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Finding Work As A Freelancer

Freelance Developers Manual
A Project of Frontntweaks.com
1st Edition Ver 1.0.1
© Copyright 2018 Gerald Watanabe


As a freelancer, you are responsible for finding your own work.
This may be the not fun part of being a one-man band, as you have to recruit your own gigs.

As a part-timer, you always leaned on your full-time job for your steady monthly income. Anything else was just a bonus each month.

If you are seriously considering going full time, I earnestly suggest you begin recruiting and securing clients before you quit your job and go full time. Trying to establish a steady source of income from ground zero is almost an impossible task. That’s why those who have succeeded had already established a clientele before venturing on their own full-time.
They can now build on upon that foundation.

Finding Work Locally

The Basics
The following information is from my own experience.
Other freelancers most likely have different experiences due to they’re different:

  • Locality
  • Technology Speciality
  • Entrepreneur Experience
  • Personality

Building Your Client Base

1) Your website
It should already be active, this is your online business card.
It should already have your portfolio displaying both free and paid websites you have built for:

  • family members
  • Friends
  • Volunteer work: Kids soccer and little league team, non-profits, etc.
  • Websites from your side hustle (part time freelancing) jobs.

Potential clients want to see your work.

2) Referrals
The majority of my work comes from referrals within the local area. That’s why I always try and build a relationship with the clients I have.
This includes all the volunteer work you have completed.
Satisfied clients will gladly pass their recommendations to contacts within their own group.

3) Create a local-search crowd-sourced service account.
Start off with the free version:
Angie’s List
This is a network where people search for various services in your area.

4) Social Media
This is a social media generation, a must for a small business like you.
It’s a form of advertising and reaching your audience
Be sure you make it easy for the potential clients to contact you.

4) Ads
Place an ad in the local newspaper for a few weeks each quarter.
Place an ad on Facebook.
Try a Radio Ad: I have a friend who has a full-time freelance computer build/repair home business. Although he had to spend a lot of money to advertise on the radio, all the business he received more than paid for this investment.
He is still reaping the benefits because people are still calling even after he stopped promoting his business on the radio.

5) Meeting People
Everyone you meet could be a potential client.
Kids soccer games, photo walks, sometimes take your laptop and work from a coffee shop to meet people, whoever is sitting next to you on the airplane.
Always have your business card ready, because this question will always come up: “What do you do for a living?”

The Bottom Line: You have to let the world know that you build websites!

Finding Work Online

You can watch the video version here: Part 2

Remote Work: OnLine
A short overview of selected job sources from my experience:

I am sure you already know about Upwork and how it works.


  • It is one of the largest online networks that freelancers use to find work.
  • You will find work for all levels of web development work available.
  • You are bidding for the work.
  • Payment: agreement with the client on either an escrow account or an hourly plan.
  • Invite: if you have highly rated review (credits) you could be invited to a new work in your category.


  • High competition with other developers and designers. You are bidding against longtime established developers who have many reviews.
  • High commission fees: 20% plus VAT (Value Added Tax).
  • A bidding war, would you lower your rate to get the project? If you do lower your rate is it worth it, with the added commission fees involved?
  • If you have a long term contract with a client, you cannot continue the work off of Upwork, you have to stay on Upwork to complete the project.


“Toptal enables start-ups, businesses, and organizations to hire freelancers from a growing network of top talent in the world.” [Toptal]

Toptal only accepts the top 3% of developers through their vetting process.


  • Provides a network for software engineers, developers, and designers.
  • Only experienced developers and designers accepted through vetting (background check).
  • This vetting process, weeds out scammers.
  • Coordination meeting through Toptal with the client.


  • This vetting or screening process can be intimidating:
    • Language & personality: Must read, write, and speak english.
    • In-depth skill review: Technical knowledge, problem-solving ability, and intellect through various assessments. We typically only accept candidates with exceptional results.
    • Live Screening: Each candidate is screened by experts in their functional domain. Each screener will provide specific live exercises that cover core topics within the candidate’s primary domain of expertise.
    • Test Projects: Each candidate is assigned a test project to evaluate whether they can “walk the walk.”
    • Continued Excellence: Toptalers are expected to maintain a perfect track record while working with clients. We do not tolerate sub-par work or poor communication for any reason.
  • Not for beginners: Will not except developers with no experience or limited experience.
  • Everything goes through Toptal, I read that a developer asked, “Seem I am working for Toptal and not the client.” It seems Toptal strength is more into software developers.


“Find the best remote, part-time, freelance, and other flexible jobs in 50+ career categories, all hand-screened for legitimacy. Find a Better Way to Work!” [Flexjobs]


  • Guarantee No scams as all jobs are screened.
  • 50 Skills tests available, if you score over 70% the client can view your results.


  • Not free, $14.95 month
  • Like Upwork, there is a huge amount of competition for jobs.


