I got this question over Twitter: “I want to go freelance and work for myself, as that is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but have never had the courage or push to do it. What advise could you give to someone thinking of going down this path? What do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning?”
That’s a big topic to unroll.
I think freelancing is the ultimate freedom.
I’ve never been hired by a company, and in the beginning (2008) I’ve worked as a freelancer and contractor, then gradually moved to my own little software products business, then moved back to contracting, and then gradually shut this activity down when my own projects started being my income.
The best way to move to freelancing if you are currently employed is to ask your employer to pay you as a contractor. Or past employers, if that’s something you have and you have good relationships with. Or past colleagues.
One way to start is through those big and famous marketplaces where you can find job postings for freelancers.
It highly depends on where you live, as freelancing marketplaces can be good in low-cost-of-living countries, but terrible for other countries.
It can be a good option, or not.
The ideal would be to find a local company through local events, through friends, or just plain cold email or calling, asking if they could use some help, even if you are just starting out.
Companies like to use contractors because they can save a lot of money and fire you at will, but this is your strength too - you can move away any time you want.
Another way, which I find optimal personally, is to provide productized services. Fiverr is a good site for that. You pick a niche, define your precise service, and let people “choose you” rather than trying to find a client.
Choosing a niche is key. Freelancing is one of those activities where being specialized is a great advantage. Being the #1 expert in your area for something specific can lead to higher pay and better opportunities.
Sometimes those little one-time services can lead to much bigger contracts or ongoing collaborations.
If you are missing the confidence, it’s normal. Just start small. What can you do? Can you review technical blog posts? Can you take care of a Gatsby or Hugo blog? Can you do redesigns? You don’t need to start building mobile apps or big React websites.
You can, of course, if that’s your expertise. But don’t be fooled by thinking you’re not good enough for it before you can start.
You can start with low prices if this makes you more comfortable, but also remember to not present yourself as a cheap alternative that undersells their services. Quickly move on to charging appropriately, as this will land you better clients, it will be less stressful, you’ll work on more interesting projects, and it’s just better in any way.
Also don’t be afraid to fire your clients and refusing work if that’s not what you want to focus on. Learn to say no.
More lab tutorials:
- The stack I use to run this blog
- 8 good reasons to become a software developer
- SEO for developers writing blogs
- Review of the book The 4-Hour Work Week
- Build a lifestyle business
- Build your own platform
- As an indie maker, what kind of product should you build?
- Create your own job security
- Developers, learn marketing
- The freedom of a product business
- Generating value
- Have a purpose for your business
- The idea is nothing
- The niche
- Remote working for software developers
- Product / market fit
- The best podcasts for frontend developers
- Why should I create an email list?
- Disconnect time from money
- The scarcity principle applied to software products
- The social proof principle
- How I added Dark Mode to my website
- My notes on the Deep Work book
- The pros of using a boring stack
- How to estimate programming time
- On going independent as a developer
- How to learn how to learn
- Why interview questions for programming jobs are so difficult?
- Do I need a degree to be a programmer?
- Everyone can learn programming
- How to be productive
- How to get the real number of pageviews of a static site
- Have you filled a developer bucket today?
- How I record my videos
- All the software projects I made in the past
- Tutorial purgatory from the perspective of a tutorial maker
- Every developer should have a blog. Here’s why, and how to stick with it
- Having a business mindset for developers
- How to write Unmaintainable Code
- What is Imposter Syndrome
- How to work from home without going crazy
- How I prototype a Web Page
- You should be the worst developer in your team
- How to start a blog using Hugo
- Write what you don't know
- How to block distractions using uBlock Origin
- Coding is an art
- I wrote 1 blog post every day for 2 years. Here's 5 things I learned about SEO
- Dealing with the fire
- On being a generalist
- The Developer’s Dilemma
- My plan for being hired as a Go developer. In 2017
- Productivity gains of using a Mac and an iOS device
- How to go from tutorials to your own project
- This is my little Digital Garden
- How to start freelancing as a developer
- Sharing the Journey Towards Building a Software Product Business
- Subfolder vs subdomain
- How I use text expanding to save time
- Software is a superpower
- I love books