The easiest way to get more clients

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. Luckily the reason is that I got a very good, long term client back in July and I have been very busy with that and with the writing of my book on iOS development. Today I want to talk about the easiest way to attract clients I have found so far, which is how I got my last client. As good as it sounds, keep in mind that it’s the easiest, but not necessarily easy by itself.

I have talked already in the past about the sales cycle and why a potential client has no reasons to trust you at the beginning. But a sales cycle takes a long time, during which your resources keep depleting if you cannot get more business. Is there a way to actually skip that part and get directly to the signing of the contract? Actually there is: referrals.

Referrals from a trusted person can take the place of a long sales cycle where you have to prove to your client that you are capable of delivering value for him. A good referral can do that in just a couple of minutes. When a potential client needs a service and asks for a recommendation to some friend or acquaintance he trusts, that trust is transferred to you and the effort you have to do to convince the client almost vanishes.

If I look back at my client history, all of them, except one, came from a referral of someone who knew me personally or worked with me in the past. That single exception was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Since I heard from an Android freelance friend that a client he had was also looking for an iOS developer. But that client was the key in landing me my current client and other prospects too, since the CEO of that company keeps referring me to anybody who needs an iOS developer.

As I said, this is not necessarily an easy task by itself. A genuine referral works because the person referring you is willing to put his credibility at stake. This means that you still have to earn that trust in the first place in some way. The person referring you does not need to be a previous client of yours, though, and there are steps you can take to make sure that a someone will recommend you at some point.

The first, most powerful kind of referral is the “self” referral, which is not really technically a referral and does not technically help you in getting new clients. This happens when someone who already worked with you in the past needs your service again. A lot of work for freelancers comes from recurring clients. But even if they know you already, you should not assume they will call you as soon as they will have a need.

Everybody is busy, so what is not immediately in sight gets forgotten. For this reason, you should never treat a finished project as completed and forget about it. Keep contact with previous clients to remind them of your presence and value. After a couple of months from the end of a project, pay them a visit to check the results of your work and take the occasion to give them some more valuable advice on how things could be improved.

That by itself could be enough to generate more work. But if it’s not, you can always ask your past clients if there is something you could help them with. Chances are that something is sitting around, but they are just not thinking about it at the moment. And while you are asking, don’t limit the question to just them. They might not have some work at the moment, but someone they know might. If you have delivered good work and they trust you, the simple act of asking might be enough to generate a referral from them.

All this obviously works only if you have already worked with someone (which, by the way, might even be your previous employer). Can you still get referrals otherwise? Yes. Referrals do not only come from people you have already worked with. Not all my referrals in the past came from previous clients, especially at the beginning when I was just starting freelancing.  You don’t earn trust only by working for someone. Another way is to help people even if they are not paying you.

By this I’m not saying you should be working for free. But you can always give some valuable advice and help to people trying to do something related to your field. You participate in your community and give good advice to people you meet, thus earning their trust in your abilities. At some point they might need you. Even if they will never be a client of yours, they might know or meet someone who needs you. Some of the work I have done came from a recommendation from other freelance iOS developers like me that at that moment could not get some work because they were too busy.

Another way to earn trust is to establish yourself as an authority on your field of expertise. Many professionals have great skills but fail to advertise them. Speaking at conferences, blogging, writing a book, are all ways of doing it. That is why I am writing a book on iOS development (in addition to the money I hope to earn with it). As I wrote in my last post, content marketing helps to build trust.

In the end, if I look at my past, referrals are what really allowed me to stay afloat even if my marketing skills where terrible. I hope this can help you to get more work.

Content Marketing Can Increase the Number of Clients You Get

We already know that marketing is necessary if you want to attract clients. Clients don’t come by themselves knocking on your door. One of the ways I learned to get exposure for my services is through content marketing. Content marketing is producing valuable content so you can get in front of other people and potential clients or customers. This also allows you to build trust, because you can show that you know what you are doing.

Some time ago I asked a friend of mine, who works as an iOS freelance developer too, how he was getting his clients. His first answer was a bit discouraging: “They just happen to come to me, I don’t know how”. That is not, unfortunately, a replicable strategy.

