Hello everyone. I’ve been trying for several months to become a freelance web developer. I’m starting to give up.
I’ve done all the stuff that everyone keeps recommending. I have a beautiful website with a decent portfolio. I’d like to focus on small businesses. I’ve cold-e-mailed dozens of them, and I’m yet to receive a positive reply. Judging from all the stuff people report, this is the golden pathway to success. But I have serious doubts.
First, I think there are just not that many new businesses at any given time and place. How many new restaurants open in an average town every year? Maybe a dozen…? With the miniscule response rate, this is hardly enough to make a living.
Second, businesses nowadays think of a website right at the beginning. By the time you find them on your street or on Google Maps, they already have a contract with some big web agency, which they’ve simply chosen from the first page of a Google search. As a beginner freelancer, it’ll take years, if at all, for me to appear at a reasonable place on Google.
Many old-world businesses that really don’t have a website will never get one. Eighty-year-old shoemakers cramped in a small workshop around the corner; an electrician that has thousands of clients; and the likes. They haven’t heard of the Internets, they have their loyal client base, and they don’t believe a website can help them.
Furthermore: even if you manage to get a client or two, I doubt the chain reaction of word-of-mouth that’s supposed to get you hundreds of clients over time. Most business owners would simply pay you for the website, move on and never mention it to anyone. Restaurant owners don’t go to conferences and share advice with each other.
I’ve tried contacting local agencies and asked them to let me do stuff for them if needed, but the response rate here is abysmal too.
I’ve tried Upwork and the likes (not recommended, I know). But hardly anyone posts there a job for building a simple website. Most jobs are highly specialized tasks that involve JS frameworks or WordPress themes and so on.
And lastly: family and friends. Again, I respect people’s own personal experience, but I happen to have a small, dysfunctional family, and even more-dysfunctional friends, and no chance that any one of them will ever need a website. I suppose you can manage without this, but it’s just something that everyone says all the time as the absolutely first advice for beginning freelancers – and I think this can work only for a few.
Incidentally, I live in Germany. Dunno, maybe the culture here isn’t so responsive to cold e-mails. Or maybe this is not an ideal time to do this (you know why).
Hope this isn’t too depressing. Any thoughts?