How to Find Clients and become Self-Employed

I’m Shabbir Bhimani – A Freelance Developer, Blogger, and Investor in the Indian equity market. I can guide you to leave your job and be your own boss.

I have a lovely wife and two kids and have been an online freelancer working from home for more than a decade now. In Upwork alone, I have delivered over $90k+ worth of projects to more than 200 clients and still counting.

If you want to know more about me, check out my about page.

If you want to quit your 9to5 job and work from the comfort of your home, be your own boss; you are at thinking the right way.

Download my Free eBook – “How to be a Freelancer

In my eBook, I have shared the same strategies I use in crafting my proposals to attract hundreds of clients and make thousands of dollars and get paid a much higher hourly rate.

Let’s Start YOUR New Beginning

All the information can be long and yet overwhelming. It also contains links to many of my articles where I have answered each question about freelancing in detail. So much content for anyone can be tough to consume in one go. So feel free to bookmark this page and revisit it later.

Now let us embark on the journey to be a freelancer and so allow me to begin by answering some common questions.

Do I need to be a Programmer?

Programmers often aren’t sure if they can be freelancers or not. So, if you aren’t very good at programming, or if it isn’t something you love doing, you can still be a freelancer. When you are starting, there will always be confusion about if you can be a freelancer or not.

If you are a programmer, you can be a freelancer. I can be so sure of this is because if I can be a freelancer, anybody can be. If you are a web developer, it is an added advantage. But if you aren’t a web developer, PHP is not a very difficult language for any programmer with basic knowledge of programming.

If you are not a programmer, it is even better. Here are some of the highly paid skills of the freelancing world. BTW web development is not at the top.

  1. Writers – Various sources confirm writers are the highest paid among freelancers.
  2. Translators – Next to writers are translators. A particular skill set is needed, and knowing more than one language is a must for a translator.
  3. Mobile Developers – Mobile (iOS and Android) development is entirely on the rise. If you can develop apps for mobile, you can grab a lot of work.
  4. Web Developers – Web development is one of those evergreen skills of the freelancing world.
  5. SEO Experts – SEO experts, aren’t as highly paid as it may seem.
  6. Photographers – If you can click pictures, you can sell your images on many photography sites like gettyimages, iStockPhotos and many others.
  7. Videographers – If you can shoot videos, you can be a freelancer by shooting videos and sell them on sites like Pond5.

And the list can go on and on. The underline point is you don’t need to know to code to be a freelancer.

Freelancing Side by Side a Full-time Job

I will not bore you with my story and keep it short.

14th June 2004, I started a job straight out of college. But before getting a full-time job and while I was in college I did some work, especially of the homework help type. Here is a guide for College Student on How to Make Money Programming Remotely

In my job, I wasn’t delighted. I Switched between a few jobs, and I was in my third job before completing the first 12 months as an employee. I always found a reason to switch…

  1. My first job was in Visual Basic development. As I was more inclined towards the web, then, I started to look for a web-related job.
  2. The second job was as an SEO in a small company, but I started to get the feeling, “No, this is not the kind of work I prefer doing.” So I began to look for a job in C++ programming and that too in an MNC. C++ was my favorite language from college days.
  3. The third job was a C++ job in an MNC. Pretty much what I thought I wanted.

It was when I started to feel I have no more reasons to switch. I got bored with my job, and this was when I decided I will work more towards building my own business online than working for others. Finally, in 2008, after a couple of years of deciding whether or not to quit my job, I did it.

If you are doing a job and want to be a freelancer, here are the answer to some of the questions you may have.

If you have more questions feel free to drop them in my Ask Me Anything section and I will be more than happy to answer them all.

The Freelancer Mindset

There are too many doubts in the minds of a developer when they wish to be a self-employed freelancer. The doubts usually arise from the people you interact with. At times even when you have a casual conversation with your friends, they can say things that can discourage you from being a freelancer.

People will often comment about how hard it is to be a freelancer in India, and it usually comes from a person who knows nothing about freelancing. Or a comment on the pricing pressure in freelancing sites comes from the person who has never won a single project from such websites. Or on the type of projects and how it isn’t worth the time type comments. People like to comment from outside. Such commenters list is endless.

The short answer to them is, if I can quit my job in 2008 and get enough clients from the US in the worst possible time for the US economy, anybody at any point of time can do it. So here is some piece of advice to help you get started to think like a freelancer.

Getting the All-Important First Project as a Freelancer

Freelancing is more about making up your mind to be a freelancer. Once you have made up your mind, the next step is to get the ball rolling.

Remember, the first step is essential because it builds your confidence as a freelancer. If you can take the right first step, it can make the difference between hell and heaven.

