Last Christmas I started an online survey about why freelance web developers get hired. The survey was simple with only 3 main questions. It was for whom was hired as freelance web developers, or who had ever hired them. The 3 questions for these 2 groups were different:
- Freelance web developers would be asked:
- How do your clients find about you?
- How do you spread the word about your brand and your work?
- What do you wish you had known when you first started?
- People who had ever hired freelance web developers would be asked:
- Why did you hire a specific freelance web developer?
- What issues or challenges led you to hire him / her?
- What result did you expect when work with him / her?
Sounds interesting? Now let me tell you the behind-the-scenes story about why I started the survey, how I conducted it, and most importantly, what I’ve learned.
Why I started the survey
If those questions look familiar with you, but you’re not those 93 people visited my survey form, I bet you’re one of the smart students from the Creative Class, a great online course created by Paul Jarvis. These questions were from the bonus materials in the “Research” lesson.
Since the day I read one of Paul’s books – “Everything I know” (thanks to Amazon Kindle Unlimited, though I’ve cancelled it), I became a big fan. I signed up for his newsletter, read his articles on media websites, listened to Invisible Office Hours (a podcast he hosts with Jason Zook), checked out the sites he made (not only the design but also the source code – a good developer won’t judge a book by its cover). And of course when I heard he was building an online course, I knew I had to be there.
I tried my best to do the work Paul suggested in each lesson. When I was told I should interview the audience and people in my industry (in the “Research” lesson), I felt I could do better than just emailing those questions to them. I thought a fancy online form should help. I went to Typeform, a beautiful online survey and form builder that I personally thought was much cooler than Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.
It took me almost an hour (maybe half more) to create my survey form that could work both for audience (who will be interested in my service) and freelance web developers. Because I spent so much time on creating it, I felt it would be a shame if I just sent it to a couple of people.
I decided to do a serious online survey, that’s why the journey began.
How I conducted the survey
In the first few days, I sent the Typeform link to some of my Twitter followers and tweeted it twice. Then I put a Hellobar on my site to promote it.
This approach didn’t work. Only 2 people filled it out in 5 days. I decided it was time to send emails personally and I invited them to help me with the market research.
Emails I sent in the first round, are visitors on 1Fix.io who left comments so I could tell they might be freelancers. There are probably less than 10, then I couldn’t come up with more people to invite. So I went to Twitter again, tried to search for more participants.
Searched on Twitter
There were 2 methods I used to search for the participants (who were freelance web developers or would hire them):
- Finding certain Twitter accounts they will follow. For example, I checked out the followers of @thefreelanceweb and found a few great freelance web developers that I would love to work with.
- Simply searching with general keywords like “freelance web developer”, “web consultant” or “content copywriter” and selected from them. It’s not rocket science but I didn’t think of searching this way at first. To my surprise it turned out the completion rate of this group are the highest (about 25% of them filled out the survey).
Requested Fancy Hands to search for developers based on location
After several days wandered on Twitter, I felt a bit tired and thought I needed some fresh eyes. I’ve used Fancy Hands to do some research work a couple years ago. It’s time that I should turn to them ask for help again.
I need to confess that, at first, I was too greedy to asked them to search for 20 freelance web developers in the Eastern United States in a single request. Though I was charged for another request to get the job done. But what really mattered was that made them much harder to bring qualified results to me.
After a few requests I learned I need to be more specific on the research job description and I should only ask for 5 results in a single request. At the end Fancy Hands gave me a list of about 100 freelance web developers around the United States, Australia and South Africa (I’ve got enough developers from UK, Europe and Canada based on the Twitter search results). I sent out about 40 invitations to whom I’d want to learn from.
If you’re interested, here’s the script I used for the research request:
Contacted startups listed on Launching Next
It’s much more difficult to get feedbacks on hiring freelance web developers. I expanded the search to cover more startups that I found on Launching Next, a website I bumped into when I did the Twitter search. It saved me so much time and now I have 50 extra emails to send (I just invited whom I’d like to work with).