10 Ways to Get Started as a Freelance Developer or Designer

Imagine earning a solid salary without the commute.

Well, get ready to permanently turn off your alarm clock. It’s possible to be your own boss and set your own schedule as a freelance web developer or UX designer.

Once you’ve acquired the necessary skills, you can go to work while staying in your pajamas. But before you dive into the freelance world, here are 10 ways to set yourself up for success.

  1. Amp Up Your Skills

Before embarking on your freelance journey, ensure that you’re equipped with the skills you need to be successful. Whether your passion is development or design, take the time to earn the right credentials.

If you don’t have the time (or the tuition money) to earn a four-year university degree, an immersive tech program could be a great for those ready to jumpstart their career. Try a bootcamp-style program like those offered at BrainStation to expose yourself to deep learning and prepare you for a tech career in just a few weeks.

2. Build Your Network

After earning your credentials and the skills you’ll need to be your own boss, don’t lose touch with your classmates. These connections will be useful as you move forward with your career and solicit clients for projects and work assignments.

The newly minted professionals in your program cohort can connect you with potential contract work they come across, send you overflow work, and also serve as a valuable sounding board if you get stuck on a project.

3. Legally Establish Your Business

While this is one of the more tedious parts of setting yourself up for self employment, it’s also one of the most important. Depending on the type of business you plan to operate, it’s wise to set yourself up with a business bank account to accept payments from clients, as well as register with the Canada Revenue Agency. You may need to establish a sole proprietorship or incorporate as a limited liability corporation (LLC), as well as register for a GST/HST number.

For additional details on your particular situation, we recommend that you consult with a certified public accountant (CPA).

4. Maintain Your Portfolio

Whether you’re pursuing a freelance career in design or development, it’s integral to keep an up-to-date portfolio. In most bootcamps and other education programs, students compile a portfolio throughout their coursework.

Your portfolio is how you expose clients to your brand and familiarize them with your work — which is why it should be stellar. Only include your top-notch projects and work that reflect your style and experience.

5. Update Your LinkedIn profile

It’s not enough to simply build your brand with your personal website and/or portfolio — it’s also a good idea to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. While it can take some time to fill out, your profile can offer potential clients with an extensive work history, breakdown of specific skills, certifications and relevant samples demonstrating your abilities.

When updating your LinkedIn profile, ensure you:

  • Upload work samples attached to your current and previous positions;
  • Make sure you’re connected with your current and previous colleagues;
  • Include relevant information for all current and previous jobs, including major projects, leadership roles, and any key metrics that could catch the eye of potential clients.

6. Reach Out to Existing Networks

You likely have a network that follows you on various social media platforms. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere, take the time to let your networks know that you’re on the prowl for projects.

Change your headline on LinkedIn to say that you’re looking for new opportunities. Reach out to creative and tech recruiters on LinkedIn, and write a post that you’re available to take on new clients.

7. Leverage Social Media to Find Gigs

In addition to leveraging your existing social networks, here are a few other ways to make social media work for you:

  • Monitor relevant hashtags on Twitter to find opportunities (i.e. #techjobs, #UXjobs, #TOjobs, etc.).
  • Join and monitor private Facebook groups for both your industry and for freelancers. Members of these groups regularly post about jobs and contracts up for grabs, and offer great advice on how to bag the gig.
  • Get active in LinkedIn groups. Browse industry-specific LI groups, and participate. Like, comment and share posts from your fellow group members to forge new connections, and keep an eye out for relevant job opportunities as well.
  • Mine your LinkedIn connections. Turn a critical eye to your list of connections, as you can benefit from second- and third-degree connections on this social media platform. If you’re applying for a contract with XYZ Co. and a former colleague knows someone in their HR department, then ask for an introduction. This initiative could make the difference between snagging a project versus never hearing back.

8. Ask for Recommendations

One way to get someone to buy into your product is through social proof — testimonials from customers who are happy with the widget and discuss how it solves their specific problem.

The same applies to your design or development services. A little social proof can go a long way toward swaying potential clients to choose you for their next project. Did you do a killer job on your final project in your coding program? Ask your instructor to speak to your strengths with a recommendation on LinkedIn. The same applies to bosses, colleagues and classmates.

9. Attend Conferences and Networking Events

Marketing yourself (and your services) online is a great way to get started, but you can really solidify your status as a freelancer with a little offline networking. Put in some facetime at local conference and industry events to build connections and chat with other professionals who may be eager to use your services. You could connect with a company that’s in need of a new UX designer, or another designer who could use a hand lightening their own workload.

10. Upsell to Current Clients

The perfect client is the one you already have. If you already have a client or two that is familiar with your skillsets, have a frank conversation with them. Make them aware of the range of services you offer, and attempts to expand your contract with your current clients. Perhaps they have a major project in the pipeline or need some help with another client. You never know until you ask!

How to Jumpstart Your Freelance Career Today

Prepare for a career as a freelance UX designer or web developer in just 10 weeks with a BrainStation Immersive Course. These 400-hour courses provide an immersive experience for students to learn the fundamentals of business, design and technology with both practical elements and theoretical approaches.

For those who need to keep their 9-to-5 gig while learning new skills, BrainStation also offers part-time courses as well as evening and weekend workshops for those who’d like to get a taste of Web Development or UX before taking the leap.

Ready to start a new career? Submit your application today.

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