Two years ago, I wrote this article about how to land your first job as a remote freelancer. After going through the same process again for a couple weeks, I felt like giving it an update was much needed.
TLDR, try to avoid as much as possible any situations where you will be in competition with a pool of other freelances. Instead, use your personal network of connections and remember that chance plays an important role.
But first thing first, let’s start by giving you a little bit of context about my current work situation. After spending 20 months working at the BBC, my partner and I decided to travel in Asia for six months. We are now based in Sydney, Australia and have a working holiday visa valid up until March 2020.
Things didn’t really work as expected
Interestingly, what worked for me in 2015 didn’t really performed as well as of today.
When starting to look for new missions I was quite confident that I would find a freelance job quite easily. Indeed, if you compare to 2015, I have now more work experience more recommendations and a larger skillset.
So where did things go wrong?
It’s not about how qualified you are
As a developer, one of the biggest struggles when applying for a job is to fight the impostor syndrome.
Rare are the companies that clearly acknowledge that “new tools, products and systems are always appearing” and that you cannot be good at everything. Hence the job ads that require you to have X years of experience with this or this technology and hence the complete nightmare for most of the junior developers. On top of that, as a freelance developer you might have the feeling that you already need to be a technology expert (given that your client won’t have the time nor the budget to train you).
Well, let’s be clear about all of the above: this is b****t. A lot (to not say most), of the successful freelance developers I talked to have started their career without being an expert with the technology that was asked.
⇒ “Fake it until you make it” is the way to go!
… It’s actually more about your work situation and timing!
Something else to not underestimate is your current work situation.
From experience, a lot of companies are looking for permanent contractors and an even greater number will also be looking for somebody who can work inplace (the infamous “no remote”).
To say it differently: Your geographic position and the kind of visa you hold matters a lot!
Finally, something I didn’t realize in the first place, timing and chance are big factors. I cannot recall how many hot opportunities went down because of X, Y, Z reasons.
…Which leads us to the next important question:
How to handle rejection?
One of the biggest learning I had as a BBC Solutions Engineer was resilience! Not everything is instantaneous, companies processes takes time and in the end what pays off is your patience rather than stupid stubbornness.
If a potential client stop suddenly replying to your emails (or is inconsistent in the way he deals with you) take it as a good thing: You would probably have never wanted to work for this company in the first place anyway.
My advice to succeed
Plant a lot of “seeds”
Interestingly, client prospection is not a game where you will see the consequences of your actions immediately. So, to maximise your chance of success, your best shot is to try a lot of different things. Never get stuck!
To give you some ideas, here is what I tried out:
- Get in touch with local umbrella companies.
- Reach out to local Web agencies and startups.
- Contact ex-colleagues and professional connections.
- Use your personal network of friends.
- Register on freelancer job platforms (Comet, Malt, Toptal…)
- Add a bunch of potential leads on Linkedin.
- Answer tons of classic job ads (on Seek, Indeed, Linkedin…).
- Look for Twitter job posting.
- Register on freelance communities on Slack or Discord (Remotive, Beebench, Reactiflux…)
- Attend local meetups (because meeting people in real life will often accelerate the process)
- Send cold emails to interesting prospects found on Angellist
- Extend your research to other remote jobs platforms. Here is an interesting list I found on Reddit.
Also remember, it’s not because one lead is promising that you should focus exclusively on it. It’s a matter of balance, give this seed enough time and resources to grow but at the same time, keep the ball rolling.
Finding your first clients as a freelancer is hard. On top of that, if you are a remote freelancer, things might get even more complicated.
However, don’t loose faith. The sweet spot is what’s the most beneficial in term of time spent versus return on investment.
On a final note, I also wanted to empathize in this article that everybody is different. My situation is obviously unique so what might work for me won’t work necessarily the same way for someone else.
Found this article interesting and have something to say about it? Let me know in the comment section.
Also, I always keen to hear more about freelance missions. If you are or know somebody who is looking for an experienced frontend developer feel free to send me a DM.