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Six Tips for Getting More Freelance Work - Despite the GFC!
http://www.actionscript.org/resources/articles/884/1/Six-Tips-for-Getting-More-Freelance-Work---Despite-the-GFC/Page1.html
Jesse Stratford
Jesse was born and raised in Australia, and now lives in London. He is one of the original founders of http://ActionScript.org, and was formerly a Flash developer, teacher, author and speaker. While Jesse no longer works as a full-time Flash professional, he still enjoys actively participating in the http://ActionScript.org community as time permits.
 
By Jesse Stratford
Published on June 5, 2009
 
Some quick ideas for how to drum up more work for yourself, despite the apparent downturn in the Flash freelance market.

The Disclaimer, Hook and Basics
(Warning, this is more of a - hopefully inspiring - rambling stream of consciousness than a structured article. But it might get you thinking, and hey, you're here now anyway, so you're invested…)

GFC-this. GFC-that. Sick of hearing about the Global Financial Crisis? Aren't we all! At the same time, it's real. Very real. I know plenty of people who have been made redundant from both large and small companies, and I know just as many freelancers who have gone from being overwhelmed with freelance work to sitting around waiting for their email to refresh.

The general slowing of the economy had a delayed impact on the Flash market. Here at ActionScript.org, before the New Year we were still seeing big swells of new roles posted in the Employment Section. But in 2009, the number of jobs each advertised each week has fallen off, and many freelancers have been left with plenty of blank space in their work calendar, and declining income.

So how does one drum up more work? How can you keep the wolves from the door, the mortgage repayments, and the credit card companies happy? I don't have all the answers, but I have some ideas, and I'm hopeful readers of this article with have others to share.

1. Get Your Name Up In Lights

First thing's first. You're listed in the Employment Section, as a Freelancer right? Riiiight? Oh my. How embarrassing. You'd better get onto that, and we'll pretend that it never happened.

Then there's other places where you can get listed and bid on work. Elance and RentACoder come to mind, but there are heaps of others. Search them out, sign up and keep an eye out for work that suits you. I know I personally have used such sites when looking for help with coding that I didn't have time to do myself, and, if you impress people, there may be follow-on work for ages to come.

2. Build Your Brand

You're great. Really, you're a crack coder/designer, you're professional and you're smart. Darn it, you're even good looking! So why aren't agencies and client beating your door down? Unfortunately, no one cares. Or, to put it more kindly, no one knows.

Right now there are over 4,000 freelancers listed in the Employment Section alone. What is going to make someone pick you over someone else? You're hourly rate? Maybe. You're awesome portfolio? Perhaps. These are all great when someone finds you among the 4,000 others, and takes the time to check out your site, but how do you get them to look at you in the first place?

How to Build Your Brand
You need a brand - or in non-marketing speak, you need to elevate your profile. This means getting your name out there. Since you're probably not in a position to invest in Google AdWord searches right now, one of the cheapest, best ways to do this is to participate in the community. The Flash market has always been more community oriented than any other market I've seen. I get more offers of freelance work than any of my local mates, and at least 75% of them are direct referrals from my tutorials.

Keep in mind, I stopped writing tutorials four years ago, and I think my freelance profile presently says I'm not even available for work. But people still write. Why? Because my tutorials show that I can do stuff. Not super-fancy, arty stuff, but run-of-the mill, every-day stuff which people need for their sites and apps. Further, my tutorials demonstrate that I can communicate well, which is always a good thing for a potential client to know, especially if there are distance barriers. And best of all (and we'll keep this between you and me, right?) they make me appear as though I'm an expert. Now there's a branding angle.

Experts are great! There's very little better for your brand than being thought of as an expert. And note I say "thought of". Truth be told, I no expert - I'm rusty nowadays. But the appearance of being expert still sells. Can't you see the client right now? "Wow, this guy's an expert. Check him out - he's published 30 articles! He's bound to be able to solve our problem and fast!" *begin writing email offering lots of money*

As self-serving as this sounds - and yes, this article isn't just to benefit you, but also ActionScript.org - the best recommendation I can give to anyone wanting to get their name out there is this: to contribute to the Flash community. Write Articles, write blogs, make open source files, answer questions on the web. And in every piece of work you do, link back to your killer portfolio website.

