This is Part 7 of our How to Be a Web Developer Series. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:
- Part 0 – Series Introduction
- Part 1 – What you’ll need to know
- Part 2 – Non-coding, technical skills
- Part 3 – Kinds of jobs
- Part 4 – Choosing Your Path
- Part 5 – The Web Development Process from Start to Finish
- Part 6 – Creating Your Web Development Portfolio
So you’ve got your skills, a plan, and a portfolio, but the most important ingredient of the “getting paid” recipe is obtaining clients. There is no magic formula for developing a long list of fun and interesting clients, but there are a number of avenues you can take to get your list started.
People you know and people you meet
Make sure that the people in your life know that you are doing freelance web developer work. You can do this by talking to them, of course, but you can also communicate it via social media. Add freelance web developer to your Facebook profile’s Work section or include it to your LinkedIn profile. Same goes for all other social media platforms.
Something you’ll probably experience once you’ve been doing this for awhile, is that even in regular conversation with people you know or meet, a LOT of people need websites (or know someone who needs a website). Not every lead is going to result in a job, but just telling someone what you do can be all it takes to start making connections. So get out there and talk to people! You never know when a getting-to-know-you chat can turn into a networking opportunity.
People already in the website business
It can be easy to view other web designers and web developers as competition, but they can actually be some of your best allies in finding work.
If there are agencies you’re interested in working with, send them an email introducing yourself and letting them know you are a freelance web developer. Not only can this result in some paid projects, but it can also help you build your credibility by working with well-established industry names.
Freelance Web Developers
Building relationships with other freelancers is one of the best way to get referrals. Many freelancers find themselves in the fortunate position where they have more inquiries than they can handle on their own. They might also be contacted for projects or services that are outside their expertise or offerings. Most of these web developers want to help out, even if they can’t do the work themselves, and one excellent way for them to do this is to send the would-be client recommendations for other developers.
As a web developer, having working relationships with web designers can be especially helpful. A lot of web designers aren’t strong coders or they can code but eventually reach a place in their business where they want to outsource the work. This can be a great opportunity to build a longterm relationship with a web designer where you partner up on projects.
People in Entrepreneur Groups
No one needs a website more than an online entrepreneur! Small business owners of any type, though, typically need some kind of online presence. Plus, as a freelance web developer, you are an entrepreneur yourself, so joining a group can offer you both business opportunities and much needed support from experienced business owners.
Depending on your particular focus, you can do this in real life by looking up entrepreneur groups in your area. However, there are a ton of active and vibrant Facebook groups online that can be fundamental to developing your client base and your own business skills. They provide a wealth of highly talented and generous entrepreneurs, and many of them need websites!
How to Network in These Groups
Generally in freelancer and entrepreneur communities, relationship building is valued while aggressive self-promotion is frowned upon. So if someone in the group asks for web developer recommendations, don’t hesitate to put your own name down! This generally works best, though, if you’ve already established yourself as a member of the community who wants to help and support the other members whenever you can.
You can do this by offering assistance on small coding questions that people commonly ask. Many freelancers are DIY’ing their websites, so a simple recommendation from you on a plugin, for example, doesn’t cost you much time and effort, but can help them tremendously.
How to Join a Group
Groups like this are often spearheaded by a business coach or a person who is in charge of the community somehow. Often you get into the group by opting into that person’s email list, which, in my opinion, is a small price to pay for the value the community will bring to you and your business. Here are a few groups to get you started (though please note that I do not belong to all of these):
- Freelance to Freedom Community – Leah Kalamakis
- Lady Business Bomb Squad – Jessica Kupferer
- Marvelous Brand Builders – Suzi Istvan
Each community has its own culture and approach, so it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the leader’s philosophy to make sure it jives with your own before joining.
People you want to work with
Back in the article “Which Web Development Path is Right for You?” I encouraged you to think about who your ideal client would be. Bloggers? Non-profit organizations? Independent online shops? If you have a specific target client in mind, it’s time to get creative about connecting with them.
Are there Facebook groups or Twitter hangouts that focus on these people? Are there conferences or associations that are popular for them? Are there blogs or podcasts or thought leaders that are particularly influential on these clients? Find a way to graciously introduce yourself into these spheres so that you can meet the very people you are trying to help.
Depending on your time availability or expertise, you might consider creating a blog or podcast yourself that caters to your ideal clients. This is certainly not necessary for developing a client base, but if you are creative and motivated and interested, it can be another way to find clients who need your web development services.
The Bottom Line
No matter what approach you take to find clients, just remember that you have a valuable skill that a lot of people need to develop their business. Finding clients isn’t just about making money— it’s about finding the right people who need your help and making sure they know you are there to help them!
Several of these suggestions were graciously contributed by Jessica Overbey. Thank you, Jessica!