Learning How to Freelance without Clients

For some reason, even though I’ve been in the development world for over ten years, I’d never thought about making my own apps. It seemed to me that web and app development were two completely different things.

That was until I started listening to a bunch of podcasts that mentioned app development and read some books by 37signals. Several months and long nights later, I launched my first web app with Nikita (the wonderful programmer in my life) called CodeSnipp.it.

Freelancing without Clients?

Working on and bootstrapping this app lead us to thinking of how we could make money from it (more on this in a later post). That kind of thinking quickly lead to a new thought–what if we could do this kind of stuff and never have to work for a client ever again?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my clients. But, imagine waking up every morning ready to work on something YOU wanted to work on, something you loved and were passionate about. Isn’t that really everyone’s goal?

More than Just Development

Making money without clients is more than just web apps. No matter what kind of freelancer you are, there’s something you can do to make money without clients. Here are some ideas of these you could make money from full-time:

  • Web apps
  • iPhone/iPad/mobile apps
  • How-to books
  • WordPress/Joomla/Drupal templates
  • Stock graphics

Starting Out

The cool thing about these ideas is that it isn’t terribly hard to get started or to make money from them. I know several freelancers who’ve stopped taking on client work, because they make much more money producing cool stuff that they like and sell to others. So how do you get started?

  • Have an idea–You can’t do anything without having an idea. My main idea was that I wanted to create both web and mobile apps (which meant I had to learn a new language, Objective C). To create apps, I had to have a cool idea for one. My first idea was to create a code snippet sharing site that also allowed people to follow each other and ask questions. Other snippet sites were jumbled, complicated, ugly and missing the social sharing aspect of code. That’s how our web app came into being.
  • Reduce work load–I normally stay insanely busy with client work. In order to have enough time to create and maintain an app, I had to reduce my workload and raise my rates. Taking both of these steps ensured that I had both time and money.
  • Get others excited–Of course, although I stay busy, I’m not rich. There was no way I could afford to do an app (even though we would be doing all the dev work) without the awesome help of clients (yes, clients!) and my community. One of my clients donated a beautiful design and another client donated free hosting. Several people from my Twitter community have donated Twitter graphics, APIs and additional code. This is why building your social media community is so important. We wouldn’t have our app without them!
  • Just get started–The biggest wall that stops almost everyone from doing something is the beginning, so just get started. Get sketching, code or drafting. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect, just get started!

The Future

I’m looking forward to the day where I can really have the perfect freelance business of creating something I want every day. Remember, if the idea is something you’ve always wanted, chances are that there are several other people who’d want it too!

Your Thoughts

I’ve shared the process of how I developed an app.

Have you done something similar? What are your thoughts about freelancing without clients?

Leave your answers in the comments.

Image by foxypar4