Why You Can't Find Freelancers For Your Start-Up

An Open Letter To Start-Up Founders

Some context first:

It's been two weeks since I finished hackerYou's 9-week intensive front-end development bootcamp. I left hackerYou feeling extremely confident about building my own freelance business as a front-end web developer. The bootcamp taught me the latest and greatest in HTML5, CSS3, design, accessibility, wireframing, frameworks like Foundation, Sass, JavaScript, APIs and Wordpress to name a few. It prepared me with a solid foundation in running my own freelance business by inviting lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers and inspiring professional developers from around the world to share their experience with my classmates and I.

In my first week out of the program I already had 6 potential clients referred to me and I was excited. I still am very excited. I have already begun working with two of the six and the work is as rewarding as I thought it would be. Though the potential jobs range in size, I'm very optimistic about the likelihood of being able to make a decent living as a freelancer. That is why I came to hackerYou in the first place. To acquire the skills for a career that would allow me to work independently and manage my own time.

Many of my 26 classmates have already found great front-end development jobs. The idea of joining an amazing company with experienced developers that will mentor me and guarantee a monthly income is extremely enticing. For the moment, I've decided to focus on building my own freelance dev shop because I love the freedom of running my own business.

However, there are some serious obstacles facing new freelance developers out there. The most detrimental and discouraging obstacle is clients expecting us to work for free or very low compensation. In only two weeks I have already come across such potential clients and have seen my classmates face similarly unfair scenarios. The assumption that this is ok, is NOT ok.

To the amazing clients giving freelancers like myself opportunities to build you beautiful things for fair compensation, I say "thank you!"

To those start-up founders expecting free labour, I dedicate this letter to you:

Dear [Insert Start-up Founder Name Here],

I charge based on the value of the work you require me to do, not on my hourly rate. The work you require includes a lot of my original design and digital strategy ideas that go far beyond the coding. I know it may seem like I'm just a recent graduate but I'm not. I have 7 years of University education and 5 years of experience in business development and digital marketing. Though I am new to front-end development, you would be reaping the benefits of years of experience and critical thinking on my part.

You mentioned that you're having trouble finding freelancers. The reason most freelancers end up in full-time jobs is that they have such a terrible time finding people willing to pay them as freelancers. Most people think that if they have a cool app idea, developers will line up to do free work for them. That's not really how it works. Everyone has great app ideas. I have two of my own I'm working on myself. Nobody will work for free for my own personal profit and I do not expect them to. We call that the shit economy in the development freelance world. What you are doing by trying to find free work is contributing to the shit economy. I've been there before but I have seen the error of my ways.

I'm telling you this not to offend but because it might help you when approaching other front-end developers.

As for me, I'm not interested in working on your project because I know that I'm not the right person to meet your desires. You probably want a young idealistic person just getting out of school, willing to work for free and willing to join your start-up and get paid sometime in the future if you're successful. I've done that already. There is no benefit in doing that for me. Only for you.

I came to hackerYou because it is the best training program for developers. Anyone you reach out to here will be the best trained front-end developer in the city. We may not be the most experienced but we're the best trained and we come with no baggage and no bad habits when it comes to coding. We also come with rich professional backgrounds. However, we are also trained not to work for free. I recommend that you either invest seriously in [insert start-up name here] and find the best people to make you an amazing website, or find a brilliant but ignorant young graduate from a college program, that doesn't know any better.

Good luck on your project.

Jessica