There is a lot of stuff out there about freelancing. And, to be honest, most of it is nonsense. Empty words, fairy tales, and nothing useful. For example, one of the ‘five tips’ I’ve read recently was: ‘Get started’. Really?!!
If we talk about popular services like freelancer.com, elance.com, odesk.com and others, we notice some common rules. Now, it’s not that I have like 300 projects done as a freelancer. As a matter of fact, I’m still a beginner myself. And, the first question that comes to our mind when beginning as freelancers is, how to make a client choose me, among the tens of others? Yeah, yeah, you can be the best in the world in what you do, but if you are just starting online, no one will know that. In fact, no one will care.
So, what is it about then? Well, think about it, what is it that every client wants (no matter if he deserved it or not) when he posts a project? Two things:
- Experienced and qualified freelancer
- The lowest possible price
As for the #1, the only proof you can have that you are a good freelancer is your reputation, meaning, your reviews. Now, you are a beginner, you don’t have any reviews. Of course, you can fake some, with the help of your friends (although, my experience shows that none of them will bother), but that probably won’t be enough. One or two good reviews are still not enough. So, number 1 is out…
Now, the number 2. It’s obvious that clients want to get as low price as possible, even from the experienced freelancers. But from you? No, they don’t want low price. They don’t even want the lowest price in the world. The want – watch out – free service!! Yes, you read it well. Now, I know that it hurts. What, you don’t wanna work for free? Then you can stop reading this article.
For you who stick with me, here’s one more painful fact. Most of the time, you won’t get a gig, not even the free one! That’s right! Anybody still reading this? Alright, listen you two, carefully.
How it’s done? You don’t just make an account, choose a job carefully, for two hours, bid on one of them, wait for three days, and when you don’t get an answer, call it impossible and quit. No.
You get up early in the morning, as every hard worker does, getting ready to work your day shift. You make a coffee, sit on your comfy chair, turn on the computer, make an account on the freelance portal of your choice, make a list of your skills, filter the jobs against that list, and:
- You bid, you bid, and you bid! Every time you do it as if are going to get that job. Although, you are pretty sure you won’t. Read the job description, give it some thoughts and write an original proposal. And, KEEP YOUR DIGNITY! Do not beg! Do not be desperate, crying out for job, and don’t SHOUT that you will do it for free. That is your ace in the hole, so play it with elegance. Mention it as a possibility, not as your duty or necessity. You are not owing anything to anyone. You done? Good, now that you got rejected, do it again. And again, and again! Until one person comes to help – Mr. Probability Theory. Now, this is not a math lesson, but you just have to remember, one of those tries will work!
- Employers choose freelancers, but you have to choose your employers as well. Remember, client is not your boss, and you are not a slave. So, when you get in touch with your first client, calm down, and have a good chat with him. Here is one more sad truth. Most of them are jerks. And don’t listen to those ‘customer is always right’ idiots! If someone doesn’t even say ‘Hello’, leave it.
- What was the most surprising to me in the world of freelancing is the fact that the most useful and most valuable skill you can have is – communication. If you mix that with honesty, you get to look reliable and professional. You don’t have to be the best expert to get the job, but you have to be professional and polite. And, doing that way, client is going to get back for more. Although, you might come to a conclusion that most of them don’t care about your communication. That’s true. What’s even more true is that you don’t want to work with that kind of clients!
- Practical advice: offer to do a job without client officially awarding you the project immediately. Say that it’s for their protection and your sign of good will. But, the reality is, that way you are protecting yourself. Through work and communication with the client, you will find out if you can go to the end or not. If it turns out that the client is bad, you are ok, you won’t get your reputation damaged (or start with a negative one). Otherwise, when you do your job, send just a sample of it to your client. If they like it, then you can ask for awarding.
- If you have a room to improve your skills, don’t waste your time. Especially if your area is web development. If you chose to work as a freelancer, odds are you are doing what you like. Therefore, no reason to not see it as fun. There are a lot of resources for learning (TutsPlus is my favorite). So, install some browser extension for auto page refreshing, make it reload your job list page every 5-10 minutes and get yourself busy while occasionally watching for new opportunities. Bid and learn.
Freelancing has a lot of advantages, as you probably know. And, while it’s getting harder to make a breakthrough, and I hear a lot of complaining about rates going down these days (mostly because of the growing competition) the rule of thumb is that true experts make it at the end. A lot of effort and patience is required, much more than a couple of years ago, but in the end it will pay off.