6

In short words: I am a web designer / developer (front end and back end). I do that proficiently since more than 10 years, and I am appreciated and good skilled in designing and programming. I work alone in a home office.

My target business are local clients, small to medium companies, hotels, shops, restaurants, etc, altough I do some bigger work from time to time but I can't handle to be full time committed to a single big project for long time.

I don't do any marketing, clients come to me by word of mouth by other satisfied clients.

Since a few years this type of business became really inflated due to the following main reasons:

  • Many online services offer sites "for free" then you pay to remove ads if you want. With time many of my small business clients decided to move to these types of services and they are OK with it.
  • Many other clients (restaurants, shops) don't even want anymore a website, they just open a Facebook page and they too are OK with that.
  • Many other new young freelancers and studios are showing up each month and some of them too are doing "move and restyle your site for free for the first year then pay xx/month" they work 12 hours a day even weekends or nights...
  • Bigger local web agencies are "fighting" each other to stay alive and they started to attract even small businesses with cheap products relying on high numbers for renewals and updating.

The fact is that there is a LOT of offer and not much request for the type of work that I offer too...

My incomes are getting lower and I feel on a dead railway... I'm still going enough good for now with some faithful clients but I feel like sooner or later I'll reach the end...

I need to significantly raise my incomes also because soon I'll be a father and I have to guarantee a good life to my family and daughter.

How can I survive this situation? Should I start look some other type of job?

5

First of all keep in mind that freelancing always is a risk. Sometimes things are going well, sometimes not. Sometimes I love to be free and having no boss, but sometimes I really hate the responsibilities and problems which you only have as a single freelancer (you probably know).

I was in a pretty similar situation and here is how I got out of it:

  • Take a part time job at some company (2-3 days a week) (offer them to write them freelancer bills instead of employment in order to keep accounting staff easy). This will ensure a fixed monthly income for bad times.
  • Go away from building standard stuff. Create a niche. My niche was starting to build highly customized 5 star premium online shops. This is bringing me a lot of money currently. Why? Because shop-builders like Shopify suck in comparison to my work.
  • Make a list and work out each and every point which makes you better than a website builder. Use it to convince your customers.
  • Get to know GOOD new people (e.g. Graphic Designers, Marketers) which may need your work for well-paid high quality projects. Good contacts are hard to find, but you have to keep on searching.
  • Go away from shitty jobs and customers. It is not worth it and it will cost you a lot of time you should have invested better.
  • Find a way to get scheduled payment instead of one-time payments from your customers (e.g. maintenance). I heard of some freelancing silverbacks that this is a very good strategy.
  • Improve your skills and adapt to change. Always.

Keep in mind that freelancing can be hard. It takes many years to build a successful business and if it is not working than you have to change something dramatically.

If nothing helps anymore give up your business and join a company fulltime for a while. It may bring new perspectives into your career.

  • What is a silverback? – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Aug 17 '17 at 16:55
  • @CanadianLuke a silverback is the leader of a group of gorillas in the jungle, I guess this is the intended meaning... – Constantinus Aug 17 '17 at 17:06
  • Almost with silverback I meant old guy successful freelancers having lots of experience (also with coordinating and managing big projects). – Blackbam Aug 18 '17 at 0:00
2

I'll start by saying the cold hard truth about websites - most companies don't see them as a way to get new business, or at least not as much as it would cost to build them. You're competing with Facebook pages, with LinkedIn Business Profiles, and the newest WYSIWYG builders from pretty much any hosting company that charges extra.

In order to stay competitive, you need to do a few things, especially if you want to stay in the Web Development business:

  • Learn new technologies that would let you do your job faster and more efficiently. I don't know too many expert developers who don't use libraries whenever possible.
  • Reach out to clients that are not local. Learn to use Skype or another video conferencing system to "meet face to face" with your potential clients. Local clients will run out as you are seeing now.
  • Create a portfolio. You and I both know that if a developer understands how to upload files with SCP (screw FTP!) that you can get very cheap hosting. Build yourself a portfolio website, market your skills there. This is your new goal.
  • If you don't already, create social media profiles for your professional freelancing work. Write articles that interest business owners, and have them all link to your website somewhere - even if you make a blog and just provide a link.
  • Be prepared to be asked for the world. We all know it's not possible, but don't let the fact you're feeling you're in a rut distract you from reality. Yes, you need food on the table and a roof over your head - but make sure you keep your quality up during this time.

If all else fails, it may be time to either join one of the bigger firms for a steady paycheck, or change your field. I wish you luck, as I know many web developers that were awesome to work with!

1

I don't do any marketing, clients come to me by word of mouth by other satisfied clients.

Well, there's your problem. Word of mouth has reached its limit. Start marketing, or start using one of the popular freelancing websites to connect with new clients. I use the latter approach and it has exposed me to far more opportunities than I even have time to accept.

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