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  1. #1
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    Market Saturated?

    For some reason the thought of starting a independant freelancer firm is very intimidating to me. I post here in sitepoint and there are so many great designers, much better then I am skill wise, but simply the thought that there are so many. I feel there is no room for a new freelancer.

    I believe the only way to succeed now is if you have a firm target market and work locally. But that is a bit harder to start then simple freelancing, or I may be wrong.

    In my case, I am interested in a simple goal of raising $1000 before November. Do you guys think that the market is so saturated that for someone to make $1000 as a starter would be nearly impossible?

    Did you have similar feelings before starting your firm or freelancing?
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  2. #2
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    Fear not, there is plenty of room for good freelancers. Since there are so many you need a strategy:

    1) Compete on price (you can try to offer the lowest price possible, this is hard)

    2) Compete on convenience (you can make your services as accessible and self going as possible)

    3) Compete on branding (make everybody think that your services are something complete different than services from any other freelancer)

    4) Segment and branding (you can specialise yourself within some kind of niche, where you will be the king)

    Did starting a firm intimidate me? Yes, a little, because I went from being responsible for the economy of my own family to also being responsible for several other families as well (other employees). However that intimidation is very healthy as long as it doesnít turn into negative stress. It keeps you on your toes and makes you a better business man. So donít let intimidation stop you, it's a good thing.
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  3. #3
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    We are still in a growth industry - I don't think you need to worry about saturation. If you put special focus on point 4 from Pacifier, you'll be raking in the cash. I don't think you'll have any problem making $1k by November, but start now... don't procrastinate. Do a couple of projects cheaply in order to build a portfolio if you have too (but only if you have too... don't undersell yourself if you can avoid it).

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    Yeah I see what you guys are saying. But what do you guys suggest should be my FIRST step? Should I make a business plan for this? Or should I just try and get whatever clients I can doing a couple projects here and there?

    I am unsure what I should do first. Should I just start out as a simple freelancer, one man job getting jobs on the net and such (much easier and faster to start, but might be hard to get customers, I have no clue how). Or should I start a real business with a solid target market and start it locally (harder to start, might take more time to create a plan and hard to get the customers)?

    This is such a large fork in the road... and I am unsure what would be the best direction if I want to reach my goal.

    Maybe I should start both?
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Evangelist bronze trophy Derek Sheppard's Avatar
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    O.K., here's my take. It might be a little contrarian, but if the goal is $1000 by November -

    The freelance boards are a waste of time for you. I assume you have little if any portfolio, and you'll be trying to compete with total lowballers from all over. There's always someone to do it cheaper - Indians are starting to complain about the Vietnamese undercutting them. That leaves -

    Start a real business with a target market. Can you specialize in a niche? Anything you can talk intelligently about and have some interest in. Beat the bushes for work - offer people discounts because you are just starting. Do a site pro bono for a non-profit. Build a couple of sites for yourself in keeping with your target audience. A directory is always nice. The world needs more good niche directories.

    Market to your target niche. How? Go here: www.getclientsnow.com/ Get the book. Download the worksheets.

    And here: www.ihateselling.com

    For a business plan? You don't have the time for anything other than a back-of-the-napkin approach. I wouldn't make it more than 2 pages. You are not going for financing, just something to keep yourself on track.

    $1000 is not that much. I turn down projects under $1500. You only need a couple and you're there.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot chihpih's Avatar
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    If you plan to work as a freelancer you should create a website for yourself. Use that as an example of your work to land your first client.
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  7. #7
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    Ok, great, thanks for that motivational boost you gave me there Derek .

    I have been attempting to plan this business all this summer. I am having a hard time finding the line between making the plan for me and making the plan as if I was trying to get finances as you have stated there.

    About the target market... its a great target market, but I personally dont have much interest in it. I chose it only because its a great market, not because I am genuily interested in it or know much about it (which I dont, therefore thats another task for me, I obviously have to learn more about it and how they already get their customers etc).

    Do you think chosing a target market that doesn't have your great interest is healthy for the business? Or should you chose it not because you like it or not but because its a great target?