Spread your expertise far and wide, and believe me, they will come. Note I suggested linking to your own site - while writing a great tutorial and posting on your own web-blog is a good idea, ActionScript.org alone serves over 600,000 unique visitors per month, and attracts thousands of people looking for freelancers. Sure, post your content on your own site, but why not sign up as an author here, and post your content on ActionScript.org as well? I'd be willing to bet we get more traffic than you, and remember, you're trying to spread the word - someone who visits your website already knows about you.


Learn and Teach to Stay Employed

3. Go Back to School - As a Student

Let's face it: the job market isn't turning around tomorrow. And you've been so busy with contracts over the last few years that you really haven't kept your skills up. Sure, you got CS4 the day it came out, but you're still coding in a nasty (if functional) mix of AS1 and AS2, and you still think polymorphism is what that chick in X-Men does.

There's never been a better time to sharpen your skills. Sure, it's an investment. It will cost you time, and possibly money, but your fellow freelancers (read 'competitors') are probably doing it, and when the market turns, they'll be outstripping you with their reusable classes and fancy shortcut skills if you don't keep up.

4. Go Back to School - As a Teacher

Take advantage of all the suckers who are following my recommendation above, and become a teacher! Sure you can! Don't forget -- you do this for a living.

There are plenty of people out there - perhaps looking for a career change after having been made redundant - who are dying to learn how to make a ball fly across the screen, or a text box show "Hello World". You're their saviour!

Teaching pays well, and is often flexible in terms of hours. Maybe you can't land a full-time gig, but if the local technical college has an after hours Flash course for beginners, you can offer your services as a sub. You could even offer your services as a guest lecturer of sorts.

You specialise in games? I'll bet a lot of those beginners would be really keen to hear you speak for 45 minutes about the Flash games market, and learn your tricks of the trade. If you become a regular feature, you can hit up the college for some cash, but until then, the worst you're doing is expanding your network, both with the students and the teachers, who may be able to hook you up with work.

If the local college doesn't have an after-hours Flash course, even better! Why not start one? Write up a syllabus for a Flash 101 course, and head on down to speak to the director of courses. If you've posted a few articles on ActionScript.org to prove your expertise, these will definitely help prove your expert status.


Diversify & Network

5. Be Like Super Mario

No, don't eat magic mushrooms, or become a plumber. What else was special about Mario? Think back… That's right, it's a "platforms" pun. A bit of a bad one. (Mario was a platform game… ok, it died)

Annnnyway, there is a world of development beyond Flash, and ActionScript. Why not toggle platforms? Sure Flash Gaming will always be your first love, but now that ActionScript is a fully-fledged OOP language, you can transfer your skills elsewhere.
You can start playing with Objective C, hop on the iPhone bandwagon, and bash out your first game in your spare time. Before you know it you'll be millionaire.

Or you could expand your skillet to something complimentary to Flash, such as a server-side language if you don't already know one. Look at eLance -- what projects can't you bid on because you don't have the complimentary skills? Maybe you should learn those things to expand your marketability. The trick is to use your down-time productively to either make money, or build skills which will help you make more money when the market turns around.

6. Network, network, network

Remember User Groups? No? Well, before you became participant 1,546,789 on the Facebook "Adobe Flash User Group", and before you started following Tweets from your favourite gurus, people used to get together in rooms to discuss their love for Flash and slashdot T-Shirts. Surprisingly, such things still exist, and they are a great way to meet more people in your industry who might work for a company that just needs a guy on the side to do an occasional bit of… that's you!

Of course there are heaps of great Flash conferences and events around the world too, and most of them are probably a worthwhile investment: if you're really committed to networking the ticket will pay itself off. And don't forget, once you've built your brand and established your expert position by writing articles for ActionScript.org (and other community sites) you can probably even swing a speaking gig at one of these events. Nothing says "I'm an expert worth hiring" like wearing a speaker's lanyard at the next big Flash conference, and better yet, speakers get in for free!

So there's six high level ideas for how to get more work as a Freelancer, even in these tough times. If you have your own ideas, why not post them as a comment?

All the best to you!