By John Sonmez November 23, 2017

How To Become A Freelancer Software Developer?

When I was working a regular 9-to-5 job, I’d often fantasize about starting my own business––working for myself.

I’d think about how nice it would be to be a freelancer and not have a boss. I’d daydream about traveling the world, working whatever hours I pleased, and making hoards of money from lucrative contracts.

Then I’d snap to reality as I realized I had no idea how to go about making something like this happen. I mean, how do you actually become a freelancer and work for yourself?

This is the dream of most software developers. Most of them fantasize about working for themselves, just to start in freelancing and discover that things do not work 100% like that.

The first question you should ask yourself is if you are sure whether or not you really want to embark upon this path. Don’t get me wrong; I want you to become an entrepreneur of sorts. I want you to eventually stop working for “the man” and find your path to freedom.

But freedom is not for everyone.

The reality is that it is going to take a large amount of work to even get to the point where the dream is a reality.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: 

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com.

Today I'm going to be talking to you about how to freelance as a software developer. This is not a question, but I get this question plenty of times. How do I freelance as a software developer? How can I become a freelancer and software developer? This is a very common fantasy. I'm going to say fantasy that most developers have because I'll tell you my background. I was working as a regular developer, doing regular jobs for a good amount of time. I always have this dream and I said, “Man, I would love to be a freelancer.” I don’t want know why I wanted to do this. I guess I wanted the freedom. My highest value in life, I've told you guys this before, is freedom. I value freedom more than anything. I thought that becoming a freelance developer would be a way to attain my freedom.

Now, I eventually did this and I was able to build up to $300—actually at one point $500 an hour. You can check out my video on billing 300 bucks an hour and how to do that here. Definitely check that if you haven't seen that. I found that it wasn’t at all it was cracked up to be.

Before I tell you how to become a freelancer and I will, I promise, I want you to make sure that you want to do this, first of all. Because I think for a lot of developers, what makes a lot of sense, a lot of people, in general, is to skip the freelance and go straight to product creation. I'll tell you why. Essentially, level one is you're working for someone else. Level two, you're a freelancer. Level three, you have a product or a business that generates some kind of passive income. Level four, you have so much money, you have so much income coming in that you just do whatever the fuck you want. You don’t care what anyone says. You don’t have to respect anyone like you used to. That's kind of where I'm sort of at right now with this business. That's why I'll make a video on whatever I want. I don’t care. I don’t have a repercussion. I'm just doing what I want to do. The market is not defining that.

With that said and we're just going to kind of talk about the gap. Why I say skipping from level one to level three makes a lot of sense, and skipping to freelancer thing. I know. I know you're here to figure out how to be a freelancer, but if I can convince you to not become one, first, that's going to save you a lot of pain. If you still want to do it, I'll tell you what I think is the best way to do it. Okay.

The reason why is because when you become a freelancer, and this is something I didn’t calculate on, I went from one boss to many bosses. Now, you become location independent, but you don’t become time independent. What's the difference here? That means you don’t have to go into an office to work most of the time, but your time is still not your own. You have clients and they have deadlines, and you got to do work. You're a freelancer so you own your own business. That's great. That's awesome. It feels good but you're still at the mercy of bosses and it's more than one boss, it's multiple bosses because when they need this work done, you got to do it. You can't be like, “Well, I guess I'm not going to work for two weeks.” You're going to lose your clients and you've got to keep the business running, plus you've got to do the overhead of the business. Overhead is not fun. It's not writing code. I mean maybe accountants think that's fun, but it costs money and it costs time to do that.

Instead, what I always suggest, at least now, is to go straight to level three. This is where when I was a freelancer, I realized, “Oh, wait. You know, it would be so much better to have a product that I sell, to have an actual business that generates passive income, so that I can be both location independent and time independent.” I became location and time independent. Now, I'm not saying this to convince you I'm a baller. I don’t care if you think I'm a baller or not. My point is this is that like that's a much higher level of freedom. Now, you still have some restrictions in that you have to create something that people want. The market is your boss essentially, but it gives you a lot more freedom. For most developers, they're looking for freedom.

When you become a freelancer, you find that you're actually burden more and sometimes you don’t even make more money. I mean you definitely have a higher potential of earning being a freelancer versus a career developer, but you have an even higher potential if you own a business. It's infinitely scalable. You can make a lot of money without doing anything after you've put in the work.

Now, we'll get down to it. I'll give you some simple steps. I still haven't convinced you not to be a freelancer, okay, that's fine. If you're going to be a freelancer, how do you do it? I'll give you the hard way and I'll give you the easy way. The hard way is this, is to knock on doors and make phone calls, and send out emails and LinkedIn requests and jump on Upwork, and try and get business that way. That's the hard way because it's called the cold approach or a cold sale. You don’t have an introduction. You're just asking people. You're asking people for stuff. You say, “Can I please? Please sir, can I have a job? Can I work for you? Can you pay me money to? Can I write some code for you?”

You're not going to command a high premium. You're going to spend a lot of time going out and knocking and busting doors until you finally get—it will work. It will work if you're willing to put in the work, but that's not the best way. Instead, the best way is if you're going to do this, if you're really serious about this and I've got a course that will help you out on this. It's called How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. Go ahead and click the link and then open in another window, and you can check it out later, but listen. Don't check it out now. Listen to me, okay?

What you want to do is you want to build a personal brand, okay? You want to market yourself. That's why I made the course How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. Even if you don’t get the course, just get this, what I'm telling you right now, is you want to figure out a way to build the brand, to build an audience, to build authority in the industry, a slice of the industry you want to specialize, of course.

Once I started my blog on Simple Programmer and I had 10,000 people visiting that blog a month. Now, I have 250 to 300,000 visit the blog per month. When even I just had 10,000, I was getting job offers. I was getting people say, “Can you write this code for me? I'll hire you.” It's basically name your price. They're like, “How much does it cost you? How much will you charge me essentially in order to do this?”

Not only are you knocking on doors, people are coming to you. How much better of a negotiation position do you think you're in when someone comes to you and says, “I want you to write this code?” That's how you build $300 an hour. If it wasn't going to happen—I wasn't going to knock on the door and say, “Hey, I want to write some code for you. You never heard of me. It's all right. I'm a really good developer. Check out my resume”. “How much do you charge?” “I charge $300 an hour.” Hahaha, goodbye. That's what would happen. If someone comes to me and I say, “I have a lot of business. I have reputation in the industry. You came to me, 300. That's my rate. I don’t negotiate my rate.” They say, “Sure. I want the best.” You see what I'm saying? Or “I want you.”

That's what you got to do. If you really want to become a freelancer, you're really serious about this, you start now by planting the roots, by planting the seeds now, which means that you build your brand. You build your business. You build an audience. Start with a blog. Maybe a YouTube channel, right? I've got a free course if you don’t want to pay whatever for How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. That's cool. I understand. Cheapskate. No, I'm just kidding. No. Go check out How to Create a Blog to Boost your Career and that will at least get you started creating a blog. It's going to take some time. It's going to take some work. If you plant these seeds, you're going to save yourself a lot of time in the long run.

Anyway, all right. That's it. That's all I got for you today. If you like this video, by the way, I've got plenty more of them. I do two to three a day. What you want to do is you want to make sure you click down here the Subscribe. You want to click the bell though so that you don’t miss any of the videos I do, pretty much two to three a day. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."