Is life as a freelance software developer for you?
A freelance software developer is a programmer who works on an ad hoc basis, rather than a full-time employee tied to a single company. Freelance developers often work for multiple clients at the same time, but some may choose to work with one company at a time. Most freelancers are hired to complete specific application projects that require unique higher-level coding skills. However, it is not uncommon for developers to provide basic application support to an enterprise on a regular basis.
Freelance development is a career path that offers a lot of time flexibility, independence, and space for self-directed professional growth. There is a downside, however, which translates into uncertainty, financial vulnerability, and a lot of hard work. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at both of these two sides of the freelance software developer job and the factors you need to consider when pursuing a career like this.
Benefits of freelance software development
The main advantage of working as a freelance software developer is the flexibility that comes with the role: you can decide when to work, what jobs to take, and how to get those jobs done. Unless a contract specifically states that a specific number of hours or a specific location will be worked, freelance programmers likely won’t need to be in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It should also be noted that freelancers are not required to take on the full scope of the workload of a software project. They often have the freedom to choose the projects they are most familiar with or interested in rather than knowing exactly what code to write.
Sometimes it can even be easier to freelance to find work. Getting a permanent full-time position in a company can be difficult, especially for programmers who are just starting their careers and who do not have a significant amount of real world coding experience. Finding a company willing to get involved in a part-time freelance project can often be less difficult. What’s more: This project could be a stepping stone to a full-time position, either with the same company or with a different one drawn to your freelance portfolio.
Cons of a freelance developer
In other ways, working as a freelance software developer isn’t always ideal. You need to be constantly on the lookout for new projects to take on after your current contracts expire. Sometimes contracts can also be terminated for a number of unforeseen reasons, which is why a backup plan is required. This requires that you not only be familiar with coding, but also be able to brand yourself, market your expertise, and build business relationships.
Another problem is that freelance developers essentially need to know how to run their own business. While full-time workers typically enjoy the support of the HR and finance departments, freelancers must manage their own taxes on self-employment, oversee the process of invoicing customers, and hunt down those who don’t pay. Cash management can be particularly challenging in freelance work: unlike the stability of a regular paycheck, your earnings depend entirely on the projects you are working on at any given time.
Should You Become a Freelance Software Developer?
If you think you have the organizational skills and know-how to be a safe freelance developer, there are a few steps you need to take before you begin. Unlike a traditional full-time position, there are some interesting issues that freelance developers face. In essence, to overcome these challenges is about the skills you are developing and the ways in which you are spending your precious time.
Here are some strategies to consider from the start.
Specialize your language skills
By specializing in a certain type of programming, such as B. Web development or database development, it will be much easier to advertise your services and find a freelance position. Try to learn a niche language or two that you can show your skills in as you market yourself. You can also establish yourself as an expert in certain areas, which will make it easier to land additional work.
For example, few companies have difficulty hiring full-time developers who can program in languages like Python, Java, and C. However, organizations often need help working with darker languages like Erlang and COBOL. If you can master any of these languages, you are in a stronger position to find freelance work. Not only will you face less competition from other candidates, but companies are often desperate for programmers with these particular programming skills.
Understand development trends
Investing in an emerging field like blockchain or AI is another way to stand out from the crowd. Companies are reluctant to invest in full-time positions for development areas that may or may not turn out to be fads.
For example, if you had known how to program blockchain mechanisms around 2016, when the blockchain bubble was filling, you would have had an incredibly easy time selling yourself to many companies. AI developers seem to be in great demand these days – although it is unclear how long it will stay that way.
Follow the conversations in the IT universe closely, whether through colleagues or larger community groups. Try to find out what the next big thing in the world of development is and adjust your skills accordingly.
Contribute to open source
If you’re looking to make a name for yourself and create a portfolio that will showcase your coding skills, it’s a great way to contribute to open source projects or create your own open source tool.
For the best results, contribute to open source in the specific niche or ecosystem you want to work in. For example, if you’re trying to land a freelance gig with applications deployed on Kubernetes, contribute projects to the open source community around Kubernetes. This will help you build your personal brand in that niche.
Go beyond the code
Some companies – especially those that don’t have large in-house development staff – are looking for developers who do more than just write code. Whether or not they state this explicitly, they may also want help designing applications, planning software management strategies, or designing features that will satisfy end users.
To this end, it can be helpful to market yourself not only as a developer but also as a technology advisor. When you are ready, make it clear that you are providing comprehensive guidance in addition to your development and coding services.