The dynamic and highly agile nature of freelance work offers developers the unique opportunity to select projects and employers based on their personal interests, preferences, and ideals. As a freelance developer, you can access more challenging projects in international markets as compared to local opportunities. These international work experiences are all the more easily accessible if you list your services on leading international platforms like Toptal, for instance.
Platforms like Toptal enable you to connect to a great talent network of international clients and experienced developers to work with dynamic and challenging projects. You'll never get the same caliber of clients as you will if you enlist with platforms like Toptal. Simply put, you’re missing out on some of the most amazing opportunities if you don’t apply.
Beginning a freelance career comes with a host of new challenges. As a freelance developer, you’re going to have to do everything from looking for work to pitching work, to drafting proposals to negotiating costs, to following up, and chasing down your money; It’s not easy. In addition to this, you don’t get employer benefits such as healthcare, a steady stream of projects, regular paychecks, and more. Having said that, joining a professional talent network such as Toptal solves most of these issues.
Tips & Best Practices for Freelance Developers
1. Find Your Niche
Pro tip: Consider supply and demand. Before you begin learning an advanced or exotic programming language, remember the time investment and the fact that you need to find clients who demand this type of programming language. You can also check which new languages or skills are hot in demand for a sure-footed start. Make sure that you are familiar with at least some of them at a very professional level.
Second, you need to find a specific problem to solve or a technical challenge that your code can address. This could either be for a specific project or an industry. As you gain advanced knowledge and learn new skills and languages, you will be able to build advanced solutions quickly and efficiently. Once you are equipped to develop complex solutions and troubleshoot advanced problems, you can also find specific clients from a particular industry and work only with them. Doing this will help you master your skills and become the best in your field..
2. Get Your Price
Regardless of how experienced you are as a freelance developer, it’s wise to pre-determine how much you will charge for your services. You can determine this on a project-to-project basis or on a time-schedule basis. The key element here is to work out your pricing structure in advance. Analyze how much you are making in full-time employment, including employee benefits, and then you can get a realistic hourly rate by dividing monthly earnings by 160 (hours in a month).
If you feel undervalued in your current job, you can always try applying to a role that you feel you are qualified for and see how much the other company would be willing to pay you. Based on this preliminary study, you can determine how much to charge clients and also, if you want to be a freelance developer or stick to full-time employment.
You can also choose to have a ready-to-go contract available to send new clients. By default, your contract should include details covering the scope of work, deliverables, deadlines, fees, information on work ownership, and the tenure of the professional relationship.
There’s no one-size-fits-all price that’s appropriate for every client and for every project. Analyze the market and take into account all your previous experiences. Always look for projects where you will get paid for the time you spend on them. Toptal is a great place to find such projects - all you need to determine is your hourly rate.
A pro tip here is to join a job board or talent network like Toptal; The platform does the heavy lifting of payment processing, legal compliance, etc. If you’re not working with a talent network, you’ll need to figure out how to go about invoicing and recovering your payments.
3. Showcase Your Portfolio On Your Creative Website
This is one of the most important things you need to do as a freelance developer. There are two ways to approach this. The first approach is to focus on building a professional portfolio of past projects. Showcase your top projects on a slick and creative website developed by you. The notion is that only if you make a great website for yourself, can you build one for your clients.
Follow design best practices and keep it simple yet catchy. Ensure it communicates and emulates personality and the types of projects you’ve worked on and the ones you’re looking to work on. Make it easy for potential clients to navigate your website and access projects and previous client information.
Include a feedback section so potential clients can read what previous clients had to say about your work. Be sure to include your contact information in a way that’s easy to find.
If showcasing your past work is a challenge for you, then you can consider applying to a talent job board like Toptal and share examples of successes and challenges that you encountered and solved during your career in an interview. For instance, you can mention your accomplishments in the screening interview for the Toptal network or a potential client.
4. Invest In Your Online Presence or Join A Talent Network
As a freelance developer, you need to be out there. From taking LinkedIn tests to gain their coding certifications to building your personal brand on social media platforms to showcasing your work on your website, you need to invest in building your online presence to attract more clients and win high-quality projects.
Firstly, you need to have a strong LinkedIn profile. Many business owners and HR representatives validate you as a legitimate candidate by looking you up on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to expand your network and to share your projects and work. Join various groups on Facebook and LinkedIn for freelance developers to build contacts and stay updated on what’s happening in the freelance developer community.
Additionally, be sure to delete any old tweets or LinkedIn posts, or Facebook photographs that you think are embarrassing. Doing this is vital for growing freelance business as your name and reputation are responsible for bringing in clients and driving business. All in all, networking online and a solid online presence can prove to be a game-changer for your freelance business.
Not everyone wants to be a public figure or go through the bouts of building a freelance business, so if you want to consider your privacy but achieve similar success then you should consider joining a Talent Network like Toptal. All you'll need to do is to pass the screening test and gradually build a good reputation with the clients that you'll work with.
5. Create A Business Structure
Depending on the country that you live in various options may apply. In the US, generally speaking, it is better to form an LLC through which to run your business. An LLC structure ensures liability protection that you won’t get if you operate as a sole proprietor.
You need to adequately plan your freelance venture. Take the time to “do it right” then you can avoid the unfortunate fate that many freelancers and small businesses often arrive at.
If you are planning to start your own freelance business, you can refer to the following list of action items. However, you can join a talent network like Toptal, which will help you to skip many of these steps.
- Determine how you are going to fund your freelance venture.
- Avoid loans or credit cards as a form of funding.
- If necessary, work some type of a second job to help you get off the ground.
- Decide the niche that you will cater to.
- The niche you decide to serve should be in a field you are interested in or have experience with.
- Determine what services you will offer and how much you will charge.
- Charge flat fees whenever possible.
- Be sure to have a business model which you can use to build recurring revenue.
- Form an LLC for your new freelance company.
- Discuss the benefits, and specifics, of forming an LLC with an attorney.
- Discuss your tax situation with a professional.
6. Follow and Maintain A Schedule
As a freelance developer, it’s imperative to maintain a schedule to better manage your time on a daily basis and your projects on a long-term basis. Plan your day in such a way that you can dedicate maximum time towards completing your projects quickly and efficiently. Plan your week in a way where you can take time out for client management and for research.
Not having a reporting manager or a formal organization setup can leave you overwhelmed with all the various tasks at hand. Use online tools to schedule your work and manage your time in an effective manner. Don’t take up extra work for the money or if it doesn’t interest you and is likely to take up a lot of your time. Stick to your niche and aim to deliver quality products. Remember, your name is on the line and better planning and scheduling will help you deliver optimum results to your clients.
Your best bet as a freelance developer is to sign up with any of the many freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Arc, Guru, and more. These platforms will enable you to find clients and work relatively easily. However, if you’re looking for a steady stream of projects from reputable clients and leading brands, then Toptal is definitely a talent network to sign up with. Toptal has great clients and provides unique opportunities for freelance developers.
A final pro tip here is to focus on doing good work and treating people well. You can never go wrong with that.