How to Become A Freelance Programmer in 2018
Have you ever dreamed of becoming your own boss, or maybe just making a bit of money on the side?
A freelancer is a person who is working for more than one client without being permanently employed to any of them. This typically means that he is managing his time, handling his clients, making designs and deciding deadlines without the intervention or supervision of a “boss”.
He is also setting his own work hour rates. However, this requires detailed planning ahead of time to avoid the hurdles that one usually faces before turning into an established freelancer:
Common Freelancer Questions and Concerns:
- Not knowing where to start.
- How to market yourself?
- How to get the first client?
- How to mitigate risks and manage cash flow if it takes time to crack the first job?
- What if the job flow isn’t consistent?
How to Start Freelance Programming
If you are planning and determined to become a freelance Programmer, you are actually only a few steps away from being one. Though it will take some hard work on your part, the fruit is definitely rewarding. The best part is, all you need is a coding keyboard and a computer!
1. Prepare a financial backup plan.
You can be a permanent employee working 8 or 9 hours a day for 5 days a week and earning a fixed consistent pay at the end of the month. But once you move to freelancing you would have to part with that fixed assured salary. In fact, it could be hard to earn in the first few months. It depends how quickly and how early you can get clients.
It is best to be financially prepared before quitting a permanent job and moving into freelancing. You won’t be having any paid sick leaves or vacations. On top of that, you would need to pay for your software licenses and other infrastructural expenses. Sometimes it is better to continue your full time job and continue freelancing part-time till you are confident and can afford to let go your full-time job.
2. Identify your programming niche.
Once you have decided to become a programming freelancer, it is time to choose a niche. You could be good at a lot of languages, but it is always better to stick to one or two specific technology domains. Learning and mastering those selected skills is very important before you get started with actual work.
For example, you are good at template designing, database and, say, photography. So, if you are opting for a web page development project, it is best to highlight your template designing skills, since they are logically more aligned. Few of the prevalent domains that hold possibilities are as follows:
- Database administrator: Responsible for the performance, security and integrity of the database. Involved in planning and designing as well.
- Website designing: Planning and designing of complete personal, business or corporate website, starting from its UI/UX to its logical implementations.
- Server programming/management: Programming and maintaining application or web servers.
- Creating mobile applications: Creating apps for mobile or tablets on Android, iOS and other platforms.
Keep yourself updated with the upcoming technologies and try learning the new ones while you can.
3. Create your profile:
Your next step is to create an appealing profile. A proper and balanced profile plays a crucial role in marketing your “offerings” across the freelancing world. Your profile should be informative and attractive at the same time. A few points to remember:
- Put up an effective headline stating your primary skills, location and years of experience. Example: Developer, Web designer, 5 years’ experience in WordPress, JSP, CSS.
- A precise and impactful profile heading is a must.
- Elaborate on the heading by letting them know about your qualifications and degrees. Be sure to put your contact information within your profile – Phone numbers, Email, Skype, etc. And upload a professional looking photo.
- A few potential websites offering great freelance programming projects are Freelancer.com, Upwork.com, Guru.com and PeoplePerHour.com
- Create a portfolio that highlights past projects, successful assignments, accolades, reviews, testimonials, key milestones and special achievements.
4. Share and upload on social sites:
Once your profile is created, it’s time to let the world know about it. And there is no better place than the social media.
- Linked In
These are some of the most happening platforms on the internet and sharing your profile on these spreads out the visibility to hundreds of potential clients in just a few clicks. It is an organic “Word-of-Mouth” marketing that freelancers usually target. You don’t need to invest in setting up premium profiles nor do you need to market your profile through professional channels.
5. Getting the first client:
This could be a little tricky. It all depends on how well you can showcase your skills, convince and communicate. Your unique and innovative way of marketing yourself will play an important role in getting the first project. A few points to note:
- Meet the startup companies, talk to friends and family. Spread the word that you are ready to offer your freelance services at a lower rate for a limited time. Work at the low rate till you build your credibility in the freelance world.
- Don’t forget to ask for feedback and reviews.
- Increase your rate gradually.
- What extra value addition do you promise, apart from the regular assignment? Your previous experience in handling complex business situations could be a good reference. Offer tailor-made solutions and proactive interactions.
- Keep increasing your skills and always ask for recommendations.
6. Join Freelancing Websites
Freelancing websites are becoming an increasingly popular means for programmers and coders to reach new audiences. By joining these sites and building up your portfolio you have instant access to more potential clients, without pulling out your hair wondering how you’re going to market your services. Popular sites include:
Perks of Freelance Programming
Being a freelancer definitely has its own perks. Listed below are just a few:
1. Flexibility of time and place:
Flexibility in work time is a huge plus for anyone working a 9 to 5 job. This means that you can work all day or night if you prefer, and enjoy quality free time as per your personal convenience. You can work on your most productive hours. You choose your time and place, set up your environment and start working. You can work from the comfort of your home and forget the hassle of traveling to the office every day. Your clients won’t penalize you for taking an afternoon nap as long as you fulfill your commitment and milestones.
Having control of your workload:
Keep a watch on how much you can handle and call it a day when you feel it’s enough. You can selectively choose or dodge clients. Negotiate milestones, divide your time among clients, take a few days off and work on weekends too.
Work according to your skill sets:
Being a programmer, you are vulnerable to abrupt skill changes in big corporate firms. Your skillset and growth is typically driven by project availabilities, vacancies, billing rates and client demands. You are at the mercy of the boss and the predicted project pipelines. As a freelancer, you could choose projects that align best with your skills.
No more hassle for a raise:
Since you are your own boss, you fix your hourly rate. If you think you are working more than what you are being paid for, you can increase your hourly rate as necessary.
Learn new things every day:
Never stop learning. With more freelancers joining the markets, the competition is nothing short of fierce. Your skills and offerings need to be top notch to sustain a steady growth. For example, a few technologies that are still much in demand could be:
- Java: Write once, run anywhere. It runs on almost every platform and potential developers are always in high demand.
- PHP: A server side scripting language fit for small to mid-sized business.
- SQL: The language that controls database.
- Swift: A programming language developed by Apple mainly for iOS, macOS etc.
- Android: A mobile operating system by Google, used mainly for mobile apps.
Read about them and discuss them on online forums like
As a freelancer, you play a multi-facet role of a project designer, analyst, developer, testing team and delivery manager all rolled into one.
Freelancing has its share of advantages and disadvantages, but if you can work hard and satisfy your clients you are sure to reap the benefits the freelancing world has to offer. There are many examples of massively successful freelancers who are earning more through freelancing than their “employed” counterparts. Who knows, you could be next!