How to Market Yourself as a Freelance Software Developer
Software Developer is one of the fastest-growing professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this occupation is expected to grow by 21 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is much higher than the average job.
The reason for this is simple - every industry is in need of software solutions and people who can help implement them.
At the same time, the number of people who are turning to freelance is also growing. In 2019, 35% of Americans were working as freelancers, up by 7 percent since 2013. 28% of Americans were doing this full-time, which is up by 17% from 2014.
All this to say, if you’re interested in becoming a freelance software developer, you’ve chosen an interesting time to do it. Demand is high for software developers, but you’ll also have plenty of competition in the freelancing space. To succeed, you’ll need to market yourself effectively and stand out from the crowd.
Identify Your Audience
The first thing you’ll want to do is narrow down your audience. As a software developer, you could work for practically any industry. However, if you try to market yourself to all of them, you’ll have a harder time making a name for yourself. Instead, you should focus on a specific niche and build your marketing strategy around them.
There are a few things you can do to narrow down your audience. First, look at your past clients if you have any. In what niches have you produced your best work? Having some strong examples of your past work in a niche will give your marketing efforts an immediate boost.
You can also think about where your own interests lie. What are your own passions? For example, if you’re someone who likes to spend your free time at the gym, the audience you target could be businesses in the health and wellness industry. By targeting an audience you’re familiar with, you’ll be able to speak their language and you’ll have more passion for the projects.
Change Your Mindset
The next thing to work on is changing your mindset. Too many freelancers find themselves in an employee mindset. The result is that they end up taking any work they can get at any price. When you’re a freelancer though, you’re not an employee - you are your own business.
When you think about your relationship with your clients, do you find yourself thinking that you work “for” them or “with” them? If it’s the former, you’ll want to shift your mindset to the latter. Start thinking of yourself as a business that is offering its services to another business. You should focus on changing your mindset from the start, as it will end up impacting how you market yourself to the world in the subtlest of ways.
Establish Your Credentials
Credentials are a big reason why anyone will hire you. Most businesses won’t take a chance on freelancers who cannot demonstrate their expertise, especially when it comes to large and important projects like software development. Working as a freelancer is all about establishing trust with prospective clients, and to do this you need to have some credentials.
Start with your professional credentials. If you have a degree in software development, you’re off to a great start. Another thing you can get is certifications related to software development - here are some good ones to consider. Other things you can use as professional credentials are previous customer testimonials and examples of your work. The more evidence you can provide of your software development proficiency, the better.
After that, focus on your personal credentials. Landing clients is about more than having a good resume. You also need to be someone that your clients enjoy working with. In every interaction with your audience - including emails, your website, and social media - you need to display your positive, authoritative, and trustworthy personality. When you’re responding to an email from, or on the phone with, a potential client it may not feel like you’re still marketing yourself, but you are.
Create an Online Presence
With all of this groundwork laid, now it’s time to create your online presence. It will do a lot of marketing for you, so you should give it plenty of attention.
The most obvious place to start is with a website. A website is where prospective clients can come to learn about you and where you can display your best, most professional self.
Unless you’re an excellent web designer, hire someone to create a website for you. If money is tight, look for some cheap domain names to help offset the cost. A great website goes a long way though, so put as much into it as you can.
Besides a website, you’ll also want a strong social media presence. You should have accounts on the largest social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Once you’re set up, make sure you use these accounts regularly. Always act professional, but allow your personality to shine through as well. Talk about things related to your niche and showcase your latest work. When someone finds your social media profile, this will be their first impression of you, so make it a good one.
Lastly, you can establish yourself on freelancing websites. You can use sites like Upwork or Freelancer to create a professional profile and find clients who might need your services. You can also use sites that are specifically for finding software developers, such as Codementor. By creating an account on Codementor you can begin to attract some clients when you’re first starting out and build out your profile. For more information on this site, you can read this Codementor review.
Finally, you should focus on making connections with others, and here are a few easy ways to do this:
- Look for networking events in your area where your audience might be attending
- Find some online groups you can join to discuss software development or the niche you’re targeting
- Whenever you meet someone new, be sure to mention what it is you do for a living
- Ask past or current clients to refer you to anyone looking for a software developer
You’d be surprised at how much work can come your way just by making a simple connection with someone. Word of mouth and previous clients combine for 79 percent of how most freelancers find new work, so start connecting with as many new people as you can.
Once you make these connections, you’ll need to nurture them. Everyone you meet won’t be ready to become a client 10 minutes later. The best thing you can do is simply let everyone know what value you provide, then let them come to you. If you are too pushy with your sales tactics, it will likely turn people away. This guide provides some additional tips on how you can nurture your leads.
Get Started with Your Freelance Software Developer Career
A lot of freelancers hate the marketing aspect of their business. This often happens because they are not doing it right. When done correctly, marketing yourself should be an enjoyable experience, as it allows you to make meaningful connections and help others using your skills and experience.
Both the need for software developers and the popularity of working as a freelancer will continue to rise in the coming years. If this is something you’ve been considering, there’s no better time than the present. Start laying a solid foundation by picking your target audience and changing your mindset.
After that, it’s just a matter of making connections and showcasing your unique strengths. It may take some time for your marketing strategy to pick up steam, but once in place, you’ll have more clients than you know what to do with.