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So, you're a web developer? And you want to become a freelancer? This is a challenging combination, despite the obvious perks. The allure of having no set hours, no boss and no annoying colleagues can be pretty blinding, especially in the beginning. You choose your projects, set your hours and best of all, have the final say on, well, everything.
Most careers that are creative in nature provide huge possibilities for freelancing. Even if you’re employed on a full-time basis, pretty soon you’ll be itching for the opportunities and revenue that freelance work brings. But just like all entrepreneurial ventures, freelancing comes with its set of pros and cons.
Amid all this, one thing remains unchanged: you’ll want to attract work consistently. So, how exactly can you do that? Below are four avenues to acquire clients and build a web design rep.
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1. A Portfolio
People on full-time employment have the references of their previous bosses; the freelancer has their portfolio. You can use Behance or GitHub to house your portfolio, or create a nicely done personal website. Your collection should highlight your strong points and establish your unique brand identity.
If you’re not sure what work to choose, just have a portfolio that gives your audience a feel for the scope of work you’ve done in the past. You don’t have to include everything, but include samples from as many categories as you have previously handled to create an impression of versatility and vast knowledge.
Don’t have any professional projects to speak of? Show some work from your coursework for school – choose carefully, because you are in a competitive field. Once you know your ropes around the trade, volunteer to work for free or cheaply just to get your portfolio going.
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Twitter makes a very useful networking instrument for professionals, if you know how to leverage it. Here are a few tips:
Search using hashtags and related phrases
Use Twitter's search engines to find the latest conversations around matters in the industry. Find out what top companies up your alley are saying and follow other more established developers you hold in high esteem. You can also find conversations surrounding those companies or developers, if they are not on Twitter, though it’s highly unlikely.
Use advanced search filters to get more targeted results e.g. sentiment, dates, location etc. To access advanced search, type your search string and click on Advanced Search in the results page. On twitter, searches can be saved for faster access.
Participate in industry conversations
Chime in with well thought-out quips to engage with relevant contacts within the industry. This will be the people and companies who can potentially advance your networks. For instance, The Frontier Group hosts their #NewWebFrontier Friday chat from 8:00 - 9:00 pm EST.
Lists are an underused networking tool on Twitter. Categorize any accounts of interest you happen by into categories to easily identify who you wish to stay connected with or reach out to. Lists are public by default, so ensure you change the setting to private and then label them in a way that makes sense to you. For instance, you can create a list “Prospective clients to pitch to”. You can also follow other developers’ public lists if they’re useful to you.
Look into your followers’ networks
This includes followers of people you follow and the people who the people you follow, follow (that makes sense). This is the best way to find new and interesting people and brands to follow. Add any promising finds to your lists from above.
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LinkedIn is a useful network to connect with potential clients as well as remain connected with past and present clients so that they can send more work your way. A few more tips:
Update your work history
Just like your resume, ensure your profile on LinkedIn remains current. Include a concise, but catchy summary of your job background; this is what shows after your profile picture and the thumbnail sketch of previous job titles.
Include work samples
Your work should speak for you. Include links to your portfolio in your summary or upload actual samples and/or put links under Projects to show your work experience. The more compelling the profile is, the more likely you are to secure new clients. Pick out a few of your best pieces and have the link to the rest as part of the summary.
Use the social networking element
Create interesting articles, post them and share. Also, comment on and like articles written by other people. This is the easiest way to build your connections and keep them alive. You can track the number of views, likes and shares on each post to determine how much grip you’ve gotten in your networking.
Join groups and engage relevantly
LinkedIn groups provide a great opportunity to network. You can message contacts with who you share a group even if you aren’t ‘linked’, though your settings should be configured to allow direct messaging. Request to join relevant groups if approval is required and join the open ones, and then engage with others in the group meaningfully.
Ask for recommendations
Tactfully and politely request for recommendations from past clients, colleagues or bosses. You can use LinkedIn, telephone, e-mail or other channels depending on the nature of previous interaction. Another way is to recommend a connection with some valued skill, subtly inviting them to give you one as well.
Search your connections’ connections
You’re more likely to get a good reception to a prospective client if you’ve been introduced by a mutual friend than if you ride it solo. Browse through the connections of those to whom you’re connected; you might be surprised with what you find.
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4. Job Boards
There are many job boards: Gun.io, Guru, Elance.com, Stack Overflow, Craigslist, GitHub Jobs and Behance job search, among others. Use them to secure consistent freelance projects. Present yourself professionally – use formal language, and ensure there aren’t any typos – when applying for jobs that suit you.
However, job boards should only be complementary to other strategies, because you have to do a lot of sifting before you land on promising leads. Also, you’re more likely to find and close lucrative deals when they’re coming from within your networks.
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It goes without saying that after you’ve gotten gigs, make sure you deliver on time, according to specification, and with a friendly demeanor all through. Be a pleasure to work with so that you’ll be recommended to others by your clients who will also become repeat customers. Wherever you go, build rapport; it’s your greatest asset.
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About the Author: Jack Dawson is a web developer and UI/UX specialist at Big Drop Inc. He works at a design, branding and marketing firm, having founded the same firm 9 years ago. He likes to share knowledge and points of view with other developers and consumers on platforms.