Becoming a Freelancer
How I switched career directions and became a freelancer full-time
June 27, 2020
6 min read
It was time to make a change.
I've been struggling to thrive in corporate environments for a while. Lots of meetings, very little team-play, or having poor leadership. Some of the workplaces I'd been in had been toxic, others just couldn't accommodate the growth I was capable of. Whether big or small, I'd been held back working for other businesses and I'd had enough.
It was time to take back control.
I started researching, as we all do when making a life-changing decision (I hope!). I gathered as much information as I could, looking for ways to make a living as a freelancer. Many of my friends had been freelance at some point so I asked them for help, either by asking for advice or through referrals.
Asking for clients through friends and family was a great way to get started. I only found a couple of clients this way, but it's a great boost into the freelance world and gives you a little more freedom to try things out as friends and family are more likely to help you find your feet (mistakes matter less).
Twitter (and other social media platforms) can also be a great way to find clients. This is likely to be more successful if you have a larger following, but reaching out and offering assistance, showing expertise, and proving yourself will help you gain a following very quickly if you don't already have one. Social media can be free advertising for you if you use it wisely.
Some of the most helpful tips
I managed to garner a lot of help from the freelancers I knew, as well as from the reading I was doing.
Always make a great impression.
- As a freelancer, one of the best ways to find more work is word of mouth. Doing a great job attracts more jobs.
Code is only a part of your value. As a freelancer you aren't just writing code. That's not where your value really lies. Your value is in your expertise. For me, this is my ability to really understand users and find solutions that others aren't able to.
Don't charge hourly. Similar to before, charging hourly presents you as a commodity. By charging hourly, you communicate the message that your value comes from your price, and not the impact what you deliver has for your client.
Take payment upfront. Where possible, take complete payment for the job upfront. Everyone's heard stories of various contractors doing a bad job and then running, but it happens in reverse too.
Make contracts. They're boring, I know. But if a relationship does go south, then having a contract in place means both parties know exactly what was meant to be done, for how much, and by when. Nobody complains about a little security.
Always be marketing. When you start out, this is obvious, but as you gain work it can be very easy to forget that there will be no work lined up later. Always make new connections.
Always be networking. At some point, I guarantee that you'll be asked to utilize a skill you don't have (or have no interest learning). Finding people who do have these skills in advance makes it extremely easy to work with them later.
Work a regular routine. Even when you don't have work on right now, you should still stick to your usual routine. Routine helps keep you efficient, and working when you have no contracted work means you can do your own side projects, more marketing, or any other business requirements you're missing.
Don't forget to take breaks. The whole point of freelancing is freedom, so don't get stuck working 12 hour days, and remember that you can take breaks whenever you want without feeling guilty.
Some helpful resources
As with all new experiences I undertake, I did some reasearch beforehand to understand better the leap I was about to make. These learning materials helped me greatly to gather a deeper understanding about freelancing or helpful skills around freelancing.
Start Freelancing Today. Kelly's personal study on her journey into becoming a freelancer.
Study Web Development.The all-inclusive guide on how to become a freelancer, including everything you'll need to start.
How to get followers on Twitter. Not strictly a resource for freelancing, but given how important twitter was for my new career path, I'd be amiss to leave out Danny's excellent guide to Twitter and the benefits it can bring you.
My experience so far
So far, my experience with freelancing has been great. It's definitely proven to be the lifestyle I want. The freedom and flexibility it brings are excellent, and I don't think I'll be able to go back to working for a company.
Just a little of my experience so far:
- I've made contact with 8 clients in less than 2 weeks.
- Over half of these leads came through Twitter.
- I've agreed to my first contract after excellent discussions with the client, and received payment.
- I've lost 2 leads, but it can't be expected that every lead will be a perfect fit.
- I've had the freedom to work on my own projects.
- I haven't had the frustrations of poor management or hangups from other developers.
Going freelance is a scary experience. You no longer have the safety net, and you're entirely in charge of your own destiny.
Having control over your career, who you work with and what you work with is an amazing feeling.
If it's something you've been thinking about doing, consider taking the leap. It might just pay off.
If it's not something you want to do (or you're not sure) then feel free to keep following my story. I'll be posting about it regularly on Twitter and on my newsletter so you can keep up to date there.