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Freelance programmer working at computer in front of large window
Erica Rosas
Dec 14, 2020
Business Development

How To Find Clients and Work as a Freelance Programmer

Working as a freelance programmer has its perks. 

You can take on projects you’re passionate about, dedicate yourself to developing your skills, and more freely manage your own schedule, income and workload. 

The hardest part is getting started. Looking for clients and finding freelance web development work can feel very intimidating.

Instead of getting discouraged or feeling afraid, take our advice. We’ve put together some tips that will advance your goals of becoming a successful freelance programmer. 

Determine Your Ideal Potential Client. 

Finding clients is your end goal. To achieve that, ensure you’re looking in the right places for the right people. 

Really consider what type of people and organizations you’d most like to do freelance web development projects for. Do you:

  • Enjoy working with solopreneurs? 
  • Want to partner with startups?
  • Like working with nonprofits? 
  • Want to work as a part of a corporate team, but have your own freelance autonomy? 

Answer these questions honestly, and consider your desires both in the short-term and the long-term. 

You may have a dream of supporting non-profits’ fundraising efforts and changing the world through your work. That’s great, but it’s also okay if you just really need to get started as a freelance programmer now, write proposals for some potential clients regardless of their field, and start making money - you can seek different types of clients while staying true to your overall ideals. 

Set Your Hourly Rate for Web Development Projects.

Defining your ideal clients is a critical first step because it can affect your hourly rate for each freelance project. 

A larger corporation, for example, can likely pay higher rates; however, you may lose some of the autonomy that is so desirable and enjoyable as a freelance web developer. 

You may love the idea of creating new and innovative tools for solopreneurs, but you may have to balance those passion projects with things that bring in more money. 

Set your hourly rates or project rates based on a combination of the different types of work and how valued they are. And, determine exactly what you should charge while building a successful freelance business and covering bills. 

Build a Portfolio of Your Best Work. 

Your next big project in your quest to find clients should be building a portfolio of your best work samples if you don’t already have one. 

Sometimes, a programmer who is just getting started as a freelance web developer may struggle with deciding what to put in their portfolio site. Some of your best work may be proprietary to the companies you’ve worked with. 

In this situation, you can include personal projects where appropriate. If you’ve built something that showcases your skills, show it off. Your goal here will also be to include work that aligns with things that might interest your best clients. 

Figure Out Where to Find Clients. 

When you know who you want to work with, you need to figure out where to find those potential clients and pitch them on your work and value. 

Make Use of Social Networks

It’s likely that you have a network of supportive family and friends. You don’t have to beg for work. Instead, let them know you’re in business and would appreciate their referrals. 

They may know someone who could use help - whether they’re building a website or giving an existing one added e-commerce functionality. If they know you’re building a business, they’ll likely be happy to refer you when the need arises. 

If this approach isn’t something that comes naturally to you, make it part of the regular weekly or monthly assignments you give yourself. You can brainstorm a task list of people you want to interact with or share your business with, then check them off as you send messages to check-in or to share useful development-related information. 

Make Use of Social Media

Social media is one of the best places to connect with others, show you’re open for work, position yourself as a thought leader and find opportunities. 

Check social media sites for groups of like-minded individuals, as well as for people who work in complementary fields. You might, for example, be able to get referrals from marketing groups or from people who follow the same industry leaders you do. 

Make Use of Online Job Boards

There are plenty of online forums and communities that showcase jobs for freelance web developers. For example, you may be able to find opportunities on sites like Open Source Jobs or Stack Overflow. 

Finding work as a freelance programmer can feel like a necessary evil sometimes. However, if you think of it as helping potential clients to solve their web development problems, rather than trying to sell them a service, you (and they) will feel like the sales and partnership process are more mutually beneficial and satisfactory. 

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