The truth, though, is that they didn’t just happen to come by themselves. He is actually involved a lot in the community. He speaks at different conferences, does talks for Cocoaheads and other events, has a blog and a podcast and released an open source framework. What he is doing is exactly content marketing. Clients are not falling from the sky out, there is a reason why he gets them, and the reason is his constant exposure to different audiences is what allows him to increase his “luck surface area”, as Jason Roberts calls it.

There are many ways in which content marketing can be done: through a blog, a podcast, writing white papers or cheat sheets and many other ways. This episode of the Business of Freelancing Podcast presents the different ways you can market your content to get more clients. All these are low barrier offerings that can bring a possible client attention to you. That is the doorstep in your sales cycle.

One of the things I’m working on to get my business going, is producing products. As Amy Hoy explains, you should do a tiny product first and that product can be an ebook. Your audience should come from what you are, because you have to exploit any advantage you have. So, since I’m an iOS developer, I should serve iOS developers first, because I know their need and I know where they gather so I can reach them.

So I decided to write a book about iOS development. It turns out that writing a book was what made it possible for Obie Fernandez to actually start a consultancy on Ruby. So, even if the book is targeted to someone which is not a potential client when consulting, this helps you to reach out to a wider audience from which you could get referrals for more work. This is content marketing at work again.

So I set up a landing page for the book to start collecting email addresses of interested people and I added a blog to my personal website in which I can post guides and tutorials on iOS development, where I published the first part of an Objective-C guide for developers I’m writing. I posted the landing page and the blog post on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, Hacker News and Reddit and I collected, at the moment, 66 email addresses. It’s not money yet and not everybody will buy the book, but it’s a good start considering I’m starting from no audience at all.

How Daily Planning Helps me Getting Things Done

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu

Trying to bootstrap my business I’m running into the problem of being overwhelmed by all the things I have to do. The books I read are packed with actionable advice, which is great, but this also turns into a big drawback when it comes to actually implementing the advice.

Knowing what to do is as an important step in the process as it is actually implementing the ideas. Some ideas, although easy to understand, can be daunting when you are exposed to too many concepts at one time.

At the moment I have three big projects on my list. The first one is finding clients for my consulting. After redesigning my website, I have now to find ways to attract people to it by writing blog posts of interest to my target market and to start email newsletter to start my sales cycle and keep potential clients interested. I have to look for networking events where I can meet new clients (and maybe host one on my own, as suggested in this great comment by Patrick McKenzie on Hacker News). And many other strategies the books suggests.

The second one is writing an ebook on iOS programming to start creating some products or productized services related to it (like online classes). For this purpose I am going through Stack Overflow, looking at the topics people ask questions about to see what the common problems might be for other iOS developers. I’m trying to gather data and this is not an easy process for me, since it’s the first time I do something like this.

The third one is writing posts for this blog. I have some posts in the queue on what I’m learning and doing. When I will have gathered enough knowledge I might turn this material into an ebook too. In the meanwhile I’m also trying to study Dutch, since I live in the Netherlands and I miss many business opportunities since I don’t speak the local language yet.

This is a lot and I’m finding it too much at times. Many times I find myself not having clear ideas on what to do next, so I try haphazardly only to find myself frustrated at the results. I keep then switching to other tasks, with again the same result and increased frustration. I come to the end of the day feeling I have not accomplished anything substantial. This is very different process from writing code, where I can always see the progress towards a goal.

Luckily I found an idea in this free ebook from Nathan Barry, which is working pretty well for me. To tell the truth this idea was also suggested to me by my counselor, but the very fact of being overwhelmed by all the tasks kept my mind away from it. In the morning, just after breakfast, I plan my activities for the day. For this process I force myself stay away from my computer, since I noticed that if I open my laptop it first thing in the morning, it quickly becomes a huge time sink that puts me back in the vicious cycle I described above. I work through my notes and todo lists for the projects and identify the next actionable item I can do something about.

