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How I doubled my income and time with freelancing

Going freelance was one of the best choices I made so far, but it was hard to find any content about it that didn't try to sell you things. So I figured I'd make a quick write-up of my experience and share what I learned for anyone else that is thinking about taking this path. Some of this may be common knowledge for some, but none of this was obvious to me when I started.

This is my experience and may not apply to everyone! For context, I'm 21, in and from Europe, have barely 3 years of experience, no degree and do frontend development with React.

Within 7 weeks (approx 30 Interviews) I got 3 contracts that each pay effectively $14k+ / month. Before freelancing I made about $4k / month which is an average EU salary for 3 years of experience. My main goal was to maximize the time and resources I could spend on indiehacking and in that regard this was a massive success 🎉

I chatted with a ton of freelancers to learn what I should do and these were the most important points for me:

  • take your time. If you're unlucky it can take 2-3 months to find your first client.
  • learn to deal with rejection. Imposter syndrome was a pretty big issue for me, especially after crossing the 30-day mark of not finding a job.
  • increase your hourly rate. When I started I asked for $60/hour, I increased this to $80-120 in the last 2 weeks of my search and that's also when I started getting ok's.
  • Play "Buzzword-bingo". If a job mentions technologies, put all of them that you worked with into your CV with concrete examples of how, when where or why you used them. Adjust your CV (and pitch) for every prospect.
  • diversify. Check local online job boards for your country/city as there is less competition. Platforms like Toptal are also great. Many big companies outsource their freelance hiring, so working with recruitment agencies is also a way. LinkedIn is good for "passive acquisition". Recruiters will contact you there but the jobs on there are usually worthless or too crowded with candidates. I also took on a business privately that I found via a friend of a friend of a friend :)
  • Managers ♥♥♥ Indiehackers because we usually understand how business requirements, marketing, design and code play together. We can take features to completion with no supervision or effort needed from their side. Simply, we "get stuff done". Even if you only have a couple of unfinished side projects it's massively valuable and something you should highlight.
  • Finally, and most importantly: spend a ton of time polishing your profile/resume/pitch. Reflect on every project you ever did and find concrete and specific examples of your work and what that work meant for the company. To a prospect, you ARE what you tell them you are. Don't be humble, show that you are an expert and can get things done. Empathy is the most important sales tool. Remember that they are looking for an asset that will provide value to them, and you need to show them why that asset is you.

There are a ton of ways besides this one to freelance. You can for example build up an online presence and network to find even more valuable clients, but these things take time. My goal was to maximize the time and resources I could spend working on my own projects and for that, this approached was more than good enough.

A nice side effect of freelancing is that you get first-hand experience selling to other humans which is a great skill for any indiehacker to have.

  1. 5

    Very exciting @jsco

    I just quit a high paying job to start my own freelancing/consulting. Looks like indie hackers has quite a few folks like yourself who have done that successfully.

    Do you have a personal brand that you've been building to help find clients? I'd love to learn more about your marketing process.

    Thanks

    1. 2

      I really didn’t. I have a blog and put a little pop-up that I’m for hire on one of my previous projects but ultimately it just came down to sending a ton of “warm emails” and reacting to job postings the same day.

  2. 3

    Hey Jesco,

    Awesome hearing about your success. Congrats!

    I'm in a very similliar boat (3 YOE, 21, Europe based, do primarly frontend work).

    I know you've already answered questions like "where do you find jobs" in the comments, but it'd be super cool to add it in the post.

    Here are some of my favorite:

  3. 2

    Awesome, congrats!

    I switched to freelancing to create more time for side projects in 2014 (in the Netherlands). It’s a great way to earn an extra in less time (unless you’re doing those 3 projects simultaneously). After two years of freelancing I started spending more and more time on product development.

    Switching from freelancing to product development was a challenge as product development initially doesn’t bring in the same amount of money. Those invoices can be addicting. It’s only after five years last month that I finally surpassed my freelancer salary, and it feels great 😊

    Good luck @jsco!

    1. 2

      Another fellow freelance/indiehacker here. I'm also curious about the three simultaneous contracts setup.

      Did you get 3 offers and go with one, or are you doing all three? In parallell or in sequence? What's the payment model, per hour or on delivery?

      The 3 x $14k sounds unbelievable, but 40h/wk giving ~$14–20k/mo sounds normal to me.

