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Going Freelance

I'm a web-developer, and for a long time I've thought about going freelance. The only thing is I have absolutely no idea what that entails and I know no one in the business that could mentor me.

Could anyone here provide me with some information and resources on this subject to see if this is the direction I should go?

Thanks for the help.

Chi Lambda
Monday, March 08, 2004

Zillions of books and web sites on this.

I like http://www.realrates.com/ myself.

BBS, rate surveys, site host has books for sale, on-line articles.

utter coward to hide my name
Monday, March 08, 2004

And if you want the REAL deal, not watered down politically correct drivel, go directly to http://pub21.ezboard.com/bopenitforum, the Open IT discussion board. The posting volume is much higher than RR too.

One thing: forget mentorship. You'd be INCREDIBLY lucky to be mentored productively by someone in this field. And you'd be very lucky to not be fed misinformation.  Mentorship is almost an obscenity in the technology industry, at least when it comes to self employment. Every man for himself is the standing rule, and the successful types usually get their rocks off gloating over anyone they feel isn't "worthy".

Bored Bystander
Monday, March 08, 2004

Unfortunately, it is 2004 not 1999. Seeing that you want to go freelance but don't even know what that means puts you in a certain category of people. If you can get a contract or "gig" charge as much as you can and talk talk talk. Your results do not have to be good or complete or maintainable, but you should provide glossy specs and documentation (note: the specs and docs do not even have to be for what you were hired to do). Here's a freebie kiddo...when someone asks you a question say "That's a really good question".

Tom Vu
Monday, March 08, 2004

I think that these days there's a less than 2% chance that a web developer who is "thinking about turning freelance" could actually succeed.  Maybe less.  The only ones who succeed are developers who have a line of projects so big that they can't keep up with them while holding down a 9-to-5-er.

Also, I really am starting to believe that the "web developer" as we know it is going the way of the dinosaur very soon.  There are more and more products coming out that not only turn web design into a secretarial task (Frontpage, Dreamweaver et al), but that even allow a project manager with minimal technical knowledge (enough to tweak the output a little) to "draw" their application logic with a Visio-like interface, and then spit out some generic, and probably bloated, code.

There will still be a call for developers to make highly specialized apps, and make more significant customizations to the wysiwyg output.  But the guy who churns out HTML and makes a contact form with ASPmailer and gets paid 40k+ is on the outs unless he can adjust to learning some more robust languages and be able to create business-critical technologies.

Or... find a nice rich girl who will bankroll you while you make brochureware for your chiropractor and realtor.

Clay Whipkey
Monday, March 08, 2004

Here's a possibility: a freelance web designer who offers a completely turnkey service, including: digital images (taken on site or scanned from client supplied photos), copywriting, logo design, and integration with shopping carts.  In other words, do or outsource all activities leading to the completed web page.

When I hear "web designer" I think of a narrow specialist. I think that an all-in-one service offering is a possibility if the OP (or anyone else) is serious.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

One other piece of advice, that may seem obvious, is to take advantage of your local super Bookstore (assuming you are in the US).  For example, go to a local Barnes and Nobel and sit down, have a coffee, and browse through the interesting sections of the different, "Start your own business" types of books.  Heck, if you like one enough... you may even end up buying it ;)

Seeker
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

bored:  that's exactly what i do.  started out just building websites, but without the artistic touch they were looking very plain and boring.  my wife brings graphic design to the table, and now we're doing logos and entire corporate images.  not only is the client happier with what we do, but there's more money to be made.

we just got back from a client last night who, when asked what kind of copy he wanted on his website said, "that's what i'm paying you for!  if i knew what to say i'd do it myself." 

our client is a custom home builder.  he doesn't want to come up with advertising copy.  he just wants to build houses for people.  so sell yourself as someone who can remove all those headaches for your client.  you can do more than write HTML.  you can bring in more business for your client.  if all you do is HTML, how can you justify a higher price than frontpage?

nathan
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

COOL, Nathan. Congrats.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

If you want a 6 figure income in the USA as a freelance web developer, I'd suggest you bill  yourself as an advanced web site developer by offering interactive, database driven sites with php/mysql or asp.net/mssql, ideally including web services.  Business is booming there, as long as you don't mind making cold sales calls.

Joe Hendricks
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I started to do this about 8 years ago. I bit the bullet and started doing some cold-calling and after a few days I quit doing that. But in doing that I got one job that lasted about a year and gave me about US$35.00 an hour which was good for me as I was just starting. I also got a one-time job from an ad agency and I sold them on a website package (reselling web space via iserver). Well, about a year later the ad agency offered me a full-time job. I had another full-time job (I did freelance after work) as a casino dealer so I grabbed the full-time job to be working full time as a programmer/developer. Then I got another job at another place. Then I was offered another job and that company went bust in 2001 so I was back in freelance as I could not get another job (was a bad time). I did not do any cold calling. I spend about US$50.00 a month at google and overture and places like that and kept answering any job ads.  had registered with a national contracting firm and they got me a few jobs here and there which helped.  I learned another programming language as well. I don't think I made more than about US$600.00 a month on average for about 8 months. Well, learning that other language helped (on a test I scored better on that language than the one I had been writing apps in for the last few years) and the contracting company got me a 6 month gig with this new langauge. How happy I was to not be freelancing. That 6 month gig has turned into 18 months and is still going. But I plan to be freelance again. This time I think I'm going to try and build some web apps to sell :) ... During that time I sent emails to other people I saw who were doing the same thing and a few of those people responded. One told me not to sell my time too cheap (he was advertising US$48.00/hr and that I should save money when I get work as it comes and goes ..:) and he was right. One time I got a job that lasted 6 weeks of a full 40 a week at US$25.00 and it was telecommuting which was good. To get big money (more than US$50.00 I think you have to be in the expert range or just have a darn good marketing person behind you, I reckon).  I found that I competed with people going to scriptlance, rentacoder, elance, moonlighter, etc. ... where you find people offerring to clone amazon at US$100.00. I once bid on a job there which I won but the guy mistook my hourly rate for the WHOLE job. Anyhow, be prepared for lean times, recognize you need to put time and money or more money if less time into just getting the work, and then billing and bookeeping and all of that reduces the time you can code. This is why I like using contractring companies who take a cut from you pay to cover all those expenses.  Good luck.

Me
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Once you graduate from "HTMl Monkey" to "Advanced Web Developer", you're gonna realize one thing:

All your database and scripting skills have elevated you to Code Monkey, a Line of Business Programmer, a Mort.

I started out as a graphic designer, moved to web, did the web shop thing, now I do IT dev and web dev internally.  Not a day goes by I don't worry about losing my job to someone cheaper.  I'm good at what I do, but that's just not enough any more.

My advice: take all those client-facing skills you'll need as a freelancer, and your knowledge of tech, and apply it to something - anything - that matters to a business.  That means being a revenue generator.

If you want to make the six figs, my advice is finance or sales.

Sassy
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

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