Discovery phases, self marketing and more, meeting notes for 20th March 2024

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Thirteen people gathered around two tables in a pub, smiling at the camera

On 20th March 2024, thirteen freelancers met in the Battle of Trafalgar to talk all things freelancing and tech. I was delighted to see Elliot, who was visiting Brighton after moving to the West country five years ago, and Paul for the first time in ages.

Here’s some of what we talked about:

  • Building products and marketing them is very hard
  • Building beds (not as hard)
  • Work referrals and karma
  • Crypto trading
  • Cars
  • Flight deals
  • How Brighton has changed in the last five years
  • The various ways we have met clients
  • Combining a work trip and holiday
  • The stress of freelancing
  • Putting decent effort into marketing yourself does get results
  • Having a “discovery phase” or “code familiarisation” part to your work with a new client with an existing site
  • Helping clients understand the variable nature of how long a change will take
  • The Smile (Radiohead lite)
  • Getting too old for gigs
  • MAGAstan – polarisation in Florida
  • Avoiding arguments in America
  • Aging
  • The empathyness and the damage they can do in positions of power


Putting decent effort into marketing yourself does get results

The market for freelancers is tough at the moment, not just in the web/app world that most Farm members are part of, I’ve heard of problems for freelancers in the aesthetics industry and locum opticians seeking more security recently. The general response at our meet ups is “you need to spend more time marketing yourself” as work is out there, but it’s harder to find.

This week we actually talked about how much time. One member recently had a bad time as he had a bad illness, then soon after needed an operation that meant he was physically unable to work for a lot of his recovery time. In all, months of work missed. So, when able to work again he spent several work days marketing himself. That is, 7-8 hours a day, his normal work day, doing…

  • Contacting the agencies and companies who had been talking about projects that didn’t come off to say he was available
  • Contacting other people he’d worked for in recent years to catch up (and point out he’s available)
  • Updates to online profiles
  • Checking various groups he’s part of, public and private, to see what work offers were around or if he could help someone link up with another freelancer or service
  • Talking to people he knows locally about work options
  • Updating his website

He’s now got several projects lined up.

Now, it’s not that simple if you’re starting out. This is someone with a good track record of work and many contacts. However, time is time. If you are at a loose end because you don’t have enough, or any, work on, if you spend that time marketing, you are more likely to get work than if you wait for work to get offered to you. Being proactive works.

We have some articles about marketing yourself in our Advice for Freelancers section.

Having a “discovery phase” or “code familiarisation” part to your work with a new client with an existing site

When you are hired by a client who has an existing website / app / infrastructure / design / publications, how do you tell them you need time to get up to speed?

This problem comes down to communication with your client. Some people do not realise that programming is not like using Word. There are myriad ways to write a piece of software, and that causes delays if you are trying to understand someone else’s code. Farm member’s ways of tackling this are:

Having a period of time to get up to speed. This is called a “discovery phase” by some, or “code familiarisation” by others. Really, a “discovery phase” can also be used in a brand new project to try things out before settling on a solution, so in the case of taking over maintenance on a site, “code familiarisation” is more accurate.

Also clearly communicate to the client that early changes to the site will take longer than they will as you get more familiar with the code. So, you may look inefficient compared to their previous developer at the start, but after a few jobs you will be as quick at updates.

If you’re a copywriter, having time to read material already used by the client is necessary and also billable time, sometimes clients don’t realise you’ll need that time and you’re not going to read their website, brochure etc on your own time. Early work can again take longer as there is more back and forth with the client as you learn what style they prefer.

Similarly, for designers, going through existing material, especially if you can talk to someone who understand the direction and design decisions behind it, is very helpful, and is also billable as you need time to get to understand the company and what their offering is. We didn’t get into what that was commonly called other than “design review” or versions of “discovery.”