Here is the Guide for New Freelancers to Find Their First Client. The process is so simple that anyone, with a little effort, can get his first few clients very quickly and then use these as a sample showcase onto the freelancing websites.

Working on Upwork

Your first project will be tough because you have to experiment with a few options. Elance always worked for me, and now that Elance has become Upwork, it is working well for me.

  • How to Get Your Upwork Profile Approved – Has your Upwork profile been rejected? If you don’t follow these guidelines, you are sure to get the profile dismissed yet again. So, how do you get an Upwork profile approved even if it has been rejected previously?
  • How to Get Your First (or Next) Client on Upwork? – There can be tons of advice others can give about what works and what doesn’t. But the first client you get with your effort on Upwork makes you believe it is not about what others achieved or said. Now you can do it too. Let me share ten tips to get your first (or next) client on Upwork.
  • How I Structure My Upwork Profile – While getting the profile completed is crucial, the quality of the profile is more important. So. creating a complete profile does not only mean hitting the 100% completion mark
  • How I Write My Upwork Proposal That Lands Me a Job – I take proposals as an opportunity to introduce myself, highlight my expertise, and ask relevant questions to show I’m the best-suited person to get the job done.
  • 7 Common Upwork Proposal Mistakes – What’s Wrong With Your Proposal – Writing more proposals and being quick in sending the proposals to the project just posted is not the key to success. The conversion ratio of the proposals is.
  • Upwork Connects: Everything You Need to Know About Them – This article answers all Upwork Connects questions. “How Upwork Connects works?” “How many Connects can one have?” and “Should one upgrade their membership for Connects?”.

Remember the critical aspect is not to focus too much on what you would be paid and how much profit you would make but to work on getting your first job and being able to deliver it entirely from start to finish.

Alternate Ways of Finding Clients

Upwork isn’t the only freelancing website to find clients on. Here is a list of some of the other best freelancing sites that you can also refer to. I only use Upwork, but if I would have to choose one other website to find clients for me, it has to be PeoplePerHour. Here is the Proposal Template I would have used for PeoplePerHour Clients.

Apart from freelancing websites, there are numerous other ways of finding clients as a new freelancer:

Finally, it isn’t about the number of clients but about how many of them are willing to pay you top dollars. Here is my article about 4 of the top source of high paying clients and about how I make sure I keep on getting high paying clients from these sources.

After the First Project

Once you have delivered your first project, the next thing you should be doing is asking for honest feedback and review.

If you did well, ask the client for a reference. It can help you build a recurring source of clients. Client reference is one of the best sources of clients for me.

If you did not do very well, do some additional work without charging anything to the client, just to make him feel happy about working with you.

Now things will become simpler. Rinse and repeat what you just did.

Being a Better Freelancer

Here are a few of my best articles on being a better freelancer.

  1. How Much Should I Charge for My Freelancing Services – This article explains the bottom-up approach to calculating the minimum hourly rate you should be charging your clients as a freelancer to achieve an expected monthly income.
  2. As a Freelance PHP Programmer Should I Hire or Partner with Designer? – As an individual freelancer, what are the scenarios to consider when joining hands with others and forming joint ventures and partnerships?
  3. How to Boost Your Freelancing Income with Additional Services – Without increasing rates, individual freelancers can increase their income. Here is a list of 10 services that can be offered to clients and boost your income.
  4. As a Freelancer How to Build Trust with Your Clients – Building trust takes time. It is not something that can be tweaked overnight. It is more of a habit that you need to develop as a freelancer.
  5. When is the Right Time to Say NO to More Clients and More Work? – You have a limited time in a day, and you can only work for a certain number of hours. At some point, you have to say NO to more work and more clients.
  6. How to Get Regular Income from Freelancing? – This article explains how to get a constant source of clients continuously and how to keep on getting new clients all the time for your web development skills.
  7. My Client Did Not Pay Me – What Can I Do? – My client changed his FTP and CPanel password but did not pay me for my work. What can I do about it?
  8. 14 Mistakes Indian Freelancers Make That Can Break Them – Over the years, I have seen freelancers write proposals that can be rejected straight away because they had some common issues. Let me just share some of the common mistakes that freelancers make so you don’t repeat the same.

Freelancing Business

 “Software As A Service or SaaS” business. Here are a few articles to help you out:

  1. How to Scale up Web Services Business – A Leaf From TCS & Infosys Business Model – Small web design and web development startups have issues that are scaling up to the tenfold or 100 fold marks. The solution is to apply the business models of the best service industry companies.
  2. 9 Awesome Customer Acquisition Strategies for SaaS Startup – Software as a Service is a hot trend in India, but many falter at acquiring new customers and clients because they are not aware of the right process to follow.

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