Wondering whether to start freelancing?
Freelancing in your free time is a great way to make a little extra money or pursue a hobby. But for some passionate creatives and artists and entrepreneurial enthusiasts there comes a time when they consider if they should shift freelancing from just a hobby to full-time.
Deciding to quit your fixed income job and freelance full-time is scary. I know the feeling because I did the same before my placement opportunity, I decided not to sit for any job offers and took freelancing as a full-time job.I knew that the benefit of being able to work for myself on projects that I love would be worth the risk.
You can do it, too. With the right amount of preparation, information and courage, you will be confident enough and ready to quit your day job and commit to a full-time freelancing career.
Surviving as a new Freelancer isn’t all peaches and cream. There will be a whole lot of challenges to overcome and skills to acquire. Some of the most important tasks will be:
- Building your Potential Client List
- Choosing your Clients
- Operating yourself as a business
Before I dive into helping you conquer these challenges, let’s first look over some basic expectations of a freelance career.
Realities of Life as a Freelance Developer
Since you are ready to explore a new born life of a freelancer, I will assume that you are already aware about it or done some research of pros and cons of being a freelancer, If not let’s go over some crucial ones now.
Not So Great
- No Fixed income: This a harsh reality we all have to accept that no matter how hard we try, the amount of money earned will always be variable.
- Provide your own equipment: We don’t have access to the already bought equipments required to serve the clients, we have to invest on them to get started.
- No health insurance/retirement: No employee perks which a fixed job will provide to you.
- No paid training: Learn while you earn is the only possible and feasible option.
- No paid vacation: Personally this gives me a sense of Independence because there are No Strings Attached To Me.
- Self-accountability: You account for your work and actions, nobody else will bet on your profile. This means you have to give your 100% every time.
- Schedule flexibility: You can schedule your own timings of work, as you are your Own Boss.
- Creative freedom: Generally clients assign us the work and how we do it is our lookout so here is where Creativity steps in.
- No office politics: Tired of back bitching and pleasing your Boss to get your way up a Promotion? Freelancing puts a full stop to it.
- Unlimited earning potential: When you step your foot onto Freelancing, Sky is the Limit, The more you work and more effort you put in to sparkle creativity , the more you will earn.
Read here about Why I chose Freelancing.
If you are evolving or transforming from a full-time salaried position, to a freelancer, you will have to deal with risk and uncertainty (at least initially) that you are not used to.
Depending on your success in finding clients, your income may fluctuate month-to-month and you will need to hunt down your projects instead of having them land on your desk. There will be no one to remind you for deadlines and you will have to be self-motivated and efficiently manage your clients. You will reap what you will sow.
“With great risk comes great reward.”
Dave Sullivan (CodementorX Developer)
As a freelancer, you are FREE.
Free to work the hours you want.
Free to choose desirable clients.
Free to grab interesting projects that quench your creative thirst.
Free to set your rate as you see fit and to work from home or from practically anywhere.
Prerequisites of becoming a Freelancer
Have a vision :
You need to overcome the mental obstacle that’s telling you, “You cannot and you will not try to do it.”
Start the process by establishing a business name and creating a vision for your own company brand.
Ask yourself “Why am I starting this organization? Why should someone pay me for a job?”
This will help you create a mental picture about what your business will be like and if you can vision it without any hesitation, achieving it is just a matter of time.
Believe in yourself:
You must Believe during this whole venture. If you doubt your ability to find success, you will never find it.
You need to start somewhere, so acknowledge your doubts ( most important part), then overcome them. It takes practice, but it’s important to do so.
There’s no way you can sell something to clients that you haven’t first sold to yourself.
Consistency and Persistency is the key. You need to work hard everyday cause Overnight success is a fantasy.
Have a Portfolio:
Ideally, you have made some pet projects or done internships or worked for a software development agency for at least one or two years. Beyond this, you will need some relevant data or proof that you can, in fact, do what you claim you can do. Resume or an online portfolio or personal website or even references and testimonials can serve the purpose.
You can join several online platforms like
Taking developer exams and tests in these platforms will help you earn greater trust of clients and the support of these trusted industry platforms and access to their large client database will help to boost your career.
You can give a thought to provide free bug fixes or consultation services to earn testimonials and referrals at the start.
Niche vs. General Programming Skills
Niche: denotes or relates to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialised section of the population.
You must take a firm decision of selecting the skill you want to acquire or strengthen over the whole freelancing process or career.
The range of this domain is wide but so are the people you are competing with.
If you are at the beginning of your career, it’s important to make sure you have strong general background and developer’s mindset and once you acquire these, learning new skills will be a piece of cake.