At the end of the day I look at what I accomplished and what result or insight it provided. If the result is not satisfactory, I can ask myself why and then see if I can improve it or do something else the day after. Sometimes I find myself not having time or energy at the end of the day to do this step. I then do it first thing the next morning.

Sometimes stopping to plan what to do might feel like a waste of time. I always thought that I already knew what to do, so I didn’t have to plan it in detail every day. I used to think “one hour spent planning is an hour spent not working on something more important”. This is also because it has worked pretty well for me until now. When I’m programming, I’m in a familiar place, I can easily identify what need to be done first to move forward. But this is different in a field where I have only vague ideas on what to do, because I’m still learning and because the process is less linear than programming.

I found that this helps me a lot getting things done. When I look at the items I accomplished at the end of the day I can now clearly see the progress and identify what I need to do next. This also helps me in not finding me in situations where I feel I don’t know what to do, since I limit the planning phase to the first part of the morning.

Rewriting my Web Copy to Attract More Clients

I finally completed the redesign of my consulting website. In the end I could not find a website template that worked for the content I had in mind as I planned, so I modified the one I already had. As I mentioned, the copy needs to come before of the design, which has to support the content. So, no mockups, photoshop or HTML, but just a simple word processor. Let’s have a look at my process.

The first part was actually identifying who my clients are and their needs. When asked what I do, I tended to say “I’m a freelance iOS developer” or, more commonly, “I make apps for iPhone and iPad”, since I realized that non technical people didn’t get the first line. That’s how I identified myself and I thought that that was why people hired me. That is not the case, though, and it didn’t work, as I discovered.

The reason clients hire me in the end is not to have an app built, that is just the end result,  What they really want is to improve their business in some way. That’s what software is used for in any business and mobile apps are no exception to that. Identified this basic need, the headline of the page follows quite easily from it. The best way to capture attention is to make a potential client focus the pain he is feeling at the moment. A question usually works very well, but it’s not the only possibility.

Headline

This is still a generic pain though and does not go to the root, so I have to get more specific in what the real pains of my clients are and provide concrete examples. I started by making a list of ways apps can improve a business. Some of them came easily out of my mind after a bit of thinking, helped by the experience I already have by looking at the projects I did in the past. I then searched on Google to check what other consultancies wrote about this on their websites and case studies.

This was for me the longest part of the process. Once I identified that list, translating it into my copy was much easier. So, after catching the attention of clients by stating the generic pain in the headline, it’s time to grow their interest by showing that I understand their business pains.

Pains

After presenting the pain, the temptation would be to propose a solution directly, but not too fast. I have to bring the client to understand that solution himself, so before proposing a solution, I portrayed how the client’s business would be if those pains where not there. What would the benefits be? I laid those out clearly to make the reader feel how better his business would be.

Dream

Now is the moment of the solution, which is, of course, my service. In the next paragraph I present how I will solve those pains using my skills and expertise. A mobile app is, in the end, the solution to those pains I listed above. I am an iOS developer, but I didn’t mention technical terms like iOS, iPhone or iPad. That’s because I believe that at this stage it does not matter what technology I will be using. What is important is to show to clients that I have a solution to their problems. The technicalities will be discussed later, at this point they would be only an unnecessary distraction.

Solution

I added to the paragraph my name and a picture of me to show that I am a real person and increase trust. If the client wants to check my background, he can easily find more about me with a Google search.

To increase trust there is then a section with testimonials. The best testimonials are usually not the ones that say how nice of a person I am or how great it is to work with me, although I don’t think that could hurt. More important to the client is my ability to deliver on what I promise. Unfortunately at the moment I only have one testimonial which does not focus much on this side, but better one than none at all. The actual testimonial was longer than what I report on the website, I cut out the parts that just stated how nice I am and I tried to focus as much as possible on showing results. Again, name and picture reinforce trust, showing that testimonials come from real people and can be verified.

Testimonial

After all this the time comes for the call to action. I actually have two of them and I will talk more about them in another blog post.

This is the complete page.

