How to find contract developer clients

4 minute read (888 words)

Handling recruiters

Before you dive in, you might want to look at my page on dealing with recruiters, especially if you are going to be dealing with multiple recruiters at once.

Rate research with

IT JobsWatch is a great guide to market prices. You can see numbers, graphs, trends, compare tech, and see what appears together.

It’s also a useful source of ideas for considering what might be a good investment in saleable skills.

Note the volume as well as the price, for example C# is massively higher volume than Ruby.

Lead sources

In rough order of the success I’ve had with them over the 7 years of contracting:


By far the most reliable source of leads. Slightly shonky website, bit fiddly to use but it seems that all the recruiters post their wares here.


  • Upload a pdf cv
  • Run a not particularly tight search (e.g. as a keyword with 50 mile radius, ordered by distance)
  • Blindly send your cv to all of them without worrying too much or bothering to address the post.

searching jobserve

This might sound lazy, but in my experience I almost never hear back about the advertised role, but what this does do is let recruiters that specialize in your particular skills know you are actively looking, which is a lot easier for them to make use of than hoping to tempt someone who isn’t.



By posting regularly the progress of my search and asking contacts for help I have had some luck getting referrals. I’ve never used LinkedIn’s proper job posting system but it’s probably worth checking out.

It’s worth being careful if you are looking before leaving. I tend to not look till I’ve finished the previous contract and had some time to refresh so that hasn’t been an issue for me.

LinkedIn job hunt status

You can now set your “open to work” status to everyone, recruiters etc so be sure to set that. I’ve definitely had inbound interest from that, albeit relatively low quality. It also adds an overlay to your profile image which your network might see when you post things.

LinkedIn Hiring groups


It’s probably worth reaching out to recruiters directly.

They cold email us so no reason not to go the other way when you need a job. Could work out for everyone.

Here’s a useful list that you could use as a source of leads as well as a way of filtering all the inbound email into a folder

People you know (your “network”)

Possibly with the assistance of LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebork etc.

I don’t like to mention this as the idea of “networking” always made me cringe, but the truth is who you know matters and can get you an “in” where you might not have before, and indeed in the past I’ve won contracts through friends of friends and repeat business.

It doesn’t seem very actionable, and when you need it it’s probably too late to build a “network” of trust, but you can still reach out to the people you do know with a friendly message and make it clear you’re looking (and be clear about what you’re looking for - to trigger what Jonathan Stark calls “Rolodex Moments”)

This is also a reminder to leave a trail of positive experiences with everyone you meet, go the extra mile, and invest a little regularly in your relationships whether you “need” them in the moment or not.


These are ones I’ve come across that you might want to cover if you are looking to not miss anything, but I haven’t either used or succeeded with these myself. Suggestions for additions to this list welcome, just drop me an email or raise a PR.

Deceased sites

Places to find even more

Practical tips

  • Track everything you’ve applied to (Trello, or HubSpot if you’re feeling rich).
  • Keep a copy of the full advert description and rate, they are often taken down before you speak to anyone which weakens your negotiation position.
  • Follow up with phone calls after applying - makes you more real, makes it easier for them.
  • Track all the businesses in your sector and technology, and their hiring managers and contact them before letting recruiters get in the middle.
  • See also my recruiters page for defense against the dark arts. Or you could just blanket declare “no recruiters”.

About this post

Someone I know is looking for work (hello!) so rather than just emailing I thought I’d make a more permanent list of all the places I’ve come across for finding work as a contract developer.

For context, I’m a backend developer, specialising in Microsoft ASP.NET / C# & SQL Server databases, with a smattering of other things (t-shaped people as they say).

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