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PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2008 10:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2004 6:00 pm
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Location: Winnipeg
Without referals.

Do you actually advertise on Google or the local newspapers? Do you do cold calling? Do you send out flyers to select businesses whom you have deemed to require your services?

What kind of services do you offer? Do you offer strictly development? Custom application? Web site tweaks, like polls/surveys, custom forms, etc?

Do you actively seek new clients through job ads like those posted on Devnetwork?


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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 1:09 pm 
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Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA
All of the above except cold calling. I also don't recommend you show up on your local cable channel's local access channel. And I found that paid Internet advertising does work, but please go slowly in this regard or you could waste senseless cash.

Another thing that's important is that paid advertising really means that you need to step it up with your other marketing as well, meaning to put some polish on your site to the point of being ready to be placed on webcreme.com, even if you have to pay $100 for a template and customize. Another option is to purchase some 3D vector-drawn icons and build the site with Blueprint CSS or Grid960, being inspired by what you see on webcreme.com.

I also strongly believe in the power of marketing letters sent to businesses in your area who might want a website or to start taking orders on the web. I haven't done this yet, but am ramping up for it. A friend of mine in Austin did this with some success, as well as some rude guys writing him, emailing him, and calling him, but, oh well -- he didn't weep while putting cash into his bank. He told me that the letters need to be single page only because he did some split testing and found the single page letters work better. He said to neatly hand write the address info on the envelope -- not to professionally print the envelopes or they won't get opened. He also said to use a laser printer to print the text of the sales pitch, but do sign it in blue ink to give it a personal touch. He recommended including a refrigerator magnet or pen if you can afford it, but perhaps just a business card.

I didn't know what was the cheapest, best option on business cards, but a fellow developer I met on WickedFire.com gave me this info that worked well for me:

PK Graphics -- Get 1,000 full-color, high gloss business cards for cheap (last check: $47.50, delivered in the USA, which is pretty cheap in my opinion)
http://pkgraphics.com/index.pkg.asp

Someone told me to just make my cards in Ubuntu Inkscape, draw them up in the size of 338x203 pixels with a 1/8" gutter and a sort of thicker font (no fonts with lines 1 pixel wide), and then export as 600dpi, which automatically makes the image very huge. Next, I took Gimp to convert the export PNG file as a JPEG file, but with no compression and 0.5 smoothing (Advanced save settings). I then emailed PK Graphics the JPEG image for the front and back of the cards and gave them my mobile phone number, they called me to get my credit card info that evening and within 3 days I had the box of cards on my front porch. I found this pretty amazing because they were fast, cheap, and hassle-free.


The good news is that you really don't have to try hard for clients for too long. When you land about two, you're probably going to be fairly preoccupied from 2 weeks to 2 months before you're ready to take on any others.

And I think it's very important for newbie freelancers to realize that this industry is way beyond just getting a really good grasp of PHP, MySQL, AJAX, Javascript, CSS, and XHTML (if not design as well). No, it's much more than that. The competition from offshore guys is fierce. You have to know how to not only install other packages and frameworks, but get under the hood and customize them or take them in places they haven't been before. And that's time-consuming and not easy at all. In fact, you might find it's good to buddy up in "study teams" with a couple other guys and each learn a package and teach the others in order to cut down on time. Perhaps Meetup.com might be a good place to orchestrate that. For instance, here's a list of packages you might want to learn under the hood:

WordPress
ExpressionEngine
Vanilla
Drupal
Joomla
phpBB
vBulletin
SMF from Simple Machines
Code Igniter -- redhot right now
Zend Framework (used less now that Code Igniter is out)
Smarty
jQuery -- oh man yes
osCommerce
ZenCart
XCart
Magento -- redhot right now

And the list grows longer every year, along with intense competition from offshore guys, so it's very important to get study teams started and learn this stuff inside and out in order to be more marketable.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:57 am 
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DevNet Master

Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:57 pm
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:08 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:36 am
Posts: 3549
Location: Israel, ME
Hit the local job boards, there are tons of potential projects there. Usually under the Internet category, a lot people are looking for freelance developers for project-based work. Or you might find something more permanent if you'd like ;)
The market is good right now for PHP developers...

Also, I'd repeat the wisdom of matthijs, and get a good designer to design your site. Your site represents you better than a fancy CV or a business card. Add a blog to it and start doing SEO as well.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:33 am 
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Location: usrlab.com
With a net.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 12:45 pm 
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Yep, or hire a designer -- you're right matthijs. But if one wants to save as much cash as possible, it's fairly easy (and fun, actually) to get inspired by webcreme.com, keep things extremely simple, use Blueprint CSS to make the DIV work brainless and mostly cross-platform without much fuss, use the Tango icon pack here or there on the site, and draw up a logo in a vector program with ample use of gradients and inspiration from logos seen on webcreme.com. And that can be one's starter site until they earn enough cash to pay $500 for logo, design, and XHTML chopping.

One thing I learned from califdon here in these forums is to just keep it simple -- people don't have time to read reams and reams of text on one's site when looking for a freelancer, and they scan with their eyes for the big keywords and the big subheadings, then begin to read, and they like to only see one or two paragraphs at most under each subheading. Another thing that califdon said was to work on your target market. When you put content on the site, don't think from the web developer perspective, but think from the actual clients who may arrive there, and write your content only for them, especially as the primary things they see on your site on the home page and the first couple site tabs. My hat's off to califdon for that advice and review of my own site.

But a quality-looking website is VERY important for web developers in my opinion. It kind of says, "This is what I can do for you." If you ever use Gmail and interact with PHP guys, you'll often see your competition in the margins where the ads are. And of course since I'm trying to keep a smooth profile here I won't name names, but man there are some terrible websites out there for my competition. These guys must not do a lot of testing or care what their site looks like at all. It's a miracle they get work at all. I think it's been speculated that this is the reason they have to spend so much on ad revenue with Google AdWords -- otherwise they wouldn't get any business at all!

Some say, "I'm a web developer, not a designer. And I don't want to pay a designer or care much about how pretty my site is. I just want to state what I can do and have some portfolio links and that's it, putting it in serif (default) font in a set of TABLE tags with Windows Vista icons and no logo" But I tell you, I really doubt that strategy will help one get ahead in the cut-throat world of PHP Freelancing, and sends a very bad message about one's abilities, even if they are a crack-ace PHP developer placed here by Zeus in a thunderbolt.

Image


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:12 am 
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 2:44 am 
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The $500 was actually what one of my designer buddies just got paid to do a logo, design, and XHTML chopping. Didn't mean to insult anyone. Yeah, normally this goes for a lot more cash.


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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 9:52 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2004 6:00 pm
Posts: 6267
Location: Winnipeg
Meh...

I've tried freelancing...it's a lot of work. Clients are always cheap and job security sucks. The quality of work is directly affected.

I've considered outsourcing my latest project and getting work that way, but open source is to damn risky. The last thing I need is for some company in India to rebrand my software and resell it as their own at half my cost all the while offering the same service for half the price.

I think I'm going to stick with SaaS and hope for the best.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:27 am 
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Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2004 4:23 pm
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Location: Palm beach, Florida


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 2:58 pm 
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Location: Ann Arbor, MI (USA)


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 3:05 pm 
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Seems to me that $500 for a web logo is quite a bit of cash unless it came with a branding strategy. $500 for a site template (maybe 3 or 4 page type and a few graphics) is ridiculously cheap.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 3:23 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:12 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:45 pm 
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