Freelancing for software testers is something I get asked about a lot, more so recently. Most people I know who freelance are either developers or designers, I didn’t know of many testers working as freelancers until the last few years. But with COVID-19 making remote work more acceptable, and the increasing global demand for IT services, more freelance opportunities are now available for testers as well.
This article will cover several tips to help testers interested in contract work and options for additional income. There are many reasons why people want to try getting into freelancing or contracting, such as additional income, a change in the work you are doing, and new, challenging, and interesting opportunities.
Freelancing And Crowd-Testing Websites
You can try sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour. You might find some occasional (and interesting) small testing gigs, as well as long-term contracts if you are lucky to meet quality clients. Some of these jobs pay over USD 50 per hour. But there are also low paying jobs where a client might look for a senior QA engineer with more than 10 years of experience at a rate of three to five US dollars per hour!
Some people are making a ton of money on these gig sites, but they are not the majority. I never made any serious money on Upwork. If you’re trying out such a platform, be aware that they take a hefty cut of your pay. It usually starts at 20 percent, and they’ll charge you more if you have long-term clients and you cross a certain threshold in your earnings from that client. Also, keep the snowball effect in mind; you generally start with simple, low-paying jobs, which you will do mostly to get favorable reviews. That way you will build up your reputation and job history on any given freelancing platform.
There are also crowd-testing sites such as Test.io and uTest where you can find some work to get started. They usually do not pay much, but it’s nice to get your foot in the door by reporting bugs, reproducing them, and participating in test runs. Most remote job sites have QA jobs nowadays, so you can try those too. Some sites hire only testers: one I know of is called Testlio.
Look For And Ask For Recommendations
You can get a lot of info by simply asking the people you know for recommendations, especially if they work for a company you’re interested in. It is not always about what you know, but whom you know! Word of mouth can give you a big advantage over other candidates, as you will have someone vouch for you whom the company already trusts. So you should make sure that you prove that you are worthy of the trust that is placed in you.
Just chatting with your industry contacts is a great starting point. Give them a call, take them out to lunch, and casually mention that you are available for more work. This way you can also get insider info about the company and the projects, and tips on how to negotiate a better salary (by knowing how much to expect). Even if the attempt does not result in your getting hired right away, your connection might have something for you later or may be able to put in a good word for you with someone else.
Another nice thing you can try is connecting with other freelancers. A lot of experienced freelancers get more offers than they can handle, so they might pass on some of their work to you. You can also sub-contract for experienced freelancers and get your cut of the profit for the contract. The more people you know, and the more you expand your network, the more opportunities will present themselves to you.
Make sure to leverage the internet to your advantage as well. Post on social media about your freelancing services and ask your friends to share them. Another thing to try is to give discounts to clients who recommend you to new clients and as a result you end up getting the gig. Keeping clients is just as important as getting them.
Use Standard Job Search Sites
Some companies, especially those that post remote roles, will post contract jobs on standard job sites like Indeed.com, so it’s worth investigating this option. Be sure to check also for sites specific to your area, country, or continent.
Ask For Client Testimonials And Display Them On Your Portfolio Website
After you’ve worked for a client for a while, and the project is going well, you can ask your client for recommendations from their circle. Words from a happy client are great for your self-promotion! Just make sure to display the favorable client review publicly as you acquire them. Most freelancing platforms have an option for you to receive and display reviews from clients for the work you have done for them on the platform.
It is a good idea to create a portfolio website where you can showcase your work and display testimonials from satisfied clients. This will mean a lot to your future clients. Professional social media networks also support displaying reviews and testimonials. One such network is LinkedIn which can be very helpful in promoting your work and establishing a solid professional reputation. Over time, those testimonials will result in you getting more work offers in a completely organic way, without much effort on your side.
Put Yourself Out There
Work on your brand and improve your online presence. Try writing a blog about testing and then promote your posts on social media. This will bring your work to the attention of potential clients while you actively look for new gigs in other ways.
And build or buy a portfolio website. Some important aspects to keep in mind:
- It should look good
- It should be responsive and performant (showing that you tested it!)
- The information on it should be accurate and concise
- It should use good search engine optimization (SEO) practices
A clean, informative portfolio website is an important part of showing that you are a true professional. If someone searches for your full name and if they get your website as the top result, it will make a really good impression. Just make sure your site reflects the effort and thought you put into your testing work!
