Freelance software development can be a lucrative business for individuals that know how to freelance effectively, and can properly market and position their computer consulting software development services for maximum value.
When marketing freelance services, the key is to clearly communicate your unique selling proposition. This allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition and avoid being undercut by the lowest bidder out there.
The fact is that there is a lot of freelance software development work to be found on the various online contract work boards such as Freelancer.com, UpWork and Guru.com.
However, the challenge is finding work that pays well enough to earn a good living doing it. Unfortunately, there are plenty of cookie-cutter freelancers who are apparently willing to work for below minimum wage.
Your sales and marketing task is to show why you are worth more than that. This should not be hard to do (assuming you have the technical skills required) with the right marketing strategies and positioning.
These are our top ten tips for selling and marketing freelance software development services to achieve the highest monetary return for your time:
Whether you sell your freelance software development services directly from your website or not, it is critically important to have a professional, polished site. Having a company website shows that you take your freelance work seriously (it is not just a on-the-side temporary project) and that you are a reliable professional.
At a minimum, your site should include a summary of the types of services you provide, some client testimonials or case studies, descriptions of recent projects, your CV or biography (or company "About Us"), ways to contact you (email/phone/address), and some informational/content pages that will appeal to your target client.
Almost all freelance websites provide a place for you to fill in your freelance profile. Be sure to make this as complete and as professional as possible. If you can upload work samples, then do so.
When writing a proposal for a freelance project, it is important to follow these tips for writing winning software proposals. Although the space available for writing proposals on many freelance sites is limited, that is no excuse for not taking the time to include the key ingredients in a professional sales proposal – just keep it short.
Regardless of how tactical the work requested, your proposal should be written in terms of business results to the end customer. If you show them you understand their business as well as the impact the project will have on their business, that will assign you a higher value than other just-coders out there.
Whatever you are selling, it is always true that it is easier to sell to existing clients than to new prospects. The close rate is just much higher. This is equally true for software development services, so make sure you stay in regular touch with previous clients: send out a regular newsletter (let them opt out if they do not want to receive it), send them information that you think is useful/relevant to their business (keep it personalized to each client), and let them know about recent projects you have completed & the results achieved if you think the same type of project might be relevant to them.
When writing a final report for a current freelance project, always include recommendations and a proposal for potential followon work. You could include a number of high-level options if the next-steps are not yet absolutely clear, then follow up with the client later on to see what they have decided to do.
Your portfolio should include descriptions of projects you have recently completed and any deliverables that are good examples of your work (sanitized so as not to share any client confidential information), as well as customer testimonials and case studies.
Whenever you wrap up a successful project, ask the client for a testimonial to include in your portfolio. 9 times out of 10 you will find they will be happy to oblige.
An excellent way to increase the perceived value of your software development expertise is to show thought leadership in your field: publish articles, present at conferences, and be active in forums and blogs in your area of expertise. Include published articles and presentations in your portfolio to share with potential clients.
You never know where your next freelance software development project will come from, so be active in your network both online and offline.
Build partnerships with other non-competitive freelancers (eg, project managers or IT architects) and companies that sell to the same target client that you do. Participate in joint presentations and sales calls.
Another effective way to market freelance services is to give some of it away for free (or bundled with something else for a very low price): offer a free high-level code review or consultation; offer a free or low-priced template or e-report that can be downloaded by potential clients from your website (in return for their contact information); or come up with a small fixed-price service offering that could attract new clients (then sell follow-on work).
Think of imaginative ways to differentiate your freelance software development service from your immediate competitors.
Rather than just selling a pay-by-the-hour coding service, provide a bundled package to a particular type of target customer. Or you could collaborate with a joint venture partner to put together a bundled solution including your software development services with their product or offering.
The key here is to get creative!
Increase your perceived value in the eyes of your client by showing them that you are more than a coder. Listen carefully to their business requirements and concerns, and be a trusted business advisor – not just a software development go-to person. Help them develop solutions that meet real business needs, and don’t be afraid to challenge their requirements when needed: show them that you are the expert, and they can trust you to bring them the best business solution.
Providing freelance software development services is a business, and it should be treated like any other business, even though the capital investments are minimal. Most freelancers never put together a
software business plan or
marketing plan, but this is a mistake. It doesn’t have to be a big sink of time, and a business plan can really help you focus your freelance marketing efforts. Take a look at the
software development business plan template we have available here.
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