Freelancer success story: How to reach the top and stay there

   

Giles Roberts, one of PeoplePerHour’s consistently top-rated and top-earning freelancers, shares his success story with us. He explains how he earned more money, learned new skills, got more savvy and most importantly, won those all-important bids from discerning clients.

I decided to start working as a freelancer after having a tough time with my last job.  Although I was running a small team at the time, I was still not really in control of my timescales.  I frequently didn’t have enough time to complete the projects to a level of quality that made me, my customers or my boss happy.  So I decided I needed a break.

For a while I was working on a personal project.  Then I realised that my money would probably run out before the project was completed! So I needed to get a job, preferably part time.  I remembered seeing Xenios and PeoplePerHour on a BBC news item and I thought “OK,I’ll give them a shot”.  The key factor in my decision of choosing freelancing over a regular job was that I
could always be in control of the amount of time I had to get my work completed.  I could then finally complete jobs to a level of quality that made me happy.  As it turned out, if I am happy with my work, my clients are happy too.

The initial setup on the site was a breeze and I was bidding on jobs in no time at all. But the really tricky part was winning my first few jobs.  I was afraid that I would virtually have to give my services away before people would accept a bid from me.  And I found that even clients became wary when I lowered my bid to unspeakable levels. But as clichéd as this may sound, with determination, effort and patience the work finally started to come in.

Everything changed once I had completed about three or four jobs with perfect feedback. New potential clients started inviting me to bid, whilst old clients came back asking me to work with them again because they were so impressed with my work.  So new jobs and repeat business gushed in.

And it gets better…

With hard work I managed to make it into the top 10 freelancers on PPH. Ever since then, even more people have started seeking me out for work, and this enables me to secure a spot in the top 10 freelancers consistently. And so the story goes. I now have a great lifestyle and am happy with the amount of money I earn. I’m starting to wish I’d begun freelancing years ago. Actually, since I’m wishing for things, I should probably wish PeoplePerHour existed earlier.

Another benefit of working on different jobs for different people is that the range of technologies I’ve used has expanded rapidly.  I’m never stuck in a rut.  And so if I were ever crazy enough to look for a ‘real’ job again, at least I’d have a much more in-demand skill set.

A few words of advice for new freelancers learned from the school of Hard Knocks:

1.  Make sure you always provide good customer service. This is where your repeat business comes from.  Reading The Golden Rules of Customer Care by Carl Sewell really opened my eyes on this.

2.  Estimate the number of hours to quote for a job conservatively.  At least until you’re confident you’re pretty accurate.  If you don’t, you’ll be out of pocket and your clients will be unhappy.  Fogbugz by FogCreek software is a great tool for doing this with its evidence based scheduling.

3.  Pick your clients carefully.  Be wary of people who say they’ve had problems previously with other freelancers.  They may have genuinely been let down but it’s equally likely that they tend to set unrealistic targets or are tricky to work with themselves.  Be cautious of people who say that something is simple when they have no understanding of the technicalities involved.  These dolls usually end up expecting you to do amazing things for nothing.

4.  Don’t accept unrealistic budgets. When clients offer rewards that are too low for a job, sometimes it is worth going back and asking if they’re willing to be flexible. Often clients are just “testing the waters” to see if they can get away with it.

P.S: If you’re thinking of jumping in, setting up a limited company and sorting your tax out is easier than you’d think. Companies like Crunch make this as pain free as possible.

If I can do it, so can you!

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4 Comments

  • Darren Meng

    Congratulations!

  • Miguel

    Nice!

  • RAHUL

    Hi Giles,

    thanks for the information from your experience. I really want to become one of the top freelancer in PPH. I thing once i will reach there. Anyway once again thank you very much for the valuable information.

    Regards
    Rahul

  • Kim

    Great blog Giles, I am trying my darned hardest!

    Hopefully I will get to your stage soon.

    Can I ask and I’m not sure if you are allowed to answer but are you earning entirely from PPH or other sites included?

    Speak soon,

    Kim

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  • esti dayati

    Giles, Thank you very much for your all advice. That so usefull for me as a newer on this. See you next..

  • Setting up a limited company

    This is a very nice story for the way up to success. I’m doing some freelance jobs myself and most of the things you have mentioned are absolutely true. I bid on PPH also and I love it. The support team is great, but at the end it is all a matter of trust between the client and the freelancer. I’ve had good and bad experiences and i understand that there is a potential risk always.

    Never the less, about your recommendation on how to set up a limited company in UK, i found some good articles and advice on ContractorCalculator.co.uk. So i would like to recommend it to all.

  • http://www.techsoftsolutions.net

    Nyc One! Congratulations…

  • arshad sajid

    thanks for the information from your experience. I really want to become one of the top freelancer in PPH.please guide me for same I am a new commer and do not know please help me

  • Jonathan Smith

    Hi

    Good to hear your doing so well here.

    However, I would be interested to know what is your average paid fee per project? And what is your average monthly income from PPH alone?

    I find the briefs and budgets set here to almost be laughable, if they were not so insulting!

    Many thanks

    Jonathan Smith

  • Giles Roberts

    @Kim

    My earnings are entirely within PPH.

    @Jonathan Smith

    I’d agree that many of the budgets here are extremely optimistic. It’s a matter of digging out the clients who are actually willing to pay a reasonable rate. In terms of the average fee per project I’d say most are less than £1000. There is the odd very substantial job out there. In my experience these are usually repeat business from previous clients.

  • PeoplePerHourBlog

    Glad you find it useful, thanks Erica 🙂

  • Erica Fernandez

    You’re always welcome. Though I’m new to freelancing, I really need to read articles like these in order to make myself productive. Really learned a lot from this site 🙂

  • Shelby

    Can anyone give me the pdf version of the book “Golden Rules of Customer Care by Carl Sewell”

  • http://itrs.london

    Congratulations, always considered becoming a freelancer but never thought i would get anywhere.

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