    If not, can you help me think of a list of some good local target markets I should consider?
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chihpih
    If you plan to work as a freelancer you should create a website for yourself. Use that as an example of your work to land your first client.
    Yeah, that is a daunting task aswell, lol but I am sure I can find some ideas, depending on whether I decide to do the local business as Derek suggested.

    Welcome to Sitepoint Chihpih!
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  9. #9
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    I just want to say here that I agree entirely with Derek's points. A market only becomes oversaturated when not enough people are niching. See Blue Ocean Strategy, by Kim and Mauborgne. Great book on market oversaturation and industry niche development.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amirsan
    About the target market... its a great target market, but I personally dont have much interest in it. I chose it only because its a great market, not because I am genuily interested in it or know much about it (which I dont, therefore thats another task for me, I obviously have to learn more about it and how they already get their customers etc).

    Do you think chosing a target market that doesn't have your great interest is healthy for the business? Or should you chose it not because you like it or not but because its a great target?

    If not, can you help me think of a list of some good local target markets I should consider?
    It's a balancing act. The trick is to find a target market that you enjoy working in, that keeps you engaged, that you actually are good at, but that also involves enough money to keep you interested as a businessperson. You might really, really, REALLY dig Pokemon, but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to build a business on Pokemon. On the other hand, if you sat and decided that medical websites are where the money is at, but you flatly can't stand working with doctor's offices, you're going to fail. Why? Because you're not in any way suited to serve that niche - you're actively hostile to them.

    Either route, long term, is a surefire way to kill your business.

    Start by looking at your skills, the kind of work you've done before that has really turned out well (paid or not). What do they all have in common? What made them succeed? What type of client might need those specific skills and be able to pay well for them?

    You're not going to get final answers overnight. Takes years of trial and error to even start getting approximations. But asking the questions now is a good way of figuring out what you don't want to do, and who you don't want (or aren't suited) to serve.

    There's a virtual infinity of niche markets out there, cross-sectioned across industries, income levels, management structures, specific business situations, geographical locations, etc. Anything at all that distinguishes one business from another is a possible niche market boundary - and a possible high-profit source.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Addict dannyh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Sheppard

    Market to your target niche. How? Go here: www.getclientsnow.com/ Get the book. Download the worksheets.

    And here: www.ihateselling.com
    So both of those books are well worth the money? Im really interested in the ihateselling offerings

  11. #11
    SitePoint Evangelist bronze trophy Derek Sheppard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannyh
    So both of those books are well worth the money? Im really interested in the ihateselling offerings
    Obviously, I think they are. I've always considered myself weak at selling and marketing, so I read a lot about it.

  12. #12
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    I've got 'Get clients now' and it's great for those who spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. It puts together a 1 month plan regarding what stage you are currently at and sets you daily tasks. When you've finsihed 1 phases, you can start again by reading different chapters to put together your phase 2 plan.

    I also highly recomment 'The eMyth revisted'. The 'e' is for entrpreneur, not electronic. It's a great book for those wanting to start a business that will eventually grow to something much bigger. Start your business the right way and it will all be much easier.

    P.S. Buy them second hand if you can. Starting a business means looking after the pennies!

  13. #13
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    Great posts guys! Lots of good advice. I am going to take a look at most of those books, I think it would be the best to get them secondhand... it would be quite expensive to buy each one new.

    Robert, most of your post does make sense. Its good that I mention that I dont totally despise the target market I thought (I wouldn't like working in it myself, but I dont just not like it). It would be better to say that I am just un-educated in it. I am not sure how they get customers, how they run, etc. But I know that they can make a great target market if they embrace the potential of having a website and what it can do for their business.

    So are you saying that maybe I should just try anyways? See how I like working with them (which would take alot of research on my part) and if I dont like it, just look for a different target market?

    Wouldn't that prove to be hard especially if you are marketing the business with a name, logo, etc all specific to that target?

    You say it takes years of trial and error, which totally sounds reasonable, but I am sure you are not suggesting that I wait years sitting around thinking of a niche or target market. You are suggesting that I just try now with one target and continue to try with different target markets until I find one that I really like. Right?
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    There are no saturated markets when it comes to selling websites to small local businesses.

