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I want to be a freelancer, help!

About me

I'm fairly new to With less than 5 articles and ( fun stat one of the 57 users from South Africa)

I have been programming since 2014. I simultaneously taught myself web and android development. By 2015 I had started holding dev tutorials in introduction to java, web design and php for my peers. 2016 I thought I was ready to freelance. Or start a business around it rather. So I had my first client who wanted a site for an NPO, got a 7 month contract to tutor I.T at a local school and was enrolled for a full-time computer science degree. A horrible combination, I had bitten more than I can chew but it was a great learning experience. My grades were bad and my freelancing gig ended badly. Only success was with my well paying tutoring contract.

I thought I was good enough to be an employee, till I started getting involved in developer communities and learning from other developer stories from around the world. This is when I realized that there was so much more to learn.

I have a couple of github projects, mostly unfinished but a few that I'm proud of. I still feel they don't do me enough justice in showcasing my skills.

Anyway, I just updated my portfolio site. Pointers welcome 😌
This and a new account created in upwork. I got inspired by @darryldexter mostly


or questions, gee I have so many

  • Can I consider freelancing as a full-time occupation?

  • How do I start? Given the steps I've taken so far.

  • Do I have enough to showcase? Is it enough to land me a client or I still need to work harder?

  • What am I missing? I have a portfolio site that has no paid project and I don't have any employment history with software development.

Honestly all types of criticism will be considered positive. Don't hold back, no matter how harsh. Your input will kick start my career.

Thank you 😊

Top comments (5)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Think of your freelance career like entrepreneurship. There are some best practices but you’re going to have to figure a lot of stuff out on your own.

Allow this great comment from @kellyvaughn to be of assistance.

Freelancer-turned-agency owner here!

Step 1 before anything is make sure you have a portfolio up and running. Whether it's client work or fun projects or case studies, put it all up there. Make sure your skillset is clear to visitors, and make sure it's easy for people to contact you. Some people are happy to fill out a contact form, some prefer to email you directly, some prefer calling you (if you want to offer that as an option).

Getting your first clients:
I found my first non-friend/family clients many many years ago via social media. I saw some "I need freelance dev help" tweets from a couple other freelancers who had too much work on their hands. That's actually how I got my start with Shopify, which is now what my agency focuses 100% of our efforts on. I'm also a member of some development/freelance Facebook groups (such as Freelance to Freedom). People often post leads there for work that doesn't fit within their niche or it's just not something that can/want to take on.

What to do, what not to do:

  • Don't over-promise what you can't do. If it's a similar skill and you just haven't had the opportunity to dig into a specific facet of your preferred development language, it's fine to take on the project if you know it's something you can do based on your current skills. But don't say you can code an iOS app for a client if you've never done any iOS development before.
  • Don't do anything for free. Your time is valuable. The client wouldn't be giving away their product for free, and neither should you. If you're still building up your portfolio, you can discount your rates if you want so you can get some paying clients under your belt.
  • Always, always, always send a contract. Never do any work before you have a signed contract and a down payment. How much you want to set your down payment for is entirely up to you. On some of our projects we require 100% up front, and on others we'll accept 40%.
  • Be realistic about your time frame. If you think something will take you a week to code, tell the client it'll take two. Things always come up that will throw off your schedule. It's better to deliver earlier than expected than to have to push out a launch date.

Client communication:
We always send a questionnaire to the client before scheduling a call with them to make sure we're a good fit for them and they're a good fit for us. Whether you want to schedule a phone call, have a video conference call via Zoom/Skype/Hangouts, or meet in person is up to you, but we always go under the assumption that any in-person meeting will take up half of our workday. I honestly don't like having in-person meetings because of this. But regardless, it's always a good idea to have some sort of discussion with them off of email to see if their personality and communication style are a good fit for how you prefer to work.

Establishing your rates:
My favorite topic! Everyone undervalues themselves. It takes just one potential client who says you're too expensive to make you second guess your rates. I've been in this business for many, many years and it's still something I struggle with.

Shopify put out an article about two years ago that does a really good job of covering you should set your rates without giving explicit numbers. It's difficult to say "You should charge X" without knowing where you're located, what type of work you're doing, what your skill level is, and the many other factors that go into pricing a project. It's definitely important to take your market into consideration, as rates are going to differ from place to place. (My rates [I'm American] are often higher compared to what a lot of Europeans charge.) And another word of advice - always continue to increase your rates with each project. Another agency owner once told me that if a client is willing to pay $6,000, they're probably willing to pay $7,000. If they're willing to pay $12,000, they're probably willing to pay $14,000, and so on. Lastly, never reduce your rates for a client without removing something from the scope.

I hope this helps!

kelly profile image
Kelly Vaughn

Thanks for sharing, @ben !

Let me know if you have any additional questions, Beautus - I'd be happy to answer! :)

sduduzog profile image

Ok here goes. I really hope you get a notification from this comment. I have an new account in upwork. I think I don't know how to write a proposal. Also, what do you think of my portfolio I'll move it to my domain soon

sduduzog profile image

Thanks a lot, I'm not really sure yet, I'm still excited and overwhelmed by the comment ben shared. It covers most questions i had, especially with establishing my rates. You're such an inspiration 😊

sduduzog profile image

Thank you very much. You know at some point I thought this account was a bot. You always show up with the answers. 😁