Getting work online


I’ve been studying web development/design for over a year now, im currently studying in college hoping to get into uni after this… But i could really do with making some extra coin at the minute. I have a deep understanding of all the fundamentals such as html5, css3/less, jQuery and enough php to get me by etc and have a relatively good understanding of responsive development, and frameworks such as bootstrap etc. Im also currently learning WordPress development, so i feel i am more than capable to start doing some work for people… Does anyone have any tips for getting work online? I tried Freelancer, stayed with them for about a month or so and no matter how many jobs i bid on just did not get any work at all… decided to quit since they were charging me for membership and i wasn’t getting any work out of it…

People keep saying to me “i have someone who wants to talk to you” and blah blah blah and nothing ever comes of it so just wondering if anyone who actually makes money online through this has any tips for a startup?

How much do you know about ecommerce? Shopping carts?

That is one element i havent looked into… I have a good friend who is a web desiger/dev and he always stated its probably best to steer clear of ecommerce… Although one of my teachers has set up online stores i remember him mentioning magento although ive never looked into it (yet anyway)… why do you ask?

Because doing web professionally means that you need to take care of your customer needs… and if he needs a store, he needs a store and that means e-commerce.

The friend that told you to steer clear from e-commerce is limiting his work a lot and, in my opinion, it is not a wise desicission if you’re a solo man. If you work in a team where you have the chance to specialise on something, then it could be OK. But when you’re by yourself, you then need a deep understanding of all aspects, including e-commerce, seo and social media so at least you can choose the right contractor when there are jobs that you can’t handle by yourself.

Magento is a good option but it is expensive and has an steep learning curve. But that’s another discussion :wink:

E-commerce is a good way to work online, but you have to have a good command of it.

[FONT=verdana]Zany, there are several sites where you can bid for freelance work, and which handle the contractual details and collect payment on your behalf. I think you already mentioned Freelance.Net. Another (perhaps the biggest) is

The problem with sites like is that you will be competing with freelancers from countries where salaries and the cost of living are very much lower than where you are. These freelancers will inevitably quote much lower rates that you can afford to charge. If your only reason to get freelance work is to acquire some experience, that might not matter. But if you are interested in actually making money, these sites won’t be any good for you.

Perosnally, I’d try to fnd freelance work locally, with clients that you can deal with on a face-to-face basis. That’s a much more satisfactory way of going about it, and it also means that you can start to build up a network of satisified customers who can then give you referrals and references.

Whatever you decide, good luck with it.


Its Little lengthy to get work from Odesk or Freelancer…Search personally to get work.

^^^ This 100%

If my sole source of clients was online, I would be bankrupt; simple as that.

The way I see it, there are five basic sources of clients online:

Project Bid Websites
Project bid sites like eLance, oDesk etc. where people and companies list projects and providers bid on the project. The problem with these types of site are that you are competing globally and therefore you have developing and even third world providers pitching alongside you; so the bids are not comparable; they are grossly disproportionate.

Due to this the sites attract potential clients who are looking for the cheapest possible deal they can get and can give less experienced companies a skewed idea of rates; so a western provider will be cast aside almost immediately; to the extent where I have in the past had abusive messages from potential clients over these sites because “we aren’t living in the real world” and telling me to look at the 3rd world providers quotes as the benchmark (to do that is seriously skewed logic born out of ignorance to markets rather than any legitimate debate).

There is also another myth to do with that; which isn’t defacto standard; but certainly legitimate. I know a few extremely talented designers and developers who live in poorer countries and they charge what they can command for their talent. They may come from a poorer backdrop but they aren’t intellectually morons. This is where the bad reputation comes from, because people don’t seem to be able (or don’t care) to distinguish between a sweatshop, amateur and serious professional and what you will get for that.

All of this coming together on these bidding sites, creates a rather unpleasant atmosphere to do business; with sweatshops able to tear through prices, jaded clients who have had bad experiences being over paranoid, people who are looking to exploit and a whole other manner of problems.

We have an elance account, a free one; we check the listings every now and again and might pitch the odd project; if it looks serious and we believe we can work as we normally would (because there are diamonds amongst the rough).

Posting on communities like Sitepoint can bring work in, if you are legitimately helpful; but of course that is dice rolling and requires a great deal of your time and input for a small possibility of reward. This is an activity that should be undertaken as you legitimately want to be useful but knowing that as a byproduct you can attract work rather than the possible work being the sole motivation; because if it is, you will be sorely disappointed.

Job Boards
You can find job boards around the net; on communities like Sitepoint or elsewhere. These too can suffer the same problems as bid sites; although not as extreme; the problem with them tends to be that good projects are hit and miss.

People Finding You
People finding you via directories, search engines and other such tools of course helps, if you can make yourself easy to find. To be successful there; trying to promote yourself over search engines as “Web Designer” is probably unwise as you’re in a huge ocean of competition; instead choose a niche area that you can monetize and take advantage of that.

With directories, keep it local as you are more likely to get work through a localized directory from local clients; as its more local clients who will be using it to find local providers.

