in Business

Advice to a new freelancer

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

I’ve been exchanging emails with a friend about his career, which includes considering whether to make a stronger move toward freelancing over employment. Yesterday he asked me this:

I guess I’m more of at of a loss of where to get clients. I honestly have no idea. I was thinking there was two routes to go down. 1) work with agencies or 2) work with small businesses. I figured the agency route would be much easier from a developer point-of-view, but since I haven’t done either, I’m just guessing. Which do you work with? Have a preference? Advice?

Here’s what I said, which should be useful to others not in his specific situation as well:

We (The Bright Agency) pretty much exclusively work directly with the end client. We’ve been happy with that, but if I were starting from a blank slate, I’d be going after whatever I could find, and building some agency relationships would almost certainly be part of that. I wouldn’t advise making that a long-term strategy as I believe your profit would be very limited, but it would get some projects under your belt and pay the bills. At the same time, I’d be trying to find end-client work as well. I think I’d give Robert Williams’ Workshop a try – I haven’t paid for the service as we get enough work without it, but his content is great, and I think it’s a compelling sales pitch for someone in your position.

I’d also strongly suggest reading Double Your Freelancing Rate if you haven’t already – it has a pretty solid foundation on pricing, how you position yourself and communicate that to leads/clients, etc. I’m a big believer in moving beyond the “$xx/hour for ____ development/design service” model, and toward the “$xxx/hour or $xx,xxx/week for making your business big money” model. I’d also suggest calling yourself a “consultant”, instead of a “freelancer”. Again, it’s all about the positioning.

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  1. I’d also recommend reading Book Yourself Solid and Get Clients Now if you’re specifically looking to bring in clients.

    What made my first year work was an agency that moved to a product and sent most of their work my way.

    • Thanks for the book suggestions, Curtis. I’ll relay those to my friend and check them out myself. I’ve seen Book Yourself Solid suggested several times but haven’t actually read it myself.

    • Thanks for the comment, and the links! I definitely agree with you that there are some major benefits to joining a team. In fact, that’s probably been the one drawback to not being on a development team that I’ve noticed – I’m sure I could learn faster by working with other experienced developers. At the same time, however, the flexibility afforded by freelancing/consulting, at least for me, is worth far more than I feel I would gain by going to work for someone else. There are tradeoffs, and the calculation will look different for everyone 🙂