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Freelance development is just about being an insanely hot programmer, right?
Right? Wrong. There’s one bit of freelancing which is harder than any challenge you’ll find on Project Euler. It’s the bit which brings in the bacon. And it’s ridiculously hard. That bit is called customer discovery.
Having marketable skills is awesome. With respect to programming, it’s something which requires a huge amount of dedication and a significant expenditure of time. However, this directly doesn’t put money in your pocket.
Being able to identify potential customers does, however. Sadly, this is one of those soft-skills which often escapes those who exist in a purely technical realm. But, much like software development, it is something which can be learned.
So, What Does This Have To Do With WordPress?
WordPress powers much of the Internet, including MakeUseOf. For developers, it is a veritable gold-mine. However, this has had a knock-on effect of making the WordPress development sphere a very crowded one indeed.
Freelance jobs-board Elance lists (at the time of writing) 18,120 WordPress developers. There are even 7295 people on Fiverr who are willing to sling WordPress code for the princely sum of five-bucks. You read that right. Five dollars. There are a great many more places where developers look for work, and I imagine that I would find similarly sizable amounts of WordPress developers looking for freelance employment.
This is a field which has became insanely commoditized, and the competition for clients is hugely fierce. It also means that those who are just starting their careers as freelance WordPress developers have to compete against a plethora of talented, seasoned individuals.
Despite that, it’s still possible to launch a thriving WordPress freelance consultancy business. Here’s how you can find your first customers.
Find The Frustrated
I like Twitter, but for a reason which you may find surprising.
People complain on it. Like crazy. To a degree which probably wouldn’t be socially acceptable in the real world. They complain about their commutes. They complain about the idiot barista who got their coffee order wrong. They complain about the technology they use.
A cursory search on Twitter for ‘f**king #Wordpress’ unearths a horde of frothing, angry WordPress users each with their own problems and they’re all going completely frothing mad about something or other. Caching. Guestbooks.
This is a great opportunity examine their site’s source code, find the culprits, then approach them and ask if you can help. To create a human connection, which can later be transformed into a valuable business opportunity where both parties benefit. Admittedly, there’s a degree of etiquette involved here. Not everyone will be looking for a WordPress consultant to storm in and save the day. It’s important to recognize this and to avoid being seen as pushy or forceful.
Create A Public Profile And Let The Clients Market To You
Twitter is a potent tool in any freelancer’s toolbox. As a bidirectional medium, it allows you to not only market yourself to potential clients, but also to be marketed at.
A significant part of this is building up a presence as an authority on Twitter. By creating a public persona as someone who not only is deeply passionate about WordPress, but also possesses a potent aptitude for the platform, you’ll soon find yourself inundated with people eager to take advantage of your services.
The same is true for blogging. I have a personal blog, which I use to write about software development and web design. I try to update it regularly with quality, well-written content. I also ensure that my personal contact details are easily accessible, so that should anyone wish to follow up with me about a blog post can do so with ease.
With respect to my own personal experiences, I have found that I regularly get people contacting me to see if I would be interested in a job. And I’ve even found paid, reliable work with my blog in the past. It really does work.
Be Proactive With The Job Hunt
If you want to be a bit more proactive, you can always go looking for gigs on Twitter yourself. A cursory glance on Twitter for ‘WordPress Needed’ shows countless people advertising gigs for WordPress developers. If you’re eager to read further on how you can use Twitter to find your next job, Nancy Messieh can help you out.
Another useful resource is the jobs board on wordpress.net, which contains a wealth of advertised jobs, all of which can be aggregated by location. This jobs board is owned and operated by the creators of WordPress – Automattic. This is their flagship jobs board, and as a result enjoys a high degree of moderation. The scammy, exploitative jobs which pop-up like weeds in a field on other sites simply aren’t present here.
I’ve also had success finding employment with Reddit in the past. The /r/forhire subreddit is the unofficial Monster of the popular link-sharing website, and matches potential employers with talented coders and developers, all of whom are active members of the Reddit community.
At the time of writing, there have been just short of 2000 WordPress gigs posted on the /r/forhire subreddit. Whilst this is nowhere near the amount of jobs posted on Twitter each day, it is still a relatively significant number. At the very least, it represents something to keep your eyes on.
It’s a phenomenally brave person who decides to enter the world of the freelancer.
Being a freelancer is exciting and and empowering. It’s also scary, and a reason for this is the perpetual feeling that you’re out of your depth. You will almost certainly make mistakes, and you will occasionally yearn for the days when you worked a steady, stable 9 to 5 job.
However, with a degree of motivation and a desire to learn from your mistakes, and from the mistakes of others, you can make a comfortable living.
Are you a freelancer? Are you getting started as a freelancer? Got some thoughts on this article? Tell me about it. Drop me a comment below.