Freelancing discussion

Since I’m sure many people here are (aspiring) freelancers, I thought it would be good to have a topic dedicated to discussing all things freelancing.

Personally I’m starting my freelance career in two weeks, and I’m trying to figure out how to market myself beyond “Freelance WordPress Developer”. Is there anyone here who’s had success with marketing themselves for a specific niche?

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One great advice I found is to go through your contacts and send them a short message. Tell them you are moving into freelance and the sort of services you will provide. DON’T ask them for projects. Instead ask if the will be willing to recommend you to anyone they happen to know that needs that sort of services.

I face the opposite problem - lack of a niche (at least one that I can define for myself). I’ve been the jack of all trades generalist for my entire career.
I’d imagine that reaching out to other freelancers might help. You might have a project in need of a UI person, and a UI freelancer might have a project in need of a WordPress dev?

Good luck with the big leap!

I think there are two main avenues - getting business locally and finding clients remotely. Each path has different approaches, but you can mix and match things to get something that works best for you. I would suggest trying to determine the kind of problems you are solving. You’re not making a website. You are providing someone with a way to make their voice heard. Or to promote their business. Once you’ve narrowed the problem down, look for people having that problem and get in touch.

I would love to get more involved in this discussion, but I can’t do it at the moment. I have a project to deliver on Monday morning and I need to double down on getting it finished.

Cheers!

Having a niche is very useful. I’m very much front-end with a focus on perf, design systems and a11y and that tends to be the type of enquiries I get now.

That niche allows me to do more long term arrangements with clients, too, which I much prefer.

As everything with freelancing: what works for one person certainly won’t for others.

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The long term thing is why I started offering my services exclusively for agencies - it’s a lot easier to work with the same people again and again rather than constantly having to go looking for new clients. That’s definitely the part I find most difficult.

When I started I sent cold emails to everyone I could think of, as Adrian says, introducing myself and asking for advice, rather than asking for work. However I actually got myself a fair few early projects that way from people who were willing to give me a chance.

Making contracts with other freelancers has definitely been useful too. I bring in other people to help me with large projects, and I have a few design friends who bring me in when they need a developer.

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I’d say that step one is dropping the word “freelance”. I’m in Sweden, and more often than not, freelance mean lower pay and short stints. That’s not what I want, and maybe not you either. A title such as Senior WordPress Developer, Something Something Expert etc is already niching it.

Finding a niche is also about deciding on what an interesting project is for you. For me, that’s a kind of product-market fit where my skills makes the product and the market is a segment of customers with needs I would love to work at fulfilling.

Try to look at your skill set in the eyes of a potential customer. Why would they choose you?

My way of niching is mostly by positioning about what I won’t do (projects below 2 weeks, WordPress and PHP - not meant as offensive but it’s my position, marketing pages, design and a few more). Combined with lots of networking I’ve found this to be effective. Most now see to my agency (3 ppl) as only doing advanced web apps and complex projects, which is what we do nowadays.

Best of luck to you!

The biggest thing I ran into when I was freelancing (did it for 20 years) was people not paying on time. Then I watched Mike Monteiro’s video and that changed everything. I suggest everyone watch it. It is phenomenal advice.

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Thanks for all the valuable advice!

@adrian.sandu I’ve reached out to some former clients (I used to freelance part-time) and they may have something and know somebody. Nothing certain yet but definitely a good avenue to try.

@pushtodev I’m planning on reaching out to design agencies here in Amsterdam and seeing if there’s anything I can help with. We used to work a lot with design agencies at my dev agency and I know they often get inquiries for websites but can’t necessarily afford to pay another agency—I’m hoping this is where I would come in as a freelancer.

@anton I feel like I want to be a “freelance” web developer though. My ideal project is a 2-4 week (or longer) WordPress website, optionally with design, so basically the opposite of what you do :smile: I feel like this is where I can provide a ton of value, as I can provide agency-level websites without agency prices (eg a $7k website vs a $20k website).

Yeah, my suggestion was that instead of calling yourself a freelance web developer, you frame it more in the fashion of “I run a business in web development” or something similar. I’ve found that wordings make a huge difference when presenting your price range, since customers will compare you to others. The more you niche yourself as Something Something Expert your customers will not be able to compare your pricing to others as easily. I see this as a good thing, since unexperienced buyers will often compare apples to pears (is this a Swedish saying? do you understand what I mean?).

I’ll keep you in mind if I find myself with a WordPress project to refer :slight_smile:

I think it’s important to know who your clients are (or will be) and consider their capacity and needs. For example, small businesses won’t have dedicated technical resources so offering ongoing technical support and web maintenance can provide passive income as well as provide a real value to the client. Larger clients might be specifically concerned with a11y standards, or having a living style guide that they can share across departments.

Understand too that clients don’t know what you know - websites and all they entail can be very abstract and intangible. Most likely, your client won’t know how to write content for the web or what kind of content they need, forget about how to SEO it all. Think about how your strengths can support your clients needs beyond the final, launched website. I think that “service” and support - being an expert they can trust, will help you immeasurably.

Watch out for scope-creep - depending on your experience it can be hard at first to budget your time and be competitive. Mike Monteiro and Dan Mall have great resources on the budget aspect: https://abookapart.com/products/pricing-design

And, community matters - if you can find a group near you to meet with other freelancers, it can help to know other people are having the same business questions/issues.

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