The short answer is yes because though I am a blogger and an online marketing consultant, more than 40% of my total income comes from web development clients which is enough for me to be a full-time freelancer as well.
So freelancing is definitely a possible career option in India but please do consider the following aspect to freelancing.
1. Getting Freelance Work
The first and the most important thing to get started as a freelancer and get your first client. Go through my article – How to Get Your First Client From Freelancing Sites.
These sites are a good place to find your first client.
Once you have your first few clients, the next big challenge is getting constant source of clients for freelancing. I have also shared How To Get Regular Income From Freelancing.
2. Hot Freelancing Skills
All skills are not paid equally. Here are some of the highly paid skills of the freelancing world:
- Writing – Writers are highest paid among freelancers. There are various sources to confirm the same.
- Translations – Next to writers are translators. Very specific skill set is needed where knowing more than one language is a must to be a translator.
- Mobile Development – Mobile (iOS and Android) development is quite on the rise and if you can develop apps for mobile, you can grab a lot of freelancing clients.
- Web Development – Web development is one of those evergreen skills for freelancing.
- Search Engine Optimization – Last but by no means the least is SEO. Hiring a SEO freelancer is always a challenge but the top class SEO experts claim $1000+ hourly rates for consultation.
Note: Above data is from various sources like Quora, Elance, Upwork and Google Trends.
If you consider freelancing for data entry jobs, you can have a tough time ahead or even if you are considering freelancing to be a web designer, you can have lot of price competition when starting out.
Freelancing is all about learning the skills that are in demand. When I was doing my job, I was more of a C++ developer and moved to C# but when I moved to being a blogger and freelancer, I opted for PHP as I saw very limited work was being offered in C++ and on top of that I needed to learn PHP for my own sites as well.
3. Non Technical Skills
As a freelancer, you not only need to have technical skills but also need to possess many more non-technical skills. Here are few skills that are an absolute must for a freelancer.
- Communication Skills: Freelancing is less about being better technically and more about being clear in your communications. You should not only be able to understand client requirements but should also be able to ask the right questions and communicate about your understanding of the scope of the project and let the client know what he/she can expect working with you.
- Estimating Skills: You may be a gem of a developer but if you can’t estimate how much time it will take for you to complete the job, you can have a tough time putting a price to your clients. Either you may end up being paid too low for an overly complex task or may ask too much for an overly simple requirement.
- Negotiating Skills: Client may always want to be doing things for as little as possible and if you don’t have the right negotiating skills you can be working for too little most of the time.
- Accounting Skills: As a freelancer, you are a small business owner and so you don’t want to be spending too much on hiring an accountant and so you have to learn basics of accounting and book keeping and to an extent taxation.
- Marketing Skills: Any business needs marketing and individual freelancers are no difference. You need to have a basic understanding of marketing so you can either do some preliminary marketing or can at least interview and hire marketers.
- Problem solving skills: This is one of the most important skills for an individual freelancer. When working in a team, you can always refer to an experienced person in the team for certain problems that may come up but when you are an individual freelancer, you need to posses the skills to be able to solve those problems. Recently I came across an issue where I wanted to install imagick on my MAC. After trying for few hours I could not get it done because running those command line tools on terminal is not my expertise. I moved my test environment from localhost on my MAC to shared hosting where I could ask the hosting support to get me the needed software. Solving the problem within the needed timeline is a must for an individual freelancer instead of just keep on trying to get it done.
- Time management skills: Taking too much work would mean it will be delayed and taking too little work would mean you will have an issue to pay your bills. Having the right kind of time management skill to be able to understand when it is too much for you and when it is too little for you is a must for a freelancer.
- Delegating Skills: Your growth trajectory as a freelancer will be exponential if you can form a team. As a team member, you should be able to delegate work to others and manage them efficiently to make profits.
4. Approach to Projects
What would be the right approach to applying for projects as a newbie freelancer? Put yourself in the employer’s shoe for a minute. If you look at some of the application as an employer, you will just feel pity for those freelancers.
Let us take an example of bids for a new website that a client wants to develop. You will always have applications like
Hi, I’m XYZ and I’m an expert in:
- Web site design
- Logo design
Here are some of my sample work:
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Do you expect this to be read when it clearly indicates that you have not read what he wants?
I have seen clients put in some keywords that they want to start the application with indicating that you have read what he has written till the end. So they can easily avoid such applications which actually mean freelancer blindly apply with copy paste applications template without reading the requirement.
Instead of spamming every requirement with the same application, get the edge over other freelancers by asking the right question in the proposal. It will help you interact with clients and having a much better conversion ratio of your applications.
Recently I rejected a proposal on upwork with a reason that I will not be able to meet the deadline that they have mentioned for the project. Once a developer rejects a proposal, client can’t follow it up. So he found me on Google and followed it up in the contact form on my blog. He wanted to work with me because my rejection note had details of his delivery requirements that other freelancers who applied for the job missed.
This is what I wrote in the proposal decline notes:
Thanks for inviting me to your requirements and I will be more than happy to work with you but you have indicated a delivery within 2 weeks and though I can start on your project immediately, it will be tough for me to get things completed within the required deadline because of my other commitments.
The client was ready to wait for an extra week and I completed the task well within 3 weeks.
There are requirements which you can’t get it done within the client’s timeline expectation. It is better to communicate it well ahead of time and not create expectation that you can make it within the deadline.
If you can provide a daily or weekly update, it always helps the client manage his expectation and be flexible with his deadline.
As soon as you have a deliverable, make it available for clients to test. Small prototypes will help the client understand the working aspect of the project and you can have much clearer picture of what are his expectations and if you are inline with what is needed.
I know at times it becomes difficult for the client to understand that some part of the system is still under development and you don’t need feedback on those under development sections but then those feedback can be ignored instead of losing temper.
As an example you can have a couple of sections of the site being developed. You completed one section and asked for client feedback and the feedback from the client is nothing works.
As a developer you can lose temper where you have done 50% of the task and client says nothing works. Understand that client is technically not very sound and that is why hired you and it is a matter of letting the client know what should be tested. It could be that you may have missed the section to test or client may have overlooked it. In either case, it is not something that should be dealt with a bad temper.
7. Repeat Business
As a freelancer, there is very little I take up from new clients because I have a lot of repeat business that keeps coming my way from my existing clients. I am so occupied with my existing clients that I didn’t look at upwork when I moved from Elance to Upwork for almost a year whereas Elance had been one of my best source for regular clients.
Focus on quality of work and you will always have repeat business coming your way.