A Buyers Perspective: Essential Things You Should Know Before Doing Freelance Programming

Let me start with a little bit about me, but not so much to bore you but enough for you to consider the extent of freelance work available, and how to ensure that you get the right work at right time for you - and the client. I will refer to clients as employers within this article. 

In the past two years, I've outsourced over 240 projects - many very small requiring just a few hours of work, many much larger requiring months of dedicated work and others requiring ongoing programming or attention.  For example, our Facebook desktop client "Chit Chat." Most of this work I've outsourced has been on vWorker, formally rent a coder - however, there are thousands of other people like me outsourcing projects on Elance, freelancer.com to name but a few. As well as those that seek work independently from websites and such. 

The following is my advice as a "buyer" to programmers and anyone else whom wishes to act as a "seller" of services. 

1. Programming Trading Market Place Or Direct?

One of the great things about these programming trading market place, is that you're able to compete straight away for freelance projects without having to spend hours on website development, cold calling or  spending  time and money on SEO effort. 

Good candidates can pick up projects pretty much immediately, if you can find suitable work.

2. Be Credible - Work On Your Profile

Before hiring your services a potential employer of your contractual services will check out both your profile and work history. What you've written about yourself is important, and this is a good way to get yourself put on a short list. A list of languages that you can code in is not sufficient. Provide further insight as to past experience. 

Programmer At Desk

3. Over Deliver

Even just a little bit of over delivery will create goodwill with an employer, for example: finishing early (without bugs!) or providing something extra that is useful. Whilst this may not bear fruit right away with additional work or bonus, particularly on freelance platforms it is likely to influence your rating and may be useful to keep yourself in mind for future projects that the employer has. 

4. Choose A Credible Employer & Project

Just as there are dodgy websites, there are dodgy programmers and dodgy employers - avoid them! Just because someone has a bad rating doesn't necessarily mean they're a bad employer. Look at their entire history rather than one individual rating - a one off indicates a dispute or an employer that has had problems with a bad worker. 

A credible employer will be fair and give you some slack, but that doesn't mean that you should take liberties.  For example, in the development of our Facebook app for PC we had a marketer whom needed to take time out for months for personal reasons, given that their previous work was of high quality and they were credible we re-hired them once their personal situations changed for the better.  

5. Bid On Projects You Can Deliver On

Don't take on a project if it is unrealistic given your level of knowledge and experience.   If you don't have the time, don't bid/take on a project. 

6. Go The Extra Mile - Expert Rating Tests & Previous Project Experience

Whilst academic qualifications are nice to see,  particularly those that are relevant, more established employers, in particular, will want to see previous project experience.

Previous project experience that can be shown and played with by an employer may help you get on the short list.
Expert ratings tests are provided free by vWorker can help stand you out from the crowd, whilst this indeed is a theoretical knowledge test it demonstrates credibility.  Other freelance platforms offer something similar. 

7. Start on Small Freelance Projects, Think Big Picture

When you first start on freelance programming market places whilst you may like the idea of landing a big fish right off the bat, chances are you won't be able to land a big job. This is because as a new worker you represent a much bigger risk than someone with an established reputation.

It may be in your interest to undercharge for a short period of time in order to attract work in order to build up a reputation. That said, sometimes price can be perceived as an indication of intended quality by some employers. 

8. Think About Freelance Competitors

Remember that you won't be the only provider bidding on a given project, therefore thing about your competition. What will make you stand out? Often providing a demonstration of understanding of a project is enough to make you stand out. Generic spam will just get ignored by credible employers. 

9. Develop Client and Freelance Relationships

One of the best ways to ensure that you get regular freelance work is to develop relationships. Many firms or entrepreneurs will look for people that (a) have the skills they need (b) that they can trust to work (c) can deliver results. If you can develop a good working relationship with a firm then they will keep you in mind regarding upcoming projects or ongoing efforts. 

Developing a relationship with a couple of good employers saves you time from  bidding on tens of projects each week, studying the specifications and working out the details - it may have a higher bounty, but it also will be additional stress and uncertainty from just working on one or more projects regularly. 

10. Be Realistic

If you don't have the time to take on a project. Don't. You'll frustrate the buyer and they'll give you a bad rating, it's not worth it. Let them know when you can start and how much time you have to spend. Being open, honest and acting with integrity goes a long way.

If a project doesn't look feasible, but could be done another way - let them know. Don't take on a project that isn't feasible. 

I wish you well on your freelance adventure.

Tags: starting out at freelancing  freelancer advice  programming job tips  graphic selling tips  contract programming advice  freelance programming tips 

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