Mobile Apps to Improve Your Business - Pure Creek

Why My Website Does Not Generate Sales

I thought I had a pretty decent website for my consulting. But it always failed to generate any business for me. In december, when I was coming back to consulting after my startup adventure, I redesigned my website keeping in mind a few things I learned on Patrick McKenzie’s blog. I rewrote some copy, changed the structure a bit and added a blog in which I wrote a few posts.

Let’s look at the stats: in the last four months I had around 1.700 visits. A big chunk of them was generated by a few blog posts that I submitted to Hacker News. Now, 1.700 visits in four months is definitely not a big number, but it was still an improvement compared to the previous period. Looking at monthly stats, the website now gets around 220 visit per month, which is better than the 60 it got before (if the math does not work, it’s because it had a peak of around 1.000 visitors in december with this post). So, given the visit increase, I thought I was doing better than before. But I was wrong: still no clients.

After studying marketing, copywriting and sales cycles in the past weeks, I can now look at my website and clearly see why. This is what my website should do but is not doing: make potential clients realize what their problems are, present a solution and show them how my services are going to provide that solution. This is basic copywriting. From there, it should drive them into a sales cycle designed to build trust before a sale can be closed. In the current version, I got all of this wrong.

I’m now working on the website redesign, but that will take still a bit, so I cannot present the final solution yet. I’ll write a post about that when it will be done. What I can now do, though, is look at what problems are currently there.

The Design Does not Adapt to the Copy

The first problem that taunts my website as a whole is that design comes first. Web design is not my speciality and as you know I don’t have a big budget, so I bought a template from ThemeForest. Now, that template definitely looks professional, which is a good thing when building trust in your audience. The problem though is that the copy should come first and the design should adapt to it. What this template did was constraining me to the layout of the page, so in the end it was the copy that was affected by the design.

I still don’t have a budget for a designer, but now I’m creating my copy first and then I will look into what template works the best with it. It’s definitely not the optimal solution, but I think I can find something that will match my copy in the plethora of templates available.

The Main Landing Page Has Bad Copy and no Call to Action

Looking at the main page I now recoil in horror: how is that supposed to get me any customers? I certainly didn’t know when I created it and that is clearly visible to me now.

Main landing page

First and foremost, the headline fails to hook possible clients. “Custom mobile apps for your business”. Who needs a custom mobile app for their business? Nobody. And that’s because, in the client’s mind, that does not solve any problem. What a client wants is not a custom app, what he wants is to improve his business and I fail at communicating it from the first line.

The text below tries to go a bit in the right direction by speaking about the benefits a mobile app might bring, but assuming that someone is reading it after the terrible headline, it still does not relate directly to the client’s problems.

The rest of the copy in the page then goes in the same wrong direction. “Do you have the need for an app to boost your business…?” Probably the answer is “No”. The client does not know yet, because he does not see the benefits it could provide. If the person reading already knew the solution, he would be already implementing it. But a potential client does not come to your website with a solution already in mind.

The whole text then continues in the same tone, asking all the wrong questions again and again, to end with an almost invisible call to action, which has also a too high friction because asks to write an email about something the client has no idea about.

The Portfolio and Blog do not Fare Any Better

The task of the whole website should be to channel customers into my sales cycle. The portfolio and the blog are no exception to this rule, but both of them fail at this purpose.

Portfolio Page    Blog Page

The portfolio just displays what I have done in the past. A portfolio is good in building trust and showing that I’m able to deliver apps, but again, clients are more interested in seeing how that benefits them, so the portfolio should not only show what I did in the past but also how this benefitted my previous clients. This last part is not there, though. Given the projects I did and the fact I don’t have direct contact with some of those clients, it will be a bit hard for me to redesign this page, but I’ll have to think about something.

Again, the page has an almost invisible call to action at the top that has the same problems the one on the front page has. Moreover my portfolio page is chock full of links that bring people away from my website. One of the main reasons why customers don’t buy, is that they get distracted by something else. And there I am, basically shooting myself in the foot.

The blog is even worse than the portfolio. The purpose of a blog is to provide value to possible customers to build trust and channel them into the sales cycle. My blog fails at that, because none of the posts is of any interest to possible clients. Some of those posts managed to bring a bit of traffic, but that was probably still traffic of the wrong kind. Adding insult to injury, there is no call to action whatsoever in the whole blog.

