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Freelance For Vertical Niches

It’s almost a daily question on forums like Quora for freelancers: “How do I find clients?”

Business to Business (B2B) customers are looking to solve problems. Very specific problems.

If you’re running a Shopify store, for instance, who would you consider hiring? A freelancer who does “Web Design” or someone who does “Web Design For Shopify”?

It’s not hard to see why it’s important to build your portfolio and your service offerings to cater to a specific vertical niche.

What is a vertical niche?

A vertical niche is simply a very narrow subset of services, catered for one specific market.

The above example is one such vertical niche: web design for Shopify.

Here are a few other examples:

  • Plumbing services for restaurants
  • Math tutor for High School students, specializing in standardized exams
  • Front end web design under $500 for MVP websites

In each of these examples, the customer can self identify whether he or she is the right customer for you, the freelancer, who is offering a very specific skillset.

Wouldn’t this limit my customers?

Yes, of course it would.

But you’re trying to angle for freelancing business by not being a general contractor. You’re trying to be a specialist who is more appealing simply because your offered skillsets has a higher chance for success.

Build your services for a specific market

By creating a menu of services catered to a specific market, you’re offering a more complete end solution to the customers. They want to know that when the project is completed they’re getting a functional result.

So what’s a menu of services?

Let’s use the same example of “Web Design For Shopify”:

  • Shopify customizations
  • Marketing for Shopify stores
  • Theme auditing for Shopify
  • Custom application development

Niche freelancers in a competitive market

Niching down is an opportunity in markets where nothing truly differentiates you from the other guy. It’s also a way to defend your market position.

Leaders in a niche tend to stay as leaders. As you develop your services, keep in mind the power of vertical niches.

How Much Server Do You Need For Hackernews + Product Hunt?

Workorder is a side project of mine. It aims to help freelancers in providing an affordable, personal order and checkout page to sell services.

On September 3rd, 2018, I submitted the site to HackerNews and Product Hunt around the same time.

Here’s the HackerNews post:

And here’s the Product Hunt one:

This isn’t my first time submitting something to either of these sites. For your reference, on HackerNews, the submission reached a high of #22 and was on page 1 briefly. For Product Hunt, Workorder reached a high of #7 and later faded from there.

It’s a well known fact that a large amount of traffic can effectively disable a website, especially if the site isn’t set up properly. The amount of traffic can reach up to several hundred visitors simultaneously and the website needs to be able to handle all of that without crashing.

As of 5 PM EST, here are the stats from Cloudflare:

As you can see, across the entire Workorder infrastructure, almost a quarter of a million browser requests were received. Most of them were cached.

Here’s a closer look at Cloudflare’s cache:

Most of the requests bounced off of Cloudflare’s CDN, saving precious server resources.

So how much server was needed?

Workorder’s application infrastructure is hosted behind a load balanced multi-webserver set up with a separate database and background workers. All of it cost about $25 USD per month at your local VPS provider split amongst the 5 or so VPSes. For landing page website itself, it’s hosted separately on another VPS — so add another $5.

Total cost, therefore, was $30 per month.

Only about 1/10th of the visitors went on to check out the app itself.

Key takeaways

  • Put your entire infrastructure behind a CDN cache
  • Separate your landing page and your app — most visitors won’t proceed to download or use your app
  • Set up load balancing to easily scale up (if needed)

So there you have it. If you’re a solo developer or in a small team and are preparing for your public launch, don’t forget these basic best practices. There are a lot of coding bootcamps out there, but few actually teach the essentials of coding deployment.

Freelancing As The First Step To Internet Money

“Making money online.”

In the early mid 90s, this phrase would have raised a few eyebrows. Aside from the handful of companies like Yahoo! and Amazon, online commerce wasn’t yet a “thing”.

Nowadays, it raises eyebrows still… but for a different reason.

There is now a sleazy undertone.

“Let me teach you how to make money online!” Sounds scamy, doesn’t it?

When I introduced Workorder to the world on HackerNews, a fellow community member rightly asked me: “What if you decide to scam me?”

He is absolutely right. In 2018, the internet is a much different place. It’s mature, yet unregulated.

Where are you going with all this?

Aside from my ink cartridge business in the early 2000s, I spent a number of years not making any money online. Making money online can be hard and intimidating, even to people who have done it before.

For those of us who aren’t comfortable with running half-truth ads, one of the best approaches I’ve found is to offer a skill — oftentimes a digital skill — and sell that as a service instead.

I remember going to Upwork (previously called oDesk) a few years back and doing freelance writing. It was a great way to “get my feet wet” and learn how to make a living online again.

Find clients everywhere

When you’re starting out, you’ll quickly realize how hard it is to find customers.

