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How do I find clients as a freelance developer?

 

Learn how a sales funnel works. Prospects move through it from top, where they have no idea who you are, to bottom, where they know you, like you, and are ready to buy. Anyone who’s already at the bottom of the funnel (like a previous employer) is going to be much easier to convince to buy. Start with the people who know you, and send a note to former coworkers and colleagues letting everyone know that you’re now freelancing.

After your first few clients, you can think about conducting outbound sales to prospects who have indicated interest, marketing to those who are merely aware, and setting up systems (such as an automated email nurture) that’ll help you convert more prospects into buyers. You can also track the conversions between each step to see where you need improvement. Because, data.

 

Get the guide to finding clients

How much should I charge as a freelance developer?

 

It’s highly dependent upon your skill, both as a freelancer and as a developer, but you should charge as much as clients are willing to pay. If the project is something well-defined and there aren’t a lot of unknowns, consider charging a project fee. This frees you from tracking your time and gives you a better deal. If you can get something done in a day that, to the company, is worth $10,000, charge that. If there are lots of unknowns, however, protect yourself by charging by the hour.

 

How do I get paid?

Getting paid as a freelancer (in the US, at least) is as simple as emailing a PDF invoice to clients. If the invoice includes your address and bank account and routing information, they’ll either mail you a check or deposit the money directly into your account. If your client wants to pay by credit card, use a freelancing platform like Quickbooks, which allows you to send invoices with multiple payment options. (Just don’t forget to pass the 2.9% fee along to clients.)

Need an invoice template? Download the guide.

 

What should I say when I reach out to clients?

Explain what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Nobody cares that you’re freelancing unless you can help them solve a problem. Read articles they’ve written, review things they’ve posted on LinkedIn or Stack Overflow, or watch any talks they’ve given to figure out what pains they have. Do they have trouble finding the right niche talent? Keeping costs down? Speeding up development? Send a note about how you can help.

Channels for reaching clients:

  • Email

  • LinkedIn

  • Twitter

  • StackOverflow

  • r/programming

  • Quora

Want a sales email template? Download the guide.

 

Why do companies hire freelance developers?

 

The top two reasons companies hire freelancers is to hit deadlines and two save money. Companies don’t have to pay benefits to contractors, and can hire them for part of their time, not all of it. When reaching out to companies, try to find out what their pain is — the reason that they’re interested in contractors — and tailor your messages accordingly. For example, if they’re on a tight launch deadline and need an expert to get them unstuck, emphasize your skill. If their budget is tight, emphasize the flexibility you offer.

why companies hire freelance software developers
 

How much does a freelance software developer make?

 
average salary of a freelance software developer

The average freelance software developer in the US makes over six figures. But at least 25% of them make 1.5x the average salary of a full-time developer, for several reasons: Companies pay more when you’re freelance (they don’t have to pay benefits and it’s easier to approve freelance budget) and freelancers can easily handle many clients.

 

What’s the best advice for freelance developers?

 

Be reliable. The top complaint about freelancers, and the number one reason they get let go, is that the client didn’t feel like they were reliable. If you choose the freelancing life, it’s incumbent upon you to respond to messages in a timely fashion and set realistic expectations. Freelance developers that are reliable become and extension of the team, and clients always find more work for them.

Hone your soft skills. Perception is reality, and clients rarely tolerate disagreeable freelancers, no matter how talented they are. Soft skills are the reason you’ll get hired, the reason you’ll keep getting projects, and the reason clients will refer their friends to you.

Always be learning. The number one benefit to freelancing is that you get to spend more time up-skilling, according to a survey by Edelman. Spend your time learning new languages and improving your processes so you can continue to find more exciting projects and charge higher rates.

 

How do I handle taxes?

 

In addition to their annual tax return, US contractors who earn a profit must pay their tax returns in quarterly installments, four times per year, on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 (the next year). These dates vary each year so that payments don’t fall on weekends. Why does the government require this? Probably to ensure that freelancers don’t spend everything they make and are unable to pay taxes that an employer would otherwise withhold from their paycheck.

Most freelancers will have to make not one but two quarterly payments: One to the federal government and the other to their state government. For each, you’ll pay through a different system.

  • To pay the federal government, you’ll have to sign up for an account at Irs.Gov. To verify your account, they’ll mail you a letter with an authorization code, which can take weeks to arrive, so do it well in advance of your payment date.

  • To pay your state government, check with your state’s regulations. Here are links to California, New York, Texas, and Washington. (In states without income tax, such as Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, you may be exempt, but check to be certain.)

How do you know how much to pay? Hire an accountant, use an accounting software (like Quickbooks or Freshbooks), or do it yourself: Estimate your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, deductions, and credits for the year.

After all that, you’ll still have to file your annual tax return, from which you deduct anything you’ve already paid. For annual filings, TurboTax works great, and can pull your data from Quickbooks.

Pros and cons to freelancing

Con: In addition to paying taxes more frequently, self-employed individuals also pay a self-employment tax that, at the time of writing, is around 14%. This covers social security, medicare, and a slew of things your employer normally pays for. Because, you are your own employer.

Pro: You may be able to write off business-related expenses such as the cost of your computer, your cell phone bill, and plane tickets, to reduce your tax burden. You also only pay taxes on your profits, rather than income. So if you make $100,000 and spend $70,000 in the process, you only pay taxes on $30,000.

More resources:

 

Do I need to pay for health insurance?

 

Yes, if you’re a US citizen and don’t have access to health insurance through your employer. No, if you have a job that provides healthcare, and you’re currently enrolled. A provision in the Affordable Care Act requires every worker to prove that they’re enrolled in healthcare when filing their taxes, or face a penalty. For most full-time freelancers, that means buying your own insurance plan through a government-run marketplace, or doing the simple and obvious thing and signing up for Oscar.

Oscar Health is a tech startup health insurance provider where you can sign up within 15 minutes and manage it all through an app — including texting your doctor. A close second in terms of convenience is buying insurance through The Freelancer’s Union, which is a for-profit entity that sells insurance to the self-employed.

No matter what provider you choose, if you’re under 30, you may qualify for what’s known as Catastrophic insurance where you pay the absolute minimum for the absolute minimum coverage. But once you turn 30, your plan bumps up to Bronze.

Resources:

 

What are the top skills for freelance developers in 2019?

 

Everyone and their mother is building a frontend web application, and React.js and Angular.js are the most popular and sought-after skills by freelance employers in 2019. They’re followed by TensorFlow, Django (python), and Ruby on Rails (Ruby). If you’re a freelance developer, think full-stack, and be ready to offer an end-to-ender service, from interface to backend to data projects.

top skills for freelance software developers in 2019
 

More questions?

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