Monday, 18 January 2010

WhyNotSmile Guide To Finding Work As A Freelancer

Good afternoon. I have been Quite Busy of late, making websites and quilts, and while I have had inspiration to post, I have not had the time to actually do it. However, today I am back with a Public Service Announcement on How To Find Work When You Are A Freelancer.

You see, what I do is design and build websites, which is quite nice, but can be a little stop-start in terms of the amount of work that comes in. To remedy this, there are a number of websites dedicated to helping freelance people find work, and I have signed up to avail of the services of many of them. Having done so for a number of months now, I am pleased to offer the WhyNotSmile Guide To Finding Work As A Freelancer.

1. Decide what you can do.
You can probably do more than you think. Technical skills are useful, of course, and there is a vast range of things that you could probably have a stab at, such as copy-writing (much, no doubt, to the annoyance of actual proper copy-writers), but there are also many jobs which require only willingness and no allergies. Most of them involve pets.

2. Find someone who needs that done.
You may need to be persuasive here. It is entirely possible that you are the finest juggler of nectarines in the South-East, but that's neither here nor there until someone wants to pay you to see it. At this point, you need to understand you USPs (Unique Selling Points). It doesn't really matter what these are, as long as you say them repeatedly and enthusiastically to as many people as possible - eventually you'll hit on a sucker and *bingo* you're off. The key is to forget the fact that no one needs your skill, and to believe instead that everyone does.
For instance:
! Finest juggler of nectarines in the South-East!!
! 5 nectarines at once!!
! IDEAL for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings and many other occasions!!
! Lessons available!!
! Fun-filled, exciting, edge-of-your seat entertainment at LOW prices!!
Now go to a freelancer website. Send your ad to everyone on there, even if they need someone to write a technical manual for their payroll software. Crowbar it in. Make a name for yourself. Get KNOWN. Go through the lists of projects and bid on everything.

3. Decide how much you want to charge.
Everyone will tell you that you can easily earn £500 per day as a freelancer, and even more if you actually know what you're doing. Of course, this is not at all true, as a cursory examination of jobs posted on these freelance websites tells you. The most frequent post is along the lines of:
I need a social website built with photo upload discussion board iPhone intergration, like Facebook but better I have loads of, ideas and I want it to be really good, no time-wasters please, my budget is £200. Also I would like it done as soon as possible please, please dont bid if you cant have it done by this weekend thanks
Essentially, most buyers of freelance services expect you to work for £2 per hour, and quickly.

4. Decide on your ethical and moral stance.
You may feel that you will do anything for cash, but it's not that simple, because if you do, sooner or later someone will sue you. For this reason, promising to build a 'Facebook clone' is probably putting you on shaky ground, as is anything that includes lines like 'I have the images already, to save money, I took them from our competitors website.'
There are also numerous requests for work which begin **NOTE: this post includes material or an adult nature. If you are offended easily, please do not read on **; it is best to have a Policy on these before you start.

5. Decide whether you can work with the buyer.
So you've found a job which is decently priced, within your skill set and legal. Well done. You have already achieved more than most. The next stage is to decide whether the buyer of your services is someone with whom you can do business. Since they are, at this point, basically words on a page, they will have to be doing something really bad to put you off immediately; the key thing is to understand the more subtle clues which hide between the lines.

For example:

'This is not a big job, but it needs to be done by tomorrow because I have promised it to the client by then'
TRANSLATION: 'I am pitifully disorganised and unable to complete my own work. This was due in a fortnight ago, and the client is threatening to sue me. I would like to have someone to share that responsibility with.'

'You need to be available 5 days a week, 9-5'
TRANSLATION: 'I am a control freak who will Skype you every 20 minutes and hires freelancers because all my full-time employees quit after 3 days'.

'Top-quality workers only'
TRANSLATION: 'We need someone who will make up for the complete lack of talent in the full-time team'.

'LOL' (anywhere in advert)
TRANSLATION: 'I'm an idiot'

6. Place your bid.
I'm assuming here that we're on one of those sites where people post jobs they need done, and you bid for it (not one of the ones where the price is fixed). The golden rules here are:
i) Try to sound sane, upbeat, positive and skilled. Saying 'I hav nevr used RubyOnRales but I learn relly fast' is not going to get you the job. Saying 'I have completed a number of similar projects in CSS, which is similar to Ruby on Rails, and am confident that I will complete this job to the best standards' might. The buyer typically won't have a clue that comparing CSS to Ruby on Rails is like comparing Dolly Parton to the Large Hadron Collider, and you can always get help online.
ii) List your past projects, unless they were really bad, in which case, don't.
iii) Do not bid first. The first person is there only to set the bar for everyone else.
iv) Ignore the budget. Just say how much it would cost you to do the job. Lots of buyers have no idea how much the project will cost, so they aim low. Convince them that you are worth paying more for. Acknowledge that your bid is a little above the posted budget, but do not say things like 'but I'm worth it'.
v) Do not completely ignore the budget. That's just silly.

7. Sit back and wait.
In the meantime, read the job specs and see if you really know how to do it.

8. Put Google Ads on your blog and try to raise money that way.


Wesley Johnston said...

Very interesting! Speaking as someone who is on the other side of the relationship than the one you describe (but in a different field) this gives me a useful insight.

One thing I would add from the opposite viewpoint which I hope is helpful. If you are looking for work, and are sending out e-mails seeking work, NEVER say "Hi, I'm a freelance chef and am looking for more work"*. Businesses couldn't care less if you're looking for work - they're not charities. Instead tell the business what YOU can do for THEM, so start off with "I can cook great food, in quicker time and at a lower cost than your in-house chef can". That's the way to get work as a freelancer.

*No, I'm not a chef. That's just my example.

whynotsmile said...

Thank you, that's helpful! I would never do that, of course...