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10+ Tips for Finding Clients as a Freelance Web Developer

Creative Tim
Fully Coded UI Tools to create web and mobile apps UI Kits, Templates and Dashboards built on top of Bootstrap, Vue.js, React, Angular, Node.js and Laravel.
Originally published at creative-tim.com ・7 min read

It’s tough selling your web development services when you’re new to the freelance market. Programming is a very competitive field because coding is becoming a more common skill each day. Many web developers choose the freelance path whether it is to find more variety in their work or to be their own boss.

There are enough clients out there for every freelancer, but the trick is finding them. This might seem like an intimidating task, even more so when you’re trying to find clients that are willing to pay for what your work is worth. Your skills may be excellent, but if you don’t learn how to get clients, chances are you won’t make it.

You can find clients in several different ways, all tested and proven effective by other freelancers before you. To make it easier for you, we put together a list of the tips we find to be most effective in finding clients as a freelance web developer. Read on to find out what they are.

1. Sign up for Freelancing Platforms

Some people might argue that signing up for freelance platforms is a waste of time. However, you shouldn’t brush off websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Toptal just because other people didn’t have a good experience with them. While not all freelance projects you come across on such websites are worth your while, you might find some high-income gigs that will surprise you.

Granted, there is some grinding implied when you first register to such platforms because competition is tough. You might even have to accept some underpaid projects in the beginning to generate 5-star reviews. Later on, you can increase your hourly rates to earn more money and be more selective with your projects.

Don’t forget to also check regular job platforms for freelancing opportunities. You probably won’t find as many freelancer gigs, but it is worth a shot.

2. Create an Awesome Portfolio

Every freelance developer needs a portfolio. It is a showcase of your work and a great way to convince prospects that your services are worth paying for. Contact former clients and ask them whether you can feature their websites in your portfolio. Be sure also to include your personal side projects to demonstrate your skills.

You might find this task daunting if you’re a beginner that hasn’t built a single website. In this case, you should find someone that needs a website (like a local small business) and offer to build it for free. They get their website, and you get a project that you can add to your portfolio. An alternative would be to build a website as your own project instead of doing it for somebody else.

3. Reach Out to Small Businesses in Your Area

Small businesses are the perfect prospects when you’re just starting your freelancing journey, especially those near you. Nothing beats real-life interactions and in-person pitches, so don’t dismiss the door-to-door approach. You can show up at a location and ask to talk to a manager to see if they are interested in a new website or a redesign.

Engage in friendly conversation with these local business owners and managers and see what comes out of it. Even if they are not looking for any development services at the moment, they could refer you to someone who does.

Reach Out to Small Businesses in Your Area

4. Network, Both in Real Life and Online

Networking can help you kickstart your freelancing career fast. Nowadays, you can network from the comfort of your own home by joining Facebook groups for your niche, attending online events, being active on LinkedIn, or joining communities such as Reddit and quora. There are countless ways to get in touch with people from the web development industry and stumble upon freelancing gigs.

If you prefer to network in person, search for events and conferences in your city. By attending this type of gathering, you can meet potential employers or even like-minded freelancers that can introduce you to their circle.

5. Reach Out to Friends and Acquaintances

Project opportunities can arise from a large number of sources, and friends and acquaintances make no exception. Someone you know may work for a company that requires web development or might know of someone else who does. You won’t know until you ask.

Be aware that when accepting a freelance development job through a friend, acquaintance, or even family member, their reputation is on the line. Make sure you accept them only if you are sure you can do an impeccable job.

6. Build Your Online Presence

No respectable company or business person would hire a freelance web developer with no website. Given the nature of the occupation, your website can act as your business card and portfolio. The better made your personal portfolio website is, the more likely you are to attract clients.

You mustn’t forget the web development market is highly competitive, which is why you should think of ways to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Think of a unique selling proposition (USP) that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Build a presence on social media, too, especially on platforms where your prospects spend time. These may include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. Share your expertise and portray yourself as an authoritative voice on social media. Post about your work, use appealing captions, and engage with other users.

