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Nastassia Danilava
Nastassia Danilava

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Freelancing in 2024: expectations vs realities

Approximately a year and a half ago I was on maternity leave and decided to return to work. I was a developer with 7 years of experience. I wasn’t ready to work full time yet so I wanted to try myself as a freelancer. So I updated my CV, set the linkedIn status “Open for work” and started finding a job.
The first weeks were crazy and I tried at least to be in the list of candidates who were selected for the interview. I passed through a lot of small calls and interviews and now I understand why it was difficult. It was my first experience where there are no managers or marketing specialists who can sell you or your skills or promote your resume. I had to learn how to sell myself. And sell here is the most important word

1. Customer is...

When considering selling services, it's crucial to identify who most frequently seeks out freelancers. Based on my experience, the primary seekers are:

freelancers customers

From this, I’ve learned that there are two main pathways to develop a freelancing career: either acquire unique skills that are in rare supply or seek collaborations with small teams.

2. Sell yourself not as a person but as a service.

Reflect your past experience not by places of employment but by projects. What do I mean by this. In most cases customers are looking for somebody who can create a ready-to-use business solution, so your CV should illustrate this. Compare:

Regular Work Freelance
Company A (2020-2022):1.leaded fin project 2.introduced integration tests 3.followed agile methodology Project A (link):1. added the chatBot that amount of leads on 13% 2. added the users analytics
Company B (2022- Present): 1. passed the english test on B2 2. participated in interview process 3. used Vue.JS, React.JS stack on 3 different projects Project B (link): 1. developed the QR code scanner 2. implemented the landing page that supports most of the screen resolutions 3. organised the tech tasks board for the team of 3 other devs

Collect your achievements

Keep a document where you detail interesting tasks that led to success, or any interesting situations: conflicts you managed to resolve, division of duties, managerial experience.

Here's the structure of my document

the structure of self-reflection document

It's also very useful to note situations in which soft skills have been beneficial. For example:

  • Dealing with an unproductive teammate and the strategies used to improve the situation.

  • Handling situations where overtime is typical and expected of you.

  • Managing task underestimations effectively.

  • Strategies for dividing tasks within the team.

  • Responding to overly high expectations from the team.

And do it during your work, as it’s impossible to revise what task you done 5 years ago.

After I redone the CV several times and spent 2-3 months on freelancers platforms I figured out that the HRs wrote to me several times more often because I was very active on my social networks.

3. Regularly update your social networks

Choose 2-3 platforms where you will be active and post updates about your projects, successes, and failures! Or just be yourself and talk about your day, what inspired or disappointed you today, and alternate with professional posts. Don't be afraid to show your failure: it's an indicator that you've analyzed the situation and will apply the experience to your work.
*Why? *

  • It’s a eminding potential clients of your expertise and availability.

  • Increases your chances of being seen by potential clients outside your immediate network.

  • Sharing insights, trends, and commentary on industry-related topics positions you as a knowledgeable professional in your field.
    Be visible on every your career step. Even if you think that the topic you’re going to write is discussed already and everybody knows. No. The way you do it better for someone.

For the freelancer time is everything, I’m working 4 hours per day and that’s why I’m optimize everything that I can that’s why ...

4. Use AI in your work

It's foolish to deny it, but AI has firmly entered our lives and it's here to stay. So, why not apply these technologies? I believe that there are a huge amount of materials covered it but here's 3 things that I’m doing with the help of AI more often

  • troubleshooting

  • ask to do boilerplates for the task.

  • formatting

Recent case
I’m not a designer at all that's why I did screenshots of my product and told AI that I described the feature I need to implement. It gave me an advice where the better place to put a buttons, and the list of UI controls that it’s better to use

5. Money

Initial period for the freelancer is super unstable and it took for me 3 months before I get acceptable income and 7 month before I was satisfied with project and salary

Build a safety cushion for the initial period it’s an essential. Set your minimum acceptable salary and don’t decrease it even. But be ready to do a lot of test tasks for free at th beginning.

poor developer
When you get the project and salary - breathe out. You've already done it. Constantly thinking about how to raise your income is a path to burnout.

rich developer

6. Networking

Networking and self-presentation skills are crucial, as you need to constantly pitch your skills and the outcomes of your work. Therefore, proficiency in speaking and presenting is essential.
But how can you improve these skills? Through networking events, public speaking, and even creating videos on social media.
Don't be afraid to tell everyone that you're looking for a project.

I once challenged myself to go out for coffee with 5 strangers over a month. This meant I had to find 5 people at events or through social media, talk to them, and then meet them for coffee.
Two years ago, this idea seemed crazy, but it proved to be an effective method. Speaking about yourself for the first time might be intimidating, but by the time you've talked about your projects or achievements for the 50th time, it becomes second nature.

7. Leverage project management tools and techniques.

When I decided to find a startup not a short-contract project I realised that I need to communicate even more. I wrote lot of cover letters, a lot of interviews.

Freelance and startup industry is a area where the team is not big. As a freelancer, you're not just a developer; you're also managing your projects. Knowledge of project management tools like trello, asana, notion,, jira , etc. can help you stay organised, meet deadlines, and communicate effectively with clients. Even if it seems to be unnecessary at one point it can be a benefit.


Top comments (1)

dev188007 profile image
Joseph • Edited

Sell yourself not as a person but as a service.
Yes!! I absolutely agree with this idea.
I'm also a freelancer who has more than 5+ years of experience and from my
experience, selling yourself is the most important skill as your tech skills.
I hope your next blog about your valuable experience.