I’m have been working as a Freelancer for more than a year and I think it’s time to write about it again. I previously wrote about Five Ways to Not Suck at Being a Java Freelancer and I even delivered a quick session at Geecon. The video and slides are available here.
Anyway, I do get asked a few questions that are not covered in the article or the presentation, so I had the idea to write this post and share my vision as a FAQ. The questions are in no particular order and they reflect my personal experience and should not be treated as an absolute truth.
How do you get clients?
There is no single source to look at. My first client was my previous company. It may look weird, but it was good for everyone. They already knew me and they didn’t have to spend resources looking for other professionals. For me, I was already identified with the company work methods and knew everyone. It was a great way to start.
My next client approached me on LinkedIn. It’s truth that you get a lot of requests and most of them are not interesting, but you only need one to make it worth it. Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated and clean. You might get the opportunity that you are looking for.
You can also obtain clients with business cards and colleagues / friends references. Do not underestimate their power. You never know when you are going to bump into someone who has a problem that you can fix (or your colleagues / friends). I was also able to get a few this way.
I do stay away from the platforms that sell you freelance jobs. There is too much competition there, and I prefer to create long time relationships with my clients.
How do I charge my clients?
You should take into account a few factors: the client location, the market in which he operates and your experience with the task in hands.
If you only have 1 year experience with Android, you cannot charge as much as if you have 8 years experience with Java EE. You can usually charge higher for clients operating in the finance sector, but be aware of location. Portugal for instance has very low rates, but in Ireland these are much higher.
It’s fine to charge an hourly or daily rate with different values. Just remember that you and your client must both be comfortable with the rate or you end up risking the business relationship since one of you could become unhappy.
How do you plan the work?
Clients just tell me what they need and I estimate how much time do I need to complete the task. They might not agree with my estimation so you should negotiate with them. Have a look into a post I wrote about estimations: Why it’s challenging to make estimations about code.
What if you exceed you estimation?
First of all, you need to understand why did that happen. Were you very optimistic in the estimation? Did the client provide you with all the information you needed? Or maybe the client added a few extras after the original estimation?
Sometimes you are going to make mistakes and you need to work a few extra hours to finish the work without any extra compensation. No matter what, always be transparent with your client and share everything with him. He will surely understand and help you out.
In other occasions, this will be the client responsibility. You need to negotiate with him, and share with him the possible delays and adjust your estimation and/or price.
How do you deal with multiple clients?
Having multiple clients does not mean that you are working for all at the same time. Important thing here is planning. If they ask you something and you are already occupied, there is no harm in declining. It’s better than accepting multiple tasks and not being able to deliver them properly.
You can always try to postpone the tasks by negotiating with your client. It depends a lot on your client schedule, but if you can pull it off it helps you keep your pipeline for the future.
Do you work in a team?
Yes, most of my work is with a team. In today’s world is hard to do something alone, so it’s only natural to work with other people. I don’t feel that I’m treated differently just because my contractual situation is different. I’m just another member of the team doing my job.
Where do you work?
I work from home most of the time, but I usually go to the client facilities from time to time. For me is important to be able to work remotely due to some personal issues. Clients may not allow you to do that, but you can always propose to work for a few months in their office. When everyone feels comfortable you can switch to remote and return from time to time.
How do you communicate with your clients?
I usually use Skype, Mail and Phone. In these days, there is no reason for not being in constant contact.
How do you deal with timezones?
Since I manage my own schedule, I can always find a suitable time to communicate with my clients, no matter the timezone. Of course it might require you to be available very early or very late.
Do you have a life?
I do! I usually work a regular work week of 40 hours. Sometimes I can work a bit more. The important thing here is to plan your schedule very well, so you can have time for everything.