Don’t limit yourself to one marketplace or source.

Tell your friends about your services, create a listing on Craigslist, discuss with people on forums. Even create your own Workorder checkout page 😊.

The point is that you don’t know where your clients will appear and it’s good to spread the word to as far and wide as possible.

Good luck and don’t forget to set your prices appropriately. You’re not here to be the lowest bidder… but that’s for another discussion.

Upwork files for $100M IPO. What does this mean for freelancers?

In an article posted at various media outlets yesterday, Upwork has filed for a $100 million dollar IPO.

As one of the most frequented online places to look for freelancing gigs, freelancers who use Upwork should be aware of how this might affect their relationships with the site.

Freelancing is a big market

Providing services online is a big market. Just look at Craigslist, Fiverr, and Upwork — nevermind the dozen or so other marketplaces where freelancers compete with other freelancers for business.

As the world move towards a gig economy, freelancers will become the de-factor position for most of us.

According to US statistics, freelancers make up 35% of its workforce, earning a total of $1 trillion dollars in 2016.

How does the Upwork IPO affect me?

An IPO is when a company begins offering its shares of the business on the public market. That means it will be accountable to shareholders, and not just private investors.

With this, it will have to report quarterly earnings, which will then affect its share price.

Executives within the company oftentimes have compensation packages that are determined by share price.

What this all means is that Upwork, if it’s operating as any public company should, will be under pressure from its shareholders to produce higher and higher returns.

For the common freelancer, this might mean additional services (at a cost) or an increased fee. It remains to be seen how Upwork might change, but based on the behaviour of how publicly traded companies operate, seeking a higher profit in all areas of its business is a reasonable assumption.

Will it become harder to find gigs?

It may or it may not.

As more freelancers compete for a job in marketplaces like Upwork, the proportion of “winners” will be less.

What this will do is decrease the rate of your services — in other words, you’ll be paid less — as services will likely compete more on price and less on quality or qualifications.

The “race to the bottom” isn’t a new thing, as anything that’s commoditized loses its pricing power.

This is one of the biggest reasons why you (the freelancer) need to start selling services where you’re in control and start differentiating your offerings from others.

Selling outside a marketplace

Workorder, being an app that lets you set up your own order and checkout page to sell your services, aims to help freelancers sell without the frustration of being on a marketplace.

When you send your clients to order from you on a separate website, there are a few major benefits:

  • Recognition that you provide a higher level of service at a price
  • Ability to offer upsells that make sense for both the client and for you
  • Foster a brand and create loyalty amongst your customers

As the world forges ahead in having more freelancers, it’s important to sell on all sales channels. This means being present on both marketplaces as well as developing your own presence on the web.

Web designers: Add an order page for your clients

Web designers!

Do your clients sometimes need an order and payment form to their website? There are a few options around the internet that you can use. Starting today, you should consider using Workorder, especially if your client is selling services.

Why Workorder?

It’s free to set up a site. There are no monthly fees, so your clients won’t mind setting one up.

You can also use a custom domain. Say, for example, your client’s website is myawesomesite.com, you can add an order and checkout page at shop.myawesomesite.com.

Your clients will think you’re a genius and love you for it.

Coming soon: Embedded Widgets

We’ll be releasing an embedded widget over the next few weeks. With that, you’ll be able to add Workorder’s mobile and desktop optimized order and checkout form on any webpage.

Create a site… Share the link

Did we mention it’s super easy to create a site for your client? You can even create the site and share the site with them directly. Once they sign up, the site will automatically be attached to their account.

Go to our guides for more information.

Follow Us On IndieHackers

For those of you who have been following Workorder’s progress, you’ll know that the author (me) is an Indiehacker. To follow along with Workorder’s progress as I try to grow this tiny (but hopefully very useful) web application, head on over to Workorder’s IndieHacker page.

Like many projects that I’ve started, I wanted to build something that I was going to use myself. Workorder is a more polished version of what I used to host a personal order and checkout page that I sent out to my clients whenever I needed them to send money. With this in mind, I tried to improve the onboarding experience for prospective users and to make it as easy, simple, and yet versatile for as many freelancers, consultants, and other service providers as possible.

Workorder as part of your toolchain

If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ll know that there are many ways to get clients.

There are, of course, places like Upwork and Freelancer. For some, it may be Craigslist. And who can forget about the good ol’ word of mouth?

Now you can add Workorder as part of how you sell your services online.

With the use of custom domains (includes SSL) with your Workorder account (which, by the way, is FREE on all accounts), you’ll be able to print your order and checkout page on your business cards or attach it to your online profile.

Wherever your clients are found, I hope that Workorder can become part of your sales engine to help you close deals quicker — perhaps even while you’re asleep!