So you’re starting out as a freelance web developer and you’re ready to take on your first client. Now what? Here’s how I landed my first remote coding job, off the back of which I forged a successful web development business of seven years.

How I Started Developing Remotely

I imagine I started out as most developers born in the eighties do; tinkering with the family computer, gaining interest in the internet and how everything works. At fifteen I undertook an after school HTML course at the local college, which basic as it was, gave me the confidence that I could go on to code for a living.

Fast forward a few years and after a brief foray into video game design/dev, I picked up a degree containing a module loosely based on building a website. This is where I discovered WordPress and my employable niche.

Where Did That First Freelance Lead Come From?

After University I applied for a couple of permanent positions in IT, unsuccessfully. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

The Preparation

I decided that I wanted to work for myself aged twenty-two, fresh out of education with little idea in real world business terms, but endeavor to succeed in working from home as my own boss. I knew what I wanted to sell (websites), I knew my platform (WordPress), I needed clients, so I pulled together a number of approaches in a bid to get that first client through the door:

  • Making use of existing connections. Any friends who had a business that may need a website.
  • Contacting local businesses. I put together a list of local companies who I felt could benefit from a new website and contacted them.
  • Contacting local design agencies. I compiled a spreadsheet of agencies in the area and made them aware of my services.
  • Self promotion. Making it known that I was available for hire, via word of mouth, business cards, social media.

Initial Mistakes

I limited myself with contacting only local business and design agencies within the county. As a remote worker, the primary benefit of this business model is that you can work for anyone from anywhere. I wish I’d made greater use of that in my earlier career. The takeaway being from seven years down the line that only ~10% of my work is done for clients within my home county.

Landing My First Remote Development Job

After dodging time wasters and people who wanted to pay next to nothing for a website because their cousins’, friends’, son can “put together a website” (you will get these early in your career, but that’s one for another article!), I gained an interesting lead. A family member, who also runs their own business, had a secondary contact that required a junior developer.

The company was fledgling at the time, with a list of clients waiting for WordPress websites to be delivered – it was perfect and I broke my back to make sure I got my foot in the door. The role grew over time and I ended up working pretty much full time for the company, one day on-site and four days remotely.

Maybe I got lucky, maybe I made my own luck through trying. Try every angle.

Nurturing Client Relationships

The mantra of my business is that I want to keep my clients and you will learn that:

  1. Doing a good job for people is highly satisfying.
  2. Repeat business is king.

Nurturing your early client relationships, whether it’s your very first job or your 10th for that person is so important. It’s much easier to find work, when you’re in work.

Modern Remote Work Avenues

There are more avenues for remote workers than there were when I started, mainly because it’s more of a standard practice, with entirely remote software development companies not being unusual. Here are some home working specific job boards that I’d recommend checking out as they could also be the source of your first remote development job:

In Summary

Getting your first freelance development gig will come down to a number of things – your skill set, your niche/platform, your existing connections, your willingness to put yourself out there and being the right person for a company at the right time.

It can be tough at the start (as can starting any business), plus throwing into the mix a preference to work remotely, you may lose out on a few clients initially.

That said, it seems there are more jobs now than there has ever been for developers who wish to work from home. The right clients are out there and you can successfully build a development business based on this model. I’m the proof!

Posted by Tom Hirst

Freelance WordPress developer, front-end developer and clothing line owner available for hire.

2 Comments

  1. That was my experience too, “…made my own luck through trying. Try every angle.” And nature those connections.

    Reply

    1. Yep. “Repeat business is king”!

      Reply

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