why are we talking about this 🔦
Just to be clear, this is a continuation of the freelancing series. But, it has something for everyone. So, my process for writing is that I make tons of notes, bookmark stuff which I want to use in writing. I think about what I want to write and then try to remember stories, stories of my past, of people I know and then jot them down.
This topic is interesting as it's a level below from direct freelancing advice. But if you see clearly, all through the series, I am mixing advice with a framework to think, so this is not that different. Okay, back to the topic. Hmm, the title of the notes read: Creating your portfolio, getting your first few clients. However, the more I thought about it, the more it became about resourcefulness.
the problem with tricks 💩
Problem with the advice world is that they give you tricks, which seems novel at that time, but now thousands of other folks know these tricks. I see people giving tricks on how to ask for referral, by giving kudos first, on LinkedIn. A good trick, but the moment 10,000 people start trying it, it loses its novelty and quickly turns into a spam. And everyone hates spam.
So, while making notes for portfolio creation, I started noting down my tips and tricks, but more than that I want to give you the framework to think things through. To make your own tricks. Let's see how successful I am by the end of this newsletter.
getting work for your portfolio 💰
Let's recap quickly, you are excited to do freelancing, you have understood the ups and downs, you have selected your stack too. Now, the problem is that you have to open your shop. In Hindi it's called dukaan. So, you want to open your dukaan but there's a problem you don't have a lot of products to sell. You can't show that you can do X and Y and Z, as you haven't done anything. To get the work, you need to show that you can do the work. Classic chicken egg problem.
[Insert that famous meme here about looking for experienced candidate and freshers not getting job]
What to do? What to do?
You can and bid on sites like Upwork, and you should, but the success rate would be low, same issue, since you don't have reference, no one would want to give you work. Second, it's a bidding war, personally I don't like that, I want to play exclusive, but will come to that in later parts of this series. Third, I hear that some of these have started taking competency tests too, I mean, that's a facepalm moment, if only we wanted to give tests, why would we choose the freelance path. Anyway, my suggestion there is, do go to platforms like these, bid, but but but, don't put all your eggs in one basket. So, what to do you ask?
realise that there's a world out there 👴
What works against us, as Indians, also works for us. Problem is that we are not that tech savvy, so it's hard to explain to someone the difference between quality SPA stuff done in React vs. 100 years old server rendered page via PHP. This however, is also an opportunity, people have money, people want online presence, but they don't know about Upwork, or they don't trust random people on Internet to build their online presence. And this is where you come in. Put a pin to this thought, by now you know that I will connect all thoughts soon.
about being resourceful ⭐
Before we go further, this was the point where I changed the name of this issue. I wanted to highlight that freelance is about being resourceful. If you're not a person like that, don't get into this field. And then it hit me, if you're not resourceful, any field has limited growth opportunities for you. Humans thrive when they work with each other, for each other. The art of being resourceful will help you deal well with humans.
What does this even mean? If I want something, and you want something. And I create a situation where both our wishes are granted, a win-win, then I am resourceful. A person like this, goes places. Now, you can be self righteous and say it's cunning, devilish or something else. People who are not very bright, think that to get what you want, you need to fool someone and that is adharma or immoral. Nothing can be far fetched from this thought. To get what you want, you only need another person who has that thing, and that other person to want something which you have. Then it's simply a trade, no con.
how to be resourceful? 📚
There are books on psychology, on people skills. There's training. It helps. I haven't read any, but people who were really bad at people skills swore by these books. One which is strongly recommended is: How to win friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Before writing this issue, I looked into the summary of the book and it has some great points.
Again it has tools, but you need to practice. The more you interact with other people, the more your people skills will improve. It will be easy for you to get what you want, and give what the other party wants. To essentially, create a win-win situation. Any classic negotiation book will teach you that the win-win is the best negotiation. My recommendation, read: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, for this. Coming back to the point, this needs a lot of practice, like coding, so don't get disheartened when you get the output wrong the first time. As with programming, start small, keep practising, then write production level deals/programs. :)
the key to resourcefulness - by tanaypratap 👂
Now, I am not sure how many of you would read two entire books. So, I will give you some small mantras which I follow. Here we go:
In a conversation, strive to listen, not to argue, not to put your point across, but listen, attentively. If it feels boring, make notes.
In a conversation, when you listen, you understand the pain points of the other party, your client, your friend, your colleague, your future business partner.
In a conversation, when you know the pain points, you have data, which you can use to proposition your services. Don't go for selling your service, the client might need something which you don't have, so you help him/her find the right fix, through your network. Now both the client, and the fix, owes you one, you have made two friends. If you sold him the wrong thing, out of greed, you would have made an enemy. From where I come, 2 Friends > 1 enemy + some money
In a conversation, when your intent is to help, you create a win win situation. Always, look for ways to help other folks, good karma will come back to you in so many ways that you won't be able to count. This world is full of shitty people, so the moment you are genuinely good, people remember you, they want to pay you back one way or another.
This is the most selfish way of winning: be selfless.
Now, you have friends, network, happy clients. And just because you listen with an intent to help, you know what everyone needs. That's a great power to have, data is the new gold. Remember this.
