How to be more productive with less effort – not the other way around.
When I was younger, I had a dream of working in the technology industry, writing software for a living. I knew it was possible, but I didn’t know how to make it happen.
After years of struggling to find a job in tech, I started getting a lot of freelance work through online channels. This helped me build some confidence in my ability to write code, and I was eventually hired as a full-time developer.
That was more than 10 years ago. In the intervening years, I’ve been able to move from being an independent developer to a CTO at a startup. I’ve also gone from being a freelancer to running my own company.
In this post, I’m going to share my most valuable advice for anyone who wants to make this kind of transition, whether you’re working as a contractor or you want to quit your day job and start freelancing full-time.
STEP 1: Get the Right Mentors
The number one thing I did wrong when I first started freelancing was trying to learn everything on my own. Sure, you can learn how to code on your own, but you won’t get very far unless you learn from the best.
In my case, I was lucky enough to have a mentor who helped me understand the different parts of software development. He showed me how to set goals and priorities, and he helped me build a portfolio of completed projects so I could show prospective employers what I’d accomplished.
While it’s easy to look at this advice and think that it’s only relevant to software developers, it actually applies to all creative professions. Getting the right mentors will help you get ahead in your career, even if you’re not a programmer.
STEP 2: Join a Community
There’s a reason why programmers refer to their peers as their “peers”. It’s because they spend a lot of time together, sharing information, building a community, and helping each other grow.
Joining a community can help you avoid being overwhelmed by your own learning curve. It’s a lot easier to ask questions when you know you’re not alone.
In addition, communities often have events where you can meet other members in person. This is a great way to network and learn more about the industry.
STEP 3: Build Up a Portfolio
As a freelancer, your primary goal should be to build a portfolio. Even if you don’t have any clients, you can still get some visibility by posting your work online.
My most valuable advice for building a portfolio is to get your hands dirty. You don’t need to build anything fancy – it doesn’t have to be a website or app. The best portfolios are built with things like WordPress, Shopify, or Medium.
If you have any experience with programming, you can also create a Github repository to showcase your work.
STEP 4: Create a Plan for Growth
If you want to become a successful freelancer, you have to be prepared to hustle. When you first start freelancing, you may not have any clients, but you’ll have the ability to make money almost immediately.
The key is to learn how to maximize this situation. How can you leverage the lack of clients into a steady stream of income?
I recommend using the “80/20 rule” to create a plan for growth. Start with 20% of your time on new projects. Once you’ve proven yourself and established a few clients, you can increase this to 80%.
This method will allow you to make more money without spending as much time on the phone.
STEP 5: Find a Job Where You Can Learn
One of the hardest things for a freelancer to do is find a job that can teach them how to do what they do. If you’re a graphic designer, for example, you probably need to get some experience working in the industry before you can get a job at a design agency.
Finding a job where you can learn is essential. It will allow you to prove yourself, establish relationships, and gain exposure.
Thanks for reading!