      1. 2

        The one I ended up taking was hourly (I took it because I felt I could learn a lot of valuable stuff from the company too), I also experimented with value based pricing but so far I don't really have enough data to say which one is best

        1. 1

          Ah so you are bound by human limits, you too. 😁

      2. 2

        Ye, something doesn't add up. 3x14k=42k, that means even at a higher than mentioned hourly rate of $150 you would have to work 280 hours per month, or 70 hours per week, if those contracts run in parallel.

        Anyway, glad you're having success @jesco! Congrats!

        1. 1

          I ended up taking one now, committing to one later and referring a guy for the last one :)

  4. 2

    Congrats on your success. I recently started freelancing, but so far had just the one client. I’m not exactly selling myself, just answering requests from LinkedIn, which as you said seems to be a dead-end so far.

  5. 2

    Congrats on this huge step and thanks for the valuable tips.

    I'll soon make the switch from full-time job to part-time (+ doing a bit of freelancing on the side).

  6. 1

    Great post @jsco and congratulations on your success. I’ve been a freelancer for 3 years as well and so far I’ve only used outreach as a channel for clients which I will change soon.

    For your “warm emails” are you using any CRM to keep track of it all?

  7. 1

    Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success!
    Been freelancing for 4 years now and indeed, it's the best decision I took - I'm also thinking next steps on how I can productize my services and build a team

    Curious if you also thought of productizing your services as a next step in the future?

    1. 2

      Yeah, I'm really struggling with this one. I still have projects coming in now, but not enough time to handle them all so I thought about setting up an agency and hiring another dev. I'm just afraid that it's gonna cut margins and generate more stress than it's worth. I honestly haven't looked into "producticed services" enough to know if its worth it but I feel like I need a more specialized niche before I can think about this. What's your experience with this? I'm only a noob at freelancing after all :D

      1. 1

        Yup, I've stopped taking in all client requests, been saying "no" for years and just handling a couple of long-term clients as it works well.

        Still learning "productized services" , @vinrob & @casjam have great content on Twitter and their respective websites/communities.

        From what I've learned it's a mix of a very specific niche, a specific type of clients and defined type of work - hard to get it right, but if done well, can be your own SaaS for a long time w/ decent-minimal efforts and not "ALL" your time :)

  8. 1

    Awesome, many congrats - an amazing salary for a 21yo I must say!

    I'm currently trying to do something similar but instead I've requested to drop down my current role to go 3 days per week, which was granted by my manager yesterday, woo!

    Can't wait for the extra 2 days per week to work on my side project: https://www.fourdayweek.io/ (sorry, shameless plug...)

  9. 1

    Really a great and helpful article. Tks @jsco

    And taking the chance to put my "pop-up" here.
    I'm open for new challenges (now CPO, want to get back to be freelancer). Checkout https://altafino.com

  10. 1

    Wow that's quite an impressive start! 🤯 Where did you apply for jobs? Any platform? Did you find opportunities via IH?

    1. 2

      There are a ton of obscure job boards that I used. The ones I used are kind of EU specific, they include freelancermap, freelance.nl, wellpaid, remotive and more. Many of them look like they’re 30 years old, but they still have good leads. Toptal is also great but the process to get in takes a good amount of time. I’m also connected to pretty much every local recruitment agency that works with freelancers and get regular leads from them.

  11. 1

    What platforms did you utilize when applying for freelancing contracts?

    1. 1

      Every single one I could find. The more local or niche the better as there is far less competition. Some general ones are freelancermap, wellpaid, toptal, stackoverflow jobs. You should be able to find the “local ones” relatively easy via google, often on page 2 or 3 haha. (aka “freelance jobs paris” if that’s where you are or want to work)

  12. 1

    What did your portfolio look like when applying? My career recently has been more in managing software teams but am deciding to shift back to development. I’m building two main products and developing a few open source libraries along the way as proof, but I’m not sure at what threshold could I be considered “good enough” to get contracts.

    Value I bring is many years in film / animation industry as a tech leader (managing custom in house software teams), full stack development skill (go and react) and an interactive design background. I’m thinking of targeting early stage companies or founders who need a tech solution to get off the ground and/or for validation.

    Sorry this reply kind of turned into my own musing here as I was typing. My advice is welcome!

    1. 1

      I made a fresh portfolio for every single application. There is no one size fits all solution. If the position is looking for something more design/frontend focused highlight specific examples of the work you did with react and interactive design. Your skill set is a bit overwhelming since it’s so wide so focusing only on the things that matter is important.

      My goal really was not to build a sustainable freelance business, just to find well paid contracts asap. For that it’s smart to follow the money and startups are often dead poor :)

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