So, can you now see why my website does not get me any customer? Luckily I can now clearly see it and fix it.

If You Can’t Get Clients, the Problem is in Your Sales Cycle

As I mentioned I went through a couple of business books to understand why I’m not able to get clients as a consultant. Basically, what I was doing before was just showing up at events and letting people know that I am a consultant. The thought going through my mind was “I am really good at what I do, so people will clearly see it and hire me”. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

And it’s now obvious to me why. If you think a bit about it, it’s like walking up to a stranger and say: “Hey, we just met, but I’m a consultant. Would you hire me for this huge amount of money?”. To which the only sane reply is: “Hell, no!”. Would you propose to someone on a first date? Of course not. Yet this is what we do with many potential clients.

The realization that came out from these books is that you actually need to have a sales cycle if you want to have a successful consulting business. Some of you might think: “What? A sales cycle? Sales? Marketing? That’s what sleazy salesmen do! I’m a software developer/designer, I don’t want to do that”. Well, then just find a job where nothing else is required from you. The bad news is, if you are alone, you are not only a developer/designer. You have to be your sales person as well, that is a required part of entrepreneurship.

But the good news is that a sales cycle is nothing bad or amoral as many people think and it does not require dirty tricks to get a client to sign on a line which is dotted. In the end you are still going to win business based on your core competencies and skills. But as you don’t go for marriage with a person you just dated because that person does not really know who you are, you cannot have a client sign for an expensive service just after meeting you, because a client has no idea of what your skills are and how they are going to benefit him.

Because this is why a client is going to pay you money. To get benefits out of the deal. A client is interested in his return on investment: “What am I getting for this money I’m paying?”. And a sales cycle is exactly the answer to that question. Your services have a high barrier to entry. A sales cycle starts with a something that has no barrier, so a client can get gradually exposed to your services and learn how he is going to benefit from them.

There are many ways to do this, both offline and online. I’m going to try a mix of these things. I’ll keep you posted on the process and the results.

Your Worst Enemy is Your Own Resistance to Change

When what you do does not work, it’s clear that you need to change something. This is why reason I’m going through Book Yourself Solid. The peculiarity of this book is not only that it has good information, but it requires you to also do written exercises.

At first I thought: “exercises are great to improve”. After all, how hard will it be? It will be fun! Except that it isn’t. These exercises are hard. I don’t mean hard like a calculus exercise. Math exercises are easy in the fact they have a formula or two to solve them. You just need to know the formula and apply it. And if you don’t know the formula, it’s still readily available on some book or the internet.

The exercises in this book instead have no formula. They require me to find an answer by myself. When it asks to identify clearly my target market and it’s needs, I cannot google the answer. To make it worse, the question is generic, but the answer needs to be specific to me, which more often than not leaves me with more questions instead of answers.

Or worse, it generates excuses: “this does not apply to me, I’m different”. But I’m not.

Take the target market question, for example: after all a target market is something every professional needs, but what is my target market? I never stopped thinking about it or dismissed it quickly answering “people who need apps made”. But that’s not a target market, that’s what I do, make apps. Nobody needs “an app made”, they all have other, more specific, needs.

So, more often than not, the temptation to skip the exercises and keep reading or just put down the book and do something else is strong. “I’ll do this another time”. But that would be the easy way and in the end it would be ineffective. I already knew this was going to be hard, so I have to force myself to solve the exercise.

And this brings me to the title of this post. Change is hard. Our brain resists it with all its power. “What? This book asks me to make this hard change? I’ll do the laundry, that’s much easier”. I feel it again and again. I knew from the beginning that change was needed,  but when presented I still resist to it. Because we all want to stay in our comfort zone, but our comfort zone does not bring any improvement.

So I pause, think consciously about it and resist the temptation to switch to something else. I force myself to actually write something on that piece of paper. Regardless of how hard it is, I have to write something and do the exercise.

The result is great. As I advance in the book, more and more things get clear. I have many revelations. All these still require to be applied and require some more change, but when you start getting used to change, you’ll feel less resistance to it.

