Side Hustle Stories: How to make $900 in four weeks as a new freelancer

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Cezar Pereira

Cezar develops mobile apps.

Now this is one article that I had to love.

This Side Hustle Story started when Cezar sent me an email.

He said that Passive Panda’s Freelancing 101 Course had helped him start his first project and earn an extra $910 on the side in just 4 weeks.

That’s what it’s all about.

I’m confident that if you put your current skills to work, then you can get amazing results just like he did.

To find out how he did it, and to discover how you can do the same, here is Cezar’s story in his own words.

What he does

I develop native applications for iOS platforms (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch).

I prefer projects which are more complex on the coding side, where I know I can differentiate myself, than on the design side.

(Editor’s note: Notice that even within his broader skill of developing iPhone apps, Cezar has identified that development is the particular area where he stands out. If you can also figure out the one area where you stand out, then it makes it easier to discover the right projects and charge a higher rate.)

What he gets paid

As a developer with little proven previous experience on the platform I am charging $30 to $40 per hour. Where I live this is closer to the low reasonable limit than to the top.

However, it is also far from what I would consider as low–balling. I intend to increase this rate in the short term to at least $50 or $60 dollars per hour.

(Editor’s note: here are some more tips on raising your rates.)

What you should look for in a potential client

When it comes to starting as a freelancer, it’s common for most professionals to take any job that comes up and charge rates that are actually causing them to lose money in the short term. I believe a different strategy to be more valid, especially for iOS developers, which are much less common than web developers.

Even though you may be pressed to get some work, you should spend some time verifying each potential client.
Almost everyone has an idea for an iPhone or iPad application, so I started by looking among my own social circle as well as several forums on the web.

Elance is also a good way to get started, since there are many well paying jobs for mobile application developers. It can help you build a portfolio and iOS Development isn’t as underpaid as other categories. You can actually earn some money.

Of course the competition problem arises on Elance, but there are ways to cope with that, which I will share below.

I check four criteria to decide on a potential project or client.

  1. How much experience will I get from this job?
  2. How will this project look in my portfolio?
  3. How much satisfaction will I get from this job?
  4. If this idea was mine, would I go for it? Do I believe it might succeed?

Once I have a project that suits me, it’s time to convince the potential client to let me do a great job … and to pay me well for the job, instead of the typical low rate.

How to charge the rate you deserve

Now, it’s clear that a new freelancer will not be able to charge the same as the rockstars on the field. But you can still charge a rate that will allow earning money that actually makes a difference from the get go. For that to work, I’d try to differentiate from other professionals by means other than price and experience.
I think you can do this by doing two things: 1) taking risk away from the client and 2) assuming part of the risk yourself.

1. Client pays for what he gets.

Suppose I will develop an app for a client that intends to make money from it through advertising.

In my proposal, I would negotiate a rate that is a little below average and then ask for some percent of the revenues for the following X months from the application’s publication.

It’s possible that I get nothing. The app may never be published. That’s the risk I’m taking.

As a new freelancer, I will still get the experience from the job as well as the money from the lower rates I charged.
The client on the other hand, will pay me less than he might pay a more experienced developer, but will agree to pay me more if the app succeeds.

Also, if the client says no to that model, I can make a counter–proposal with a higher rate. By then he will already know that I was willing to sacrifice part of my payment if the app didn’t succeed and will be ready to trust me more.

Of course, for this model to work well, I should be pretty comfortable with idea behind the application.

2. Be willing to do the first (little) part of the work for free.

Many — and I mean many — developers start a project by doing directly to the coding.

Even putting aside the fact that this is a bad programming habit, code means nothing to a client until he can see something working, which might take a while.

So, why not take the first part of the project, which should be functional requirements specification and mockups design and send the first iteration of that to the client as part of the proposal?

It might not get accepted, and then I will have wasted some time doing work that I won’t get paid for. That’s the risk I am taking.

However, I am delivering the client a very high quality proposal, which has a better likelihood of being accepted. Who knows, maybe it even shows him a few things that he might not have considered about his own idea.

Before you know it, instead of commenting on the price, the client will be commenting on the mockup designs. And then I can tell him about whatever suggestions he made by saying, “That can be done. So, when can we start?” That makes selling so much easier.

Those two are just a few ways of making a differentiated approach. But the general idea is to add value to a proposal, instead of just lowering your rates, which is pretty much the same as lowering my own value as a professional.

How to hone your development skills

If you want to get started with developing iPhone apps, then I recommend having a comfortable knowledge of object oriented programming first.

If you don’t have OO skills, or don’t feel confident enough, I recommend watching the CS106A — Programming Methodology and CS106B — Programming Abstractions classes from Stanford. The classes are available on iTunes U.

If you have the time, try to do all of the assignments. These two classes can take you from no programming experience at all, to a good knowledge on Algorithms, Data Structures and Object Oriented Programming, as well as good programming practices.

After that, you will need to get an Intel based Mac to develop apps using the Apple iOS SDK. Any Mac Mini or White Macbook will do, as long as they have Intel Processors.

Go to developer.apple.com and purchase the iOS Developer Program for $99. This will allow on device development, as well as posting apps to the App Store. Also, it will give you access to beta versions of the SDK, as well as access to the Apple Developer forums which will provide a big deal of support.

For iOS development study, I’d recommend another series of Stanford Lectures available on iTunes U. CS193P — iOS Application Development. The classes are great and so are the assignments.

Finally, I recommend joining the iOS Development forums. There you will find lots of people and companies trying to hire developers for their projects.

You don’t need to be perfect

Get something on the app store. Don’t get too hung up on having the perfect idea. Just do something simple and useful.

Many clients will only hire developers who have already published apps to the store. So try to complete a simple app that does something useful and upload it on the store.

Ready to learn more?

Thanks so much to Cezar for this awesome story. Getting started as a freelancer really isn’t as hard as you think.

If you put a little bit of effort into it — and use some of the great ideas in this article — then you’ll be earning a decent side income in no time.

If you want even more tips on freelancing, getting clients, and earning more, then join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter.

4 Responses to Side Hustle Stories: How to make $900 in four weeks as a new freelancer

  1. I got my start at Elance.com. I’m still there, but I don’t put out very many proposals because I’ve gained enough return or ongoing client work that I don’t need to at this point. I even have clients who rejected my proposal at first who are coming back months later and asking if I’m still interested.

    Because of this, I’m able to charge slightly higher rates than my original proposal because of the demand. It’s still small-time, but it’s growing.

    Oh, and I just signed up for the Freelance 101 course. =)

    Delena

  2. Vinodh says:

    Hi,

    The above writeup is very good for me because I am a programmer. Can the same techniques be used for Android? I don’t know Android currently.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Well, now I know why you have to pay for an app on iOS that’s free on Android.

    I would actually recommend checking out: khanacademy.com, codeacademy.com, and udacity.com for anyone looking at getting into programming. From there, sites like elance, odesk, and freelancer are great sources to find work.

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