Relocation to the South-West (Part 2)

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I will be moving to the South West in August; it’s now getting closer and closer to that date and things have started to get real.

My work in Manchester is mostly based around working on-site with digital agencies. Occasionally I work from my own office on projects and occasionally I work with remote clients but mostly, it’s onsite work – as this works best for me. I’m hoping to do this kind of work in Bristol -only I don’t know anyone in Bristol so it feels like starting all over again.

So how am I going about making contacts and finding work in the South West?

Step 1 Networking

The first step was to write that blog post telling people I was moving away and then subsequently to tweet about it. I was lucky in that two people I know well, Ed and Dan have some pretty good contacts in Bristol and were able to give me names of people. I also mentioned that I was moving to people when I was working onsite at Skylab and fortunately one of their Project Managers knows a very well contacted person in Bristol and was more than happy to recommend me and pass on my details.

Step 2 (Hopefully) impressing

The next step was to start emailing those people. I’m not a big phone-call person; especially when it comes to cold-calling so I’ve instead opted to email people introducing myself, trying to explain who I am; trying to sound complimentary about the work of the agency I’m emailing (this isn’t hard as I am trying to only approach agencies whose work I respect) and explaining what I do and how I can help them.

The big problem I encountered was their response; everyone I emailed was really friendly; telling me that they do take on freelancers and they would be interested but – could they see some of my work.

Step 3 Beefing up my portfolio

Ut-oh! It totally skipped my mind to update my portfolio before contacting new agencies. When they asked to see recent work I realised my online portfolio was about 2 years out of date. It didn’t represent my best or most recent work; it didn’t feature the latest practices I’ve been working with (SASS, Git, BEM) and in short didn’t make agencies want to hire me.

So, I decided to start revamping my portfolio. As a freelancer, I have an inante problem with a portfolio which is: (most) agencies don’t want me to talk about projects I’ve worked on. Another issue is that as a front-end developer, with the projects they can be hard to showcase what I did exactly. Let’s break that down:

  • Linking to the URL: The client/agency makes changes to the site after it goes live which can make my work look, well, not great. Plus, a lot of CSS and JS is now minified so showing a URL so a client can view source is no use
  • Showing screenshots: Doesn’t give any indication of my involvement with the site’s interaction plus people often think I’ve designed the site which I haven’t
  • Other FE devs may have worked on the project too; how do I showcase which bits were mine/not mine

After reading this article, called Freelance As A Service, (go read that, then come back and finish reading this) I’ve opted for a different approach to my case studies. The first one about my time working on a project with Area17 showcases how the project went, what I did and how the key collaborators found working with me (in this case; the Project Manager and the Lead Designer).

After all, I’m trying to encourage agencies to hire me so surely the optimal way to do this is for other agencies to actively recommend me?

Step 4 – Skills improvement

Another thing I’d realised (along with my portfolio being out of date) was the fact that my skills hadn’t been fully updated in a while. I’d not been to a conference or actively tried to learn a new framework/language for quite a while. I’d picked up Grunt, SASS, BEM and some other (exciting) working practices over the last 18 months but that had just kept me up to date – not ahead of the curve.

Okay, some famous last words here, but I’m seeing a lot of jobs advertised for JavaScript heavy apps and my knowledge in this area e.g. with frameworks like Angular and React is pretty minimal, so I’ll be using the time before I move to learn a bit of AngularJS. I fully expect I’ll be able to pick up a framework like this on a job (that’s often the best way) but I want to have some familiarity before I start telling people I can handle it.

Step 5 – Go back to Step 2

Once the portfolio is back up to date; I’ll be re-contacting the agencies I first emailed in step 2 and hopefully impressing them a little more this time around.

Then when I actually move I’ll be trying to schedule meeting some of the people I’ve emailed – in real life.  Performing a casual ‘pop-in’ to their offices and hopefully impressing them with the fact that I’m a normal person!

If anyone reading this has any contacts or interesting job leads in Bristol or surrounding areas that they’d like to pass on please feel free email me or tweet me.

Comments are closed.