You’ve heard the lines before: “Oh, you need experience to be successful as a freelance web developer.”
Or how about this one: “Getting your name out there costs lots of money and lots of Google and Facebook advertising.”
There are lots of rumors that churn here on the web.
Many are discouraging. Further, many are developed intentionally, as clickbait, while others have evolved from honest words that were twisted after being filtered through so many people and platforms. Either way, many of these rumors are lies and have little, if anything, to do with real-world freelance web development.
Today, we’re exploring five of the most common lies and setting the record straight, as explained by a working freelance web developer.
1. You need to be an experienced web developer.
Here’s the thing. If you’re dealing with strangers as clients, then yes, you do need to be experienced. How else can they trust you to do the job if you don’t have proof?
When you access your people networks (both online and offline) to source clients, however, that reality changes. Do you really need a portfolio of challenging projects to build a site for your friend who’s in need of a landing page for his one-man marketing business?
The proof that you’re capable lies in your relationship with this person. They’ve been around you long enough to know you can handle challenges, creatively problem solve, and deliver as promised. He or she doesn’t need to see that you can do it; they already trust you.
There are many people in your networks that need web services now. They don’t need to see an expansive and prestigious portfolio of previous commercial web work: they know you for you and have seen other disciplines where you’ve excelled. These people believe in you and want you to succeed, and are often enthusiastic about you helping with developing their digital products.
2. You need to use AdWords, Facebook ads, and other expensive marketing tools to generate leads.
Although I know a lot of people, my inner circle is pretty small.
When I was started my own freelance career, I researched a lot about how to find clients. Most of the materials suggested that I rely on paid search (along with advanced SEO tactics, which can take months to years to show results), including buying strategic Facebook and Google AdWords ads to promote my services.
It didn’t work.
It was a total time and money drain, even after I did my research. These techniques can work wonderfully when you’re more established – but they hardly ever work when you’re starting out.
Because beginners have a low trust-factor. Remember, the internet is a no-trust platform, and unfortunately, as newbies we’re relegated to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to trust and confidence with strangers.
The best marketing tools as a newbie are free, and largely consist of your local networks while building trust-based relationships with potential clients.
3. You need to use a massive freelance platform like Fiverr or Upwork to find clients.
These popular freelancing sites are a global gathering of those who charge the least money possible for their services. Not only is this a race to the bottom, it’s also unsustainable for those who don’t live in developing countries and other places where the cost of living is low.
It’s also a huge time drain because your proposal is in the mix with dozens of others competing for the same job. You end up spending a lot of time on proposals that never make it out of the heap.
Some may argue that you can use these sites to build your portfolio – and that’s true, you can – but why risk the potential negative reviews, excessive client demands, and borderline-abusive client emails that are common in low-wage sites when you can build sites for friends and family who need them? You also have the handicap of being new, so unless you devise a scheme for your acquaintances to hire you on these sites and leave positive feedback, you’ll have a zero trust factor with no social proof.
Of course, you’re absolutely free to experiment with these sites as a service provider.
Odds are, however, you’ll find it a waste of time and energy, and it’ll end up being a huge opportunity cost. Think about all that time spent crafting those $150 proposals on Upwork when you could’ve been working quality leads in your own networks.
4.In freelance web development, you never know if you’ll have $200 months or $20,000 months.
It wasn’t until I landed my enterprise job where I discovered the power of long-term clients. I noticed that client acquisition came second to appeasing my company’s current client roster. But why?
Why were companies that had already paid us still getting the royal treatment?
Because they were still paying us. They paid us a monthly service fee that included hosting, maintenance, and they also received priority when they had a feature request (which costs extra, of course). In this way, the company was making passive income simply by hosting the site and ensuring it was safe with the appropriate security updates, all while opening the door for billable feature requests.
This practice can also be implemented in your freelance web development business. Maintenance packages offered to your long-term clients can smoothly and predictably bridge the gap between $200 months and $20,000 months. This way, you don’t have to rely on the stressful process of new client acquisition every month to pull an income.
5. The best way to be a successful freelancer is to just “start freelancing.”
This idea sounds liberating, and it may work if you’re only trying to work with one or two clients a year. But if you want to make freelance web development a career, even a part-time career, you need to have a plan.
When we enter freelance web development, we enter as entrepreneurs, not as free-flowing spirits. In this business, having a plan and taking some time out before starting freelancing is exactly what we need to do, because it shapes our career trajectory. By not jumping right into freelance web development, we have time to draft a clear, cohesive business plan rather than just “winging it” and seeing what happens.
Winging it is what karaoke singers do when their lyrics disappear on their TV monitor.
A business plan is what freelance web developers do when they’re ready to succeed.
The best way to get started with freelancing is taking time to build a business plan. Think of a business plan as a roadmap. This roadmap describes your business, goals, strategies, and metrics for success, among other things. Coming up with a business plan doesn’t have to be some fancy suit-and-tie affair with bows on each page. It can start off as a few paragraphs in Notepad if you want, or written down in a notebook. This business plan is for you, and you alone.
My book Freelance Newbie touches upon all of these topics, and for only $9.99 you can get started on the right foot with developing a business plan, organizing a solid network of potential clients, and much much more! Check it out today and start investing in yourself and your financial future.
Featuring all the methods, techniques, tips, tricks, and insights you need to succeed, Freelance Newbie was written by a working freelancer whose mission is to help people like you find personal success and financial independence.