Freelancing is becoming an increasingly popular career path for developers. Working as a freelancer has many advantages, such as being your own boss and making your own schedule. However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the biggest obstacles is finding new clients.
The good news is that there are plenty of quality clients who are willing to pay for freelance web development services. In fact, many businesses today prefer freelancers over agencies. The key is knowing where to find the right prospects, and how to market yourself appropriately in order to get their attention.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common mistakes new freelance developers make when it comes to finding clients. Then we’ll walk you through five tips you can use to make that process easier. Let’s dive in!
Common mistakes developers make when trying to find freelance clients
Many new freelancers struggle with finding clients. As a one-person operation, you don’t have the established credibility, resources, or backing that you would have with an agency. Consequently, you’ll need to work that much harder to prove your worth to potential clients.
However, there are also a handful of common mistakes developers make that can complicate the process of landing new clients. The first issue is casting too wide a net. If you’re new to freelancing, you’re probably eager to apply to any and all jobs you come across. You assume that if you keep your services broad and all-encompassing, it will attract more clients, when the truth is often quite the opposite.
This hunger for work can also prompt you to set your rates lower than your actual worth. While working for cheap or even free can help to build out your portfolio, charging too little won’t necessarily incentivize clients to hire you. In some cases, it can have the opposite effect. Potential clients might perceive your low rates as a reflection of poor quality.
Another easy mistake to make is only looking for work on popular crowdsourcing platforms and job boards. While there are sites you can use to find high-paying jobs and quality opportunities, others can be a waste of time. For example, bidding sites typically have high competition with low payouts. This can lead to frustration and a poor return on your efforts.
5 tips for freelance developers who want to find quality clients
The good news is that, if you can avoid mistakes like the ones mentioned above, finding freelance clients as a developer doesn’t need to be that hard. Let’s take a look at five tips that can make doing so easier.
1. Create a strong online brand that demonstrates credibility
As a web developer, you’re well aware of the impression a quality website can make. Creating a strong online brand helps you establish credibility as a freelancer, and makes you appear more professional. Plus, a website lets you control your image in more ways than a simple resume might:
If you want to attract and land quality clients, the importance of properly marketing yourself can’t be overstated. There are a few key elements successful freelance developer sites have, such as:
- Testimonials and Reviews. It’s one thing to sing your own praises. However, it can be more meaningful for potential clients to hear about your successful track record from others.
- Portfolio. Instead of telling business owners how you can help, why not show them? If your portfolio is thin, consider taking on free or side projects to help fill it out.
- Blog. A blog is an effective way to demonstrate authority and expertise. Plus, it can boost your site’s SEO, which makes it easier for potential clients to find you.
- ‘Hire Me’ Page. This page can help you capture leads and inquiries from people who come across your blog or portfolio.
Before hiring you, it’s likely that potential clients will search for you online. If one of the first results is your website, this can position you as a reputable candidate.
2. Choose an area of specialty
When it comes to freelancing, there are generalists and there are specialists. One common mistake is trying to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Specializing in a niche or service can be very effective. If clients know that you possess a particular set of skills, they may perceive you as being more valuable.
Focusing on areas you are passionate about can also help attract quality clients, because it communicates a singular interest and focus. This is attractive to businesses that are looking to hire a developer for a specific task. On the other hand, if a client sees that you offer a broad range of services, they may assume you have a little experience in each area but aren’t an expert in any one of them.
To successfully acquire new clients, it’s important to position yourself as being both knowledgeable and capable. For example, are there certain programming languages you are particularly well-versed in? It’s also easier to stand out in a specified niche than it would be under the broad umbrella of all web design and development. This gives you a more defined slice of the market to target.
When choosing a niche, you may want to consider using a site such as NicheHacks:
This site offers a plethora of blogs, guides, and resources dedicated to helping professionals choose a profitable niche. In addition to what you’re good at, it’s also important to consider the areas you’re most interested in and passionate about. This makes it easier to stay committed to your freelance business and nurturing your skill set over time.
3. Focus on a few quality websites for finding freelance projects
As a new freelance developer, trying to focus on too many job boards and sites can be a waste of time. As we mentioned earlier, some platforms are highly competitive but don’t pay much.
A smarter strategy is to focus on a few quality platforms. What ‘quality’ means depends on your areas of specialty. However, a solid start is to focus on sites that offer WordPress work, and attract clients who pay well.
There are many options to choose from, depending on the type of work you’re looking for. For example, Arc provides development opportunities for both full-time and freelance positions. Another site you may consider for finding freelance clients is Toptal:
Toptal is a marketplace for experienced developers, engineers, programmers, and coders. Just keep in mind that there are certain requirements you’ll need to meet in order to join this platform.
4. Offer services that set you apart from competitors
To cut through the noise and attract quality clients, it’s essential to differentiate yourself from the competition. One way to do that is by selecting a specialty niche and promoting your unique selling points. Another is by offering services most other freelance developers don’t.
Many freelancers settle for one-time projects. They don’t approach their freelance business with the mindset of building long-term relationships or ongoing work. However, there are many opportunities to provide meaningful services that can lead to recurring income. You could add reporting and analytics as a service, for example, or try offering maintenance service plans.
After signing up for a free ManageWP account, you can choose from a wide range of add-ons that help to enhance your business. Services such as reporting and analytics are more commonly offered by development agencies. However, some businesses prefer working with freelancers, so incorporating these services can help set you apart.
5. Consider contributing to open-source projects
As a freelance developer, contributing to open-source projects offers an opportunity to make meaningful connections. You will be collaborating with other developers and WordPress professionals, which can help boost your brand and reputation.
Open-source projects are also an effective strategy for bulking up your portfolio. There are a handful of places to find open-source work, with one of the most popular being GitHub. When searching for open-source projects, consider looking for ones that are relatively new. These tend to be less complex than older, more mature projects.
Another, similar option is to create developer tutorials on places like SitePoint:
This website lets developers submit articles, books, and other long-form content. It can be an effective way to build your reputation and credibility, as well as to add an impressive accolade to your portfolio.
Freelancing can be a fulfilling and lucrative career path for developers. However, if you want your freelance business to be successful, you’ll need to have a strategy for landing new clients.
As we’ve discussed, there are five key ways to find quality clients as a freelance developer:
- Create a strong online brand that demonstrates credibility.
- Choose an area of specialty.
- Focus on a few quality websites for finding freelance projects.
- Offer services that set you apart from competitors.
- Considering contributing to open-source projects.
Do you have any questions about finding clients as a freelancer? Let us know in the comments section below!
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