A little over 10 years ago I threw myself into freelance web development without thinking it through too thoroughly. Since then I’ve thought on many occasions that my ignorance was probably to my benefit. If I’d known all the stuff I didn’t know I’m not so sure I would’ve done it!
There are plenty of things I would have done differently, better or perhaps not at all if given the chance to again. There are also some surprisingly good strategies and habits I managed to luck into over the past decade! One of those things was figuring out how to find work when I was just starting out.
After my talk, an earnest developer came up to me and asked about getting started as a freelancer and remote worker. That conversation inspired me to put together this resource on GitHub:
Remote Work List —
It’s a compilation of websites that post jobs that are remote-worker and freelance friendly. At the time of this writing there are over 60 sites listed. Additionally, I’ve indicated whether or not there’s an RSS feed available for each job board. For sites that provide a feed I’ve provide a link.
With the death of Google Reader in 2013 a lot of sites abandoned RSS, which is too bad. It was integral to my job search strategy as a budding freelancer. I’m happy to say that a little over half the sites on my remote work list have one:
This makes my original strategy still viable — though we’ll need a modern replacement for Google Reader — so I’ll go on to explain.
My Remote Worker / Freelance Strategy
Here are my steps and tips for anyone starting off as a remote-working/freelancer today and needs to build a client base:
Subscribe to all of the RSS feeds in this list using an RSS subscription service or dedicated reader. I’m partial to FeedBin and Reeder for Mac. You can find lots of candidates but I’d suggest finding one with the ability to star/bookmark or otherwise “save” specific posts as you cycle through them. Keyboard shortcuts are a bonus too, but maybe that’s just because I was used to the ones Google Reader provided.
Every morning, while you’re drinking your coffee or tea or otherwise starting your day, cycle through all of the job postings that have accumulated. If you see something you feel could be a good match or if you find something you might be interested in learning how to do, save it in your reader of choice — give it a ⭐️ or a bookmark or whatever the nomenclature is for your particular app/service. If it’s not something you’re interested in, mark it as read or otherwise archive it.
The most important part of that last step, which I’ve now turned into its own step: don’t overthink it! You can assess if the job is a good match or if you’re actually qualified in a later step. For now we’re just filtering out the obvious mismatches.
When you’re done going through all of the job listings, put it away and do something else. Make breakfast, go get exercise, or take a shower and start a proper work day. If you really don’t have anything else to do and feel eager to continue searching for new jobs and gigs you can go straight to the next step, but I’m a big proponent of breaks and resets.
In the afternoon, maybe after you’ve eaten lunch, or when you feel ready to take a midday break from whatever you’ve been working on all day, pull up the starred/bookmarked posts you separated from earlier. Read them a little more in-depth and decide if any of them now look like poor matches. If they are, go ahead and remove them.
Hopefully you should have a list of jobs you’re interested in and feel somewhat qualified for. Now it’s time to start applying! Coming up with a proper introduction letter that you can tailor to individual clients and companies is a topic for another day. Go through the starred/bookmarked posts one at a time, starting with the oldest listing you marked, and start applying. As you finish applying be sure to remove them from your saved list.
An important tip: It’s okay if you don’t get through all of them! Although the strategy I’m promoting really encourages searching and filtering these listings in bulk, take your time when applying. You want to make a good impression. As you get better at this you’ll be able to apply to jobs more quickly but still do so in a way the feels personable. If you have starred/bookmarked posts left over after an hour or two (or however much time you put aside for this activity) you can pick them up the next day. If you want you have a backlog after a few days and are getting swamped I suggest either being more judicious with your bookmarking and/or be willing to remove listings from your starred/bookmarked page if they’re more than, say, a week old.
That’s really it! I did this for months when I started out and acquired a lot of clients and worked on a variety of freelance gigs. Some of them were good and turned into client relationships I continue to have to this day. Others amounted to what I’ll call unanticipated learning experiences :)
It’s not rocket science, but I found this approach to be highly affective. This strategy also works well if you want to hit the “reset” button at some point in your career and inject new clients and projects into your freelance life.
Do you have your own freelance/remote working tips? I’d love to hear about them! Send me an email or ping me on Twitter to tell me about it.
And if you need a web developer for your project — even something a bit more outside the box — get in touch 😊