    To make some quick progress and get some cash coming in, go for the numbers. If you contact 3 or 4 carefully selected local businesses that you strongly feel would benefit from your services and they all say No Thanks - which is the most likely outcome, statistically - you will be discouraged.

    The thing to do is to approach at least 50 local businesses without worrying too much whether they are a perfect fit with you or not. If you ask 50 then at least one or two are likely to say Yes Please. The ones who say Yes Please will probably not be the ones you expected.

    Once you've got some cash coming in and some projects under your belt you can start modifying this strategy to suit your longer term objectives.

    The main thing is to concentrate 100% on marketing your services during normal office hours when your prospective customers are available, then create the websites in the evenings.

    No marketing = No money, so put everything else aside to start with and just go for the cash. There's no need for business plans, brochures or a fancy website just to get started. All that can come later when you have some money in the bank. Don't get sidetracked by business theories and abstract waffle - stick to the practicalities.

    Oh, and did I mention that Marketing is the most important bit?

  15. #15
    SitePoint Guru Amirsan's Avatar
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    So Unit7285 you are basically saying to just jump right in? To simply just get started and contact businesses right off the bat? It sounds interesting, you make it seem easy. I think I might still make a small business plan and a marketing plan (Marketing is the most important, right?) and just start with the target I have in mind.

    But are you sure I should start without a website? Wouldn't I want the website to address the target market with how my services can benefit them?

    That leads to another question, should I make my website and business name etc focused on one target market? If I do I am sure it can send a stronger message to the businesses, however it will also make it tougher for me if I decide to change from that target market.

    Or maybe I should start without a site at all as Unit suggested, and just sort of 'test' out my target market with a couple projects in the beginning?

    Thanks for your input Unit.
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Zealot cdndesignz's Avatar
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    You can do it.... heck if I can why not!

    I started out needing to learn a whole lot of stuff... mostly self-taught/books and a distance ed graphics design course. I started doing free sites for friends and myself and getting adequate software, and learning how to use programs. By the time a sport board that I'm on needed a website, I charged them a minimal amount for it and annual maintenance was agreed upon. I did my own business website with domain name and got myself listed in online 'find a designer' directories. I did a little bit of online freelance bidding, but overall I'd say I 'paid' for some work experience going that way! (well I did make 1K on a client from that, but compared to the number of hours I worked ) I did do what someone above suggested and started a niche local (provincial) directory for the horse industry which was lacking here, and it's making me several hundred dollars a year for 2 years now as well as getting me known.

    I listed last summer and started getting local business from the 'find a local designer' directories and by the end of last year had several local sites done/in progress. This year I revamped my own site as my technique has improved, got myself into the local Yellow Pages and raised my prices! I currently have 5 projects on the go, one of which is a multi-K one... still can handle more business but it's going pretty well for really only the first year that I promoted myself! Honestly, most of my business has been local, so I would strongly urge that route... despite the 'global model' of the internet, business owners want to be able to meet and size up who they are going to pay money to before seeing a product.

    My 'niche' market has been that I 'help small business owners get onto the web' and my forte has been keeping things simple for them (most are fairly computer illiterate), stressing that the site exists to help them make money and expand their business (helps with the close! ) and being strongly graphical. I am now using CSS and doing a lot more Flash work, which I consider a good reason for raising prices (lol) on several sites now. But you don't have to know enormous amounts of technical stuff... you at least have to be able to do good HTML, you have to have a decent sense of graphics (no green, orange and purple please) so good at Photoshop etc, and be all-round OK at things like search engine submissions, tags, uploading etc... good language skills so you proof everything and don't put up websites with tons of typos (the fastest guaranteed way to not get more business!! and I don't care if you just copied the file the client sent you... fix it!!).

    Oh yeah and my take on the "target market" - your target market IS: ANYONE WHO WANTS A WEBSITE!! (and is willing to pay for it.. which may rule out Bess and Joe's baby pictures online....) I have yet to do a site which has anything to do with any other site I did... but they all paid $$ for them so.. who cares what they're about!? (well I refuse to do porn/gambling/illegal, but any other sort of legitimate business or group or sport or whatever... I'll do)

    Anyway, that's what has worked for me.. some tips. Good luck!

