In the tech world, freelancing is more normal than you might think. Some startups in the technology sector are financed by major banks or businesses, but a lot of them are a little more scrappy. When starting out with a new idea and new technology, getting backing from big finance isn’t always easy, but businesses still need top talent to achieve that financing and grow.
That’s where freelancers come into play. Hiring a full-fledged employee is extremely expensive. Hiring a freelancer that you can have on-call when needed can be an excellent way to grow the business without making lasting investments. And honestly, it’s win-win. Freelancers can make their own schedules and decide their own rates, while businesses don’t have to get tied down with any one service provider. Plus, when it comes to tech, freelancers are location independent!
Companies can cut costs by outsourcing work to freelancers working from their own home offices. And freelancers in most countries can discount their working expenses from their income taxes. Everyone wins!
How to Start Freelancing
Getting started with freelancing can seem scary, but it shouldn’t be. First, if you’re armed with a skillset that you know brings value, you should have no problems. When you decide to invest in your technological skills, you’re directly investing in your freedom. The word “freelancer” spells it out for you – you’ll be free. To set your hours. To set your price. To take on the projects that invigorate you, and say no to the ones that don’t. You will be your own boss both inside and outside of the office.
That all being said, there are a few things you’ll want to check out before you head out as your own boss. First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the legal scene both where you are physically located, and where you want to have clients. With telework becoming more popular, the lines are increasingly blurred, and you’ll want to be sure you are on the right side of the law, without being taken advantage of as well. Then, you’ll need to think about how you want to market yourself, and where. In the following sections, we’ll give you some practical tips to get started on your freelance career.
Check the legal requirements
Different countries have different rules and tax systems for freelancers. This gets even more complicated when it comes to issuing invoices across state lines. Start with your local self-employment guidelines. Will you need a tax consultant? Depending on where you are located, the requirements to meet your fiscal obligations may differ. Rules may even change across cities or states within the same country. We suggest you go to your local business regulatory agency to understand the steps you will need to take to get set up with your individual tax number and any regulatory norms you will need to follow. Even if you're not a digital nomad, find out what you need to be self-employed.
Build your personal brand
As a freelancer, you’re going to have to market yourself. While it may feel awkward at first, nobody is going to sell your services for you. Get used to making your personal brand the center of all your communications so you are constantly moving your business possibilities forward. As a technology sector freelancer, you’ll be up against a lot of competition. Creating a compelling online presence is going to be critical to your professional growth. We suggest you invest in a personal website, and social media, enhanced with an excellent content management system if you can. This is what will really set you apart. Learning about search engine optimization (SEO) won’t hurt either if you don’t want to outsource your content management.
If your budget doesn’t allow for the full website monty, that’s okay though! LinkedIn is a great place to start maximizing your profile. LinkedIn’s Marketplace is an excellent tool for freelancers to sell their products or services, and even more so for freelancers working in the tech industry. The LinkedIn Marketplace is perfect for connecting freelancers with companies seeking talent on a project basis.
Here are a few best practices to maximize your LinkedIn profile:
Use your real name! You want to be searchable.
Upload a professional profile image.
Make sure your introduction section is detailed and well-written.
Share your expertise.
Get public recommendations.
Use your LinkedIn profile to promote your freelance services without investing in advertising!
Research your rates
Setting your rate may be one of the toughest aspects of freelancing. It’s great to set your own price, but with great power comes great responsibility. You need to learn how to gauge how much work will be required for a project, how much time it will take, and how much you value your own time. At this stage be sure not to undervalue yourself. If you invest in your education and professional development, don’t be afraid to pass those expenses on. You’re bringing value to your clients, so be sure to reflect that when coming up with your quotes.
Another consideration when it comes to deciding your rate is how you want to bill. As a tech industry freelancer, you are going to be given a variety of different jobs that you can parse out as you choose. In some cases, for example if the scope of work isn’t entirely clear, it may make sense to provide an hourly rate and use a timetracker like Toggl to track your hours. In other situations where the deliverables are more cut and dry, you may choose to give rates for an entire project, or break it down into milestones.
The important thing is to be clear from the outset and maintain clear communication with your client throughout the process. They won’t want to get stuck with an unanticipated bill, and you won’t want to get paid less than what you deserve for your hard work.
Pick a platform
Once you’ve decided how you want to bill, and what your rates are, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to land your gigs. There are a variety of freelance platforms out there like Upwork and Fiverr which can help you to get started and build your reputation. For tech workers, sites like Toptal, Guru and Freelancer are especially useful. Another excellent resource is Gun.io — it is geared specifically for companies from startups to Fortune 500s to deliver them exceptional software engineers.
It will be important to ensure that your personal brand is consistent across the various platforms that you present yourself on. There is nothing wrong with signing up for multiple platforms, as long as you maintain your core brand and values. Changing your profile across platforms could cause confusion for potential clients, so clarity is key as you build your profiles.
Tips For Being a Successful Freelancer
If you are thinking about going freelance, we fully support you. It can be a great move that helps you find freedom in your tech career. But freedom can be hard to manage. As a freelancer, you’ll be in full control of your time and income, so you may be tempted to burn the midnight oil constantly to see your revenue rise. Be careful! You don’t want to burn yourself out. With your professional freedom, you’ll need to be sure to set realistic boundaries. Give yourself a schedule and try to stick to it.
You may have clients from all over the world, and you may find yourself working across different time zones, which is great. However, you will need to remember that you are your boss, and you don’t want to exploit yourself. Schedule meetings when it is realistically feasible for you, and be sure to schedule time for exercise and rest as well. The freelance rabbit hole can become very deep very quickly, so be careful to set boundaries.
Also, consider looking into your local self-employed government perks! When it comes to work-life balance, freelancers tend to have lots of resources to pull from. Gyms, restaurants, and community centers generally want to support small, local businesses, so be sure to check with your chamber of commerce to see what kinds of benefits you can get in your neighborhood as a freelancer.
Learn which clients to impress and which ones to drop
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you may have to take on some clients that would be considered low-hanging fruit. You may need to do a little pro bono work for references, and to build your portfolio. But don’t let this phase last too long. While it is great when you’re getting started, remember that you are running your own business. You need to stick to your rates and if they go up because your time is becoming scarce (which it surely will!), then you need to communicate that with your clients.
It’s never an easy conversation when you have to let a client know that your rates are going up. But it is necessary and the best clients will understand and stick with you. It is a sign that your work is top-quality and you are in high demand. Sure you’ll want to keep legacy rates for your aunt’s best friend, but in general tough love is better for you and your clients. You’ll ensure that the quality of your work remains high, and ultimately, your clients and potential clients will recognize and respect the value you bring them.
If you’re ready to get started with your freelance tech career, the BEST first step is to listen to our Podcast highlighting Clémence de Robert’s experience becoming a freelancer after completing her Ironhack bootcamp! This episode is everything you need to know in order to transition into a freelancing lifestyle. The team discusses how to find contracts, set rates, manage time, and much more.
Bootcamps are a great way to get ahead with in-demand technology skills, which are changing constantly. They help you stay on top with the expertise that will keep your freelance career competitive. Once you have a few under your belt, you’ll get to start raising your price, and really have the freedom that comes with freelancing. Check out our upcoming bootcamps now!