Starting a Freelance Web Development Business in Australia

October 4th, 2018


Clients all over Australia


When I started my business, there were some key routes I took to getting my first jobs. Initially I was experimenting with almost anything and everything I could, and I noticed there were some avenues which gave more fruitful results than others. Here’s some tips based on my experience of  starting a freelance web development business in Australia. This article is not limited to Australia, and much of the advice is universal, but I thought it would be best to clarify that my experience is Australia specific. 

Frame of mind

I can give you some perspective on the frame of mind that has brought me success in this area; I was at a place in my life where I valued freelancing in my chosen field so deeply, that even the smallest successes felt massive to me. 
The path ahead was riddled with meaning. The stakes were high, and I didn’t want to return to a full time job working for a boss. 

I had been planning and studying for more than a year in preparation for
starting a freelance web development business in Australia. I was working a full time job at the same time. It definitely payed off. However, even though this was a calculated, and not a flippant decision, the risk still felt very real, and there’s only so much preparation you can do.

Your website

The most important thing is that you have a website. Read my article on why you should invest more in your own website than on social media (this also applies to freelancing websites) to learn more on this subject. 

I would recommend building your website as custom as your skills can muster. In my case it was coding a WordPress theme from scratch. Here’s why it’s so important:

  • Your website is the primary showcase of your work. If you coded it from scratch, potential clients can review some of your code. 
  • If you know the ins and outs of your website, it’s very malleable. You will want to update it over time, and it’s much easier to know exactly what’s happening in the code. 
  • Your website is a great platform to experiment with new skills. As time goes by, you will see that much of what you have learned is through work you’ve done on your own website, because you were free to play around. 

Cover your bases

You want to have a presence in as many places as you can. This means having an account for your services on various third party platforms: Gumtree, Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub etc. This is so that you have the most chance of being found. Always make sure you link back to your website on your profile on each platform. You then want to maintain these pages as you update your details.

My first jobs came in a variety of ways, but one of them was through Freelancer. A client made contact with me, primarily because I was in Melbourne, and we’re still working together today! If I didn’t have that Freelancer profile there, I doubt he would have found me.

Don’t be afraid to meet up

Us IT nerds have a reputation for being introverts. Often part of why we are in this industry is because our minds work best when we’re on our own, free from any of the stresses that company cultures bring. 
Despite this, it’s a pretty silly and unhealthy idea to try to keep a technology wall between you and the clients you interact with. By all means, you can do that if you want to. In fact, you might have to do this if you’re living in a rural area. I’d recommend getting out of your comfort zone and meeting up with clients when you can though. It can be very stimulating. A positive in so many ways.

You can make really solid connections when you go in to a business and meet face to face. This is a high definition interaction, and it shows that you’re serious.
You don’t have to spend hours upon hours in someone’s office. After all, you started freelancing so that you could work from home right? It’s just great to be able to converse in real life!

Freelance Web Development Business in Australia - Business Meeting
Meeting up to discuss projects can be one of the best ways to get good work done and make great connections

Your location matters

Being positioned in a major city is a big plus when
starting a freelance web development business in Australia . There’s so much work on offer for skilled freelancers. Obviously it’s a big thing to move away from your home, but the prevalence of work on offer in major cities is definitely something to consider when working towards your dream job.

Freelancing websites

Freelancing websites can be vital, especially when starting out. Once you break through the initial barrier of getting your first jobs, things become much easier. 

Make sure you don’t spend too much time on here, but send off at least a few proposals to jobs a day, and experiment with your pricing. 
Writing proposals that actually address solutions to the potential clients problems is definitely the best way to get jobs. Save all your proposals, and you will find you can often piece a lot of a new proposal together out of old proposals. 

Get to know the freelancing platform you’re on inside and out, so that:
1. You don’t end up with bad scores on your profile due to simply not understanding the important data points.
2. You are taking the proper routes to ensure that you have the protection of the website moderators, should a payment dispute come up.

Don’t invest all your time here. It’s important to build up your business outside these platforms, but they are useful tools, especially when starting out. 

I would recommend focusing your efforts mainly on Upwork. Here’s a good guide for getting started on Upwork.

Tactics I didn’t employ

It’s important to note that there were some potentially effective strategies I didn’t employ on my path to starting a freelance web development business in Australia.

I’m not particularly a sales person, so I prefer to identify that someone does want a website before I approach them.
There are methods that some people employ such as cold emailing, calling, or appearing to businesses in person to sell them a website. I don’t like doing this, but it may well be a great method to getting work, so perhaps give it a try if you like this sort of thing!

Just jump in!

There’s only so much preparation you can do. Take on a job and jump in. The learning curve can be steep when starting out. I sometimes felt like my mind was slamming in to a brick wall when faced with problems in code I didn’t properly understand. I thought “If this is happening all the time, I won’t be able to handle doing this job”. However, as my knowledge and skills grew, those difficulties faded.

With focus and determination, you’ll get through it, and come out the other side so much better equipped.

Freelance Web Development Business in Australia - Just jump in! - Skydiving

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles.” 
– Terence Mckenna

Reaping the rewards

As your understanding of web development technologies grows, you’ll see whole landscapes opening up. It really is like reaching the top of a challenging hill, and seeing a vast, beautiful valley in front of you. 
Starting a freelance web development business in Australia can be challenging, but it does pay off if you want it enough. 

I can’t wait to explore the new landscapes that are opening up to me, and I hope you see it that way too. Who knows what we can accomplish. 

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