My Action Plan

I have the luck to be assisted by a counselor that is helping me coming out of the bad feelings that remained after my breakup. Actually I’m doubly lucky, because the counseling I get is for free, otherwise I would not be able to afford it now. The contact was given to me by a dear friend. Did I tell you already to get good friends? Yes, I did, but I’ll tell you again. If it was not for mine, I would be still feeling miserable, oversleeping in my bed (actually I still have that a bit).

One of the tasks my counselor gave me was to set long, medium and short term goals. We discussed about it in person, but she still required me to email them to her. This is something that actually helped a lot. Having to write down the list of goals instead of just keeping them in my mind as I used to do really helped me to focus on them and actually set them more clearly and effectively.

To be sure to set them realistically, she pointed at the SMART criteria of goal setting. I didn’t do any extensive research on it, I just googled for “SMART goal setting” and read the first result that came out. The interesting concept here is that it these criteria focus on making goals in a more useful and effective way.

Speaking again of the usual startup mentality where the goal is to change the world, I can start to see one of the reasons why these plans rarely turn out to actually work. Is there a goal more vague than changing the world, or even changing X for any value of X? Which is the proposition of pretty much any startup out there and was mine too.

Anyway, I digress. We were speaking about setting a plan for long, medium and short term goals. So these are mine, as discussed with her:

Long term goals: create a successful business selling products. By successful I mean able to sustain myself comfortably. What comes after that I’ll leave after this is achieved. This is something that might take a time frame of 2-3 years looking at track records of others that did the same.

Mid term goal: Since I already proved extensively that I have no idea on how to build a business, I want to attend Amy Hoy 30×500 class on how to build a successful businesses, given her past history and the fact that her alumni are consistently managing to achieve good results. Given that it’s quite expensive to attend and prices go up every time, as a mid term goal before this I have to bring in an income this year that allows me to live and pay for it comfortably. To make it measurable, I decided to go same amount of money as I was offered for my last employment job: 56.000€ before taxes. If I manage to find clients, this should be an attainable goal.

Short term goal. My money is running out, so before thinking on how much money I will make this year, I need to start finding clients soon. The time frame here is dictated by my savings: two months. I have something lined up which looks almost certain and that will give me a bit more of breathing room (another month).

Still, my main problem is not solved: I suck at getting clients. From experience and some advice I got I’ve seen that going around just saying that I am a freelance iOS developer is not enough to generate clients.

What I’m going to do the next weeks is read a couple of business books on how to get more clients. When you have two moths left, let me tell you that it’s a bit scary to spend time studying, but the alternative is keeping doing what does not work, which I can afford even less. I’ll still try to get clients in the meanwhile of course.

I already started with Book Yourself Solid. This seems to be the must read if you want to attract more clients for your business.

The next read I have lined up is the new Sell Yourself Online – The Blueprint from Brennan Dunn (I already bought it, taking advantage of the 20% promotional discount for the first 24 hours). Brennan is one of Amy’s alumni, who gave up a 1 million dollar consultancy to build a product business and following Amy’s advice is doing very well.

I lack marketing knowledge and I require some studying. The way of thinking that brought me here certainly does not work, so I have to change that first. As Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results“.

Dropping the Curtain

So, this blog already took a different direction than I thought. I had in mind to do a post about my action plan as the second post on this blog, but that will have to be the next. The purpose of this blog does not change.

After writing the first post I submitted it to Hacker News thinking: “maybe I’ll manage to get a couple of readers to start with”. I didn’t have any expectation, because my submissions in the past never had much reaction. That one instead went, to my surprise, straight to the front page. Speak about things I get wrong!

It looks like it really resonated with some people. Comments were supportive and some had good advice, so if you are in a similar situation to mine, go and read the thread. Some people even contacted me to offer some work. One thing I have to make clear though, since it was not: I’m not going to create a product and sell it in two months. That would still be the same bet that brought me in this situation in the first place. My priority now is getting some income from consulting work while I learn how to do things properly.