Of course if you are lucky enough to win awards or get yourself on design showcases, or work on a higher profile site, you can in that instance, find that you are benefiting from that. However be aware that it tends to be the big agencies who dominate that arena rather than the smaller ones. To get into those walks of the industry you aren’t likely to get very far if you restrict yourself to the pipes of the internet; you need to really get out there and when you do, cut yourself short and make waves.

If you achieve that, then you are somewhere else and finding work online for you would be different to everyone else as you yourself would have profile. This is also an area that is not for everyone as its moving into a part of the industry that may not fit well with your own career goals.

Lead Generation
Lead Generation providers; can be very lucrative if you have a really good pitching strategy and you are very careful and savvy. We have made a lot of money via services like that; but it also has a high overhead and can work out as costing you a lot of money and time.

In theory you should get hot leads; as the leads are from direct client communication or from expressed interest elsewhere and importantly the lead is qualified (vetted, had it’s due dilligence done to make sure its legitimate, serious and viable). The problem creeps in with the fact that you as a provider pay for each lead you receive; therefore what constitutes a due diligence pass can be highly questionable if a qualification process exists or is adhered to at all.

We’ve found ourselves paying a few grand a month for the liberty of being able to chat with time wasters and blatant window shoppers.

So, tread with caution and don’t sign up to long term agreements.

The best way to get work is to work outwards, locally, regionally, nationally, internationally and build relationships with your clients in the real world; network with business owners and other companies that you can build mutual, sustainable relationships with; as they will become your bread and butter. Use the internet as “an extra”; as a tool to build loyalty with existing customers; to network on top of your real world activities; not the internet as your main source of income.

You’ll either fall over or put in grossly disproportionate work to reward and feel as though it’s all pointless if you do.

In other words; deal with it as you would any company in the real world. The internet is an awesome tool but it is a gateway to connect people; not a world within itself so don’t treat it as such as with all people you have good, bad and everything inbetween and online its much more difficult to pick out the good.

Cant fully agree with Miki here =)
I mean sure, if you can get a job from your neighboor go for it, but… participating in freelance communities like elance or odesk is probably the best way to become professional at what you are doing because you will compete internationally and that’s a big thing. You will quickly realize what is good and whats not, how things work and how to improve and get better. While sites like sitepoint are helpful (lub it), when you are just starting great thing to get you going is critics and competition. So dont try to get lucky with locals (cause trying to run away from competition is trying to get lucky in my book), try to become awesome.

I worked on freelance site for over a year myself and some more when i had a full time job at some point. Its great experience and i improved a lot.
At first it looked like people are undercutting prices there, but after a closer look it turned out that they are not, they are just working 10 times faster and thats why they dont need to charge that much for something they do in 3 hours.

Besides that, i would try to make an agreement with some friend who own a business (if you know any of those) to make him web-site for free but get % of his sales through said web site… Thats a great experience as well.

Sorry, I don’t normally pick up on people for talking rubbish, but this post is littered with rubbish and is not the only way to compete internationally. I’ve had a lot of international work; most all of it has come from networking with real people; getting in with bigger agencies where I know someone through networking; not from pitching on elance.

participating in freelance communities like elance or odesk is probably the best way to become professional at what you are doing because you will compete internationally and that’s a big thing.

That’s very subjective; there are good projects and clients on those sites; as I said myself but the majority are not.

So dont try to get lucky with locals (cause trying to run away from competition is trying to get lucky in my book), try to become awesome.

Depends how you interpret locals; one of the biggest vacation agencies in the world is on our doorstep; I can see their head office from my window; a fortune 400 company is located down the road, the city 20 minutes away has a number of prestigious companies based there, They are local - or regional. One of the biggest manufacturing companies in the country is located 5 minutes away; and so on.

“going local” does not necessarily mean working with tiny, small businesses, but working with the companies who are close to you; where you can build sustainable relationships; be they big or small. Also not necessarily working directly with that company but through contacts there; I have found work with large companies abroad through knowing people within the vacation agency.

There is also an agency nearby who works with the likes of ITV and the BBC on major shows and campaigns; by knowing and becoming friends with the lead developer there; we have had work filter to us behind the scenes; for companies and projects we wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to work on.

The big, international, prolific agencies are often located in hub cities like London, New York, LA etc. because of who else is there; who they become local to; massive companies who can become their clients, who they can network with; where further contacts can be made.

I don’t figure out why you think that is “running away from competition”?

There is still competition there; we have 3 agencies, a few small studios and a load of freelancers in our town alone; we are competing with them; and ones in other nearby cities and even around the country and our clients exist within this country and other countries too; so we also compete with firms abroad.

The difference with the start local and branch out approach is that you are competing on a level playing field. (or as level as you can be depending on your portfolio and skill in relation to others).

Being transparent; our clients are probably about 70% UK based, 10% US based, 10% Europe and the rest everywhere else. About 30 or 40% actually comes through agencies we are friendly with; I think this is just by chance of the people we know and how our growth over the last decade progressed rather than a “norm”. Probably also because I started when they started and the “mature” internet was starting to appear; so I think it could also be a product of the times at that point, I don’t know.

