Freelancing: Zero to Hero

Aladin Bensassi
5 min readOct 12, 2019


There are literally thousands of articles out there teaching you how to land your first job as a freelancer, explaining how in a few months you’ll be making enough money to live on exotic beaches while working for hundreds of dollars an hour, and I admit that they are a fun read, just like LoT or any other fantasy book is.

The fact of the matter is, most of those articles focus on the wrong things, mostly on the small flashy details like a great portfolio, printing out business cards, and preparing yourself for a life of wealth, while not taking into consideration anything of substance.

I don’t blame them, no one likes tough love, but I’m here to dish it out.

The reality of the matter

Before I go on explaining every nook and cranny, it’s only fair that I shed a bit of light on the reality of the job, so you wouldn’t set your expectations too high.

Freelancing, in any field, has a low entry barrier, and as such you’ll find millions of people flooding the job market every day looking for work, including yourself, and from all those “freelancers”, less than 5% get to have a good and steady income. So what you’ll have to do is distinguish yourself from the crowd, which I’ll, of course, show you how to accomplish.

Another thing those fluff-piece articles won’t go into is the clients. Some of them will become your best friends, and some will literally ruin your day, if not your week.

I’m talking about clients that are either so used to cheap labor, that they couldn’t tell the difference between a diamond and piece of coal, or are so desperate for control, that they believe micro-managing their freelancer or consultant, will somehow make the work better, spoiler alert: It does not.

Oh, one more thing, you’ll probably never get to work from all over the world and enjoy a life of luxury, at least not for the first five to ten years, but hey, I’d love for you to prove me wrong.


Who are you, And why should a client trust you with their work and money? No seriously, take a minute to think about that.

Unless you’ve established a brand for yourself online, chances are, you’ll be competing with those million other freelancers for cents on the dollar, and believe me, it’s a race to the bottom.

So how would one go about creating their own brand?

  • Social media: I despise social media, never liked it, never got the appeal, and probably never will, but I understood long ago, that I don’t have to like something to leverage it, and so I started using its influence and reach, to appeal to more people who share my thoughts and beliefs, converting them to clients or followers. So start using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, be yourself, gather a big following of like-minded people and some of them will become your clients eventually after you’ve shown yourself as knowledgeable and trustworthy.
  • Write: I’ve been writing about web development for the past 5 years, and have probably landed more contracts through that than any other mean. Heck, I’ll most likely get a couple of contracts from this article alone. Once you establish yourself as an authority in your field, people will be more likely to trust you with their work and pay you what you’re actually worth.
  • Show knowledge: I answer questions on Quora, and StackOverFlow all the time, even get a few questions on my twitter which I answer as well, and what information does that convey to people? That you know your shit. So if you believe in your technical skills, start helping people, and in the long run that will help you too.

Once you follow all these steps, get yourself a big enough following and spark some interest, you’d have created a brand for yourself. Start doing this today, and in a couple of months come back and thank me, or even better, buy me a beer, I feel like I deserve it.

Where to look for a job

Nowadays there are hundreds of options out there for you to find a job, and do you know what common factor they all share? Most people are already aware of them and are using them, but if you’ve been working on your brand as I told you, you’ll have a bit of an edge.

So where exactly should you look for work?

  • Freelancing platforms: Although they might seem like a good option, most of those platforms are trash, with no real future or good projects, so avoid them at all costs, unless you take a good contract every once in a while, but whatever you do, never put all of your energy on them, they will swallow you whole and spit you out.
  • Job aggregators and newsletters: These are good options, find a couple of newsletters and subscribe to them, you’ll find at least a good lead every couple of days.
  • Networking: Always make sure you attend local meetups and make friends with people in the industry, those friends will yield a lot of work for you in the future.
  • The good old fashioned way: Now this is my favorite one because most people nowadays stopped doing it. Visit local websites for big or small businesses, even businesses in different countries, and cold-email them, offering your services in case they need them. Worst case scenario, they wouldn’t have anything at the moment and will keep you in mind for when they do, best-case scenario, you land yourself a job.
  • This is a list I found a while back on HackerNews, take a look, you might find something interesting.

General tips

  • If a pseudo-preneur approaches you with their “million-dollar idea”, asks you to build it for free, and only offers you stocks in return, stocks that are useless and worthless unless you actually build the whole product, do us all a favor and shoot them in the face, we don’t need their DNA filthying up the human gene pool, however, if you’d prefer to stay out of jail, just politely ask them to fuck off.
  • Never take a big pay cut just to get the contract, it’ll only show the client that you’re desperate, and don’t know your self-worth.
  • Always be honest about what you can and can’t do, clients will appreciate your honesty and they will know that you won’t waste their time.
  • Always keep learning.

All of these advices are useless unless you have the will and strength to keep grinding and moving forward, I can show you the stairway to heaven, but you’ll need to take the steps on your own, and if you end up following my advice, and landing yourself a job, reach out to me and let me know, it’ll make my day!

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