  17. #17
    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amirsan
    But are you sure I should start without a website? Wouldn't I want the website to address the target market with how my services can benefit them?
    You do need a website, I just mean you don't need a fancy website. No need to spend months getting it 'perfect' before approaching prospects!

  18. #18
    SitePoint Enthusiast jeter4982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unit7285
    You do need a website, I just mean you don't need a fancy website. No need to spend months getting it 'perfect' before approaching prospects!
    Ya, but you need to make sure it is at least somewhat respectable, as that is the first thing I look at when choosing a designer, seeing how well they can design, when they are doing there own site, let alone some client.

    Tom

  19. #19
    SitePoint Addict dannyh's Avatar
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    I think its absolutely neccessary to have your own website. It seems rediculous to think otherwise. I wouldnt buy a house from a realtor who lives in his car. I don't think most people would buy a website from someone who hasn't built on for themselves.

    Number one thing to getting business is keep motivated. Get excited! Focus on your goals, on your dreams. Where do you want to be? Dont be modest. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE? now get there. If you are confident in yourself... I mean real confidence, you WILL do what you set out for.

    Have you ever heard the saying "ready, aim, fire!"? Aiming is like planning. Most people plan forever. Change your personal saying to "ready - Fire!", "ready - Fire!".

    Dont complicate things in your head. Its not that complicated; only when you make it that way.

    You can design great websites that help businesses (whether those are businesses in a niche, or anything for the time being). Those business need to know you can help them. They need to see how confident you are, and that you have your own website to prove it. Call them. Mail them. Show them. Prove to them. Win them over and get the project.

    If I was in your position I would create a website that communicates your differentiating qualities. Why are you different (even if its a slight difference)? Show that in everything you do, from your designs to the way you speak to your clothing. What core values to you have as a designer. Express them. Don't be quiet or boring. Show them.

    So, to make it even simpler this is my take on what you should do. And do today. Not tomorrow. not after just one more reply to this thread. The best time to start something was yesterday. Since you cant have yesterday, when is the next best time? thats right, NOW.

    1) build a website. Don't get too worried. Make it simple, beautiful, usable and say what you want them to hear.
    2) Figure out what you want to charge. Dont skimp on price. You need your $1000 remember? Show them why your services are worth it. Sell them a dream and a solution, not just a website.
    3) Get out there. Look for any leads locally. Any new business shown in the newspaper? Do they got a website? Does it suck? What about existing websites? Call them. Talk to them. Show them.
    4) Over deliver. Don't tell them you are going to make them a free animated banner ad for their new site. Package it up and give it to them as a free prize. Make a favicon. Dont tell them at first but make sure to subtly let them know its prize. This will make them feel special, and special = happy people who tell their friends.


    Now get off sitepoint! go make your site with your awesome design skills and sell them a dream of better business and a impressive brand identity. Or whatever it is you do

  20. #20
    SitePoint Zealot
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    I think its absolutely neccessary to have your own website.
    100% agree. I do freelancing in TYPO3 web-development since june 2004.
    And only 1 week ago open web-site of my TYPO3-service...
    I use freelance auctions (www.RentAcoder.com, www.guru.com )
    But now I see, that this was mistake.

    If I made my site in 2004... I think now I would have a lot of clienst with $1000+ budget for standard TYPO3 web-site development...
    Last edited by vrom; Aug 24, 2005 at 12:29.
    Russian TYPO3 Laboratory: vBulletin to TYPO3 integration
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  21. #21
    My precious!!! astericks's Avatar
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    cdndesignz, I've been trying to niche on the small business market around my area (I'm already doing very well with another niche, but there room to expand my business ). I was wondering how you exactly get your projects. Do you contact the businesses yourself and talk to the owner or do you rely on your yellow page listing?

    Personally, since I dont have time going around convincing people to get a website, I was considering hiring someone who will make the sale and then give them a commission per sale. I'd like to have the SP community's feedback on that. The problem is I havent had time to find that right person.