At first it looked like people are undercutting prices there, but after a closer look it turned out that they are not, they are just working 10 times faster and thats why they dont need to charge that much for something they do in 3 hours.

Well if it’s 3 hours work it’s kind of irrelevant career wise; you are in the realms of “add a quick feature” or something; you aren’t building whole web solutions or offering complete services in 3 hours; and if they are doing what would take me a month, in 3 hours; something is awry and that something is usually:

  • Sweatshop (big issue with those here; I believe in corporate social responsibility and ethical trade in all aspects of industry, so I pour scorn on that)
  • Plagiarism (or sell em a template - of course fine if thats what they have asked for)
  • Shoddy workmanship

There are economic differences between countries; to ignore that is disingenuous because it exists; it is there; it is a fact and it will lead to a difference in prices. You can cast if off as whatever you like but it is not going to change the fact. Like I said in my post; I know some good developing world designers and developers (CG artists and game programmers actually; through a personal activity in Unity collab projects) and there are two types of disproportion; normal disproportion that are due to living wages and disproportion due to unethical or unprofessional practices.

The former, is a fact of international trade and one we in the west cannot compete with in regards to price; we have to compete on different factors or avoid that particular market (or a bit a both).

You also have to keep in mind that when people talk about grossly disproportionate, we (well I at least) am talking about; western companies charging $10,000 and developing world country charging $100; that’s grossly disproportionate; thats not doing it faster; thats impossible for a western company to compete with.

Also when you get that kind of disproportion there is normally something less pretty somewhere; which you can easily turn a blind eye too if you are that way inclined.

They are not charging less because they are faster; they are charging less because the cost of living is lower, the rules are different and business is not undertaken to the same standards. (I am not talking product quality here, I am ignoring that potential aspect).

I’ve seen an Indian sweatshop; and to be blunt, if I were to clone it here in England, I’d be prosecuted.

These are facts of life, facts of economies; whether it concerns you and if so; the reasons it concern you are another matter; to deny it exists is junk.

I want to add something; my experiences may not be universal or even indicative; but they are my experiences.

I am friends and work with an Indian business owner in the UK who also owns some businesses abroad including India. I went over for a meeting with him while he was working at one of his Indian company and I accompanied him when he was scoping out some firms to look after some digital assets for these companies over there.

I saw a few of what I would call sweatshops and a few iffy freelance setups; it took a few days to find what we would call a proper or trustworthy setup; the prices being discussed also reflected that quite radically; so my statements above while cynical are based on something more than “armchair critic”.

One thing a lot of people do not understand about India is that there is a massive gap between poverty and the middle classes. The effect of that on international trade; especially in areas such as ours, can be ignored or brushed under the carpet; if you get what I’m alluding too.

Hello everybody, I`m new here :). An advice for the author of the treat. Start building your own portfolio and show it!

2 fizix
great and constructive post, man
i wont go deep into details but i kinda agree with lots of the things you wrote. I merely gave an alternative point of view based on my own experience and how elance can actually be a good thing to start with (because it was for me)

There are so many sites for online freelancers who wanted to land a good home-based job. I am saying this based from experience since I had been an online freelancer myself for like 3 years already. Online freelancing has been my bread and butter ever sine I stepped out of college. Not just that, it gives me the convenience and the comfort traditional day job cannot offer. And above all, it allows me to earn more than what traditional job can give. So, if you are really determined to start an online career, go and hunt for an online freelancing site that suits you best. Good luck! :wink:

There are online platforms, where you can find work like odesk, elance and Just keep your rate lower initially and after making a good profile go for a little higher rate.

Other ways to get your name out there is by creating a stellar open-source design, design elements like icons, or a full theme and asking some of the more popular web design sites (e.g. smashingmagazine, sixrevisions, et cetera) to release it on their site for you. That way you’ll have lots of exposure and your service qualities are put to the test because people will ask questions, people will want advice, and people will give you feedback and require changes and the like.

The good thing about this approach is that, if someone likes your work, they might want to hire you for their next project.

Another good way to get exposure is to write articles on industry-related topics as a guest writer for web magazines.

You could also create a project for yourself (or a sample project showcasing what you’re capable of) and prominently feature it in your portfolio. You could also do experiments (CSS3 experiments are all the rage these days and will get you lots of attention if they’re good) on your blog and discuss/share them on social networks.

Finally, there is dribbble. Good designers get flooded with design requests and payment is (mostly) at a decently high level. Dribbble is something of a social network that allows you to showcase your work and here, too, you expose your work to hundreds of thousands of people—quite a few who’d make for potential clients, should your work be good.

Ideally, you’d do all of what Mikl and FizixRichard suggested as well as trying out some of the suggestions in this post.

Whatever path you choose, there’s no way around showcasing what you can do and that is usually best done by making something you’ve created accessible to the public, at least for those who are inclined to pay well. Nobody will want to pay you good money if they haven’t a clue what you really can do. Words are good, but they’ll need to see examples of what you’ve done.

There are so many online platforms are available today like Odesk,freelancer etc.But I feel E commerce is the best platform to work online because which provides a effective access.

Are you talking about e-commerce in general, or an actual website?