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"Advice (freelancing...)"

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Mon 25/07/05 at 19:45
Regular
Posts: 10,364
As some of you will know, a few months ago I set up a website ([URL]http://www.djh-solutions.co.uk[/URL]) offering my services as a freelance web designer.

You know how many clients I've had since I set up?

None.

I've had "interest" and a few email conversations with prospective projects, but most of them seem to stop emailing randomly, or only express minimal interest in having a website.

Yes, I realise they don't come to me just like that, the problem I have is finding them and getting my portfolio and skills across to them. When it comes to business, frankly, I just don't know where to start.

People like Nimco/Tyla/Turbonutter/Monkey_man seem to have projects and work to do for people.

Granted, I have been lax on the promotional side over the past few weeks, due te exam/college commitments.

All I'm wondering is how the hell do you do it?

Anyone care to offer advice to a fellow freelancer? Do you all go somewhere to get work or do they just come to you?

Cheers
Sat 30/07/05 at 18:36
Posts: 15,443
I just ask local businesses if they need one. Then show them what I've done. Alright, you have to take into account the position they're in, but I'm sure you can work that out.

To be honest though, your portfolio ain't that great - using your own hosting site as an example? Then with some crappy site "you and your mate" did on work experience? That gets the client no no pretty fast.
Tue 26/07/05 at 13:59
Regular
Posts: 10,364
Hmmm, excellent thankyou.

I've just eyed up a shop nearby that has just opened, a music shop. I'll go and see if he is interested.
Tue 26/07/05 at 11:49
Regular
"NULL"
Posts: 1,384
I'll agree with Tyla on that. It is important to let your client know that they can ask you anything they want if they don't understand - don't assume they will understand all the jargon, but at the same time, don't treat them like a moron (even if they are!).

I've never done leaflets or anything, but I have tried an ad in the local paper which got me precisely zero return for my 60 investment! In my experience, for pro-active advertising, get out onto the high street, go into the smaller shops, and ask to speak to the manager. Then ask them if they would be interested.

Another useful trick is to look out for local delivery vans and things (or even signs on shops) which advertise the business with an email address like: [email protected]

An advertised email address with an ISP rather than their own domain name suggests they are keen to progress into looking at websites and emails, but do not have the expertise to do so. With someone like this, make sure you push the easiness of your solution - e.g. you'll make sure emails sent to the old address get forwarded automatically to the new one.
Tue 26/07/05 at 11:44
Regular
"l33t cs50r"
Posts: 2,956
Also worth remembering, this job is about more than just building sites and making money from them. Sometimes it's about educating your client/future client as well as empowering them in the skills of the interweb.

Being the know about standards, SEO, Usability, Accessibility and Data Protection including UK legislation also helps, as a lot of firms/individuals are unaware of some of the changes in the last 3 years, and believe it or not, a lot of freelancers/design firms out there are oblivious to these too which would give you a slight leading edge.

Sometimes it pays off more when bidding for work to demonstrate your knowledge in there areas as well as educate the prospective client at the same time as to why these things are now more important than just slapping up a site just because everyone else has one.
Tue 26/07/05 at 11:19
Regular
Posts: 10,364
Wow, thanks for the tips people, it's given me a few ideas for what to do.

Do you think making leaflets (A4 sized) and posting them through the local area will do any good? I suppose it's worth a try.

I've had a look at these "getafreelancer" and "rentacoder" sites which get people to bid on projects. From what I can see, most of the projects on there seem to ask for like $45 and they get sold to Indian developers. Waste of time IMO!

At the moment I am waiting upon my A level reusults before I can go to Uni in September.

I'll keep looking around for ideas, cheers guys.
Tue 26/07/05 at 10:30
Regular
"NULL"
Posts: 1,384
One of the great advantages you have as a Student is being able to offer lower prices, but for a reason.

For example, the site I've just finished doing was for a start-up company near my Uni. They had contacted the Uni Careers Services looking for someone, and they in turn had past on my details as I had asked them to do.