I received many comments on how I should actually reveal who I am, since anonymity is not going to be a benefit. I definitely lost the exposure that the first post gave me (speak again about things I get wrong!). The reason I didn’t write who I am is mainly because I feared that it would hurt my credibility if a potential client found this blog googling my name. Who wants to hire someone who is struggling after all?

But the people who contacted me proved me wrong, again (third time in one post. This is definitely a personal record). So I’ve decided to reveal my identity.

Here I am.

I’ve done some things. I have extensive experience in my field (iOS), as you can see from my portfolio and on LinkedIn. I have a quite good network due to being one of the creators of Appsterdam, where I take care of quite some activities. I spoke at some conferences and I’m going to speak to some more in the coming months (speaking at conferences, let me tell you, is way easier than getting clients).

Looks good from the outside, doesn’t it? I think many people around me think I’m successful. Still, I have a hard time finding clients. Didn’t I tell you that I suck at it?

The reason I can’t find clients is that my marketing skills are lacking, to use an euphemism. I was one of those who believed that “marketing is for products that suck”. I swear. I didn’t utter that sentence myself, but I remember clearly that I nodded complacently when I heard it from someone else.

Truth is, going around saying that you are a freelance does not bring you clients. It does not matter how good you are, it does not matter how many people you meet.

How do you do it then? Well, in the Hacker News thread there are some good advices to start with and I am still learning. I have a lot of hard work to do. If this last period of my life taught me something, is that you can be the best in the world in what you do, but you won’t go far if you don’t learn basic marketing skills. I certainly didn’t.

My Journey Starts Here

I am a software developer and I’m stuck at a turning point in my life.

I left my job more than one year ago, lured into freelancing by a friend of mine who promised to send to me all the excessive amount of work coming his way that he could not take. Unfortunately that promise never materialized. I’m sure it’s not his fault, things are not rosy for him now either.

The idea was to go into freelancing as a transitory stage to be able to start my own startup with a great idea that would revolutionize the world. Did you hear this before? I bet you did. I worked in such a startup for most of 2012, on a minimal salary paid by some angel money to just cover expenses (which didn’t even cover them fully). I left that company at the end of the year, just after shipping, because it was clear to me at that point that it was not going to go as I we hoped, which is exactly how it turned out. Others are still trying to make it work and I wish them success, but that’s not for me anymore.

So I went back to the freelancing world. Back is a big word, since I suck at finding clients. In the meantime I had a pretty bad breakup with my girlfriend shortly after new year’s day, which added to all the other issues, left me in a pretty bad state of depression. This took a toll on my financial situation, since in the last months I was not able to bring in any income.

What is left in my savings allows me to go on for about two months. I live in a capital in the north of Europe, but I’m an expat, so I don’t enjoy the welfare benefits others do and I have no family to support me here (my parents live in another country and are struggling themselves).

So, here I am, with only my skills as an iOS developer, savings that are running out and some great friends who support me emotionally (if you don’t have them, this is my first advice. Go and get some). But it’s time to change that. I’m not sold anymore on the idea of starting the next big thing that will revolutionize the world. I did many times and I failed.

What I’m determined to do is to learn to create a successful business from scratch. Doing “startups” taught me the hard way how not to do it, but I still have plenty to learn in how to do it properly. First I have to provide for myself. When I will be able to do that, I’ll have time and resources to change the world.

This blog will be used to document the whole process. I’m sure other people will benefit from it. This is not a blog to whine about my situation. I told my story to give context but what I will write about will be the things I try and their result. I know there are people in much worse positions than mine. Amy Hoy, which I’m taking as an example, has been in a worse situation and today she is extremely successful. Looking at her life story I’m starting a bit ahead of her, so if she did it, I’ll do it too.

I’m not going to give my name at the moment, although I will probably do it in the future. For now I just don’t want to have my name associated with this blog. What I can tell you is that I’m in my early thirties, have experience in iOS development and have some connections in the local community due to a lot of pro bono work I did in the last two years (mainly organizing events), but I’m definitely not famous or anything like that. If you happen to know me you might recognize me from what I write. That’s fine. Please, just don’t go around telling who I am. Not yet.