Tips on getting started with freelancing

13th August 2021

⏳ Freelancing takes time to get started As much as you want to get started yesterday, I’ve found the initial build-up when it comes to freelancing is very drawn out. When you have no references people can be distrustful and the first few clients will be real sucky to convince. I made around $1,000 total in my first 6 months. I was desperate enough to find anyone to work for. I was looking around Upwork a lot. 🥇 Find your niche It can be useful to take any job you can get for your first few clients, but mid to long-term it’s more sustainable to find a niche that you feel comfortable with. There’s so many people out there who advertise their ability to build you a Wordpress website for $500, $300 or maybe even less! These generic things are a bit of a race to the bottom. If you don’t want to participate in that, find some area that you’re really passionate about and focus on that! My current niches are payment processing, B2B commerce and automated data processing. But if you’re into statistics/data visualisation or whatever then go for it. 🙂 👀 Know where to look Many people go to places like Upwork or Toptal etc that are intended to bring freelancers work. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I haven’t had great success with it. The thing that has worked for me is 1) referrals and 2) LinkedIn. Referrals are always nice, but they do have to be the serious kind. You don’t want your mom and dad advertising to the local lawn mower business that you’re doing websites. That person is better served by Squarespace. You want to have business-y/tech people to remember you. When someone asks “I’ve been looking for someone to <task here>”, you want to be the person they think of. As for looking yourself: I’ve found that the kind of people who build B2B marketplaces tend to gather on LinkedIn and post there. So yelling into the void and being available there has been profitable for me. But perhaps your niche lives elsewhere. Another great place is to check the monthly threads on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28037365 — They’re tech-oriented people that don’t undervalue you. 📢 Advertise directly and indirectly The first one is quite obvious. Just get the word out wherever your niche lives and make yourself as available as possible. The fun part is the second one. There are great ways to show that you actually know what you’re talking about. For example you can post on Twitter if you’re building for fun. Talk about the technical details, show the world the stuff that interests you. One of my oldest and still current clients found me back in the day because I was posting/ranting about HTML email. Another great place to do this is a blog if you feel more comfortable doing more long-form writing. The more writing you do the easier it becomes. I tend to do a bit of both, although I’ve fallen off the face of the earth on Twitter in recent times. No matter where you do this indirect advertising, be sure to have a big “I’M AVAILABLE” marker somewhere and make sure your contact info is easy to find. As little friction as possible to get to talk to you! 💵 Don’t undervalue yourself This one is more of a mental challenge. I started off selling my services for $20/hr. Depending on where you live this is minimum wage, but I thought I wasn’t skilled enough to charge more. Impostor syndrome is the worst. Your first jobs will likely not be super well paid, but do realise that every time you complete a job you should raise your rate a little bit. This can progress in any way you like. For me it was: This rate needs to cover your living expenses and all work you put into customer acquisition, accounting, ... So charge accordingly. Also as a general rule: The more you charge, the more pleasant your clients will be to work with. The client who is promised a website for $300 will squeeze you for every penny. The client who can afford and is willing to pay you $5k/mo knows your value and will generally be happy to part with that money.