The company works from this building which houses about 20 fledgling businesses, each with one office each. Several of the offices in their were occupied by web designers. She asked me to quote, and told me openly that she was asking for quotes from one of the web designers from the building where she works.

My quote turned out to be about 30% lower than his, but because she could see my portfolio, she knew the standard of work I do. Also, she understood that the reason I charge less (I was still charging her 20 per hour) was because I am a student - I can't get away with charging the same as someone for whom it is their sole profession.

As a result, I won the contract, and made her a great site. Since it was my first site for someone near the Uni as well, I made sure to give her top-notch customer service - and she has said she is going to pass my details onto other people.

Like Tyla stressed - word of mouth is the most important thing. One of my clients has been waiting for 7 months for me to return from Uni before going ahead with their site, because they know how good I am, and that it would cost them far more to go with someone else. Because of that, I've just got me my first contract over 1000 :) Now to do the site...jeez!
Tue 26/07/05 at 09:50
Moderator
"Are you sure?"
Posts: 5,000
Don't give up, it takes a while to build a good customer base. Once you have done that then (as Nimco says) make sure you provide excellent customer service and look after them well. That way you are sure to get repeat business from them and they will spread the word for you. Start fairly cheap and increase your prices once you have built up a decent portfolio.

Once you have a few sites that do well for your clients then the ball starts rolling and you'll have more work than you can cope with!
This means making sure your sites get visitors - brush up on your SEO so that you can do better on the Search Engines. Do you have access to visitor statistics so that you can see how many people are finding you and where they are coming from ? On a clients site it's always good to be able to show them how many visitors they are getting and what they are searching on etc. etc.

djh-solutions:

I would focus the SEO on "web design in Nottingham" MUCH more than you currently do. It's relatively easy to get good results when you start getting specific - "freelance web design" is going to be near on impossible for you.

Not having a contact address and phone number may put some people off - but I realise as you're doing other things as well it may have to be like this. Personally I wouldn't have a link to your blog as it could give some the wrong impression. Either fix or remove the login button - everything on your own site must work!

Good Luck...
Tue 26/07/05 at 09:39
Regular
"l33t cs50r"
Posts: 2,956
Chad Niga wrote:
> And usually if they are dumb americans, they says "Can you make
> me a decent site??" then as they're american, they pay a fair
> amount.

That's actually an incorrect assumption about Americans. After working with them for 7 years, they actually pay less for web based work than our European counterparts do. It's a well know fact in the UK not to do freelance work for an American as there's no money in it.

As for template sites. Good way of getting your name up there quickly, but your shooting yourself in the foot financially. Average template would be about 35, start showing that to potential clients, and they'll expect huge sites very cheap.

The real money is in SME's and Start-Ups & in some cases, charities.
Tue 26/07/05 at 02:30
Regular
"Dr. Chad Niga"
Posts: 4,550
I do a few websites mainly for friends for free, because im a good guy.. yeah.

Ive found that a good place to get started, is to go on forums, not like chat forums, but community forums, like game creation sites (is where i find alot of people looking for sites)
The thing i like to do, is when people say "look at my site" just lightly say its not very good, then offer your services, show him a website of your work.
And usually if they are dumb americans, they says "Can you make me a decent site??" then as they're american, they pay a fair amount.

I did this for my friends band [URL]http://www.haichband.com[/URL]

And im in the process of setting up a website/logo design site with a russian friend who's great at PHP. I have loads of teplates set up.
Sorry, going off track.

Yeah, try looking through community forums for work. Try webmaster-talk.com too.
Tue 26/07/05 at 02:00
Regular
"l33t cs50r"
Posts: 2,956
For me personally, all of my business is word of mouth based on my previous portfolio and excellent customer relationships. It also helps if you have "specialities" you can offer that your standard joe blogs doesn't, which seperates you from the rest.

All my work over the last 6 months has come from word of mouth from my first client of this year. Also, the power of friends and family is good too, I've landed a few jobs just by the wife mentioning to her friends what I do for a living.

It is hard to get a step on the ladder, especially when faced with questions like;

"Why should I pay you xxx when my son could do it for me for free using Frontpage?"

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