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Many freelancing leads that I get aren’t serious buyers. Esp the ones that I get for web scraping services.

They don’t have any intent to hire me as a freelancer.

Yet, they do reach out, and inquire.


Well, I figured it out the hard way.

There is a pattern all these fake freelancing leads have.

First, they share the problem statement. Next, they ask if the data can be scraped. Then they ask how much time it’s going to take. This gets followed by “How much it’s gonna cost?

Till here everything is fine. Any lead would ask these questions.

The problem starts after this.

After I share the pricing, they want to know-

How exactly I would scrape content? What technologies would I use? What would be the design of the scraping architecture? They even ask “which EC2 instance would I use? Nano, micro, or something else? What are the alternative architectures/stack? Then they ask “Lambda, Fargate, or EC2?”

Endless questions.

The more information I share, the more they keep asking.

Later, after having spent 3-4 hours answering their questions (spanning over multiple calls) and doing every bit that I could to convert the lead, they show to me their ghosting skills.

Anyway, these experiences trained me to spot red flags during prospection.

Too many questions, calls, IFs, and BUTs are all RED FLAGS (to me).

After a couple of incidents, I understood what was going on.

I figured out that these guys just want info. Sometimes, the intent is to benchmark project costs; sometimes, to extract project-relevant insights.

Maybe, later they execute the project in-house, or they go with comparatively affordable freelancers, which is fine.

I price my web scraping services at $25/hr. I’m sure there would be guys who charge $5/hr too. If a $5 guy is suitable for your project, it’s okay. Cost saving is sensible. But in the process, why waste my time?

If $25/hr doesn’t work for you, the discussion should end right there, not after 4 hours of rigorous questioning.

Honestly, it used to get very frustrating.

But are leads at fault here?


In the jungle, the animals who are not aware of the traps get hunted.

As simple as that.

I believe, if I was naive, I’m to be blamed. If I didn’t know how to deal with non-serious prospects, that’s my mistake.

Luckily, one day, I realized that all the lead conversions that had happened (for scraping gigs) barely took 1-2 calls.

First, a discovery call. Next, it used to be about panning out script or data delivery timelines.

So, now I avoid too enthusiastic leads. I don’t answer tech stack or architecture questions.

Yes, some leads take time before they convert. Their buying journey is slightly longer and stretched. But with experience, you get to know who are serious buyers, and who are pretentious buyers.

It feels so bad, people are paying to use artificial intelligence (Hey chatGPT plus), but they want to squeeze human intelligence for free.

I’m not operating as an agency, I’m working as a freelancer.

Agencies price their services in a way that covers innately sales and marketing costs.

However, the hours a freelancer loses answering questions by not-so-serious buyers don’t get billed. I’m sure many freelancers may have faced this problem without even realizing that this is a problem; a roadblock stopping you from scaling your freelance business.

The aforementioned experiences do not just rob us of our time, but energy and peace of mind too.

The implications of it go way beyond what can be directly mapped/measured.

I’m sharing this so that you don’t have to learn it the hard way. Freelancing is tough, but only when we act like Gandhian Monkeys. Esp those who turn deaf and blind to the hard truth.

Freelancing keeps getting better if we aim for it.

We freelancers need to change something in our approach. We need to embrace the concept of SYSTEMS & PROCESSES that agencies use. Yes, many of us are in the game, because of the flexibility & freedom it provides. But let’s not be ignorant, it’s not as glittery as it seemed before entering this world. Like entrepreneurship, this is tough.

In fact, freelancing is not so different from entrepreneurship. There is instability in freelancing. There are dry months. There are irritating clients who we have to tolerate sometimes.

But unlike business owners, as freelancers, we seldom care about what can be optimized to have a continuous stream of leads. As freelancers, we seldom invest time toward having systems & processes in place to scale our freelancing business.

Instead, we live from one gig to another.

In fact, even when some clients don’t pay us (at times), we don’t bother much about it. We learn to live with it; believing that it’s normal. We feel helpless. We choose to keep moving. We don’t look back. But how far?

As freelancers, if we want to get out of this wall of death. Things need to change.

To cut it short, if you want to scale freelancing, here are the things you need to fix.

The top 5 focus areas that could help you attract & close better freelancing leads (as per my experience)-

1. Upskilling, cuz it’s easier to encash skills. The more you upskill, the more you get rewarded. Focus on T-skills.

2. Negotiation skills, the stronger you are at this, the better deals you close.

3. Implementing systems and processes… right from advance payment, templated detailed proposals (with portfolio), invoicing & following-up on the same, company registration (OPC or Pvt ltd if you’re in India), digital contracts to digital signature.

Note: Some people advise against company registration. Well, I’ll do a separate post about the same (but later). For now, all I can say is “Listen to everyone, look for merit in their words, and then do only what your brain thinks is the right thing to do.”

4. Networking. Make it a habit to regularly attend industry meetups and events (On/offline). Connect genuinely; not desperately, not tactfully.

5. Learn the rules of the jungle that you’re in.

That’s all for today. If you’re a freelancer, consider following me on Linkedin (I’m active here) & Twitter (I plan to be active here). Drop your negative freelancing experiences in the comment section below. Let’s create an informed freelancing community.

Nishant Choudhary

Nishant is a marketing consultant for funded startups and helps them scale with content.

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