7. Use the Best SEO Practices

Search Engine Optimization is a great way to reach people interested in the type of services you offer. Use the content on your website to rank in the top positions on Google search result pages and generate traffic to your website. If your work showcase, price, and communication are good, you will get clients.

Research keywords your potential customers are searching for. Start producing relevant content that will engage readers and make them want to hire your services. Make sure you pay special attention to locally relevant SEO practices because local equals convenience, so people in your area are more likely to become clients. Keep in mind SEO is trackable and adjustable, and you can always readjust your keywords and strategy.
Use the Best SEO Practices

8. Partner up with Other Freelancers and Agencies

According to Freelancers Union, 81% of freelancers have said they referred work to fellow freelancers, and that proves collaborating with someone will help you get more clients than you would on your own. You can also team up on projects that are too large to take on by oneself or complex projects that involve more than web development.

Partner up with freelancers or agencies from related fields like web design, content, marketing, etc. Clients that require those services might also need web development services, in which case your partners can refer their existing clients to you. It’s a two-way street, so you can also refer your clients to your partners who cover other niches.

9. Ask for Referrals from Existing Clients

Asking for referrals is a bulletproof way of getting new clients because they will trust their acquaintance had a pleasant experience working with you, and it is highly likely that they will as well. If you’ve just finished a project for a client that is satisfied with your work, make sure you ask them if they can refer you to someone else.

Although the best time to ask for a referral is right after you’ve just completed a project, you can reach out to past clients as well. Stay in touch with the customers you ask to refer you. They might not know of any freelance opportunities at that moment, but they might come across them in the future.

10. Offer Free Samples of Your Work

Offering free samples of your work can be a great way to reel clients in, but only if the work you do is good enough for them to be willing to pay for it afterward. This is a strategy you should try, at least at the beginning of your freelancing career, when getting clients may prove more difficult. Reach out to prospects and offer your free services, letting them know a paid collaboration is in the books later on.

A similar strategy is to offer a lower price to your clients, in the beginning, letting them know this is just a promotional offer and they will have to pay the actual price later on. Both these strategies work because clients may be hesitant to pay (full price) for services they haven’t tried before.

11. Do Outreach and Submit Proposals to Prospects

Nobody wants to do cold calls. Mainly because of fear of how they might be received. However, they are effective, so don’t shy away from them. Start contacting people on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Not all the replies you receive will be positive, but some will turn into great opportunities. Even if they end up declining your proposal, thank them and ask them to keep you in mind for the future.

Do not use a copy-paste message because it won’t be as successful. Instead, write a personal message for each one of the people you contact. Make sure always to follow up in case they might’ve missed your initial message.

Final Thoughts

We hope our tips on finding clients as a freelance web developer prove helpful and you manage to raise your client count. There are many reasons you should pursue a freelance web developer career, and you shouldn’t get discouraged by the simple task of finding clients. It might indeed require some effort on your behalf at first, but it will be worth it when you turn your invested time into profit.

If you’re also on the hunt for tools to help you in freelance web development, check out our UI kits and dashboard templates. They are guaranteed to make your work much easier and shorten your coding time considerably.

Discussion (4)

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Zamula-it

My tips for you , it is use the Periodix(periodix.net/jobs), because these guys really helped me find my first job. I suffered for a long time in the upwork, processing hundreds of vacancies a day, and everything was ineffectual, since the type of employment or salary did not suit me. Then I went to the site of these guys, and literally, in half an hour, I had what I needed. Very cool resource, they have constant updates and additions of various features. It is focused on saving time searching for a relevant vacancy and increase your productivity. Yes, and it's completely free, so you don't have to spend any money.

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Luke Miller

Hi Tim! Great article.

Speaking of freelancing platforms, I'm currently using AskFora! I prefer to use AskFora because it does a great job with handling the administrative aspect of freelancing that helps avoid overhead that is unnecessary so that I may spend more time with my clients to be focused and innovative.

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Jon Kantner

Suppose I have a new job, and I no longer have time for freelance projects. How do you politely say “no” to a client if they offer me a new project?

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piaomu profile image
Kasey Wahl

Great tips! Definitely saving for reading again.

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