    Another point in making the sale for small businesses is that nowadays with google maps (among other websites) and finding local business through their web service, it gives the small businesses more exposure. To me, that's one more reason for them to have a website.

    Amirsan, i dont mean to hijack your thread , I just thought this info might be beneficial to you too.

    cheers
    asT.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amirsan
    For some reason the thought of starting a independant freelancer firm is very intimidating to me. I post here in sitepoint and there are so many great designers, much better then I am skill wise, but simply the thought that there are so many. I feel there is no room for a new freelancer.
    If you went to a Star Trek convention and looked around, you would think there were way too many Trekies out there. Basically, realize you are visiting a site visited by people similar to you - web designers, developers, etc. This is why it seems there are so many.

  23. #23
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    For what is is worth I'd suggest the following:

    1) The market is not oversaturated. There are a lot of designers, but there are a lot of projects.

    2) $1000 is really very little money for a freelance project in my opinion. Obviously it depends on the client. If is a mom & pop shop or a band or artist then perhaps it is a lot, but if it is a professional business then you would be underpricing your self seriously and would probably not get the project since they would not consider you a professional solution that would have the experience or skills to do the job they need.

    3) You need a web site or a portfolio of work to show.

    4) If you are just starting up do not try to focus on a market. Take what you can and watch to see where the jobs come from. You can decide later if one area is more lucrative or promising.

    5) Use your friends and family to see if they know anyone looking for a design for a project. Your personal network will probably be the most beneficial when you start and they will probably be the ones that will give you the most leeway and slack to help you get going.

    6) Find a non-profit group or organization that would like a web site and work with them on it for free. This can give you both a project to work on to gain a show piece and experience and also give you more people to network with. Once the project is successfully done, ask them if they know anyone looking for work. Build your network this way.

    7) Good luck and have fun with it! If it is not fun, then why bother?

    Michael

  24. #24
    SitePoint Zealot cdndesignz's Avatar
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    Astericks; I've been mostly letting the business come to me... I work from home and homeschool my kids, and I've kept other part-time work and self-employment work while starting up (so while I still had plenty of financial necessity I didn't starve to death!) so I have pretty much had "enough" work since last Sept... If I had some downtime then it seemed like I'd earned a holiday ... If I had 4 projects all needing to be done NOW I worked till 2 am every day getting them done! (thus really needing a few days off anyways! ;-) ... ). This year I've made way more doing website design than my part-time employment plus my other lines of self-employment!! Just did some accounting and realized that... now I've got a ways to go before I can go buy a new car :-( ... but it's going in the right direction!

    I actually have been relying on the online business directories, the yellow pages listing, business cards posted wherever I go, the niche directory which indirectly advertises me, and good ole word of mouth by saying to almost everyone that I meet no matter how casually that I do website design! So far about 75% of my jobs have come from the online "find a local designer/business" directories interestingly enough... guess people do use the Internet to get local services!

  25. #25
    SitePoint Zealot LucidSurf's Avatar
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    Hey there,

    I have been freelancing now for around 4 years and can suggest a few things...

    * As michaelklouda said, have a portfolio. You only need 3 good web sites in a portfolio (more is great, but that's a start). So, build a nice site for a local charity (not only are you spreading the love but the trustees of charities often have great business contacts). Also build a nice one for yourself.

    * When you do get clients never, never undersell yourself. They will walk all over you. You need them to respect you for the service that you provide at least as much as they respect their car mechanic or electrician - hopefully more! Keep reminding yourself that they will be making money from their web sites - most have big plans for them. Consider the cost of an ad in a newspaper or magazine - $1000 will not get you much - yet a web site will be there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    * Treat your clients really well. Always be upbeat, happy and enthusiastic about them and their businesses. Become friends with them. Really care... that's when they will recommend you to all of their friends. My business started slowly, but I have never advertised - it has all been by word of mouth (and I'm snowed under with work!).

    * In the quiet times, build community portals. I built a business portal for my suburb and gave all of the local businesses a free ad. They associate me now with web design and who do they call when they want a web site...

    Good luck and have fun.


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