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Finding Work as a Freelance Web Developer

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You may have previously been a permanent employee doing the same mundane work in need of a new challenge, or you may of liked the idea of being your own boss, so set down the path of freelancing...but naturally their is no joy in being your own boss should you not get any work! Our guide to finding work as a freelance Web Developer offers advice on promoting your services and getting more clients, with most of our suggestions costing nothing. 

But before doing anything ask yourself the following:

  • Who are my prospective clients? 
  • Where can I find them? 
  • Where do they go? 
  • How should I approach them?
  • How do I engage with potential new clients, so when they do need a web developer they'll instinctively think of me?

By knowing who your potential clients are means you are more likely to know where they are going to look for your services. Read our helpful hints and tips below to finding those clients and building up that client database:

Word of mouth
Everyone will tell you that this is one of the best ways to ‘market’ yourself, and it’s true. Word of mouth is very powerful, however as you're just starting up, chances are you won’t know that many people. However, it is still worth making sure you tell everyone you know about what you are doing. 

Work for free
A horrible thought we know, but if you are just starting out, then it’s vital that you build up a credible portfolio as soon as possible. If that means working for free in return for being able to use samples for your marketing, then do it. The best option is to target small companies who would not be able to afford your services otherwise, or charities and societies in your local area. They will benefit from it and so will you – so it’s a win-win for everyone, plus they may also recommend you to fee paying clients.

Design and marketing agencies
All agencies will at some point in time use freelancer's, either when they are especially busy, or to cover holidays, illness and so on. What you need to do is to make as many agencies as possible aware of your existence, so that they will add you to their list of approved suppliers – and will think of you and call you when they need extra resources. 

The simplest and cheapest approach is via email – and this is especially easy with agencies as often they will publish the contact details of the person you need to speak to on their website. Then all you have to do is send an email (or even pick up the phone if you’re feeling brave!) and ask if they are looking for freelancers. Then tell them about you and give them your website details so they can see those samples of work. Some may ask for more PDF samples to be emailed, so make sure you have a selection at the ready.

Company marketing departments
This is of course another key customer audience, but often far harder to approach – as marketing department's will be bombarded with information from design agencies and freelancer's all the time. This makes it very hard to ‘stand out from the crowd’ – but you should at least give it a try. As you are unlikely to get a relevant email address (even so, your email will be likely to end up in the 'spam' or 'junk' folder), you may have to resort to the post, either with a mailing piece to ‘the marketing department’ or to a specific contact name if you can get one by calling reception.

Really think outside your comfort zone here. Regardless as to whether or not you usually prefer to design website's, should you notice an up and coming card company, with very few designs for people to choose from, your services may be just what they need. 

The great thing about this approach is that you can really showcase your creativity. Design the right mailer and it will be spotted a mile off – and ‘stand out’ immediately. Try to come up with a design they cannot miss, as they probably receive at least one standard brochure or mailer from an agency every day - remember though, you will need something creative but also appealing to their target audience, otherwise it will be discarded. 

Market to other freelancers
If you read the other articles on this site you will see that we always recommend that new freelancers get a website up and running as soon as possible. Which is of course where you come in! If you can develop a simple site for new freelancers, for a sensible price, then there will be a huge market open to you. You could even develop a set of re-useable ‘templates’ to keep costs down, which you can then personalise for each client. Bear in mind also that these freelancer's may have other skills which you need (copywriting for example) giving you the opportunity to ‘trade’ services, which will benefit you both, rather than ask for hard cash.

The Internet
In the past the Yellow Pages used to be the key directory to search for all sources of business information. Now-a-day’s the World Wide Web is our address book and our source of knowledge. Take advantage of the fact that people can now search for anything with just a click of their mouse, look into…

Creating your own website
This is a really obvious one of course – as before you start marketing your services, you must have a website to direct people to, however even the most technically minded can forget some of the most essential information, that makes your site memorable:

  • Dedicated 'About You' section - Talk about yourself, why you got into web development and your experience. This will help people to understand the ‘personality’ of you and your business. 
  • Divide your portfolio into sections based on types of projects - For example simple sites, complex Flash sites, eCommerce sites, HTML emails, animation sequences and so on. It depends which areas you cover. Depending on the complexity of your website, it could also be a good idea for people to search for samples by industry sector as well as by project type – although this feature is not essential. Remember also to include links to any work which appears externally on other website's. Make sure these links open in a separate window so that the visitor is not taken away from your site altogether.
  • Make it as user friendly as possible - We would recommend showing a ‘thumbnail’ image on the main page, which you can click on to open the entire sample as a PDF.

For more information on setting up a website please visit our page on Creating a Website.

Forums and discussion groups 
Despite the number of freelancer's looking for work, it is often difficult for clients to find suitably qualified and experienced web developers. To address this market, there are now a few well regarded forums and website's that allow freelance designers to post a professional profile listing their skills, credentials and experience. We can't guarantee you'll find all of your work this way, but it can only help.

Discussion groups are also a free way to showcase your knowledge in your expert area. Should a debate be going on to do with a particular topic, your input may spark the interest of others reading this discussion should you have a valid point, even getting various people to click on your website. 

Social Networking
Once you have a website you can start to drive traffic to it, and one way to do this is to make people aware of your services via Social Networking. Which is not as bizarre as it seems. For more information on generating business via Social Networking read the following guides:

Some workers who are self employed may feel that LinkedIn (being well known as a 'business' network site) the most beneficial of all of the Social networks. However with the option for visitors to ‘follow you’ via Facebook and Twitter  - or read and comment on your blog should you have one - gives ‘followers’ regular updates on what’s happening with you and your business. It is also a good forum to include special offers online for your services.

Good luck, and remember to keep trying new things even when you have lots of work on. You always need to be thinking ahead! And don’t feel downhearted should you get turned down for a project. Just keep building up your portfolio and  making people aware of your existence.

We also recommend you take a look at who offer a number of contract and permanent roles. 

If you would like any advice on tax, setting yourself up in a business or working freelance please don't hesitate to give us a call us on 01442 275767 or email

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