I got into freelance recently, I thought I'd reach out to the veteran freelancers in the community to seek advice, things I'm curious about, are:
- What is(are) the most important step(s) to start on the right direction?
- What worked for you best when you were looking for your first client?
- How much should I charge? Hourly rate or fixed or a retainer? What worked best for you?
- How do you stay motivated, focused, and keep improving?
- Do I need to get into marketing? If so, how much is enough and do you recommend any good resource(s)?
Please feel free to share your experience/knowledge even out side of those questions, any thing will be much appreciated 😃
Thanks a lot,
This is a great question Karim. :D Here's some thoughts from when I was consulting:
- The most important thing for me was to just get work at first. Any work at all would lead me to more people and build up my portfolio. Over time I'd "trade up" and get better and better jobs ignoring a lot of ones I probably would have picked up before that were bigger time sinks than I wanted.
- I actually just emailed a random guy on a job board and got my first consulting project that way. The majority of my work afterwards was actually from spending a lot of time in the startup community in town. All kinds of people want to start a business and need a developer to help them build it. There is always a lot of work available if you're around those people.
- I'd charge pretty much any rate you feel comfortable with. The ideal is to know you can deliver on their project with a fixed cost, but that's rarely possible to do well. Too much changes in most projects so to stay safe you can always charge hourly. To make things a bit easier on yourself, consider charging per day or per week and they have to book either a full day or full week and that way you're not losing out. You'll do well to find out the client's budget and then work with that (see what you think you can deliver for that, it might not be the full project or whatever if it's too small but you can help them start). Raise your rate by $5/hr each new client or something as you get more experienced.
- Lots of different projects was great for me to keep improving skill wise. And then for each new client I'd try different things. Like I went from hourly to daily to weekly and then tried some fixed fee projects so each new client I'd tweak one piece of the wway I worked to see how much it improved my life and if I liked it or not.
- I didn't really do any marketing because the best clients I got were actually from referrals so I focused on that. Rarely did I get good work that would show up randomly so I didn't put any time into marketing which was nice for me. A lot of people will do marketing for this, but you'll need to do something totally unique to stand out from all the other developers who claim they can "take your ideas and make them real" or any of the thousands of variations every consultant's website has. 😛
Happy to answer some more questions on this and I would love to hear about other people's experiences. I spent like 7 years consulting and made a really good living doing it.
Thanks so much Chris for the detailed answer.
I'll hold up the questions for now until we hear from other poeple, if not I'll ask ;)
I agree with Chris on what he posted. For me a lot of the work i got when i was doing freelance work was via old contacts and recomendations which made it much easier.
One thing i would say, and its VERY important, have a contract!! Don't start any work before its signed, otherwise you will find yourself doing work for free - not good. I was burned from this as i forgot to get it signed.
Test the water with your daily rate, you will find that people who value the work you do and your skillset will pay the premium. You will also find some who want it cheaper, seriously dont budge on your costs as you then start to devalue yourself. You will find most people will pay what you charge (DON'T FORGET THE CONTRACT!!). Also, have a look online to see the contractor rates for the work youre doing. I know you can get up to £450 (plus VAT) a day for development in the UK - obviously depending on your skillset.
Working from home can be hard, there are lots of distractions. I would suggest here that you make sure your work area is cornered off from the rest of your home - or pop to a local coffee shop if you can. You need to try and avoid the distractions, but once you can you will be well away and get things done.
Marketing wise, I would suggest learning the basics of SEO for when you build websites. Its not just an extra you can charge for but it will make sure you write clean code. As for self marketing, get yourself a site and show off your work, maybe blog or post to Medium just to get your name out there. You will soon find work coming in without the need to self promote too much, mainly from word of mouth.