How To Become A Freelance Developer

Hello first time visitor!

Step by step tutorial

So you have spent few months studying various technologies – probably PHP/MySQL, CGI or Java – and now you want to put that in action. Or are you already working as a web developer for a company? This experience can help you, but it is not needed.

When I was starting as a freelance developer, I had zero professional experience. I was a prepress expert in an advertising company and in my free time was working on 2-3 open source projects with PHP. None of them was too complicated, neither I was too good in what I was doing – I only know I really wanted to be a freelancer.

The experience is not so important. The most important is your passion to do it and that you are ready to struggle for success as a freelance developer. Don’t expect the beginning to be easy – in fact the beginning is where most freelancers fail. The first projects will be hard to win, to do, and to get paid.

Are you ready to start?

1. Prepare a portfolio

You have very little chance to win your first project if you have nothing to show. You desperately need a portfolio. Here is a catch 22 – to win your first project you must show some past work. But how to have it if you have never worked on a project? Here are to possible ways to resolve this issue:

– create a project yourself. Don’t do it too fancy or too complex – you don’t want to lose months doing it or lose your motivation. For example if you are web developer, create a simple forum or a guestbook. If you are C++ or Java programmer create a simple text editor. All you need is something bug free which to show to your potential customers

– join open source project at SourceForge. This site allows you to search projects which need help based on the preferred technology or software type. Although the project owners also have some requirements, it is not so hard to be accepted – finally, the jobs are unpaid.

2. Build a resume and a website

Now it is time to build your resume. It should be as professional and tidy as if you were adopting a regular job. See this article on how to write a resume. The only difference is that this time you should put more weight on your skills and portfolio rather than your education. In most cases the high school and diploma won’t be known from the potential buyers (unless you have studied in Oxford ;-) – so don’t expect them to hire you because of it.

Put your resume and portfolio on a website. You can even use free webhosting or create it as a blog at Blogger. At this moment do not put contact details there – the freelance sites will ban you for doing this, and being a beginner you can’t expect that some random visitor on your site will contact you for a project. The purpose of your website at this stage is only to be shown to the potential buyers on the freelance websites.

3. Join 1-2 freelance sites

If you have never seen a freelance site, you may be a bit confused at the beginning. But in general they have similar requirement and structure. [See this article about freelance sites]
My personal preferences are to Scriptlance and RentACoder, but I can also recommend you Guru and GetAFreelancer.

For the beginning you’d better choose a site with free registration (like the ones above). Thus you won’t risk anything except your time.

When joining the site, don’t forget to carefully complete your profile. You can use the same information that you have put in your resume and website. If the site allows that, put a picture of yourself – it builds trust and breaks the ice of the first contact.

Don’t pretend to be a team. I have seen many developers presenting themselves as teams with many programmers and designers. This is not impressing the buyers – most often it puts them off. They are usually small business owners and webmasters or outsourcing companies who are looking for individuals and not teams – and you will even see this as a requirement in many projects.

4. Bid on 5-10 projects per day

Unless you are incredibly lucky, you will not win your first project. Quite possible you’ll not even win within your first 10 bids. It took me more than 20 bids on RAC and more than 10 on Scriptlance before I won the first. You need the lost bids to gain experience. See who won and why. See why your bid was rejected. Was it because the price or the language you used? Was it because your skills were inappropriate or your portfolio weak?

Because of this you have to be consistent and keep bidding every day. Don’t overdo it – 5-10 bids per day are enough. You need to know what you are bidding on, to be sure that you can complete it and to estimate your bid well.

5. Win your first freelance project

Sooner or later you will win your first project. Don’t give up and keep doing it until you win it. The feeling is really great even if it is a small job for $5. You will feel like a real winner – and this pays for all the efforts put so far.

But don’t let the emotions put you away from the target – stay concentrated and put all your power into doing your first freelance project perfectly. Don’t think that you are doing too much for the price you have given. Your first project will not be accurate for your financial calculations. Its purpose is not to make you money – it is to start making your image.

Do it perfectly, on time and if possible overdo it. Communicate often with the buyer, be kind and helpful. This will bring you the first testimonial and rating and boost your freelance career from then on.

6. Update your portfolio

Once completed the first project, immediately place it in your portfolio. If you have received a testimonial, create a testimonials page and put it there. Use every further project you win to grow your portfolio and improve your profile. The more you do, the more your profile and feedback grows and the easier it becomes to win projects and complete them.

This tutorial is where you should start, but don’t end with it. Keep improving yourself and working on your skills and freelancer profile. The other articles from this site will help you to master your skills as a freelance developer.

One Response to “How To Become A Freelance Developer”

  1. It’s a good tutorial Bobby. Well done!

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