How do you Become a Successful Freelance Software Developer?

Vector cartoon illustration of freelancers of different cultures on white isolated background

Freelancers are workers who, for one reason or another, decided to work independently. Flexibility and continuous training are usually what interest programmers who approach this career. You might have a lot of questions and wonder: what does it take to become a freelance software developer? In this article, we will give you some tips on how to approach this career and become a successful freelance software developer.

Tips to Become a Successful Freelance Software Developer

Like all jobs, freelancing comes with its pros and cons. To be a successful freelance software developer, you will need to understand some issues that are not directly linked to software development. In this section, we will focus on understanding some of these issues, and you will find some suggestions to help you start a freelancing career.

1. Compete in a Niche

There are two types of freelance programmers. The generalist takes all types of assignments without focusing on a specific industry, while the specialist is a programmer who has worked in a specific industry for several years.

The main problem with being a generalist is that generalists are essentially seen as new to the industry every time they approach a project and therefore are paid less. On the other hand, being one of the most knowledgeable programmers within a niche is always an advantage while searching for a project. Extensive knowledge of a programming language and how to apply it to an industry is what can make you stand out.

2. Be Prepared to Learn

One aspect that differentiates being a freelancer compared to working for a company is the opportunity for continuous learning. Each project has its own peculiarities and will give you the chance to learn new skills.

By facing new problems with every new project, you will get the chance to stay up to date with new developments in technology and with new programming languages. This will help you increase the types of projects you can embark on. The best way to learn new programming skills is by using e-learning platforms such as Vertabelo Academy.

3. Use Consultancy Platforms and Market Yourself

At this point you might wonder, how do I find a gig? A good way to start working and to create your portfolio is by joining a consultancy platform. Consultancy platforms, like Qemploy, are market platforms that ensure direct communication between freelancers and customers. As a Python freelance developer, you can start your career in those portals and improve your portfolio.

4. Know Your Target

The most important part of applying for projects is the cover letter. In this document, you have to give a direct explanation of what you can do to solve the client’s issue. To write this cover letter you need to know what the problem is, who is the final user of the product, and what are the requirements of the project.

The final scope of the cover letter is to connect your prospective client with your services and skills. Knowing your target can help you present this connection in an easier and faster way, helping you land more projects.

5. Make a Plan and Be Patient

The first project might be a bit frightening, as all new experiences can be, and you might not know how to approach it. A good way to start is by making a plan. Start by determining the project requirements, then estimate the time frame and the costs.

After this, and during the development stage, a good practice is to make a day-by-day plan and reserve time for QA testing. This will help you reduce the presence of bugs and produce for the client the best product that you can. Success does not happen overnight so it will take some time to see the results.

6. Protect Yourself With a Contract

Each project will start by signing a contract. The contract should be an agreement between you and the client, so be sure that you understand and know all your rights and duties. This will help you protect your career and reputation in case something goes wrong.

7. Be a Good Communicator

In order to gain the trust of your client, you should be reliable, honest, and polite. At the same time, you should be the problem solver, not the one who creates an issue.

To do so, you want to be clear. Explain to the client which doubts you have. Tell them immediately if you won't be capable of meeting a deadline. Being direct is the best solution. Another aspect that will help you create a good relationship with your clients is to ask questions. By asking questions you will clarify any ambiguities and deliver what the client expects.

What You Shouldn’t Do as a Python Freelance Developer

In the beginning, it might be scary to be on your own. Not knowing when the first gig will arrive, and not knowing if you are going to have a consistent flow of project requests might cloud your judgement. As a result, it is common for freelancers to commit some mistakes. In the following section, you will find out which common mistakes you should avoid.

1. Accept All Jobs That Come Your Way

Besides the doubts mentioned before, there are some other common facts that are true for a good number of freelancers. Most developers are self-taught and do not have a portfolio.

These factors cause many freelancers to apply and accept all the jobs that come their way. The consequences include being overworked, missing deadlines, and burning yourself out.

What you can do to avoid these scenarios is to prefer quality over quantity. Choosing a smaller set of projects and spending more time in applying for each one of them is one solution. This strategy can help you get gigs that are more suited to your needs and background.

Also, you should take into account:

  • Client reputation
  • Client hiring rate
  • Number of applicants
  • Feasibility of the project

2. Undercharging or Overcharging

Clients associate price with quality. A low rate might mean low quality and eagerness, while a high price might preclude you from receiving some offers. You should be realistic and find a balance among your skill level, what you deserve, and the market you are in.

The information that you have to consider before setting a rate are:

  • The standard rate for programmers in your geographic location (so you are sure to not undersell your skills)
  • Experience and portfolio quality
  • Your financial needs
  • In-demand services

3. Not Being Prepared for Lack of Work

As freelancing is based on gigs, it can happen that during some parts of the year you will have less work than usual. Another common scenario is the premature end of a project. Some freelancers will minimize these risks by searching and working at the same time on two part-time projects.

Another solution that can prevent you from not being prepared is to factor these risks into your pricing calculations. The rate that you charge can be high enough to cover short periods of time without work.

4. Not Having a Good Estimate

To carry out a successful project, you should develop at the beginning a proposal together with the client. In this proposal, there should be good estimates of the costs, the time to complete the work, and the client’s expectations. By writing down these estimates, both you and the client will know what to expect from the project and reduce bad outcomes.

So, What Are you Waiting for?

In conclusion, being a freelancer might be tricky at the beginning, but it is a rewarding experience. If you want to become a freelancer and you have the programming knowledge, pay attention to the common mistakes and follow our suggestions.

Rasmus Ebsen

Rasmus Ebsen @ Qemploy

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