“Freelancer.com is the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and projects.” [Freelancer]


  • I noticed they have a high volume of web design work.
  • If your profile displays 5 star reviews in a specific category like web design, you are placed high above the list even if you apply for a project later.
  • But if you are responding to a logo design request and don’t have any 5 star feedback in this category, you are placed lower in the list.
  • Option to pay for Bid Fees to highlight and place your bid above other bids.
  • They have Time Tracking App that you can download time tracking, for hourly projects.
  • Offers Milestone Payments: “The Milestone Payment system is the recommended mode of paying freelancers on the site. It offers protection to both employers and freelancers by giving equal control over created payments for awarded projects. Only employers can create and release them, and only freelancers can cancel and return them to their employers.” [Freelancer Payment]

Free account limited to 8 bids per month.
Premium account ($199.95) allows 1500 bids per month.
There are other Membership Plans available.
I have read that scammers have posted fake projects in their listings. So be careful.
It seems to me that it would difficult for a beginner to be chosen because you haven’t received any reviews (ratings) yet. See my notes on the Pros above.
Your payment takes longer as compared to other online sources.

GitHub Job Board
The job site is very basic, has a simple search field.
Most of the projects are developmental work.

Free for job seekers.
Usually, work with other developers (collaboration).

Support only via email.

Stackoverflow Jobs
Similiar to Github Jobs, the website is not elaborate.


  • But it does have a more advanced search field then Github.
  • Lots of web related work for developers and designers.
  • Creating a Developer Story is required.
  • Free for job seekers.


  • Many times after you submit a proposal, you may never receive any feedback.
  • Either:
    • Too many applicants
    • They consider you not qualified
    • The employer may just be submitting a feeler to gauge what offers come in for a future job

Other job sites
I have not had time to use or try these resources, but just listing them for your interest.

Evanto Studio
“Envato Studio is a hand-picked community of freelancers. We actively scout for new providers and we’re working on ways for our community members to invite people from their own networks.”

“Fiverr is the world’s largest marketplace for digital services. So, if you have a talent, you can share that talent with our buyer community and make money while you are at it. Whether you are a graphic designer, programmer, content writer, translator, or voice over artist, Fiverr has a place for you.”

“A freelance job site connecting clients with freelance professionals such as web designers, programmers, graphic designers, SEO experts, IT specialists, and others”

Authentic Jobs
“The leading job board for designers, developers, and creative pros.”

Supplemental Income

You can watch the video version here: Part 3

This is an excerpt from the chapter: Introduction: What It Takes
I feel it is important so I am mentioning it again here.

Ask any freelancer, and they will agree that your monthly income will vary each month or quarter. There will be times when you may be overwhelmed with work, then other times when nothing comes in.
This is one of the disadvantages of freelancing and something to think about if you are going full time.

If you are planning to start off as a part-time freelancer, then this portion of the checklist is not as vital to you.

Diversefied Income
On the other hand, if you are seriously planning on starting out as a full-time freelance designer or developer, be sure you at least have one of these options:

  1. Enough savings to lean on for a few months.
  2. Supplemental income:
    • Part time job.
    • Build plugins, themes or Apps.
    • Teach: Udemy, Skillshare, etc.
    • YourTube channel: vlogging or teaching with enough subscribers you can get paid.
    • Side skills or hobbies:
      • Photograph – sell photos/videos
      • Auto repair, fix computers, carpentry
      • Guest bloggin
      • Deliver Pizza (tips)


My take on these online job sites
As a new freelancer, because your profile does not have any history or reviews, you may have to bid lower.
One of the reasons is that you competing with established developers with good reviews.
In addition, you are also dealing with those from outside of the US who can bid very low.

So the goal, in the beginning, is to develop a reputation or build a history of work so potential clients can view your accomplishments. Unfortunately, it will take a sacrifice of time and income to develop this reputation, all to just to get your foot inside the door.

I heard of freelancers who have spent the entire day submitting bids for various projects and unfortunately not get hired by anyone.

This is not something I would enjoy doing, as you may have to use your:
Days off, daily breaks, or time between projects to search, find and bid for work.

Since it is imperative that you have a steady income, this task can be your regular routine for a while as a new freelancer.

Be careful of “fixed contract” jobs.
The client may keep asking for changes, revisions and even add on’s to the project.
So you could be spending many extra hours to complete the tasks without being compensated for the additional time.

Smaller projects
In the beginning, I thought I would have an excellent chance of getting some of those smaller scaled jobs. But I found that as much as 150 other developers were also bidding for the same job. This is intense competition.

Bad Clients
I have heard of horror stories where developers never got paid after completing the job.
Evidently, the employer had decided to move on or cancel the project, without informing the poor developer.
A complaint was submitted with that particular job board, but no compensation was awarded.

No customer relationship
For many of these job boards, you may not have direct contact with the client, so no relationships are developed. You complete the job and that’s it. The advantage of building relationships is it could lead to additional work in the future, as the client can contact you directly. If satisfied, they could also refer others to you for additional work possibilities.

Of course, I hope I didn’t demoralize you.
The question is, how focused and determined are you?
Keep submitting those bids with a detailed cover sheet, and someone will hire you.
Then another later.
We all have started at the bottom, it’s those who are aggressive, steadfast and persevering that make that breakthrough.
I have heard of established developers who do very well on these job boards, so it can be accomplished.

The Basics

But for me, I find that the amount of time spent searching and bidding for those online job sites is not worth it.
Yes, you may get a few gigs.
But after bidding lower to snatch the project, paying the commission fees, and all the time involved to produce a quality product, you are not left with much.

I think your talents are better suited when working directly with the client.
So it’s getting back to the basics:
Finding your own clients and start building your clientele.