You should also link your blog to your portfolio website to drive more organic traffic to both. Also, guest blogging can help you be noticed by clients looking for freelance testers. This is especially true if you get to write for more renowned blogs, as they will have a big audience.
A Simple Web Search Could Be Just What You Need
Using a web search engine to look for freelance opportunities can be a very easy way to find new opportunities and to get an idea of what’s in demand. For example, in general, the search phrase “automation tester” will yield results for more (and better-paid) work, compared to “manual tester.”
To be successful, it’s important to think logically about your searches (keep SEO in mind). Ask yourself: what would you include in a job ad if you were a recruiter who was looking for freelance software testers? Use optimal keywords, and promising search results are bound to come up!
Leverage Your Social Media Accounts
Social media sites like LinkedIn are the most obvious choice here, but other less typically career-oriented social media sites can be good sources of work too. More and more recruiters are using social media to look for candidates. Facebook isn’t used only for cheesy memes and cat pictures; there are a lot of job groups you can join and use to get some new gigs.
Paid social media advertising can also be a worthy investment if done properly. Searching for social media can be a good first starting step. Just search for “Freelance tester” or “QA contacts” (you can get creative here).
Follow freelancing blogs and newsletters to keep up to date with new opportunities, and follow other testers whom you know are doing freelancing and contracting work. This can lead to new opportunities, and you could learn a trick or two from more experienced people.
Join local online meetups (don’t ignore in-person meetups either). These are sometimes referred to as “tweet-ups”. Long story short: don’t neglect any opportunity to network with other freelancers.
Try to post on social media regularly about your availability and your past and current work. Make sure to follow companies that are interesting to you and try commenting and otherwise interacting with them on their social media posts.
Try Contacting Companies Directly
This time-honored sales method is referred to as “cold-calling” or “cold-emailing”. When you first try it out it might feel like a waste of time, but it’s a numbers game that also depends on your approach. Do you copy-paste the same template over and over again, or do you tailor your offers to each company that you pitch? Agencies might be looking for freelancers interested in short-term, or even long-term, contracting work, so contacting them directly might be a good idea.
Companies local to where you live are also a good way to go, as you will be more easily able to meet people in person. That could work more in your favor than trying to offer your services via an online call. Make sure to research the company you are contacting, and mention facts specific to them to show a genuine interest. Also, try to find the name of their internal recruiter, since in most cases this is the first person who will read your email and decide whether to get back to you.
If they ask to see a written offer, be sure to include samples of the work you have done, and consider a sign-on discount for your new potential client. Always make sure that you have in mind any non-disclosure agreements, however, as they might explicitly prohibit your sharing of work with third parties. In addition, make sure that you are allowed to contact the people you are trying to reach, so you do not fall afoul of regulatory data policies like GDPR.
Aside from that, in today’s world, almost any company is at least in part an IT company as well. So you can try reaching out to companies who have products you are passionate about and offer your help.
Finally: In all the proposals you send, make sure to use a bit of flattery, but just make sure it’s tasteful.
To wrap things up, you should use every resource you can to your advantage.. Just make sure to be honest and professional, as your reputation depends on this. In freelancing, business reputation is everything (as is the case with many other lines of work). Always keep in mind that building your reputation takes time and effort, but losing your reputation because of something careless you said or wrote can happen in a matter of minutes, or even seconds!
Unlike developers and designers, testers don’t create a digital product for sale. So it can be more challenging for testers to get started with freelancing. Short-term testing jobs are usually not paid much, but it’s worth at least getting your feet wet. Contracting longer-term can be lucrative, but it is more demanding compared to small gigs. Contracting will usually demand a very wide set of skills, the ability to learn quickly and on the go, and advanced communication skills. This is especially true for projects with a limited time scope where the client might be willing to pay top money for senior testers. Always bear in mind that such jobs might be too demanding if you’re just starting out or if your threshold for stress is low for any reason.
It might be a good idea to begin contracting on a part-time basis, alongside your stable full-time job. That way, you can build experience, save money for an emergency freelance stash, and expand your network.
Good luck with your freelance efforts!
For More Information
- Crowd Testing Providers by Tim Martin
- Career Guidance For Software Testers After Parental Leave by Pricilla Bilavendran
- Getting Back on the Horse After 10 Rejections by Maryam Umar