Okay, we have covered enough grounds on resourcefulness, we will go back to freelancing with some stories where I or freelancers I know got work for their portfolio before going pro. Some how to get started stories and tips. Remember, try to extract the soul of these tips and stories, not the body. These are real people, real stories.
purva's story 🔮
I had a junior in college, Purva. We have had a bro sis vibe going on since first year of her college. So, in third year, everyone needs an internship, she needed one too. She called me to ask if I had any leads. I asked about her talent, she said she's good at coding web applications, that she is interested in doing something in Ranchi, her hometown. I didn't have anything in my mind at that point. I know a former teacher of mine in Ranchi who runs a career consultation company. I casually asked him about his business, and asked him whether he needed any web app. He said, he needs one, he wanted a rank predictor to be built. Now, remember that this guy, Vikas Sir, he's ultimate resourceful, this will be helpful soon. Anyway, I told Vikas Sir that Purva is junior and I am sure she's capable enough to make this rank predictor app. Vikas Sir had data of AIEEE and all he needed was a program to map this data to ranks and then when a student enters his marks after checking his answer sheets he would know what rank he can expect. There's no AI here.
So, Purva went and did this internship. She made the rank predictor app. Vikas sir, being the resourceful guy, got this app featured in the biggest newspapers in Jharkhand. Vikas Sir happy, Purva happy, she got her internship certificate with glaring recommendation from Vikas Sir. More than anyone, Purva's mom was happy, her daughter's name and photo in a leading daily. Man! Indian parents love to brag about their kids.
When students ask about how they can get their projects, how they can get their internship, this is what I tell them. Walk up to a businessman, see what he needs, see what you can do. All you need is a certificate at the end of the day, that's just a piece of paper. There's a real opportunity to learn here.
You may ask what did I get out of this whole thing? Remember when I said that good karma is fabulous?! Two years after this, Purva is the person who introduced me to my wife. She had put glaring reviews for me, to her best friend from school. Girls value their friends' opinion more than anything. To this day, I owe more to Purva for finding me the right person as a life partner, than I owe anyone else.
Takeaway: If you have a skill, try to find a resourceful person with a problem to solve. You might get featured on the front page. :)
nayan's story 🤝
This is another junior from MIT. Amazing individual. Humble to the core. We were attending an AWS seminar together and I asked him how he created his empire. He has tons of clients, making lots of money. All through freelancing. And he told me his story, "Bhaiya! I got a job in Samsung, and I called my parents. And I told them that I am going to get 4.6lacs. My parents were happy for me, they said, and I quote that 4.6lacs per month is a good amount. And Bhaiya, it hit me, then and there, that I could do much more than this."
He didn't join the job. He started his own freelance service. How did he get his first client? I asked, Nayan told me that he was interning in Bangalore in the final years, he took his friend Amar, and went to a regular shop, asked them if they wanted a website, both sides had no clue about what to charge, so they quoted 10K. The shop owner agreed and paid 1K in advance. I want to point something out here, Amar knows the local language, Kannada here, that's Nayan's resourcefulness. So, they went and created the website overnight. 10K for one day's work sounded good to Nayan and to Amar and they founded Sugoi Labs from there.
Takeaway: When you're approaching a total stranger for a project, it's good to have a wingman.
are hobbies good? 🏋️
These are examples from times when Internet penetration in India was less. Now, a lot of people have an audience. And a lot of these people, don't know how to code or don't have time to code. You can always create tools for these folks who have 100K or 1M followers and ask them to use it. That would be smart marketing.
If you have any interests, like food, travel, gym, or anything else, join a local community. Make an app (interesting one) and present it in the group. - following a local chef? create an app which lists down his/her signature recipes, make it searchable by ingredients. Be creative.
Take any famous IG account, create an app which solves the influencer's problem and then share it in FB/Discord/Telegram group.
- You will get users.
- Feature requests.
- And slowly you will get clients too.
Don't miss the key here: Do this in a non coding group. Where people will be marvelled at your work. It literally pays to have a hobby. Hobbies make you a lot more interesting to have conversations. I have forged many friendships on badminton and tennis courts.
Takeaway: Go where the audience is, solve any problem which a lot of people are having and get the eyeballs on your product
a lookback 🍲
When I started web development, I didn't know anything, so I went to anyone and everyone I thought would need a website. I think none of these websites are live anymore, but these were legit businesses which helped me hone my craft, and get my reviews. I made websites or web apps for
A yoga studio
A biryani shop
A local newspaper
A real estate firm
If you see a pattern, all of these people have tons of audience. And when you create something for someone which gets eyeballs, you get leads. None of these people paid me tons of money, but it paved the way for the ones which came later, the ones which paid a lot more and made it all even.
bye bye 👋
Until we meet next time. This has to be the longest newsletter till now, if you read it till here, thank you! Before closing, remember that resourcefulness is an extremely important skill. More than coding, more than writing, more than anything. Learn it, nurture it, practice it and wield it to fulfill all your ambitions. I want you to take time and think about it, write down times when you have been resourceful, when you have created win win situations. Keep working on this muscle! :)
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