afraid to follow up before being explicitly rejected.
The third option for acquiring customers in the same city is to participate in social events, which is also the approach I recommended in my freeCodeCamp article. This method is only suitable for a small number of free developers because many people will feel uncomfortable with the more straightforward approach I just described.
As I said when talking about “content production”, if you want to take your business to the next level, it’s important to jump out of your comfort zone. Although joining a network organization like BNI will have results, I believe that a more direct way is more conducive to customer acquisition. It really depends on how far you are willing to go outside your comfort zone.
This article is by no means just an exclusive guide on “how to get business online or in the community.” The method I described above has helped my business and also allowed my previous brand to be acquired.
The last point I want to make is: your online image and local influence are the results of your energy. If you are willing to jump out of your comfort zone and take the time to practice the methods I mentioned above, you will be ahead of your competitors.