With the exception of a handful of freelance jobs that I’ve taken on, the majority of projects I’ve done in my spare time as a freelance programmer have been within a 50km radius of home.
I believe this is mostly due to the advancements of Google’s local search algorithms over the past 12-18 months.
First Step: Get A Presence
The first step for you to take advantage of your local area is to setup a web presence. Do you have a personal website? If not, you need to get onto that right away.
Keep it simple and fresh, don’t spend hours on it. My whole site took me 3 hours to put up and I haven’t changed it in 6 months or more (the last time was to add a few blog posts).
Try to get yourname.com as your domain. It makes it more personable.
Put your photo out there, people like to know who they’re dealing with. It’s hard to trust a faceless email. You are your freelance programming brand.
Keep Your Focus Local
Use local language, point out the fact that you’re located in your local area. Put it in the title tag of your home page.
I tell everyone that comes to my site very boldly that I’m a programmer located in Brisbane, QLD. This makes it immediately recognisable to search engines that I’m local to anyone searching for programming services in Brisbane.
Do you have small publication newspapers around your area? Local magazines? If it’s not too expensive you might look at getting some local exposure via those mediums.
Try scouting for jobs in your local version of Gumtree or Craigslist. It’s surprising how many people are looking for independent programmers to do small jobs.
Finally, I want to mention that Word Of Mouth can be the most powerful advertising medium of all and possibly the best way to gain freelance programming jobs.
Have you thought about offering a referral bonus? Can you offer a $50 reward for customers who refer paying clients? How about something more enticing? A free iPad? Think outside the box.
Think Big, Act Small
Freelancing is more about helping people in your local area than you think. It’s easier to gain the trust of a local than someone across the planet who your only communication mechanism is email or skype.
It also facilitates face to face meetings which make it alot easier to gather requirements.
Remember, you might have plans for world domination, but sometimes it pays to think big but act small (or locally).