#LifeOfAFreelancer — Setting Up The Environment
Deciding to become a development freelancer is only the first step to becoming a freelancer. I won’t sugarcoat the reality — being a freelancer is hard. You won’t wake up in the morning, swig your magic ward and poof you will become a freelancer. Like any project you are developing you should set up your environment first. In my opinion, if you will jump into the water without a set up, your journey will be quirky and you might even drawn.
In this post I’ll explain a few things that I think you should do before you rush into the development freelancing world.
Other posts in this series:
Building Your Reputation
I didn’t become a freelancer in one day. My story begins a few years ago before I even thought about becoming a freelancer. Back in those days I was working for a company and I was a technology lead in a major banking project. In those days I made a few crucial decisions that payed off when I became a freelancer years later.
Open a Blog
The first decision was to open a development Blog. In the Blog I shared my knowledge and thoughts. The Blog gained some developers audience and helped me to be recognized as a subject expert matter. The Blog also attracted small amount of decision makers who later on contacted me for consulting services.
As you can understand being a public figure and sharing knowledge can also act as a marketing tool. From time to time potential customers might contact you through your Blog. But does owning a Blog is enough? of course not. So, let’s move on to the next decision.
Learn, Learn, Learn
The second decision I made was to ramp up my knowledge. In those days I invested large amount of time in studying new technologies and new development methods. Some of the experiments I made were published in my Blog. Others helped me to implement sophisticated solutions in daily work. Later on, I was recognized in the company I worked for as a knowledgeable guy and since there was a consulting department in that company they started to send me to customers to solve major problems.
Since then I always try to find spare time to learn new things and I encourage you to do the same. As a development freelancer the main thing that you are going to sell is… you guessed it right— your knowledge. Not being knowledgeable can be your Achilles heel so learn, learn, learn…
Stand Up and Talk
The third and last decision was doing public speaking. It took me a lot of time to start delivering sessions because I had crowd fear. Yes me…
I remember my first talk where I shivered like a leaf in the wind. Since then, I had the opportunity to deliver numerous sessions in user groups, Meetups, conferences and more.
Delivering sessions helped me to be recognized as a subject expert matter and also built my networking. I met a lot of developers and through questions I was asked deep dived deeper into subjects I talked about. From time to time I was approached by decision makers who saw me talk. One of them was my first customer when I became a freelancer.
All of those decisions helped me to be a public figure and helped to attract potential customers. I recommend that you will start with some of the topics (blog, learning and public speaking) before you are making the big step of becoming a freelancer.
Of course there are other things that can help to set up the environment. Here are some of them:
I suggest to join social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. A lot of marketing stuff today is being done in those social network and optional customers might check if you exists there.
Being a public figure can also help optional customers to find you. A couple of times I published in Facebook/Twitter that I have one-two free days a week for some period of time and a few days later those days were scheduled with new customers.
Another thing in social networks is the option to contact potential customers as well. I find it a little rude to contact decision makers through social networks but I know about a few freelancers who do that and from time to time find a new customer in that way.
Being a Consultant
Taking a consulting role can help you to gain skills in pre sale and post sale. In my opinion having knowledge in how to approach potential customers is a basic skill that you have to have if you want to be a freelancer.
Another thing that a consulting role can help you with is meeting a variety of customers. I know that these customers are customers of the company you work for (I never stole my previous employer’s customers!). But the people you meet might move to other companies which aren’t your company’s customers. Also, depending on your contract with your employer you might be able to work with those customers in the future.
It’s All About Networking
I have a few freelancer friends and this is super helpful from time to time. If I’m being approach while I’m not available, I can direct the potential customer to my friends and vice versa. So having a small safety net with friends that you can trust is also a good thing.
Setting the environment before rushing into the hard freelancer world is super crucial in my humble opinion. In this post I explained a few things that helped me and still helping me in my freelancer journey.
I’ll be happy to hear from you what you think? Also, if you are already a freelancer, what are your advises to future freelancers?