Once I learnt 4 new languages and solved more than 15 problems outside my domain in a span of 12 days. Those 12 days I worked more than 15 hrs a day and was one the best phase of my life.
How to build a network of clients
Clients plays the most important role in your survival ,once you have established your reputation, make a goal to spend less time identifying and converting leads and more time earning
“First, be really good. Second, tell people about it.”
– CTO Josh Albrecht
Here are some tips for telling people about it:
- Market yourself to get clients. You are the business now, people need to know you and your work. Make yourself presentable to attract potential clients.
- Start blogging about your expertise and experience. Blogging is a great way to make people know you. You can write about the skills you need to strengthen and answer the questions that people struggle about.
- Use social media. Stay active in twitter, Linked In and Facebook Marketplace — stay active and share your work there.
- Network online and offline. While online is a great way to reach masses, entrepreneurship meetups and other speaking sessions where people interact and gain referrals.
- Get Referrals from other developers and clients who are happy with your work. Testimonials and Referrals from the people you worked with and happy clients are necessary and you must not be afraid from them to ask about these. Ultimately you will want these referrals to be the source of income and clients.
- Donate your time to open source projects or causes and organizations you care about. Optional but this is a great way to :
- do what you love
- get noticed and recommended
- strengthen your skill
- expand your reach
Choosing Your Clients: What to Consider
You must always remember this – If you need a client, that client also needs a freelancer, It’s a two way process and both must be equally beneficial and respectful towards each other. While selecting your potential client, these points must be kept in your mind –
Price – For the start you can accept compensation lower than market value but don’t consider doing that unless you are tight on budget. And remember high compensation demands high quality work too.
Client Consultations – The first impression when you talk to the client for the very first time is a great way to assess him on the way he communicate and treats you and whether he is respectful toward you and your work or not. If he is unclear about his agenda or has unnatural demands, feel free to offer him/her consultation to suits his need at its best.
Project Type – You can choose to grab template based projects or projects which challenges your skill. Though the later one will help you to grow as your career proceeds while the simple one will help you to earn quick money.
Fire Bad Clients – Yes you have the right to fire your clients if they have uncanny demands or attitude.These are some of the most common reasons to fire clients:
- Consistent missed payments or underpayment.
- Drastic changes of requirements or project scope without renegotiation of terms
- Last minute demands to change or add in delivered projects
- Communication gap or breakdown
- General lack of professional respect and courtesy
Firing clients should be considered a last option. You should make every effort to resolve conflicts while keeping patience to maintain goodwill before going down this route.
Read more: 17 Protocols for freelancing professionally
Operating as a Business
“Freelancing is more than just writing code for money: it’s a business”
As I constantly wrote, you are the business and you must be responsible for your actions and earnings. I will brief some methods to establish yourself as a business.
Freelance Developer Contracts
Having terms of service contract ready for your clients shows that you are a professional and is ready to do business. A contract is designed to protect both you and your client, and the terms should be mutually agreeable. Here are the most important things to cover in your web developer contract:
- Expectations and responsibilities
- Work reports
- Payment terms
- Confidentiality and IPR
- Legal protections
The contract can be the same for every project but as every project is different you need to fine tune it before presenting it to any client.
NDA is required by client to prevent freelancers to leak any crucial information of the project. But as a freelancer you must check that the NDA also protects your rights and does not:
- Violates your right to work
- Prevents you from using knowledge acquired before the project
- Prevents you from using new skills learned during the project
- Restricts your ability to market yourself
- Holds you liable for future damages beyond your control
You could also have your own NDA ready or be at least well versed in laws to negotiate accordingly. Always pay attention to non-use and non-compete clauses.
Clients can ask you to submit work logs and track your number of hours worked so that they know what they are paying for. It may seem hard as it destroys the advantage of independent time management in freelancing, but it prove your value to clients, and can be used to measure progress. Some software comes with Invoice generating system like:
Setting Your Rate
The factors determining your rate are
- years of experience
- skill level
- project scope and complexity
Analyze competition and set your rate accordingly. Once you have a few projects under your belt, or if you are already an experienced developer, adjust accordingly.
Higher rates tend to attract higher quality clients, boost job satisfaction, and lead to career growth.
Let me recap whatever I wrote earlier in a small table.
|Market yourself||Take template projects|
|Network online and offline||Work for free|
|Adjust rates as appropriate||Undercharge|
|Fire bad clients||Abandon projects|
|Donate time||Neglect business operations|
|Consider yourself a business||Over promise|
Hope I covered everything required you to launch your career.
If you are in confusion of taking up freelancing as a prime or part time profession, Just remember Freelancing requires confidence and this is the only prime ingredient required to be successful.
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Hope your journey in freelancing be fruitful for you.
Read About: Why I chose Freelancing?
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